RIVERVIEW — Gathered around a tabletop television screen, a handful of Storm All-Stars cheerleaders gathered to review and relive the moments of a competition that earned their team a first-place finish last season.
“That’s my daughter, Jessica, and this is her fourth season with Storm All-Stars,” said Lois Hayes, pointing out a 12-year-old in the center of the group. “I wanted her to learn a good team sport and she wanted to cheer and she took me along for the ride.”
That “ride” amounts to what cheer parents, cheerleaders and their coaches refer to as well-earned milestones, moments and achievements. Such was the consensus April 17 at the The Regent in Riverview, where hundreds of people attended the end-of-the-year banquet for the 2013-14 season.
“Friends, the family environment, competitions just about every other weekend, and practices three nights a week, sometimes four,” Lois Hayes said in recounting the group’s experience. “It has been one busy, crazy, fantastic ride.”
Co-owners Margaret DeVore and Evelyn Hogue wouldn’t have it any other way, noting that their Brandon business, at 514 Corner Drive, has grown from one team to eight over the past nine years, with some 145 girls in attendance. The owners strive to provide a family atmosphere in which girls ages 5 to 18 can build skills and friendships while acquiring a competitive edge and valuable life lessons.
“We want them to learn how to grow as a person, how to work together as a team, and to do what they like to do in a safe environment,” DeVore said. “They’re competitive athletes, they train and they do a routine. They’re in the gym up to six hours a week.”
The work at times might be trying and taxing, but to the girls on the line the effort is both rewarding and fun.
“It’s really fun, because you get to do stunts and you get to tumble and you get to do facials and perform for everybody,” said Giovanna Ciotti, a second-grader at Boyette Springs Elementary School, about the skills and “the look” you give when you cheer and dance before both audience and judge alike.
“I like spending time with friends and getting ready for competition and having that ‘inside feeling’ when you’re getting ready to perform,” added Heather Heinze, 10, a fifth-grader at Alafia Elementary School. It’s that feeling, she added, when “you just get super excited and you’re a little nervous, but when you get out on the floor you’re just ready to rock it.”
Deborah Stasiak said she is happy to hear of that assessment from Heinze, the granddaughter she is raising.
“She has chronic allergies and asthma and she’s allergic to just about everything environmentally,” Deborah Stasiak said. “She can’t even go outside for P.E. in school but we wanted to keep her physically active. Storm All-Stars cheering is in an enclosed and controlled environment. We’re now at the end of her third season. She used to go eight or 10 times a year to the pulmonary doctor. She’s down now to once a year.”
Storm All-Stars has wrapped up its third season at its Brandon location. Previously, the business was in operation in leased space at Bay City Gymnastics in Riverview.
“We took an adventure and here we are,” said DeVore, who added that her coaching days started as a volunteer at East Bay Buccaneers Little League when her daughter, Ashley, now 28, was 7 years old.
Ashley DeVore, who cheered for both East Bay and Newsome high schools, teaches fifth grade at Corr Elementary School in Gibsonton. She also is a Storm All-Stars coach and helps run the business.
“I’ve cheered all my life,” she said. “Coaching kids and seeing them grow as athletes and as people, that’s why I love my job. That’s why I do what I do.”
As for Jessica Hayes, she, too, is on a path for lifelong cheering, at least through her childhood years.
“I like it a lot and I’ve been doing it since I was little,” she said. “It’s really fun because you get to travel and compete. I like bonding with my team, practicing to get better, hitting all my stunts and making sure my facials are pretty and fierce.”
The Storm All-Stars season runs from June to April. The new season starts in May. For information, call (813) 657-8676. Visit online at www.stormallstar cheerleading.com.