One Backspot and One Base- Ready to Fly!

It was an exciting night at the Stingray Allstars in Marietta Wednesday evening. The gym hosted a special ceremony for two of their student athletes from the 2018 Stingray Allstars Orange. Gillian Scott and Raegan Dover signed their Division 1 NCATA National Letters of Commitment surrounded by their parents, teammates and coaches.

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I had an opportunity to visit with both the amazing student athletes to learn a little about their exciting news, future plans and how they plan to apply the skills they have learned as athletes into their college careers as student athletes.

Gillian Scott

Gillian has cheered at the Stingray Allstars for 7 years. She will be attending Quinnipiac University after this season. Gillian will be 1 of 60 accepted to the highly competitive 6 year Health Science and Doctorate of Physical Therapy program for Fall 2018 AND she gave her verbal commitment to Quinnipiac’s Acrobatics & Tumbling Team!

A bit about Gillian

Senior year in High School currently dual enrolled at Kennesaw State University
Received from Kennesaw State University – Sigma Alpha Pi Honor Society Invitation
National Society of Leadership and Success, All Majors – Red and Black Cords

Stingrays Teams

  • Green Rays 2 years
  • Slate Rays 1 yr
  • Orange Rays 4 yrs

Who was your role model in cheer growing up?

“Definitely Angel Rice and Kiara Nowlin they both pushed me and inspired me to be where I am today.”

Who is your role model in life?

“Both my parents are incredible role models, but I would have to say my brother Brandon. He has inspired me in life like no other. He provided me a perspective that no matter what obstacle is in my way, I can persevere and make it through anything. His spirit continues to carry me through.”

Career Goals

“I would like to specialize in Sports Medicine and really take a holistic approach to physical therapy. I want to be very approachable and help as many people as I can in the future with unique and customized methods to fit the individual. “23468372_10212735279150083_2114195959_o

Raegan Dover

This is Raegans first year at the Stingray Allstars. Prior to joining Orange she cheered at Georgia Allstars and Twisters. After this season Raegan will be attending Baylor University and will enroll in the Physical Therapy program at the University. She will also be competing on the Acrobatics and Tumbling team at Baylor.

A bit about Raegan

Prior to cheering she was a gymnastics athlete and converted over. She is currently attending High School at South Forsyth.

Stingrays Teams

First year on Stingrays Orange

Who was your role model in Cheer?

“I really looked up to Shayla Moore. She really helped me make the transition from gymnastics to cheer. She is such an amazing athlete.”

Who is your Role Model in life?

“My parents have been great. I especially look up to my Dad. He has always been a great role model for me.”

Career Goals

“I am really looking forward to a career in physical therapy. I am hoping to apply the work ethic and persistence I have learned as an athlete and apply it in school and in my career.”

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We wish these amazing athletes all the success on the mats this season and in future. Continue to follow your dreams and continue to CRUSH!

 

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Dear Mean Allstar Cheerleading Coach,

I started with you when I was a tiny/mini cheerleader. I was mesmerized by watching the big kids. I wanted to be like them and win a medal.

When we started practicing I was a little taken aback. I did not know it at the time, but our team was a mess. We forged on over the course of many months. Through dedication, tons of coaching, fighting through immeasurable amounts of frustration we began to come together. You believed in me and told me I could get that forward roll. Once I perfected that, you said I could get my cartwheel, I did. Then I moved on to my back walk over. I did it, but it was never perfect, You always coached me every inch of the way. Celebrating little victories, but making sure my arms were straight and that I was always on count. Why are you so mean?

It’s almost comp season we are all doing ok, but you seem to be insisting that we become better. Why are you so loud? Why do you insist on perfection? We are only kids. My parents keep telling me you are coaching, but I think otherwise. Why are you so mean?

Competition season is almost over we have quite a few medals and a few jackets. I can only focus on the here and now but I notice our team is becoming pretty good. You don’t tell us that very often in my opinion, and you are still pushing us to be better. Why are you so mean?

It’s the last performance of the season. We want to make you proud. I look down and notice you are crying. I am not sure why you are crying, but I have taken your guidance all year. We do our best again. We leave the mats and I am worried you will be loud again, but your not. You tell us how proud you are of us and our growth over the entire season. We end up winning the competition again. You insist we keep working and striving to be better. Why are you so mean?

