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Pacific Coast Magic

Pure Magic: Pacific Coast Magic

Pure Magic: Pacific Coast Magic

Troy Hedgren landed in the all-star cheer world by chance, but he nailed it. Today he’s one of four co-owners of the rapidly growing Pacific Coast Magic program, but the former gymnastics coach first started his entrepreneurial career at age 19 with the Tumblebus, a mobile gymnastics school for pre-schoolers. In 1995, he sold the venture (which by that point had grown to three gym buses) to open his first gym, Gymnastics 4 Kids, with his wife Keri. While sponsoring the local Pop Warner cheer team at a competition, the Hedgrens ran into one of Keri’s former gymnastics students, whose parents clued them into the competitive all-star world of tumbling, stunting, dancing and flying.

“It looked like a lot of fun, so we started down the road to learning about cheer and what it is,” Troy says. “I wasn’t a cheerleader, but the elements and training of gymnastics are similar.”

The Hedgrens took the bait, adding their first cheer team in 1997. By 1999, it made sense to change the gym’s name to Magic All Stars, one of the first gyms of its kind in Orange County. By the time Jarrett and Kellie Elliott (the latter a former college cheerleader) opened their all-star gym Pacific Coast Cheer in Murrieta in 2005, the emerging all-star industry was already changing with some smaller gyms consolidating and gaining presence in the industry because of multiple locations.

Pacific Coast Magic emerged in 2008, combining the two gyms under one umbrella. Troy and Kellie had judged competitions together for years and felt confident about their joint prospects. “We knew we wanted to get bigger and stronger and felt like the best way to do that was to combine our strengths,” shares Troy.

With increased numbers came better buying power, which helped the gym with everything from cutting costs on uniform essentials to adding additional locations. Owners of smaller, independent gyms started contacting the PCM team about the possibility of partnering or just straight out asking them to buy their struggling gyms. As a result, the all-star cheer gym has grown to seven locations in seven years: seven in California (Anaheim, Corona, Irvine, High Desert, Murrietta and Vacaville) and the most recent in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The most obvious advantage of joining forces was the bigger talent pool for creating elite competition teams, as well as the ability to utilize all the coaches’ individual strengths company-wide. Since the merger, PCM teams have secured bids for Worlds yearly. With the added training centers, PCM anticipates training 1,000 or more athletes next year in anticipation of Worlds, nearly doubling their arsenal.

Hedgren says the key to the merger’s success has been ensuring consistency throughout the organization in both training and business operations, procedures and centralized bookkeeping—while ensuring that they didn’t strip each individual brand of its personality. “We had to make sure we didn’t lose the gym’s individuality, but we wanted it all to identify with PCM and embrace the best of both of those things,” Troy says.

The Hedgrens and Elliotts stay hands-on at all locations by evaluating the different teams’ routines by video, providing feedback and quality control. “Kellie and I are coaches at heart,” Troy says. “We love this sport, so we are constantly trying to be on the cutting edge, the very forefront of what is happening—inventing new stunts and choreography or just making sure we’re pushing the envelope.”

Their enthusiasm is most evident when they are on the practice mat. “I love watching the growth of young athletes,” Troy says. “I love injecting in them the strength our sport provides of teamwork, hard work and dedication. I love taking them through the journey of a season—starting from scratch and learning a routine or building a new stunt and seeing the light in their eyes as they go through those procedures.”

However, it hasn’t all been pleasant turns of fate since opening PCM. In late 2012, one of their athletes, 17-year-old Danika Rae Tibayan from the Anaheim gym, died from a severe asthma attack. She had competed as an International All-Girl Level 5 All-Star in 2011 and 2012. “It was a very trying time because obviously losing any young athlete or child is never easy, but I think what it did for PCM is that it reminded us that while we are growing and we want to continue to grow and get stronger, we never want to lose that family feeling from our core values,” says Troy.

At a competition just days after Tibayan’s death at the Citizen’s Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., the PCM family wanted to find a way to honor their fallen friend. They spoke to the event’s producer and organized a 10-minute break in the festivities for a prayer circle around the Tibayan family, who were in attendance. But what they thought would be a PCM moment of grief and healing turned into something much larger as the rest of the attendees joined them, forming a huge circle of support.

