The Kentucky Cheerleading Center has changed the landscape of competitive school cheerleading in Louisville since opening in 2012.
“We try to do things a little differently,” says owner and founder Josh Keeling. “We take a more private, hands-on approach to everything.”
So hands on, in fact, that when you visit the Kentucky Cheerleading Center, Keeling is likely the first face you will see managing the front desk.
A native of Mayfield, Kentucky, Keeling was part of the national championship cheerleading squad at Graves County High School in 2006, his senior year. He went on to cheer at the University of Kentucky, where he studied marketing and was involved with two collegiate national championships as a Wildcat.
Keeling moved to Jeffersontown in 2008, working full time for Louisville-based cheerleading events company The Jam Brands. He had several roles within the company, including as an event planner, until he left in 2012 to open the Kentucky Cheerleading Center.
“I decided I wanted to offer Jefferson County a different option when it came to cheerleading gyms,” Keeling says. “They’ve had the same style of cheerleading, the same way of doing things, and I wanted to do something in the other direction more closely to what I was brought up with.”
The company’s humble beginnings included a loaned floor from a local school and not much space. Keeling expanded in 2013 and moved the Kentucky Cheerleading Center to its current location at 2701 Grassland Drive in the Bluegrass Industrial Park.
The 12,000 square foot facility provides a private, air-conditioned space that serves more than 400 athletes each year.
Originally started as a school-only gym, the Kentucky Cheerleading Center works with over a dozen local school teams each week and used that base to build a thriving All-Stars program.
The Kentucky Pride All-Stars offer teams for ages 3-23 and are split by level to allow even the most beginner students an opportunity to compete. The beginning tumbling provides a crash course for those with little to no experience, while intermediate and advanced tumbling is perfect for athletes who already have tumbling experience and want to continue honing their skills.
There are also options for half-season (December through March) and full-year (June through March) All-Star programs which both include competitions.
Another former University of Kentucky cheerleader, Alex Hull, runs the Kentucky Pride All-Stars. Hull and Dexter James, who is the Classes Director, were both members of the world-famous Stingray All-Stars out of Atlanta, Georgia. James was a cheerleader at the University of Louisville and helped get the Kentucky Cheer Center off the ground when it first opened.
Keeling hopes to keep expanding the All-Stars program, which currently has 65 athletes and also has ambitions to open a larger facility and branch out into other parts of the state.
For now, the Jeffersontown resident is content with the facility, and enjoys the small-town feel of J-Town that reminds him of where he’s from.
Keeling has enjoyed seeing the triumphs of the athletes at his gym and has seen a lot of success from both individual athletes and the school teams he works with.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the kids that come in on day one who don’t really know about the sport, weren’t totally sold on it, couldn’t do much and then seeing them go all the way up to hit the peak of collegiate cheer,” says Keeling, who noted some Kentucky Cheerleading Center athletes have gone on to compete at the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University and Austin Peay State University, among others.
“I enjoy seeing those kids take a love of the sport and put in the hard work to get to the next level,” he says. “Watching them trying to discover their own and grow as a person is probably my favorite part.”
Keeling and his colleagues have also helped transform school teams that were traditionally not as competitive into annual contenders at the regional level. Overall, competitive cheerleading in Kentucky, especially Louisville, has seen a shift.
“We’ve pushed all the other gyms in the area to take a step back and put more of a focus on their school teams, which has made Jefferson County as a whole a lot better,” Keeling says. “There are a lot more teams placing better at the state and national level than there were before we opened.”
The Kentucky Cheerleading Center is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, including All-Stars participation and class times, visit kycheercenter.com or call 502-491-1440.