Fast Forward…  

I have now moved on to youth and junior teams. While you are no longer my coach anymore, I still see you all the time and you always make time for me and give me a hug. I am working on harder skills now, but the one thing that has never changed is your continuous voice in my ear making sure my form is perfect and that I am on count. I share this drive for perfection and continuous high expectations with my teammates. They buy into my passion for excellence and many ask where I got it from. I am not quite sure, but I think it came from that mean coach I used to have.

We are prepping for Summit. You are still not my coach but still watch me and are invested in me. You catch me slacking off in practice from across the gym. I am not giving it my all. You take time out of your busy day to call me out for it. Literally, across the gym in front of everybody. Why are you so mean?

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Fast Forward…

Life is becoming a little more challenging now. I have been on every level team on my journey from Level 1 to Level 5. I have worked hard and fought through peaks and valleys to make my dream team. I am juggling a very rough school schedule, practice, tumble classes, I come in early and stay late with my stunt group.

I have to maintain exceptional grades to earn the right to follow my passion to cheer. In the middle of all of this, I bump into you rushing to practice. You notice I seem a little overwhelmed. You take a moment to ask if I am ok? You already know the answer. You let me vent and share my frustrations and then you look me in the eye and tell me that you know I can push through this challenging time. Right on cue, as expected, you don’t throw me a pity party and you tell me to suck it up and push through and give it your best. Why are you still so mean?

 

Fast Forward…

It’s finally over. The final award ceremony has concluded. It’s time to make some exciting but challenging life decisions. It is now time to decide how I am going to spend the next four years of my life. When I make my decision and my announcement. I notice you are there right by my side. You are crying again, and I am not sure why. I still remember you yelling at me to make sure my arms were straight and my toes were pointed. You never gave up on me and insisted I always do my best.

I share that I ended up in the top 10 percent of my graduating class. My parents are trying to figure out how to get rid of all the medals jackets and accolades I have earned under your tutelage. You look at me with tears in your eyes and make me promise I will continue to work my heart out.

I am little older and wiser now. I have the opportunity to look back upon my amazing journey. I smile at the thought of your agonizing task of coaching 18 tiny and mini cheerleaders. I honestly can’t believe you put that much passion into us. I remember you calling me out when I was not doing my best. I remember the time you took in the hallway to make sure I was ok and you cared enough to share that you believed in me and knew I could push through.

After all these years, I think I get it now. I realize your love for me and finally know what you MEAN.

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Realizing there is absolutely no point to Allstar Cheerleading.

You have dedicated most of your childhood to this. You have climbed every rung up the Allstar Cheerleading ladder to master every skill possible. You have done your best to surround yourself with amazing teammates, coaches and a community that supports you in everything you do. You have fought through injury, you have worked through lack of God given talent to master the skills that come easy for others. You have pushed through the mental challenges that tell your body there is no way on earth anyone should be able to do this, but you do it.

You have stared down fear, you perform in front of thousands of people with the bright lights blaring and nowhere to run. You go to practice when you want to quit and feel horrible. You have been the underdog. You have felt the intense pressure of being a National Champion and trying to keep that title. You have felt and pushed through the incredible pressure from being on top of the world, and tried to stay there. Knowing that if you can execute through the intense pressure of everyone gunning for you, it will create the perfect diamond. You have sacrificed parties, dances, Proms, free time, ridicule, all to be the best at what you do with your teammates.

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You respect and admire the coaches that spend the majority of the time demanding excellence and screaming at you to get every ounce of effort and focus out of you. You hate them for it and love them all at the same time.You have been blessed to let your talents shine on that stage and you have reached the pinnacle of your craft. You have earned every right to jump on Twitter, FB, Insta or Snap and scream from the rooftop that you are the absolute best there is, but you don’t, because your parents and coaches have brought you up better than that.

You will reach a breaking point during all of this. After you have done all you can possibly do, there will be a time when you say to yourself, “There is absolutely no point to Allstar Cheerleading.” At about this time, I hope and pray with all my heart that you take a look around. I would also ask you to analyze some things. We know you are young and will make some mistakes, but I would ask you to think twice about your actions. Think about the power of social media. Think about the words you choose and the actions you take. When you hide behind that anonymous Twitter handle and spew hate and tear people down who have risen to the top of their craft. When you try to tear others down because you are tired and worn out from practice, school, other responsibilities. When you are frustrated that others are getting the attention after a tough loss.

