By June Mathews
Not long ago, Shane Sharpe received a call from a university cheerleading coach seeking a qualified candidate to fill an open spot on his squad. Sharpe, the owner of High Fly All-Stars Cheerleading, recommended one of his most talented students, and arrangements were made for the coach and prospective cheerleader to meet.
Within days, the student had not only earned a place on the squad but a full scholarship to the university as well.
As surprising as such a development may seem to someone not familiar with the High Fly Cheer Center and the instruction available there, it wasn’t all that surprising to Sharpe. This year, 17 scholarships have been awarded to High Fly students; approximately 85 have been awarded over the past five years.
“Our kids have gotten more college scholarships than any other gym in the state of Alabama in the past few years,” he said. “We have the ability to get them there, and we know the steps to ensure their success in achieving the next level.”
Nearly all of High Fly’s coaches cheered in college, so they are well aware of what it takes to succeed in that environment.
“We think if somebody’s going to lead you there, they need to know where you’re going,” Sharpe said.
That type of knowledge includes Sharpe. As a former mascot at the University of Alabama, he’s personally experienced the ups and down of collegiate cheering.
In fact, Sharpe reports, the locations have doubled each year since he came on scene in 2010. At the time, High Fly only had one gym.
“That’s pretty amazing for any business to do that in a down economy,” he said. “But parents are seeking a return on their investment, and they’re seeing that our gym is a driving force in helping send kids to college.Not only do kids make college squads from our gym, but we will set them up to make local school teams as well. We have a 99 percent success rate in our athletes making a team at the next level.”
And colleges will, as Sharpe is fond of saying, “fish where the fish are.”
In other words, he believes High Fly is a proven source for some of the best competitive cheerleaders around, and the coaches “shop” there because they know they’ll find the kind of squad members they need.
And the numbers – of students, of scholarships, of High Fly alumni who cheer or have cheered on college squads and of locations – bear his opinion out.
In the business of “cheernastics” since 2005, Sharpe and his staff work to maintain a lively and enjoyable atmosphere in the gym, even though the intensity of competition can sometimes get tough. But according to the parents of some of High Fly’s students, it’s an environment in which kids can thrive.
“They love it,” said Tina Poe of Moody, mother of 15-year-old Trenity and 10-year-old Kennedy. “It keeps them in such good health, and I don’t know of any other sport they’d enjoy so much. And it’s fun to watch them progress. Besides, they love Shane, and coming here has broadened their friendships. This is a family to them.”
Jerrie Rentfrow drives her kids, son Cameron, 14, and daughter Sydney, 12, all the way from Corner to Trussville’s High Fly gym multiple times a week.
“I’ve had three kids on three different teams,” she said. “But we really like the way this program is headed. They have phenomenal coaches here, and Shane makes it about the kids.”
Middle schooler Hannah Szyszuta and mom Cindy have been coming from Pell City to the Trussville location for three years.
“She wanted to try it,” said Szyszuta, “and we haven’t left. It has become such a family for both her and me. At the end of the day, she’s having fun, she’s improving every day, and her friends are here.”