The military has its own set of maneuvers. Military-connected youth have yet another set, and they practice each Wednesday at Tolson Youth Activities Center. Youth maneuvers involve receiving cheer instruction as members of All American Cheer, Fort Bragg’s first competitive cheer team for ages 3 to 18.
The youth are divided into mini and junior teams and are connected to SKIES Unlimited, a program designed to enhance the lives of military and Department of Defense dependents.
Tiffanie Woods and Schyler Clark are AAC coaches who teach techniques such as round offs, forward rolls, handstands and back and front walkovers.
“Over the past two months, there has been a tremendous amount of improvement,” said Woods, who established AAC in 2011 and has won 10 national, individual titles. “We’ve definitely improved on stunting this year.”
Elizabeth Edwards, 8, said she enjoys being AAC.
“I practice almost everyday because I love cheer. I get to fly (get lifted or thrown in the air) and I get to have fun,” said Edwards.
Ava Clark, 10, agreed.
“I get to do all the flips and I get to fly,” said Ava, who enjoys learning cheer from Schyler, her big sister.
“She’s always there for me when I need her and she helps teach me everything,” Ava said.
Some AAC youth participate in competitions, with upcoming ones scheduled for January, March, April and May.
Last April, junior cheerleaders won first place in a national competition and the mini team won second place in a competition at Methodist University in November.
Winning competitions is a short-term goal, but long-term, youth have the potential to earn college scholarships, said Woods, who attended and graduated Methodist College on a cheer scholarship in 2010. Woods regularly holds clinics at regional high schools for those interested in attending college on scholarship.
For now, AAC offers an outlet for youth to learn teamwork and discipline.
According to Tina Gregory, her daughter, Cheyenne has learned to focus more on eating healthy and staying fit.
“She cares more about what she’s eating. She doesn’t eat heavy on cheer days, so she’s learned to eat lighter,” Gregory said.
Sharita Miles uses her daughter, Jayla’s fondness for AAC as a crutch to make her behave better in class.
“I threaten not to go to cheer if she cuts up in school,” Miles said. ‘Cheering is my life — if I don’t do cheer, what am I going to do,’ Miles said Jayla asks.
Clark seems to know something about that love — she first became Woods’s student at 11 years old and now enjoys mentoring youth.
“Tiffanie coached me when I was a little girl,” Clark said. “She’s an amazing coach. She started me out and now I want to do it.”
Woods wants to add to her list of students and to continue to teach the sport she loves.
“It’s my passion, to know that I can be a role model for them and to give them something to look forward to in life,” Woods said.
For more information about All American Cheer, visit www.allamericancheer.net or like them on Facebook.
For more information about SKIES Unlimited, visit www.fortbraggmwr.com.