While you have been so dialed in focusing on your craft, you may have lost sight of those around you, understandably so. I hope and pray that you notice the little Tiny and Mini that idolizes you. I hope you notice the admiration in their eyes staring up at you. I hope you notice after you complete that last pass. There is a Tiny and a Mini analyzing your every move and only one day hoping to duplicate your skill level. I hope you watch when they perfect that forward roll or cartwheel and they are so overcome with joy they stumble over themselves in excitement giving their coaches huge hugs. I only wish that you could see that after those littles come home from practice and competitions they get right back to work creating new routines using your name and the team you represent. When they practice along side you and go for their water break they are longing for you to say hi or give them a high five because to them, you are their biggest hero. I hope you respect that. Carosblog

We all know you did not ask for this, but suspect somewhere along the line of your success there was someone you looked up to. Someone you admired and wanted to be like. Hopefully, they took you under their wing and gave you an encouraging smile or shout of encouragement. Your legacy means something whether you like it or not. An encouraging smile or taking a moment to watch that little team that is working so hard to be like you can move mountains.

At the end of the day, this is a very small world. You understand the bond and the legacy that Allstar Cheerleading represents better than anyone. You know that when the chips are down and you enter the real world outside of cheer, there is no one else you would rather surround yourself with than people who have went through the same challenges and triumphs as you. That could be the very person who you may or may not have been tearing down on #CheerTwitter.

You may not know it now, but the life lessons and skills you are learning that I have laid out in If you are in business…Never hire an Allstar Cheerleader mean nothing if you tarnish or don’t respect the legacy you leave. It means something…it means a lot. If you are not going to do it for the Tiny or Mini cheerleader I mentioned earlier, I understand. Maybe you won’t even consider it for your parents who have sacrificed an immense amount to give you these life skills, opportunities and experiences in life that you may not even recognize at this stage in your life. I certainly hope and pray that you do it for the person you are staring at in the mirror, because you deserve it, and the people you surround yourself with deserve it as well.

There is a circle of life that is Allstar Cheerleading. The circle will then extend into college or any other life path you choose in life. You will be amazing as you always have been. The learning curve may be longer, but you need to realize you built your craft over the course of many years. Life is the same way. The legacy you leave means everything to the future. Respect the honor of what you do by being the better person now.  Continue to be amazing in everything you do, because that is what you know and that is what you were programmed to do.

When an Allstar Cheer Coach takes you higher than you ever dreamed of.

I have heard it many times. “If you demand excellence out of your team, you just might get it. If you don’t you will never understand a teams true potential.”

This is an expectation we understand in the allstar cheerleading community.  We watch worlds teams chase perfection to achieve their destiny every year. High expectations, work ethic, emotional ups and downs. “The process” as it is referred, is an excepted term that explains the journey that is a complete season in allstar cheer.

What if it’s not a worlds team? Let’s take this perspective and apply it to a mini team. Is that fair? If done properly, it absolutely is!

It takes an amazing coach with sound fundamentals in development and leadership to create an unbreakable culture within. If a coach repeats the mantra. ” Our goal is to be the best mini team in the world” it is a very special moment when that team dares to believe what the coach tells them every week in every practice. Have we seen teams gel together and become amazing? Absolutely, it happens to hundreds of mini teams every year. As parents I understand it can be challenging to accept the notion that young children can be coached to such levels. There is a fine line between coaching genius and taking it too far with any age group. If the proper fundamentals of having fun, doing your best at all times and not placing emphasis on winning, the rest will fall into place and become history.

Sometimes, the culture of that team overflows and rubs off on the entire gym. I delve into the topic on the new podcast Welcome to Mintland Chapter 11 

This chapter describes the amazing goal that a coach puts before a mini team and how they chose to respond as a group. It is an amazing story about the ” little mini team that could” and the 2015 World Champion Stingray Allstars Peach The world champions adopt our beloved mini team and become mentors and spirit animals to a team trying to defy the odds. Here is an excerpt from the book that describes a moment at UCA.

