Hilton Head Extreme Cheer

Great Expectations

Beth Mitchell (left) & Susie Oliver (right)


Seven years ago, when Susie Oliver enrolled her two daughters
in all-star competitive cheerleading and dance, she had a
few expectations. Coming from an athletic background,
she expected them to gain strength, coordination and
confidence. She expected them to develop socially, to learn to be team
players and, above all, to have fun. What she did not expect was the
special blessing she would receive for herself.

Attending practices and performances regularly, Susie always took
an active interest in the team. But about three years ago, she was
asked to take on a larger role. Using her innate enthusiasm along with
her marketing skills from a previous career, she is now one of the key
players in the organization, Hilton Head Extreme Cheer and Dance,
and certainly one of its biggest "cheerleaders." What she has gained is
a creative outlet for her talents and the overwhelming joy that comes
from knowing she is making a difference in someone else's life.

While the coaches sing Susie's praises and give her credit for
helping boost participation and garner community support, Susie is
just as quick to point out the selfless dedication of all of the coaches
and parents who help make the program a success for their kids.
"We are very much a family in this gym. Everybody works together.
Everybody supports each other," she said, emphasizing that any child
can participate, regardless of size, shape or previous experience.
"That's what I love about our team. We find a place for every kid of
every level-any child who is interested and has the passion."

Although the organization was already in existence, it was in 2004
that coaches Jessica Gause and Beth Mitchell took over, bringing
the Bluffton-based program to Hilton Head Island and breathing
new life into it. Perhaps what is most amazing is that these dedicated
professionals work on a voluntary basis. Both Jessica and Beth hold
full-time jobs, yet still devote 30 hours or more each to the team every
week-preparing for and leading practices, processing paperwork,
traveling with the team, etc. Susie also contributes 30-40 hours a week
to the program, helping out in multiple capacities. Why do they do it?

All agree that the rewards are immeasurable. For Jessica, a lifelong
athlete, professional coach and registered nurse, the gratification is in
knowing that she is helping these young people create and perfect
something and giving them a healthy outlet for their time and energy.
"We really are making a difference in the community. That's why I do
it," she said.

Beth describes the satisfaction of watching the team compete and
seeing the pride on their faces. "It builds their self-esteem. It's a huge
issue for girls. If they build that now, they will go so much further in
life," she said. "I've seen what it has done for my daughter. She no
longer cheers for this team, but I still do this because I love it."

"We're really involved in this program for far more than cheerleading
and dance," said Susie. "Kids come to us who are incredibly shy, and
before you know it, they are out there performing as if they have done
this their whole life. To see these kids who never thought they could
accomplish something take this passion and drive it and really reach
their potential-it's just a thrill!"

In addition to the confidence they gain, the program arms young
people with life skills and helps them get through the tough parts of
growing up. "There are so many pressures on kids. They think they
have to look a certain way and dress a certain way to fit in. When kids
come into this gym, all those societal pressures fall away," said Susie.

"With the right attitude, given the right tools and the right
environment, every child can succeed," she added. "It's an exciting
thing to be a part of !"


Up Close:

HH Extreme Cheer Motto:
"Where your
passion meets its potential"
Mission Statement: "Our goal is to instill in every one of our athletes confidence, sportsmanship and the value of teamwork that will allow them not only to succeed here and now, but also to prepare them for other endeavors as well as the rest of their lives."
Words of wisdom for girls: "Don't ever doubt your
capabilities."-Susie Oliver; "Always be a part of
something. Be part of a team."-Jessica Gause; "Practice
the way you perform. Give 110 percent. This applies to
life, too."-Beth Mitchell

For more information visit hhecheer.com