Health & Wellness

Cheer Up Athletics Brings It on the West Side

This Providence cheerleading gym offers open hours for adults to channel their high school glory days

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Tom Lopatosky started Cheer Up Athletics last spring out of necessity. His daughter was a member of another all-star gym in Massachusetts that had to close its doors. The girls on that team had been cheering and competing together for years, and came from all over – from Portsmouth to Franklin, Massachusetts – and now didn’t have a home to practice in or an organization to keep them together. Tom didn’t want the girls to lose the opportunity to compete, so he met up with one of the gym’s coaches, Allison Swallow, and asked her if she would be interested in helping him to start their own gym.

At Cheer Up, Tom and Allison decided they wanted to create programs in addition to their core team’s training. They have half-year and full-year teams that vary in skill and age for kids to sign up for. Cheer Up also offers the space for rent to local high schools in need of valuable mat time to practice routines for upcoming competitions. Looking at the white board with the weekly schedule, you can see they are keeping busy. In addition to offering programs for teams they also have different classes like open tumble sessions for anyone who wants to come and learn or work on their craft with some skilled coaches. They also do private coaching for individuals and teams as well. So you can see Cheer Up aims to provide a little something for all individuals and skill levels.

I found myself at Cheer Up on a Sunday afternoon for an open gym session. The gist is you pay $10 and you can use the mats and the coaches they have available for whatever you care to work on during that two hour session. As a former high school cheerleader who hadn’t even thought about doing a stunt (also known as putting a girl up in the air) or tumbling (I have a fear of it) for years, I was a bit daunted to be surrounded by a group of skilled cheerleaders who were there to just have fun and try stuff out. However, there were also people there who were newish to cheering, like a dancer from a local college who was just interested in trying to learn some tumbling skills.

I had been hiding in the corner watching a group practice stunts like a liberty, which is where someone on the ground – the base, usually a strong dude – lifts up a flyer – the person in the air – and holds them up with one arm; the flyer lifts both arms and one leg in air before dismounting. As you might guess, I was feeling a bit intimidated.

Casey Lesieur, one of their coaches who is a lifelong gymnast, former college cheerleader and current Celtics cheerleader, was working with the group to help them perfect their stunts. I chatted with her a bit about her passion for cheer and gymnastics and as she went to offer the group some advice, another coach there that day, Jenna Bettez who had also cheered with Casey for years, told me it was my turn to try tumbling. Wait... say what?

I felt pretty sure I was going to break my neck, but Jenna started me off with the easy stuff. I did a front roll (a kind of a somersault) and then I did a standing front roll which is where you stand up at the end. I felt like I at least looked like I knew what I was doing, though I totally didn’t. We then moved onto a backwards roll (a backwards somersault into a standing position), which was very scary, and then into a diving front roll, which I managed to accomplish without severing my spinal cord. Victory was mine! I then finished with a couple of handstands and a severe case of the spins. I asked Jen if that was normal, and she assured me that it was. And with that sense of accomplishment and nausea, I called it a day.

Even if you only cheered that one time in high school like me, or you used to do gymnastics, or you just want to learn how to walk on your hands, Cheer Up Athletics’ open gym is a pretty cool place. The coaches really make you feel at ease, and it helps to know that they are there to help, and protect you from neck injuries. Don’t be afraid to go check it out, you might end up feeling like a boss even though you just did a glorified somersault. It was a badass looking somersault and I won’t forget it.

Cheer Up Athletics
425 Washington Street