“All of the Mints immediately stood up and began screaming their little lungs out, but this time it was different. The roar of the milkhouse crowd drowned out the cheers from the little mini team that had consistently had their back all year. Peppermints spirit and love transcended the noise of the crowd, it was too strong to be drowned out and they emanated a spirit that was very clearly felt all the way down on the mats at UCA.”  – Welcome to Mintland

Don’t be afraid to embrace a coach that challenges you and takes you to new heights. It will not be easy. It will be emotionally draining and exhausting. I promise you one thing, if your team and coaches fully commit, no matter what age, no matter what skill level you will achieve a lifetime of achievements, lessons and memories that you will be able to apply to life for many years to come. You will NEVER EVER forget the heights that coach will take you. Embrace it.

The Most Painful Gift is a Summit Loss…

There is nothing more painful than hitting your routine at Summit and not advancing or making it to day two, hitting and losing. It will happen to almost every team that sets foot in the ESPN WWOS. Specifically, about 95% of the teams that are fortunate enough to earn a bid will not get the ring.

As I reflect on the 2017 season, it is a bittersweet moment. It happened again, we competed, hit zero both days and lost…. this will be the third time. It will probably happen over and over again if we are lucky enough to make it back. I use the term “WE” on purpose. As you know, your entire village is part of a trip to Summit. The coaches, the athletes, the parents. The cycle of emotions after you come back from Summit and lose goes something like this. exhaustion, anger, guilt, reflection on what went wrong. After you make it through all of those emotions the final and most important stage

You begin to smile, you begin to understand the magnitude of what you just went through with your entire squad. After you make it through all of those emotions the final and most important stage hit you like a ton of bricks. The inevitable question. Was it all worth it?

Typically, if you are like me, it’s the third day. I start looking at all the amazing photos of the weekend. The smiles, the anticipation, the preparation, the tension the amazing time with friends. The pain, the tears …I review it all.

Then there is that moment when you find a social media post from a few years back that puts everything into perspective. You were new to cheer, maybe a little less jaded, some may say a little nieve. I would say it summed up the biggest gift you can get from a Summit loss. It goes a little something like this……

Pardon me capturing this moment…..

The most treasured gifts one can receive in life are lifetime memories. Sometimes these are good memories, sometimes bad. As we got home from Orlando last night. As we always do, Kaitlyn and I snuggled and we talked about her 2nd place finish at The Summit.

While she was disappointed in not winning. I explained to her that as she goes through life this experience is a gift that she will be able to hold in her heart forever. As a 7-year-old she did not exactly understand what I meant.

I proceeded to tell her that what their team accomplished will never be taken away. She would be able to take this experience with her for the rest of her life and share the incredible journey with others. “It is a gift”.

As we walked through the entire journey. I also shared that Coach Ashley believing in them and giving them this incredible opportunity is something she should never forget. I also told her that the team overcame so many things to get as far as they did. She seemed perplexed. “What did we overcome? We were only doing our routine as we always do.” I finally told her that many people did not think they would do as well as they did. I finally was able to put into perspective exactly what they accomplished.

1.People stated that Peppermint was “too small” to compete in the Youth division. People said there was no way this team would be able to compete one time and get a bid, it was too much of a long shot. They should stay the course and go for the Triple Crown points race.

2. Some people said ” They would never give a Mini team a ” Youth Level at-large bid to the Summit.” They were right, your team did NOT get an at-large bid. They were awarded a “Full Paid bid instead”

3. People were nervous when Peppermint changed the routine they had all season. I was a risky change going into Summit. It was a huge challenge and at times did not look so good in practice. They said maybe it was a mistake to change it. You hit it flawlessly both days in competition.

4. People said there would be no way they would let a Mini team move on to day 2 at the Summit in the Youth Division. You made it to Day 2 Final and Finished in Second Place in the Nation in the Youth Division.

Kaitlyn then asked ” Why did our coaches not tell us all this stuff?” I responded well Kaitlyn that is the the Gift that I was referring to. Coach Ashley, Kelsey and Rupert believed in you so much that they knew you could do it all along without any doubt! That is the true gift! Coach Ashley told you all year you were the best Mini Team in the world all year and she was right….hold that in your heart forever. #miraclemints

This post was the inspiration for the book Welcome to Mintland. It is featured on the Welcome to Mintland Facebook page HERE.

