NORTH LIBERTY– Shauna Wood Holm has danced, flipped and tumbled her way from little Martelle, Iowa, all across the country, and has made a career out of teaching others to do the same.
Shauna is the director of Rebel Xtreme, the gymnastics, cheerleading and tumbling studio that Shauna started and nurtured into a bi-state business that regularly turns out national title-winning teams and college scholarship athletes.
This summer, Rebel Xtreme opened a new gym in North Liberty after holding classes last year in the North Liberty Community Recreation Center. Rebel Xtreme’s new center is located at 1310 Kennel Ct., Suites A and B, just off Highway 965 and 240th Street.
It is the second of Wood Holm’s studios. Shauna started her first gym in Minneapolis, after unforeseen circumstances led her to a career outside her college major.
Shauna went to Luther College in Decorah and ended up graduating with four degrees– communications, management, graphic design and dance administration– all within the typical college term of four years.
“It was pretty intense,” she admits. Shauna worked as an art director for ad agencies when her husband’s medical education took them to Des Moines. There, she was asked to coach gymnastics in a local gymnasium. She accepted, went full time, and started an All-Star cheerleading program. Another move led the couple to Rochester, Minn., where her husband completed his residency at the Mayo Clinic.
“At that time, I decided it was time to be my own boss,” Shauna said. “I opened the Rebel Xtreme gym there eight years ago.” A fellowship at the University of Iowa brought Shauna and her husband back to Iowa, and that’s when she decided to open her second gym in North Liberty. “I still have the Minnesota gym,” she said.
She also has an impressive list of credentials, certifications and experience: U.S. All Star Federation State Director; Financial Director and Coordinator for the Urbandale All-Stars; coach of several championship Universal Cheerleaders’ Association and United Performing Association teams; choreographer; dancer; instructor. The coaches under her employ are also experienced and accomplished professionals.
But Shauna’s success has not gone to her head, nor has it prompted her to create an elite environment. Yes, students have opportunities for exhibition performances as well as real competitions, and yes, Shauna tends to push the limits with the older groups, teaching more extreme stunting and tosses, giving them more tumbling skills and offering a more intense, specialized form of cheerleading skills, with the ultimate goal of traveling to competitions throughout the country, some as far away as Florida. However, the first tenant of Rebel Xtreme gym’s philosophy is for all members to have fun.
“There are no tryouts here,” she explained. “No experience is necessary. Some programs eliminate athletes based on their skills, but I have learned that some of my best athletes start without the skills, but have such a strong desire, they end up performing better than some kids who have natural talent.”
Rebel Xtreme strives to build “all-around” athletes, Shauna said, and that includes a well-roundedness not just on the mat or during the performance, but also in their relationships, commitments and in life.
“We really push social skills,” she said, like respect, kindness and positive attitudes. “Cliques are not tolerated here. You are a team both when you are in the gym and on the road. We focus on team-building, and the kids gel very well.”
Shauna has high standards for Rebel Xtreme athletes in other aspects, too.
“Cell phones are shut off when students are with me. I’m sort of anti-technology when it comes to communication anyway; I want kids to be able to hold conversations face-to-face, because I think that’s a skill lacking in today’s society.”
Other benefits of a Rebel Xtreme program: opportunities to learn about goal setting, sportsmanship and time management.
“Around here, school comes first. The athletes know their homework has to be done before they come to practice, and they have to maintain good grades,” she said.
Rebel Xtreme teams are also quite accomplished in the gym, too. In the last two years, Rebel Xtreme cheerleading teams have been featured on ESPN television. The AirBorne team– a senior team for 18-year-olds and under– won second place in the nation at their spring, 2009 national competition. DeltaForce, a junior team of 8- to 14-year-olds, were number three in their division.
“For the last four years, our teams have been the top teams in Minnesota and Iowa in scoring and placing in competitions,” Shauna noted.
Regardless of a child’s experience, though, Rebel Xtreme makes room for any child– of any body type, she noted– who wants to dance, take gymnastics or learn cheerleading.
“We take registration year round,” said Shauna. “We never close our acceptance. People pay on a monthly basis, and new kids fit in easily because we start them at their own level, and each child progresses at his or her own rate. We set up our drills so kids can progress at their own speed.”
Classes start at the preschool level, with tap and ballet dance classes– available through Shauna’s gym partner, Andrea Steffen of the Just For Kix program located in the same building– and a wide range of preschool gymnastics for kids six years and under. Even toddlers from 12- to 24 months old can get in on the action in the Diaper Dynamos session. Gymnastic equipment is like that in most other gyms, but downsized and specialized for younger kids.
For 7- and 8-year-olds, there are tumbling classes and a variety of cheer classes. In addition to the DeltaForce and AirBorne All-Star cheerleading teams, the CadetForce All-Star cheer team is made up of kids 8 years old and younger. The High Flyers tumbling classes are for kids in 12th grade and under, offering exhibition and recreational tumbling program. Individual, private lessons are also available.
With the new location, open since mid-July, Rebel Xtreme in North Liberty has already doubled in enrollment over last year.
For Shauna, the reward of having strong ethics, a desire for excellence and commitment to hard work is simply evident.
“Our athletes develop a lot of confidence,” she stated. “They might start out very shy, or be very body-conscious, but it’s amazing to watch them come out of their shells.”