By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – With a move to a new facility this summer, Bay State Cheer & Dance has more than doubled its space and has added programs and practice space for town and high school cheerleading teams.
Bay State is still on Cherry Street off Route 20, but moved to a neighboring building, and now has 24,000 sq. ft. of gym space, compared to 9,500 sq. ft. in its former building.
“We have five separate cheerleading floors, plus room for a lot of other equipment,” said Matthew Holdridge, a co-owner of the company.
“We have three spring floors, two hard floors, two tumbling tracks, a 60-ft. rod floor and a trampoline,” added Steven Visneau, also a co-owner.
“Now we can work with a lot of town youth leagues and high school programs, where before we were concentrating on our All Stars,” Holdridge said. Some of those teams just rent the indoor practice space with their own coaches, and some work with the Bay State coaches on tumbling routines and choreography. The gym hosts at least one town’s teams every day.
“We can also expand our own recreational cheering program,” noted Visneau. The recreational program is less intense than the competitive All Stars team program, meeting just one day a week. Recreational teams can compete on a local level.
“In November, we are also adding an all-boys cheerleading class that will be open to boys of any age. The big universities have huge coed cheerleading programs, especially the Division I schools, and there’s a lot of scholarship money for male cheerleaders,” Visneau said.
Bay State’s competitive cheering program, the Bay State All Stars, offers an intensive training schedule, and the teams travel and compete locally and nationally, including at the Cheerleading Worlds competition in Orlando. They work all year on their routines, starting in June.
For school cheerleaders who want to continue the sport and improve their skills after the football season ends, Bay State offers a half-year schedule of classes from December through May, creating teams for cheerleaders of all ages and abilities that compete locally. The half-year programs compete only with each other, not with full-year program teams which have been together and practicing for as much as six months longer.
There are tumbling classes on Fridays and Saturdays available on a monthly basis for children as young as two-and-a-half and up.
Bay State also offers special needs cheerleading classes for children with physical and mental disabilities, teaching cheerleading fundamentals and fostering friendships and team spirit. “Everyone is welcome in that program, and one of the reasons we wanted the larger facility was to be able to expand it,” Visneau said.
Holdridge noted that cheerleading is now recognized as a sport and cheerleaders as athletes. “Much of our focus is on conditioning, to be sure our cheerleaders can do the tumbling and stunts safely. We have spent a lot of money on top-of-the-line equipment as well.”
In addition to teaching athletic skills, team cheerleading teaches responsibility. “Most teams are small, and every person is part of an intricate puzzle. If someone does not come to practice, the rest of the team can’t work on that stunt. The kids learn their decisions affect more than just themselves,” Holdridge said. “We emphasize to the students and their parents at the beginning of each season that they have a responsibility to the team.”
In November, Bay State is registering students for the half-year program. A complete schedule of classes offered and registration information on all of the company’s programs is on its website, www.baystateallstars.com, or call 508-845-5678.
Bay State plans a cheerleading show featuring its All Stars teams on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the new facility. The time and details will be on the website, and the program is free and open to the public.
Bay State is located at 220 Cherry St. off of Route 20 in Shrewsbury.