Coach Austin Wilder on Growing Up, Spearheading Sport of Cheer
“Do you believe you can do it?” Austin’s mom Karen Wilder says when she senses hesitation from her son. From the time he broke his wrist just before the Navarro Cheer Team try-outs, to the time he decided to launch his own business, Austin’s mom has always been in his corner challenging him to believe in himself above all.
Growing up, Austin watched his mom believe in herself too through her perseverance as a fitness trainer, massage therapist, and as the small business owner of Karen Wilder Fitness Studio. This valuable exposure helped shape the strong, independent, creative entrepreneur he is today. Entrepreneurship comes with inevitable ups and downs and Austin saw it all first hand. His mom’s grit and tenacity made him understand what it would take to become the successful business owner and team leader he is today at Sport of Cheer. Karen “is a library of information on fitness, movement, physiology, and health and still [his] ultimate inspiration.” She encourages him over the phone regularly from Memphis, while continuing to run her own business.
Austin grew up in Tennessee. His Southern charm, gleaming smile, natural talent, and bright intelligence make him a force of nature. So much so, that when Austin tried out for the Navarro Cheer Team (the top-ranked college team in the nation) in Corsicana, Texas for the first time, he got a call back simply based on his magnetic personality.
Austin didn’t have a background in formal cheer training. A self-proclaimed backyard tumbler, he learned a lot of his tricks in a track and field sandpit near his house. Then one day he attended his girlfriend’s cheer team’s open gym practice, and the rest is history.
Tumbling and learning stunts (check out this compilation video of his work!) came naturally with some guidance for the all-sport loving Austin, but he learned cheer is about so much more than just the sport. Individual creative expression paired with faith in a team is what drew him deeper into the world of competitive cheer. As Austin puts it, “it’s one thing to work hard for a coach but it’s different learning to work as hard or harder for your teammates. You’re in the trenches together.” He felt at home with his team and with himself, learning what it meant to be a cheerleader both in and outside of the gym.
The athletes at Navarro College spend a year training for a one-time performance that lasts two and a half minutes for the National Cheerleading Association’s College Nationals award in Daytona, Florida. “You literally have one shot,” he says. This makes team trust and extreme focus of utmost importance while training together and as individuals.
At Navarro and additionally at Sam Houston State, Austin focused on perfecting his skills as an athlete and performer while also studying for a degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship. Little did he know how valuable this learning would shortly become in his pursuit of business ownership and operations at Sport of Cheer just a few years later!
In 2019, Sport of Cheer was born. Austin envisioned a studio that would not only support athletes through competitive programming but just as importantly, encourage their individual emotional and mental growth. With a strong focus on mentoring and connecting with athletes, Austin saw a great opportunity to set an inspirational example with a mission statement that reflects it: “We equip tomorrow’s leaders with tools to fly on their own.” Sport of Cheer athletes learn what it means to be on a team, to be a nice person, to be a good friend, and will someday apply those learned skills in their own professional lives.
Although 2020 presented challenges, Sport of Cheer adapted through technology and with great attitudes. The business endured and found new growth opportunities to redefine success. As Maya Angelou put it, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” Austin is thriving with that same spirit at heart. Austin continues to spearhead Sport of Cheer, and with his community and growing team of colleagues and athletes in his corner, he is prepared to flourish in the coming years with “a confidence to continue” that his biggest fan, his mama, taught him so well.