MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Titan Cheer alliance in the Leonardo section of Middletown breaks all the stereotypes that come to mind when you think of cheerleading. These cheerleaders aren't here to stand on the bylines and encourage the football team - they are talented, athletic young women (and young men!) who are working hard at their sport!
The gym had to shut down for nearly five months due to the pandemic but was finally able to reopen in July, as it is a space for youth athletic activity.
Titan Cheer Alliance was founded by friends Jodi, Thea, Joyce, and Marie. They met as fellow "Cheer Moms" and AYC (American Youth Cheerleading) coaches, whose daughters were on the same team. They saw the potential for their girls to get to the top of the competitive cheer circuit and began to dream of a space where they could coach and encourage competitive cheerleaders.
Without any cheerleading gyms in the Bayshore area, mothers with children interested in competitive cheering had to commute to gyms in Freehold, Morganville, and beyond. The women behind Titan Cheer Alliance weren't the only ones who longed for a gym close to home. They soon had many eager recruits from multiple townships in the Bayshore area, including Atlantic Highlands, Holmdel, Leonardo, Keansburg, Fair Haven, and Rumson. What started as a team of 26 girls cheering at Keansburg AYC has blossomed into an alliance of 130 talented young athletes
"Breaking away [from school and pop-warner cheering] and going into the competitive circuit allows the girls to push themselves, work hard, and earn rewards," says co-founder, Joyce. "It's an opportunity to learn about how hard work pays off."
Evidence of how hard work has paid off is throughout the gym, filled with plaques, trophies, and banners celebrating the girls' accomplishments.
"We've made it to nationals [in Disney] every year since 2013, and we won in 2016," Jodi says, proudly.
The UCA Allstar Championship - held annually at Disney World - is a big deal in the cheer world, so the fact that the Titan team has made it there so many years speaks volumes to their talent and abilities. It is not hard to see why these cheerleaders have been so successful, as Titan Cheer Alliance is a positive and empowering environment.
Thea, like the other founders, was an athlete as a teenager. All four women agreed that cultivating a space that encourages young girls was a huge motivator for founding Titan Cheer Alliance. She explains,
"When I was a girl, all athletic activities were centered around the boys. I was a cheerleader, but only because my brother played football. Cheerleading gave me somewhere to go when my parents had to bring him to a game or practice. Back then, all athletics were centered around boys sports."
However, the cheer gym is not closed to males. There are currently four boys who are also cheering with Titan.
"We welcome everyone who comes to us. No one is turned away," says Jodi. "Regardless of age, ability, or athletic experience, there is a space here for everyone. We find their strengths, and we encourage them."
This approach is a far cry from how other athletic teams operate, turning away hopeful contestants who don't make the cut. Everyone age 4-18 is accepted here, and they are encouraged to make the most of their natural abilities. That is what makes this gym such a standout.
The gym itself is in an industrial space in Leonardo, with lots of lovely natural light. The garage-style doors in front open completely to let in the fresh air, and its location is off the main road in a quiet neighborhood. The space is privately insured and has a spring floor, which they paid for through fundraising efforts.
"We are entirely volunteer-run, so fundraising is a big part of keeping our mission going," Jodi says. "We have people from all walks of life who volunteer here to coach the cheerleaders. Everyone works a day job and comes here right after work to support the girls. I have even run in here with my work clothes still on, heels and all," she laughs. "Sometimes we are here as late as ten o'clock at night. It is worth it to support the kids!"
Fundraising is also how cheerleaders raise money to travel for competitions and pay for uniforms.
"We have stood outside of Dixie Lee Bakery, and the Ferry dock in Highlands with cans, asking for donations," Thea tells me, as Joyce adds
"The girls can only use their 'canning' money for their cheer needs. It's a great way to teach them the responsibility of handling money."
Money is another factor that does not limit who can be part of the Titans. Nobody will be turned away for lack of finances. Financial scholarships and business sponsorships are options to help keep a child on the team.
Business sponsorships are an opportunity for community support and involvement. When a local business sponsors Titan Cheer Alliance, that sponsorship goes directly to funding an athlete. In turn, the business name appears on a banner and Titan Cheer Alliance's website. Sponsorships help a young athlete stay involved in a positive team sport, and are a great way to encourage community involvement.
Titan Cheer Alliance is a valuable part of the Bayshore area community. For anyone seeking a positive, inclusive, and athletic environment for their child, look no further than Titan Cheer Alliance! In the words of Thea, Jodi, Joyce, and Marie,
"Everyone that comes here is part of the family."
If your child is interested in competitive cheering, contact Titan Cheer Alliance at 732-675-3050 or visit them at www.titancheeralliance.com. They also offer stunt clinics, tumble clinics, and children's birthday parties.