“The feeling that came from that was just overwhelming,” Troy says. “While it was tragic to lose Danika, it was definitely a reminder for us that no matter how big we get that we will always remain a humongous family.”

-Arrissia Owen

De-Stress R/x

De-Stress R/x

Take two deep breaths and call us in the morning? Not quite that simple—but we’ve unearthed a few smart ideas on how to stamp out stress.

Between the constant pressures of coaching, competing and running a business, it’s no secret that being a cheer professional can be a highly stressful endeavor. “Everybody who has ever owned a gym understands that it’s pretty much 24/7,” says Troy Hedgren, co-owner of Laguna Hills, CA-based Pacific Coast Magic. “Especially with a gym our size, with four locations and more than 500 athletes, the days for us are very long.”

Whether you thrive in go-go-go mode or are feeling the burn of burnout, whether your gym is miniscule or massive, it’s imperative to cope properly and decompress—even if you have to “schedule” time to do it. To find out how to turn a breaking point into a turning point, we turned to several busy cheer professionals and expert Zohar Adner for their hard-earned advice on achieving balance.

Schedule breaks.
As a coach and gym owner, your days start early and often don’t end until midnight—and many feel that there is still not enough time in the day. Undoubtedly, creating work-life balance can be tough with such an all-consuming lifestyle, but living without it is ultimately unsustainable.

“Coaches and gym owners need to schedule breaks and time to breathe,” says Zohar Adner, author of The Gift of Stress. “You can’t just run from one activity to the next to the next. You would never treat an athlete like that; you wouldn’t even do that to your car. If it’s not something you would ask of anyone else, it’s time to take a step back and look at what you’re asking of yourself.”

Hedgren finds his rare Zen by taking time to connect with nature and the outdoors in the midst of his jam-packed day. He often spends mornings returning emails and making calls, then heads to the beach for an hour or two before heading to the gym. “You have to have that one little release,” he confides.

If slowing down doesn’t seem like an option, consider the benefits. Research has shown that 90 minutes “is the optimal length of time for a person to concentrate on something—more than that, and you start to get decreased effectiveness,” Adner cautions. “Taking a break lets your brain settle down and gives your body a chance to rest.”

Also, “breaks” don’t have to mean a major time commitment—Adner recommends starting with five minutes a day and working your way up to an hour in the morning, an hour in the evening and (ideally) an hour mid-day. “We used to take a lunch hour,” says Adner. “People were happier and healthier.”

Build a support system.
Creating a supportive community is key to reducing stress, even if you feel like no one understands your unique stressors. “By isolating yourself, you’re only putting more pressure on yourself,” says Adner. Afraid to ask for help? Think of how great it feels when you’re able to help out a friend. “[Give] other people the opportunity to be that person for you,” adds Adner.

The approach works for Hedgren and co-owner Kellie Elliott, who say they lean on each other, their spouses and network of coaches and athletes quite often. “Everybody takes a part in not only working for me, but helping me out as a parent,” says Elliott. “I don’t think I could do what I do if I didn’t have that support system—it’s definitely teamwork. You just have to make sure to get good people that you trust in those positions to make you successful.”

Be prepared.
According to Adner, 90 percent of stress is recurring. “You can pretty much predict the things that are going to come up,” he says. At USA Wildcats in Naugatuck, CT, they deal with all of the typical stressors—athletes getting injured, people running late to competition and other incidents that can cause “coaches [to run] around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to come up with a backup plan,” says coach Amanda Daniels.

Preparing in advance—much like you would for a competition—ensures that you won’t get taken by surprise. “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel each time,” Adner advises. “Learn from your past experiences.” Having a disaster checklist can keep everyone calm during a crisis, and having set practices in place will ward off confusion and chaos.

“The less thinking you have to do in those moments, the better off you will be,” says Adner. “Go to the plan, as opposed to having to figure it out on the spot.”

-Stephanie Carbone