BY KIM VAN METER
Special To The Leader
In the world of competition cheerleading, the old adage ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ is likely to land your team with broken bones so it’s probably a really good thing the owners of Infinite Athletics All Star Cheer and Tumbling have plenty of real experience on and off the mat.
Oh, and plenty of accolades, too.
Ashley and Amy Dillon, the young entrepreneurs behind the cheer gym currently racking up championship banners in the cheer world not only have cheer in their blood but in their hearts.
Both competitive cheerleaders, Ashley cheered for seven years and Amy, 12, but now both have turned their appreciation for the sport into a business, starting when they opened the first gym location in August 2016 with one midseason team, 11 athletes and three stunt groups comprised of those same kids.
They’ve since exploded in size with 13 teams and a new 11,800 square-foot gym featuring state-of-the-art technology from floor to ceiling — and there’s talk of needing to expand yet again.
In addition to winning US Finals Champion, a paid bid to the D2 Summit, a Wild Card bid to the D2 Summit, an At-Large bid to the D2 Summit, named American Championship winners, finalists to the D2 Summit, Cheersport Champions, GSSA Champions, and Aloha Champions, the gym was also named a finalist as Small Business of the Year with the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.
In short, they’ve been busy but The Leader managed to catch up to Ashley and Amy Dillon to ask them a few questions about the future of Infinite Athletics.
Q: What made you want to open your own cheer gym in Oakdale?
A: Amy and I have always had a passion for cheer since we were younger. As we got older, and I aged out, I had always mentioned to my parents that I wanted to someday open a dance studio or cheer gym. One day the opportunity was brought to us and we jumped on it. We decided to open just a training facility (tumbling classes, fitness classes, etc.). Soon we ended up adding teams and here we are today with 13 competitive teams.
What do you love most about competition cheer?
Ashley: What I love about competition cheer is the fact that it also teaches you life lessons. Cheer has had such a high impact on my life from bringing me out of my shell and understanding what teamwork is. Not everything is about winning, it is about pushing yourself to always be better and the people around you. Also, the sport is evolving so much so it really keeps me on my toes!
Amy: What I love about competition cheer would be that when you are at competition it is your time to show family and friends all the hard work you have been putting in the practices before. Also, what I love about it would be that you get to have another family that loves you and that really understands why you put so much time and effort into competition cheer.
Tell me about the meteoric growth of the gym and what future plans include.
Our first gym was 4,800 square-feet with one full competition floor. Currently, we are in an 11,800 square-feet gym with two full floors, competition lights, parent area and an open reception area. Our plans are to soon open an American Ninja Warrior course and possibly add another full floor. We are also now doing birthday parties and minimal ninja courses for all ages starting at 3 years old.
What are some of the worst stereotypes about competition cheer or cheer in general that you’d like to see changed?
Some stereotypes that we would like to see changed is that competitive cheer is not only a female sport but is gender neutral. Last year we had three boys on our midseason teams and this year we have one who is on two teams. Another is that cheer is indeed a sport! We have had an open conditioning day with one of our teams and a football player who claimed cheer was not a sport conditioned with the team. Halfway through he could not handle it and called it quits.
Tell me one of your favorite athlete success stories from the gym thus far.
One of our favorite success stories is not from one athlete but an entire team. This year we have a special needs team called A-Team. When we first got this team, the parents warned us about the kids and said they will not listen, and they will not follow/remember what we were doing. Jordan, Amy, and I took this as a challenge but within two practices this team created a bond with one another and their junior coaches and learned an entire routine! Parents came up to us to tell us how much more aware their children are of their surroundings and how much happier they are.
Why Oakdale and not Modesto or a bigger city to open the first gym? Do you plan to remain in Oakdale with future locations or branch out to more cities?
My sister and I chose Oakdale because we currently live in Oakdale and noticed that there was a big cheer community here. We wanted to bring something new into Oakdale that we knew would be a positive impact for the surrounding athletes. Modesto also at the time had 2-3 cheer gyms and we did not want to intrude on that.
Let’s talk uniforms. Who designs the uniforms, team names, etc. What do you love most about the branding?
FullSwag out of Canada does our uniforms! We have used them for all of our uniforms, and they have been absolutely amazing. Our teams this year are Tiny Divas, Little Generals, Sprinkles, A-Team (Special Needs team), Electra, Crush, Tsunami, Midnight, Couture, Crimson, Highstakes, Royalty, Absolute Zero, and Rouge. We love our branding because it is unique to every team. The branding will stick through all the years to come.
Future goals and dreams/vision for the Infinite gym?
Our future goals and dreams would be to someday become a big named gym. We may be a big name in our town and some surrounding areas, but we want to be known all around. We want to go to competition and other teams say “oh, that’s Infinite Athletics!” Our vision would be to eventually have an actual stage in one of our rooms for a full competition feel.
Talk to me about the current rapid success of the gym. How does it feel to be embraced by the community in such a way? Would you say this venture was a leap of faith when you decided to pull the trigger?
We are so incredibly blessed to have so much support from our community. When we first opened, we had no idea that we would be a huge hit. For us it was more of a let’s do our best and see what happens and within our first grand opening had 100 sign ups and now we have over 1000 training athletes in our facility. Knowing we have full support from our community helped so much. It is always nice to know you have the support from your town.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks many families face with competition cheer is the cost. Tell me how Infinite creates fundraising opportunities for families to overcome this challenge. Why is this an important goal for Infinite?
Infinite has two fundraisers every two months and we partner with Essence to get our parents involved in other fundraising outside of our own fundraising. We have parents that fundraise for the entire season and more for the next season or traveling/hotel expenses. This is so important to us because we never want a child to feel left out of the sport because they cannot afford it. We try and make it as affordable as possible.
For more information about Infinite Athletics, you can go to their website at https://www.infiniteath.com or you can call the gym at 209-844-5616.