From Small Business to Center Stage

By Amber Mabe

Competitive Cheerleading is a unique sport that combines several specific skills, all of which require dedication and determination to master. With deep roots in American history dating back to the 1800’s, cheerleading has evolved tremendously since the days when its main function was to hype up spectators during team sports. Modern competitive cheerleading includes elements of acrobatics, dance, tumbling, and strength training, becoming a sport that draws spectators in its own right.

For Kernersville, cheerleading is one local family’s legacy. This year, Cheer Extreme proudly celebrates its 30th year in business here in town. Owner Courtney Smith-Pope started with a dream in 1993 of coaching her own little team, and the rest has gone down in cheerleading history. She attributes the longevity of her business to the unconditional support and guidance of her dear mom, Betsy.

Long before cheerleading had become the local sensation it is now, Betsy’s family was doing business in downtown Kernersville. Since the 1960’s, the Bowman family has owned two jewelry stores in the Triad: one in Greensboro, and the familiar shop on Main Street in Kernersville. Betsy was responsible for running the Kernersville shop alongside her mother Dorothy Bowman and father JD Bowman. Betsy ran the store side by side with her mom and then her dad for almost 50 years. So when her daughter Courtney wanted to turn her volunteer coaching role at Colfax Elementary into a competitive cheer program in the early 90’s, Betsy was there to guide her. In 1993, Courtney took her first group of twenty athletes to a team competition. “We were just hooked on the whole competitive cheering phenomenon,” Courtney says, “and we’ve been doing it ever since. I started Cheer Extreme while I was still in high school, cheering at Northwest Guilford, and my mom has been volunteering her wisdom, patience, and most of all love since day one.” Her sister Kelly competed on the very first Senior Elite team beginning in 1998 and went on to cheer at NC State. After graduation, Kelly started Cheer Extreme Raleigh, where over 500 athletes currently train year-round. The family legacy spans three generations, with four grandchildren now proudly competing on CEA teams.

Cheer Extreme Allstars emerged early in the game as the popularity of competitive all-star cheering continued to rise. Today, Cheer Extreme Allstars has become an international sensation, with over half a million fans across the globe and athletes who are willing to drive five hours or more for the privilege of training with Cheer Extreme. The business has licensed the use of its brand to independently owned and operated locations in North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia. Hard work and dedication have paid off for Cheer Extreme athletes over the years, as they have won numerous world championships and often gone on to cheer for four-year universities, many of them on scholarships. Despite the worldwide acclaim and far-reaching success of Cheer Extreme Allstars, Courtney says the most important thing has been the legacy that their family business has brought to the community over the last thirty years. “We bring a lot of pride to the town, because it all started right here,” she says. “We’ve helped a lot of kids through the program and have been able to have a positive influence on athletes to help them achieve their goals and dreams. We owe so much to our mom. She set the example for work ethic and compassion. You won’t find someone more caring. Our biggest dream is to pass on the boundless love we got from our mom and dad onto the kids we have the honor to coach.”

Athletes and parents alike have nothing but praise for the experience they have had with Cheer Extreme. “For the past six years, my daughter has cheered at CEA Kernersville and has had the privilege of working with the best coaches in the industry,” says local mom Kathy. “Under their direction, she has developed into not only a skilled athlete, but a focused, driven, and dedicated adult. Our cheer friends are now part of our family, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else!”

Although nurturing and training the next generation of young athletes, including Courtney’s own daughters, is the primary focus of Cheer Extreme, they also benefit the Kernersville community and local businesses when athletes come to stay in the area for long practices, and through charitable donations and activities that Cheer Extreme participates in. Every showcase Cheer Extreme puts on raises donations for First Harvest food bank, with admission being one can of non-perishable food. Additionally, each year in February, Cheer Extreme participates in a fundraiser that has raised over thousands of dollars for cancer research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

This winter, Cheer Extreme is excited to be launching their half year program, with an interest meeting and free trial cheer clinic on Friday, January 6. The meeting and free clinic will be held from 6:00-7:30PM at 737 Gralin Street. Half year teams are an affordable introduction to competitive cheerleading and a great way for beginners to try out the sport. Half year teams are open to all ages and ability levels, and athletes will participate in a local competition. Interested athletes will not want to miss this opportunity to work with Cheer Extreme’s talented coaches. Each coach brings exceptional experience to the organization. Tumbling Director Derrick Brown, Allstar Director Darnell Harris, and Coaching Coordinator Kasey Cloutier have coached with the Cheer Extreme family in Kernersville for over a decade. Brandon Rivera, Gabe Gill, Kenley Pope, and Erica Sewade complete the stellar staff, and each brings something special to the team’s recipe for success.

“Cheer Extreme has been my daughter’s home since she was four years old,” says athlete mom Scarlett. “She’s fifteen now. Cheer Extreme has pushed her not only to become an athlete, but has taught her how to be accountable, how to be a leader, how to manage her time with an extremely busy schedule, to always strive to do her best, and most importantly, how to be a friend and teammate. This gym is not just a gym, it’s a home. The coaches are not just coaches to her, they are her family. They have watched her grow up in their program and have always strived to help her to successfully reach her goals in a positive and caring environment. Every coach at this gym has impacted her life in so many ways. She walked into this program as a little girl, just wanting to learn a cartwheel. When she ages out, she will leave as a young woman who is walking away with so much more.”

If you or someone you know has an interest in being a part of Cheer Extreme Allstars, athletes can begin the program as young as age three. However, new athletes can be accepted at all ages. Visit or call 336-508-8325 for information on tours and evaluations. You can also check out the phenomenal athleticism and entertaining routines on the gym’s YouTube channel “Cheer Extreme.”

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