Ohio Cheer Academy to host tryouts May 10-11Written by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Anthony Wayne High School senior Courtney Koester began competing in all-star cheerleading after she saw how much fun her little sister, Kelsey, was having at Ohio Cheer Academy (OCA) in Waterville.
Although it was a bit of a role-reversal for a big sister to follow the little sister, she said it was one of her best decisions.
“I used to be a swimmer and I didn’t even start cheering until my sophomore year. I gave up swimming for cheering,” she said. “What I really liked about cheerleading was that there was always a new level you could reach. There was always a new skill you could check off the list.”
Cheerleading is just as much a sport as swimming, she said, and offers something that being in the pool doesn’t. All-stars is cheering, tumbling and stunting.
“This is way more about a team,” Koester said. “Everything you do impacts someone else. If you make a little mistake, you are affecting every other girl on the team. If you do something good, you are helping every girl on the team.”
Koester is graduating in a few weeks and then leaving for the University of Cincinnati. Sadly, her days at the Waterville gym are ending.
But she wants to make sure that other area girls and boys consider trying out for the OCA championship teams. Tryouts are 5-8 p.m. May 10 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11 at OCA, 1160 Disher Ave. in Waterville. Anyone ages 8-18, of any skill level, can try out; no previous experience at OCA is required.
“We are pretty laid-back,” said Jamie Pfefferle, owner of OCA. “Come in and show us your skills. We will find the place for you. Here we can find a team that fits your skills because there are five levels in all-star cheerleading. In high school, you sometimes just get cut. Here we have always been able to make it work.”
Pfefferle, dean of students at Monclova Primary School, opened OCA in 2008. The former college cheerleader has coached high school and junior high cheerleading for 18 years. She got out of it for one year when she started a family.
But she missed it.
“I still wanted to keep impacting young girls. I think girls are tough and you don’t always get to bring that out in them,” she said. “I think this instills a lot of good qualities. You are obligated to a team. You have to be on time. You have to keep pushing yourself to new levels. There are so many good things you can learn for life.”
In addition to the all-star teams, some girls come in for lessons with tumbling and cheerleading coach Jody Kolbe.
“We have customers who just do that; and we have customers who are on the team and they also tumble once per week, but we also see them for team practice time,” Pfefferle said.
OCA has grown at a steady pace for the past few years, which allowed Pfefferle and Kolbe to get to know each girl. Eight different school districts feed into OCA, including Anthony Wayne, Wauseon, Whitmer, Liberty Center and Otsego. The teams included 26 girls total this past season. Approximate cost to participate on a team is $2,200-$2,600 a year, which includes lessons, uniforms, shoes and competition costs.
“We would like to see more because this is a good group of girls,” Pfefferle said.
Kolbe runs the gym. She got involved at the request of Pfefferle, who used to be her high school cheerleading coach.
“I love watching girls set goals and actually accomplish them,” she said.
Kolbe said that when Julianne Oser started at OCA she couldn’t do a standing back handspring but now she is working on fulls. Oser hopes to take these skills to The Ohio State University.
“It has been a dream since I was little. My cousin actually cheered at Ohio State, so ever since she was a cheerleader there, it has been a goal for me,” said Oser, a junior at Anthony Wayne.
She takes exception to those who don’t take cheerleading seriously.
“Let them try a two-and-a-half minute routine. If you compete, it should be a sport. It takes athleticism to do the flips and to hold other people in the air,” she said.
Kolbe said even the tiniest tumblers are welcome at OCA.
“We can teach you the foundation, even if you don’t know how to do a somersault.”
Wendy Gramza is thankful her 12-year-old daughter, Emily, got involved in OCA.
“We tried some other things that she was good at, but she wasn’t passionate about it,” Gramza said. “We came here and she seemed to like it. She always wanted to come to practice.”
Her daughter used to be a little shy, but has grown mentally and physically tough. What is nice about OCA is the older girls mentor the younger girls, and there is no drama, she said. Koester, who is class valedictorian, has even tutored Emily in math.
“We aren’t ‘Dance Moms,’” Gramza said, laughing.
Pfefferle said all-star cheerleading is a lot of glitz and glam, but she prefers to keep the girls covered up when they compete.
“Kids will act like they are in a sport if it is treated like a sport,” Pfefferle said. “These girls are always doing something. Their skills are staying up, but then they get new ones. My husband always says, ‘There is no substitute for competing.’”
Pfefferle makes safety a priority. She encourages proper technique and a natural progression. No one is pushed to do something beyond their skill level.
“I would like to see more kids in here. I think we have a good thing. It is a family atmosphere. We keep it wholesome. They are kind to each other. They are just good girls.”