• When: 8 a.m.-noon, May 31-June 3
• Where: 719 S. Main St.
• Cost: $75/person, registration $5/person
• Dress code: Campers must wear proper shoes, socks and T-shirts. No spaghetti straps
Inspirations Christian Cheerleading Academy will host its final cheerleading camp in Hinesville as owner Linda Andrews prepares to start a new chapter in her life back in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn.
During the past few years, Andrews has hosted several cheerleading camps, which focus on the fundamentals and techniques of cheering and tumbling while helping participants apply the lessons they learn to other areas of their lives.
Andrews said she has encountered several competitive cheerleading squads that exhibit the skills to tumble and do stunts, but they clearly lacked the sparkle that comes with deeper passion. She said she has seen cheerleaders sitting on bleachers or standing on sidelines, talking, texting on their phones and forgetting their main mission.
“They don’t know how to cheer,” she said. “When I go to a game, I want to be entertained by the cheerleaders at half time and time out. People want to be entertained. Your job is to encourage your team to win the game … This is a learning institution. I’m not just going to teach you cheers, I going to teach you aspects of life.”
ICCA has helped several girls earn spots on local cheerleading teams and even go on to cheer on college squads. Andrews said she had several girls attend her camp who didn’t make the cut when they tried out for their school squads. However, after completing the ICCA camp, those same girls made it onto their school squads after their second tryouts. Some currently are in leadership positions at the local middle schools, she said.
“It’ so awesome. It’s not about quantity all the time, but about the quality,” she said of her academy. “Even though I may have only had eight to 10 campers … the few the proud … and for the ones that I did have, they have made it and have gone on.”
Andrews’ daughter, Zacharia Purnell, was the academy’s assistant coach and captain. She currently is a sophomore at Brenau University, where she’s a member of the cheerleading squad. Home for the summer, Zacharia Purnell plans to assist her mother during next week’s camp along with her younger sister, Chelsea.
Chelsea Purnell has been tumbling, cheering and helping her mom run the academy since she got involved in cheering at age 6.
And, just like her mom, she is about to embark on a new journey that Andrews said was a calling from God.
Andrews said she knew something in her life was about to change, but she didn’t know when or where so she just trusted God to guide her.
She heard the message loud and clear when she visited her hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and her former high school, Hamilton High.
“I went home and saw the need, such a great need there,” she said.
Andrews’ said her alma mater, the Wildcats, seemed to be on a downward spiral. What once was a top-rated academic and athletic school now is on the verge of being closed unless drastic measures are taken. A few new administrators were hired and plans to whip the school back into shape are under way, but Andrews still noticed a lack of passion among the students and community members, especially in the athletics program.
So she took the job as the new president of the boosters club.
“I was really upset because I was like, ‘How can you all that live here let this happen?’” she said. “I had the opportunity to be there and watch the football games and basketball games and I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t even cry. It was just that bad. There was no passion and they were just out there going through the motions.”
Andrews said they are starting from ground zero.
“I have to meet with the athletic director and the principal of the school, come together and form a committee, officers,” she said. “We hope to go out and get businesses to come in and support and sponsor our athletic program.”
And, of course, she also will focus on their cheerleading squad.
“I saw the need and the passion that had gone out of cheerleading,” she said. “That is where Chelsea is going. She made the cheerleading squad there. Those young ladies are very hungry to learn and to bring the community back together.”
She said her daughter tried out and the coaching staff was so impressed by her abilities they are considering placing her in a leadership role even as a ninth-grader. Andrews said the other girls quickly felt the energy and are moving in the right direction to regrow the program.
“These children really just need to know that somebody really loves and cares about them,” she said. “The people who have come in now are building it back up, but you still need the help of the community. If they are not teaching them (the students) to have pride, how can they have it? Everyone has given up on them so the good athletes that do live in the neighborhood are transferring to different schools. You can’t talk about it if you’re not going to do anything about it.”
Andrews is completely committed to bringing back the Wildcat pride she remembered growing up with. And for someone who loves to cheer and is always trying to make things better — like a true cheerleader — Andrews said she is taking this opportunity that God gave her and running with it.
Just like her camp, it comes down to passion.
“When you see that all that you poured out there with your passion and your heart and they took that, they retained it and applied it, no amount of money can pay you for that,” she said.