Cheer and Sports Program keeps children off the streets
Tolar founded KAOS, with a mission to foster sports development and character building for girls. A lot of the girls in the community were interested in cheerleading, tumbling and dance and she wanted them to have a program where they could participate in those activities. It started with eight girls and has grown to between 40-50 athletes on the KAOS Roster.
In addition to cheer, KAOS offers football, basketball, volleyball and baseball. The program services children ages 5-18, and it does take 4-year olds who are about to turn 5, because there is a Tiny Tot program.
The children learn the basic skills of cheerleading and tumbling, they also are learning choreography, stunting, dance and gymnastics. KAOS also focuses on the children’s academic development. The children have to submit their report cards and their academic progress is tracked. The program also offers mentorship resources where they are paired with a mentor.
KAOS also provides a lot of parent support. On a monthly basis, Tolar offers workshops that range in topics from how to find a good high school, scholarship and grant information for college, or anything else Tolar believes can benefit the parents of the athletes in the program. Parents also get a rundown of the culture of cheerleading and what goes into competitions and scoring.
Tolar said she wanted to provide resources for the parents because she saw a need. When the program first started, parents would drop their children off at the program. She wanted to find a way to engage the parents, so she came up with the workshops. She polled the parents and asked them what some of their concerns were. From there, she crafted workshops for the parents. At the end of the season, which lasts between July to May, parents are asked what workshops they liked the best.
“We’re keeping the parents engaged and it’s important. It’s just like in school, when you connect the parent, child and teacher, it’s the same with out of school time. I’m all about partnering with the parents for the whole child development,” Tolar said.
Tolar described competition season as very intense. It starts in October. Work on the stunts, choreography and tumbling passes begins in June and lasts until August. It allows the coaches and Tolar to pair the right children with the right groups. Competition happens once a month. “The kids look forward to the medals and the little trinkets the competition companies give out,” she said.
The highest award KAOS has won was a National title during a cheer competition in Florida in May. They also have won a creative choreography award and the rowdiest and most supportive parent award.
There are a total of four coaches and Tolar is always looking for more coaches as the program grows. Each coach has certification and expertise on different cheer and age levels.
Tolar said the children are excited to participate in the program. Tolar has seen girls that have come into the program with behavioral problems improve during the course of their participation in the program. She has also seen girls who aren’t the most social become more social and make friends.
The parents like that the program doesn’t just focus on the athletics, but does include the academic component. Tolar and the parents trust her and have been very supportive of the work and the program.
As the program and the number of participants increase, Tolar is looking for a space. Right now, KAOS is operating out of Hamilton Park, with a partnership with the Chicago Park District.
For more information about Keeping Adolescents Off the Streets, visit kaosbulldogcheer.org.
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