CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- In a normally quiet Chesterfield business park, you will find one of the greatest sources of energy anywhere.
FAME Cheerleading gym was founded by Phil Logan back in 2003. Logan played more traditional sports growing up, but, by chance, was invited to come to a cheering practice in college.
“It took one practice and man, was I hooked! It was such a fun sport,” Logan recalled. “You totally rely on other people for your success.”
Logan has turned that passion into a passion project. His gym now coaches 20 different teams with over 400 athletes of all ages and skill levels. And yes, you can call them athletes.
“At the top level, they are as athletic as any other sport,” Logan explained. “It is so difficult to get through the number of elements and things we are asking them to do in two minutes and 30 seconds.”
“No other sport is like this,” added Kolleen Walls, a cheerleader from King William. “You have two minutes and 30 seconds to give it all you've got."
FAME's top team is their Level 6 Super Seniors who are winning competitions all over the East Coast. And some of the girls travel from all over Central Virginia just to be a part of the team.
Walls is a sophomore at King William. On a good day, it takes her an hour and 15 minutes one way to get to practice.
“I pass four different cheer gyms to get here,” Walls admitted. “And I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Cee Cee Arnold is a cheer captain. She drives from Old Dominion in Norfolk just to be with this group.
“You can come in here on your worst days and I promise you, once you walk into a practice in this gym, you're going to feel so much better walking out," Arnold said.
This sense of community and support shut down completely a year ago when COVID struck. The gym persevered thanks to the support of their athletes -- who came back immediately when they were able, even though practice was outside in the parking lot.
“They were coming in and working outside, under a tent, in the heat, in small sessions,” Logan recalled.
Monacan senior Anna Durham came back the moment the gym reopened. “Absolutely. And I don't even like tumbling, but I wanted to come. I just wanted to be back at the gym just doing what I love to do.”
“You miss having your coach yell at you,” Arnold added. “As much as we hate it, but at the end of the day, I miss that.”
Logan is at the center of everything -- serving as more than just a coach to so many that have come through his doors. “Yes, he works us hard all the time” Arnold said. “But at the end of the day, look at the rewards that come with that.”
“He literally raised me through here, and I just really appreciate everything he's done for me,” Walls added.
“Because it's our passion, you end up putting so much time and effort into it and you don't even realize it,” Logan explained. “You love seeing the kids smile.”
The trophies that litter the gym can tell you of the success that Logan and his teams have found. This month alone, they have won three different championships.
What you can't see as easily is the sense of family and support that makes this such a close-knit group.
“The friendships you make are irreplaceable,” Durham said. “They're the best friends you'll ever make.”
“I have met my best friends here” Walls added. “I have met the people that will be in my wedding one day. I know I can call any of these girls on my team and they would be at my house in a heartbeat.”
“If I'm struggling in school, if I'm struggling with any type of emotional, family, personal, I know that somebody in here loves me and I know that I can come in here and smile,” Arnold said.
“The sport itself draws you to work so closely together that you don't just want to leave and do it anywhere” Logan continued. “You want to do it with your best friends in a place that you feel is home.”
The Super Seniors next stop is at the World Championships in Orlando in May, marking their fourteenth straight appearance at that event.
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