Finding the spirit of Mississippi: Lincoln County native opens competitive cheer gym
Published 10:56 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015
“It’s always been my dream since I was little.”
There’s not many that get to see their childhood dream come true, but Brookhaven native Zachary Cain was able to experience just that in May when he opened his very own competitive cheer gym, Mississippi Spirit.
And he hasn’t just opened a gym, he’s started a thriving business.
“Most gyms have one team their first year; we have five,” he said. “I think that number speaks for itself.”
Cain said his success comes from his dedication to his business and the sport.
“I’m completely obsessed and in love with this sport,” he said. “I think about it from morning to night. I think people can tell when you’re passionate about it.”
Cain’s right-hand woman, Brittnee Blakeney, said part of their success also stems from the positive atmosphere at the gym.
“We all just like to be here,” she said.
His passion has acted as a magnet for both new and veteran cheerleaders from across the area. He said most of his students are from Lincoln and Lawrence counties, but he also has several from McComb and even Natchez.
Cain has cheered since he was in third grade at local and regional gyms along with Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi. He said while he enjoys all aspects of cheering, his favorite part is competing.
“You’re there [at football or basketball games] to cheer for the team, and then in competition you are the team,” he said.
Blakeney agreed that competition was the most exciting.
“You just walk in and see cheerleaders everywhere,” she said.
He said the benefit of coaching competitive is that he knows his job is to push his students forward.
“With my kids, I know their parents are paying me to push me to their limits,” Cain said.
Though Cain has been preparing for this his whole life, he said it has been a bit of a shock to learn the business aspect. He said he has learned to stay organized, keep the gym clean and how to keep the books put together.
Cain said the important thing about coaching is working your way up. Start out with the younger classes and figure out the best coaching styles. He also said it’s important so that you know that you enjoy it, even in the non-glamorous times.
“I have been spit on, had boogers thrown on, bled on,” he said.
But that has not deterred him. Now, he has his own group of coaches to mold.
“A lot of girls here, I have coached, and they’ve shown something special,” he said.
Blakeney said learning to teach can sometimes be a challenge.
“You have to know how to tell them how to do it,” she said. “You can’t just do it.”
Part of shifting from cheerleader to coach is getting excited when someone else gets better.
“Since I’ve gotten older, coaching a kid with a special skill gets me more excited when they finally get it,” he said. “You know you’re growing up when you’re more excited for them than yourself.”
Most importantly, Cain has learned that sometimes you just have to do what you need to do.
“I’m always worried about making everyone happy,” he said. “I’ve learned that you can’t do that.”
For more information, visit Mississippi Spirit’s Facebook page or call 601-757-1236.