World Champions of Cheer

Visit Twist and Shout Training Center in Edmond and you’ll likely find owner and coach Orson Sykes on his feet and speaking at the top of his lungs. He’s nothing if not enthusiastic. He likes to coach every student individually, forming winners and cheerleading champions. At the cheer gym, Sykes expects the same hard work from the team that he puts into teaching. “I love what I do; I love teaching young people,” Sykes says. “I love to help them find who they are and help them reach their goals. That is the most rewarding thing.” Those goals were reached far beyond expectations this spring.

In April, the Twist and Shout All-Star team earned the gold medal in the Large Limited Coed Division at the USASF World Championship in Orlando, Florida. Earning the gold medal at an international event featuring 10,000 athletes from 380 teams representing 45 countries is akin to winning “the Super Bowl of cheerleading – it gets no bigger than this,” says Sykes. “It’s an honor itself to earn a medal, but now to win the whole thing? It was a surreal feeling. Last year, we won the bronze medal. In 2009 and 2008, we won the silver medal, but this is the first time to win the entire event.” With a winning team comes dedicated coaches, and Sykes was awarded Coach of the Year. “To win that title was humbling,” he said, “because it’s not something you can nominate yourself for. Other coaches and industry people nominate you.”

Sykes didn’t start out in the cheer world. From 1989 to 1993, he was a gymnast at the University of Oklahoma. The cheer squad needed tumblers in order to compete at a higher level, and Sykes was among the few males asked to join. “Honestly, I saw a lot of cute girls and said, ‘OK.’ I didn’t think we’d win; I just wanted to hang out with the girls. But lo and behold, we won.” In 1993, Sykes helped the OU Cheer Team win the National Cheerleading Association National Championships. “After that, I fell in love with cheer, so I got a job in a local cheer gym,” he says. “I liked to teach kids how to tumble.”

He made an impact on his students, and after five years, a local businessman offered to financially back Sykes so he could open his own cheer gym. “I coached his daughter, and I guess he saw something in me,” Sykes says. Although he didn’t have a lot of cheer experience, Sykes studied videos of competitions and learned how to put together award-winning choreographies. He learned to become much more than just a coach to his team … he became a mentor. “I want these kids to learn that whatever they decide to do or decide they want, they’ve got to work hard and be committed to it,” Sykes says.

Tara Beall, of Edmond, a five-year member of the team, said Sykes “knows what to say to get us to do what we need to do. I think the most important thing I’ve learned from him is that no matter how hard things get, you’ve got to keep trying. If you don’t give up, you will eventually succeed.”

Twist and Shout trains youths from age 4 and older in tumbling and cheerleading. Gyms are located in Edmond, Midwest City and Tulsa. For more information, visit www.shouterspirit.com.

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