So how'd we get here?
Four years has flown by and my life is very different on many levels now compared to those nights I would stay up until 3 a.m. blogging. I loved it and kept that schedule, posting three to four times a week during the summer of 2011. When I found out the name cheermom.com was already taken, I had the wonderful challenge and opportunity to create a new name , one that could incorporate dads as well as moms, and one that even Walt Disney talked to me about "sharing" when I was tapped for its social media moms panel.
CheerMAD is a mixed word and acronym: "Cheer" is obvious. "M" stands for "Moms" "A" stands for "AND" "D" stands for "Dads." Using the meaning from MAD, as in crazy, I adopted the "tag" "Certifiably CheerMAD" for the blog. I didn't know I was establishing a brand...but more of that in future blogs.
When CheerMAD launched, I felt a very real debt to All Stars for what it had provided for my oldest daughter Becky (now 22). As a professional journalist, writing was my way to try to give back a little. I wanted to support those who support this sport. Who, as I wrote back then:
"Hold their flyers up high; back up their backs, and provide a strong foundation for their bases."
I also never wanted to charge readers for anything because, as a veteran cheer mom myself, I knew the expenses that come with All Stars.
So it began. CheerMAD's first post received 124 readers. I was ecstatic to think people had found my blog (it wasn't on Facebook then). It was a great start towards my goal of having 10,000 readers in the first year. We gained momentum and hit 10,000 readers in the first six weeks. Today, between this website, Facebook and Twitter, we've had more than 300,000 readers for just one post and can track more than regular 600,000 CheerMAD followers...
Since there are more than 124 readers now, most missed that very first "Certifiably CheerMAD" post four years ago and how we got here. So I have posted it again:
I’m a proud Cheer Mom of Becky, an 18-year old International 5 All Star, and for ten years have watched the sport and my daughter grow (Pictured left with Becky in 2003 at our first "travel" comp at Hershey Park when she competed with 5 Star Academy in Massachusetts).
I’ve seen first hand how dedication, discipline and determination can help a little girl blossom into an amazing young woman. And I’ve been amazed as competitions moved out of high school gyms and into regional arenas.
Last year, I became a Cheer Mom x2 when my other daughter Rachel, 9, started cheering again. She had been on a tiny tots team when she was three-five and had a false start in All Stars when she was seven (which was fine with me as I added up all the costs and multiplied them by two). But last year, I couldn’t keep her out of the gym.
Almost ten years apart in age, Becky and Rachel had little in common. Now they speak the same language. Cheerleading is the great equalizer in our family, which also includes my *husband Jim (who is not now, never was, nor never will be a CHEERMaD) and son John, 14. For many years, John tagged along to comps but as he got older joined his father in attending one mandatory competition a year (the one held closest to our home).
In February my daughters shared the very special experience of receiving their CHEERSPORT jackets (pictured below right). One received it in her last year as an AllStar, the other in her first year. Those are two very different dynamics and I see how Rachel’s experience is much different from her sister’s. One worked very, very hard to get where she is as a proud member of the back line while the other is a natural born tumbler and gets the attention afforded that.
But cheering is more than jackets and awards. Becky apprenticed at her cheer gym and was one of her sister’s coaches last year. This season she is a coach in her own right and is transitioning from "one of the team" to the authority figure. She will continue to share her passion for cheering with young athletes but more importantly Becky is a great role model. Rachel has just started her life as an AllStar and I look forward to another decade of being a Cheer Mom.
After that, who knows? Cheer Granny...
As I've said, in the last four years, a LOT has changed. I am no longer married -my ex will say CheerMAD and cheerleading (he doesn't even call it All Stars) specifically broke up our marriage. I contend that All Stars was a way to keep busy and travelling to avoid the reality of a bad marriage back at home.