 

 

The Announcement that Changed Cheer Forever.

This article appears in the January 2017 edition of Cheer.Dance.Lyfe magazine. To get a copy of the magazine click HERE.

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On Tuesday, December 6th 2016 The cheer universe was changed forever. The announcement that Cheerleading has finally been validated and recognized as a true Olympic Sport finally was announced. This was a huge announcement for the world of cheerleading.

The International Cheer Union (ICU) was granted provisional International Olympic Committee recognition for a period of three years by the Executive Board. More importantly, if everything goes well, competitive cheerleading can now be included in the upcoming Olympic programs. No longer will you have to defend the sport we all love as a “real sport”.

Founded in 2004 and headquartered in the United States, the International Cheer Union began its journey to be recognized six years ago when it first applied to the International Olympic Committee. The ICU's mission is to positively advance cheerleading throughout the world. The organization has steadily built its membership and now has 110 National Cheer Federation members.

Via the Press Release of the announcement:

"The IOC's actions have created a monumental milestone for cheerleading. We are truly honored to receive this recognition by the Executive Board of the IOC," said Jeff Webb, President of the International Cheer Union. "This decision will greatly assist us as we strive to create opportunities for healthy participation and competition for millions of Cheer athletes worldwide."

Many questions quickly arose, as this decision caught many off guard. The initial US news reports failed miserably in properly reporting that competitive Cheer that had just been validated as a sport. The old perceptions of Cheerleading prevailed and the news media did not properly capture the essence of competitive cheer. The competitive cheer community quickly responded. You could feel the collective heads raise and the welling up in pride from the cheer community around the world. No one has to argue anymore, Cheer is now a sport.

 

Confusion and excitement quickly set in within the Cheerleading community as well. The many variations of competitive cheer began to ask questions. What happens now? How is this going to work? Is this going to change Worlds as we know it? How can I get involved to be an Olympic Champion one day?  

 

I visited The Stingray Allstars in Marietta, Georgia to get some insight from some of the Youth and Junior teams who are now in the middle of their competition season. A few had heard of the huge announcement, most had not. The look on the faces of the athletes once they learned they could potentially be in the Olympic Games someday was priceless. Many dropped the names of the famous athletes of the recently completed 2016 Rio Summer games. The teams shared names like

Simone Biles, Ali Raisman the Final 5, Michael Phelps and other athletes were shared. Needless to say the Allstar Cheerleading gym was buzzing with excitement of the news.

The Stingray Allstars Red Rays with Torch from the 2012 London Olympic Games
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Many in America and abroad are familiar with the Allstar format of Worlds and Summit. Olympic Cheer will be represented by the International Cheer Union. The ICU federation is based in America but will represent teams from all over the world.  

 

As a father with two daughters who has defended the authenticity of this sport vehemently, I decided to find out how all this works in hopes to educate all involved. I was fortunate enough to speak with some incredible athletes that have already represented The US National Team.

 

Below is a question and answer from my interview with Patrick and Julia Miller who have represented the US National Team. The couple has represented our country over the past few years and have been instrumental in paving the way for US National athletes for years to come. I wanted to share couples experience in hopes to share as much of the potential Olympic cheer experience as possible.
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Julia Miller- USA Cheer  2014-2016

Q: What was the cheerleading path that led you to compete on the US National Team ?

A: “ When I was younger I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years and always had a passion to compete. In college, I cheered at UCF.  While cheering in college and attending events such as the NCA and UCA College nationals. I learned about the US National Team. I tried out and made the Co-Ed squad and was on The team from 2014-15-16.”

 

Q: “ What was it like to represent USA Cheer at the ICU Worlds?

A: “It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. It was so amazing to be surrounded by such amazing talent from all over the world. Each of the teams work so hard and are so passionate about what they do.”

 

Q: Many people will know about the talent from the US National Team. What are some of the International teams we should keep our eye on?

A: “Great question! There are so many incredible teams from around the world. With the popularity of Cheer growing at an amazing pace, the teams are improving all the time. If you are a young athlete you should certainly be keeping you eye on Team Norway, Team Netherlands, Team UK and Team Canada. There are so many teams to name. The talent is absolutely amazing around the world.”

