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Youth Sports Remain In Budget For OK Families Despite Tough Economy

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It's serious business at Twist and Shout Training Center, one of the state's most elite all-star cheerleading facilities. It's serious business at Twist and Shout Training Center, one of the state's most elite all-star cheerleading facilities.
State of the art facilities along the Oklahoma River have brought national and international rowing events to the metro. State of the art facilities along the Oklahoma River have brought national and international rowing events to the metro.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

In today's economy, it seems we're all going on a debt diet finding ways to cut things out of our budget. For many Oklahoma families, children's sports are too important to sacrifice, no matter the cost.

It's serious business at Twist and Shout Training Center, one of the state's most elite all-star cheerleading facilities. For Emileigh and Andrea Gutierrez, reaching their full cheerleading potential meant jumping, flipping and stunting from Illinois to a new home in Oklahoma.

Emileigh and Andrea's mom, Susan, remembers the change.

"We came down, visited with the owner, they tried out on their team and we moved two months later," she said.

"This is a very expensive sport, so we're not going to go little," Susan Gutierrez said. "We're gonna go hard or go home."

For Susan and Chris Gutierrez, that means extra jobs to support their daughters' dreams. Chris owns his own business to pay the bills. While Susan juggles two jobs, just to pay for cheerleading.

"To hear these guys cheer each other on when they're struggling, praise each other when they succeed, lift each other up when they fall, it's like no other sports," Gutierrez said. "The rewards are just awesome."

With several national titles and even a world championship under their young belts, Emileigh and Andrea say all the hard work and the move are worth it.

"It was definitely hard considering I had to make new friends and go to a new school," 14-year-old Emileigh said. "But I was also excited to get to a new gym, meet new people and get better than I was before."

"I'm so in love with my sport, I don't want to sacrifice my practices to getting better just to go have fun," 12-year-old Andrea said. "I am having fun at the same time."

State of the art facilities along the Oklahoma River have brought national and international rowing events to the metro. That's caused local youth programs to double in the past four years.

Fifteen-year-old Hannah Malzahn has been a member of the Chesapeake junior crew for three years. She's a Coxswain.

"I sit it in the back of the boat, steer and give the girls motivation," Hannah said.

She practices two and half hours a day, six days a week, and loves every minute of it.

"Everybody works together as one unit and that's really cool because you can feel that in a boat and you can see it if you're a spectator," Hannah said.

Hannah's parents say paying for lessons, equipment and traveling to competitions around the country is worth every penny.

"Cost is just not a factor at all," Kyle Malzahn said.

"What we feel with the cost now will hopefully pay off in a scholarship in the future," Teresa Malzahn said.

Each of these families agrees: Winning, happiness and learning lifelong values for their sport are priceless.

Hannah plans to row in college and hopes to make the Olympic team in eight years. Emileigh and Andrea hope to be the first in their family to go to college. Their dream is to cheer at OSU.

Five tips on how to save on kids' sports

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