The world of cheer is one of intense training, competition, and precise skill. From the outside, spectators may not grasp the strength and mastery required in high-level competitions. On the inside, cheerleaders across the nation train year-round to perfect skills and routines to compete at highly regarded end-of-season competitions.
Deep South Spirit
Since 1999, David Hanbery, owner of Deep South Spirit and a longtime cheerleader, has been ensuring that cheerleading moves into the future as an accessible and fun sport for all its athletes. Deep South Spirit is a cheerleading event company in the Southeast US focused on holding high-production, fun events open to any sanctioned or non-sanctioned all-star cheer team internationally. Deep South Spirit is breaking down the barriers that have been in place that have unfortunately made cheerleading a luxury sport.
“We put on massive productions. Think about a concert, but for cheerleaders. We have jumbotron screens, we host events at concert venues like The Wharf where all the country singers start their life out. These are huge. We are running events sometimes with 10,000 people that are coming for 2 days,” Christina Schuster, National Sales/Event Director at Deep South Spirit says.
Additionally, Deep South is passionate about ensuring athletes with special abilities can always compete. “All Deep South Spirit Competitions offer no entry fee for CheerABILITIES teams. These programs are always welcome at all our events. We are huge supporters of Special Olympics, CheerABILITIES, and encouraging everyone to be able to have the opportunity to be a cheerleader. We are aware it is a luxury sport, so we work to get entry fees down, etc,” Schuster says.
Deep South Spirit’s Competitions
In 2021, Deep South Spirit hosted more than 20 events in the regular season from November to May, with at least 5 per year attracting more than 5,000 athletes and spectators — doubling in scope from last year. This year, the company has expanded up north for the first time with events in New Jersey and Syracuse, NY. Deep South Spirit is a small, family run independent operation that puts quality at the forefront of all events. “The production, the number of teams, and the quality is top notch. Treating the venues appropriately is very important to us as well,” Schuster shares. Early communication with venues is key for Deep South to ensure each place knows what to expect to best execute large competitions.
“We work ahead. That’s another perk. You always deal with the same person. It’s not in this hand and then that hands, you’re dealing with me from beginning to end. It’s a very small family-run company, but we’re very large at the same time,” she continues. Events typically span one to two days, often with athletes and their families extending their stay to enjoy the area. At the end of the event, award ceremonies are held based on a points system, and cheerleaders walk away with their awards and prizes right then, immediately celebrating the fun.
Deep South Spirit’s end-of-season events have been successfully held for years and only continue to grow. These competitions are open to any teams across the globe who would like to compete. Because of the alternative they offer instead of bid chasing, teams can fundraise and plan a year ahead of time. The goal for all these gym owners and athletes is to get to that end of season. “Everyone chases that end-of-season event. It’s what these kids work for. This is THE event. It’s the one with the biggest prizes – the rings, the jackets – all that stuff. They’re looking for this,” Schuster notes.
Growth & Adapting to COVID-19
“I will tell you that we gained a lot of momentum this year. My owner is super innovative and has been in the game for a long time,” Schuster shares. During the pandemic, Deep South came up with the idea to offer free, live broadcasts of competitions called E-Cheer. When competitions were limited to spectators, family members could log on from home to support and watch live. Deep South Spirit also began hosting tailgates outside the venues with blow up screens. At a time when others were cancelling, Deep South Spirit found an innovative solution to host all their events safely.
“For us, our growth is because we solved a lot of problems. We gave them a season last year. And again, this year, too. That’s been the biggest thing: we gave options. When they said you can only have 3,000 attendees, we said okay, let’s create this E-Cheer, where you can watch for free without being there. Our company owner is very innovative and made it happen really,” Schuster describes. Strengthening the family-run legacy and to support its attendees, Deep South Spirit’s owners are at every single event working hard and taking part in the fun, often getting on the microphone and interviewing kids.
What Makes an Event Successful?
“Our biggest thing is that we don’t have any injuries. And that everybody is happy and leaves excited. Getting a shoutout online is gold. The more people that believe in your product, the better. We have a ton of loyal clients who come to multiple of our events, which we are proud of. We do everything we can to please all parties,” Schuster shares.
Go Big or Go Home
“Let’s do it right”
Christina Schuster regarding the upcoming 2022 End-of-Season Championship
For 2022, Deep South Spirit is passionate about bringing the fun back to these competitive events. They plan to continue with their Friday evening welcome party to kick off the event with possible amenities like food trucks, photo booths, and light up dance floors. “We are looking to offer something other than just the competition so it is fun for the whole family. Sometimes they have to be there from 8-8pm. It has to be enjoyable and have a lot to offer. We want to bring the fun back into the end of season and not be so bid oriented. It is a competition, but it is supposed to be fun,” Schuster says.
For more information on Deep South Spirit head to their Playeasy Profile!