 

Q: What does the US National Team tryout process look like?

A: “The process has changed recently and you can find that information on the US National cheer website. Previously, tryouts were held the day after the UCA College Nationals. You have to be ready to go immediately. It is important to be a well-rounded athlete and strong in all facets of cheer. You only get one shot to try a skill in tryouts. You either hit it or you don’t. The coaches will ask you to complete a stunt or tumbling pass. If you can’t do it the first time, they move on to the next. You have to be poised and ready. You are competing against the best athletes in the nation from many different disciplines.”
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Patrick Miller- USA Cheer  2010- 2016

 

Q:  What was the cheerleading path that led you to compete on the US National Team?

 

A: “In high school, I began playing football, but started Cheerleading in the 10th grade. I went on to Cheer for the University of Kentucky for one year and then transferred to cheer at the University of Alabama for four years. I tried out for the US National team six years ago and fell in love with it, and have been doing it ever since.”

 

Q: You have been on The US National Team for six years. What would be you advice to up and coming Cheerleaders who have a dream to compete on the USA Cheer?

A: “The most important aspect of cheering for The US National team as Julia mentioned,  is being a well-rounded athlete. While many may focus on being an exceptional tumbler or on stunting, it is very important to be exceptional in both. You have to be able to pick up things quickly as practice time is very limited. The competition is incredible and the emphasis on assembling the best routine in the world is imperative.”

 

Q: You mention limited practice time. Most reading this will be familiar with the Allstar gym practice structure. How exactly does that work?  I imagine you have athletes represented from all over the United States. How does the US National team practice?

A: “Many of us are already practicing on a daily basis with our respective teams in college. We actually will share ideas in the team GroupMe. The coaches will send out concepts they are thinking about or asking us to perfect. The coaches spend months coordinating flights and practice facilities for the team. We will all share our ideas and work to perfect them multiple hours in the gym during the week. Once we get closer to the ICU Worlds, the entire team assembles two weeks before and works to perfect the routine. It is an extremely grueling and exhausting process, but that is what it takes to create one of the most competitive routines in the world.”

 

  1. What is an international team other than the US National team that has impressed you?

A: “All of the team's Julia mentioned earlier are amazing. The group that always impresses me is Team Chinese/Taipei. The coed routine they assembled that won them the Gold a few years back was absolutely mind blowing. I also love watching Team Thailand they continue to amaze the world with their incredible stunts and pyramids. I look forward to watching them year in and year out.”

2016 USA Cheer  Coed Premier

As more information about this announcement emerges one thing is for sure. The announcement that Cheerleading is now recognized as an official Olympic sport has changed cheer forever. The announcement will raise the bar for every aspiring athlete who dares to dream big to be an Olympic champion. We can now close the book on the debate of the sport being valid. Although we are not naive enough to believe there will not be skeptics, we can now use our athleticism, work ethic, and execution to continue to prove the doubters wrong.  

 

The Stingray Allstars- 15 Year Tribute Video

When you step back and think of the thousands of lives The Stingray Allstars  program has touched over the past 15 years, it can be overwhelming. What started out as a vision, has turned into an amazing culture that feeds off of love, hard work, dedication, sacrifice, but most important family.

While it is true, the program has been blessed with amazing success on the mats. From top to bottom,  no matter the age group or level, the amazing leadership within the walls of Stingrays sets a tone for our athletes from tiny all the way through our worlds teams. It begins and ends with the leadership we are blessed with.

The coaches are too humble to take recognition and will pass the success on to the athletes and families. Out of respect for the coaches and entire staff, I will not single you out, but we thank you and appreciate everything you do for our children. The coaching and support staff of the gym sets an undeniable tone and an expectation to do your best at all times and do it with class. This expectation defines the Stingray culture and builds normal athletes into extraordinary young men and women. It makes our little gym in Marietta, Ga truly “One of a Kind”

While it is simply impossible to capture 15 years of amazing in 4:54 secs. I hope you enjoy the hype video. Let’s have a great year and may we always keep the Stingray culture alive. Here’s to the next 15 years. You may want to turn this video up!

I present the Stingray Allstars 15 Year Tribute Video