Becky, now 22, coached for another two years but last season took a break to finish her degree at Becker College. She'll graduate in December. Rachel, 13, has earned several more jackets since we launched CheerMAD and a few other awards and titles: A second CHEERSPORT jacket, two NCA jackets, an Nfinity Cup International All Levels ring; a Summit Ring and a wall-full medals, sweatshirts and backpacks. She's progressed in skills each year and will compete on Proathletics' Sr. Fierce; Sr. Coed Level 4 this season. John, now 18, will enter his Freshman year in the fall at Quinnipiac University, home to the original "cheer is a sport" argument and leader in the Acro and Tumbling NCAA-track sport.
And I remain a dedicated CheerMAD, continue to blog about the experience of being an All Star mom while repeating the message that those who support this $4 Billion sport deserve media, recognition and respect.
(Left, Becky, Rachel and I shared an amazing 2013-14 season, which would be Becky's last before dedicating full time to her school work).
I've learned alot in these last four years. Mostly, I learned that I can't do it all alone and at just the right time, found Shannon Kaiser, (left) willing to take on the role of "Editior In Trust." Shannon was a CheerMAD who I had met the first year and wrote about her challenges as a cheer mom and mom to a special needs child. She became a guest blogger over the years until last spring joined CheerMAD.
And I couldn't do this without the support and patience of my daughter's gym Proathletics in Leominster Massachusetts, it's owner Jason Graham and Rachel's Coach Holly Boulay. Now in its seventh season, we are very fortunate to belong to such a great program. Writing about one's own gym has had its own challenges and not a few posts have earned me a call from Jason with words of support but that a post needed rewording.
Wanting to avoid adding to parents' already heavy load of purchases, I resisted tempting them with advertisers' and sponsors' wares on purpose until this year when I chose "Cheerobics" as CheerMAD's first sponsor. More and more you will see CheerMAD's emphasis on conditioning and injury prevention and Cheerobics fits this model perfectly.
With the Cheerobics sponsorship, we were able to redesign and relaunch the website, a move that has pushed CheerMAD out of the crowded "home-grown" blogger field and into a more professional arena (don't worry, the authentic and independent voice of the cheer parent has not been lost).
Over the summer we'll be adding other products that are worthy of the "Certifiably CheerMAD Stamp of Approval" and carry them in our shop at a lower price than the same products can be found anywhere else. I've been negotiating all year with the best products of our industry and will only carry items that I believe in, that I believe will help you help your child and always offered at a discount.
I am so grateful to you, the blog post readers, the Facebook commenters "Likers" and Twitter followers. Together we're creating a cheer parent force that can help this industry be safe and sane.
It's CheerMAD's 4 year anniversary and, as always, YOU get the gifts!
CheerMAD is beyond happy to announce that its 4 Year Anniversary is sponsored by All Star Outfitters: the number one apparel vendor at All Star events.
ASO designed and is donating the "Certifiably CheerMAD Stamp of Approval" t-shirt (seen left) which can't be bought anywhere else, and only available here as a gift to cheer parents.
"We wanted to show how much we appreciate all the cheer moms and dads who buy from our booths all season by giving them something back in return," said JG Ketchen, vice president, All Star Outfitters. "And we want to wish CheerMAD a Happy 4 Year Anniversary."
Other gifts include a mini MaeFlyers (pictured below) and 8 StuntStraps from CoreAthletics, and an Nfinity Backpack full of gear.
There are several ways to win a "Certifiably CheerMAD Stamp of Approval" T-shirt:
We only share this journey with you, never your information!
FACEBOOK (cheermad.com) :
"Like" the cheermad.com facebook page
"Sign Up" click the sign up tab on facebook which will bring you to the website and fill out the 'email sign up'
If you are reading this directly from the website just fill out the "email sign up"
"Follow" @cheermads on Twitter.
When we hit 25,000 fb Likes and 2,500 Twitter Followers we'll start giving away StuntStraps and a Mini MaeFlyer from CoreAthletics. To win a "Certifiably CheerMAD Stamp of Approval" T-shirt from All Star Outfitters sign up on the facebook page or the email below.
"Like" "Share" "Follow" "Sign-up" and be Certifiably CheerMAD.
All entries will be eligible for an Nfinity Backpack full of cheer gear including a MaeFlyer, StuntStrap and Cheerobics set, more than a $500 value.