Ready! Set! Go! Gym looks to raise bar for cheerleaders

Published 11:41 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A local gym owner is looking to attract more guys to the sport of cheerleading.

Cherry Robbins, owner of GymSouth Inc., has added Kamen Wells and LeMichal Drake, former high school and college cheerleaders, to her staff. The two are teaching cheerleading and tumbling.

“Male cheerleaders can be viewed in different ways,” Robbins said. “Some people will think it’s sissified. But you need to be strong and physically fit. These boys are…tossing girls in the air and catching them with one hand.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Staci Plunk, a first-year Warren Central High School varsity cheerleading coach and former instructor at the Universal Cheerleader Association headquartered in Memphis, said boys’ interest in the sport is minimal in small towns.

“In Memphis, I saw more male interest in the public and private schools,” she said. “When there is a larger student population, it opens the doors to the different sports.”

She added: “Guys have been cheerleading since the beginning. Two guys (brothers Jeff and Greg Webb) started UCA in 1974.”

In Vicksburg, the only high school squad with a boy is St. Aloysius. Dante Sanders, the son of Darryl Sanders and Leslie Powers, is a transfer from Warren Central who was on the Vikings team last year, said St. Al coach Cathy Blanche. Plunk formerly served as St. Al’s cheer coach.

Wells, 24, and Drake, 25, both 2005 graduates of Vicksburg High School, said, during their senior year, there were six boys on the squad of about two dozen cheerleaders. There have not been as many boys on local cheer teams since, they said.

Robbins said since Wells and Drake came on board, GymSouth has seen more boys enroll in beginner tumbling classes for kindergarten through sixth grade.

“They don’t feel like it’s such a girl thing anymore. We now have four boys,” she said.

“The secret is getting the guys into the gym,” said Drake. “Once they get near me and see the stunts…they’re amazed. There’s a lot more to it than just the ra-ra.”

Also, Robbins said, having two men on staff gives high school cheerleaders a competitive edge.

“In the past, we have trained girls to try out in college, but one thing we lacked was male cheerleaders to practice stunts with,” she said. “We would have to send girls to Monroe to practice.”

Wells began as a cheerleader at VHS in the ninth grade. He graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Mississippi, where he was a cheerleader.

“Cheerleading is one of the hardest and most dangerous sports,” said Wells, who is 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. “You have to be strong.”

Drake is 6 feet tall and weighs 240. He graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he was a cheerleader. He also attended Mississippi State University and was cheerleader there for two years.

“I’m a very competitive person,” he said, “and anything that has competition is a sport to me.”