Airborne Academy Cheering Its Nod 6/9/14 06/08/14 11:29:39 PM
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Michelle and Tim Mathison tell their athletes “work hard every day and the results will follow.”
Airborne Academy Cheering Its Nod
As Chamber’s Small Business of Month
By Dan McCann
The Daily Record
Tim Mathison, president of Omaha’s Airborne Academy, will be the first to admit – the goings-on at his acrobatic training center would not make for good, conflict-laden reality TV (à la Cheer, Cheer Perfection or Cheerleader Nation) … and he’s okay with that.
“We’re not just grinding these kids down,” he said. “‘You gotta win; you gotta win’ – that’s just not our philosophy. It’s ‘Work hard every day, and the results will follow.’”
It applies to their young cheer, trampoline and tumbling athletes – and to the company itself. For its approach to customer service and community involvement, the Greater Omaha Chamber has named Airborne Academy its Small Business of the Month for June.
“It is an honor and a testament to our staff, the heart of this operation. We have good people here, and it’s rewarding for them to know the Chamber recognizes us as a pretty solid company,” Mathison said.
Open since April 2013, Airborne Academy boasts a state-of-the-art facility and a team of professional coaches. For the advanced athlete, it offers high-level training and a chance to compete at the Junior Olympic level as part of its Competitive Trampoline & Tumbling Team. Airborne Academy also has an All-star Cheer Team that competes at local, regional and national levels.
“We’re unique in that we’re the only gym in Omaha that has the depth to offer the trampoline and tumbling side and the cheerleading side in one facility,” Mathison said.
The 15,000 sq. ft. Airborne Academy includes a main gym with a spring-floor; a separate, regulation-size hard floor gym; two in-ground trampolines; an above ground 10 x 14 trampoline; a pre-school trampoline; a 6 ft. deep foam pit and a tumble track.
“We invested quite a bit of money into the facility and the equipment that goes into it,” he shared.
In addition to team training, Airborne Academy offers a wide range of recreational classes – preschool to adult – and has formed a number of notable partnerships with local dance companies, high school cheer teams and others.
“We can train their dancers on aerials and other tumbling skills. We also help with dry land dive training for local dive teams, allowing them to work on their fundamentals without going into the water,” Mathison said.
It is outside-the-box thinking from a company that employs an outside-the-box management style. Not content with an open door policy, Mathison has implemented a no door policy.
“Our model is completely different than any other gym that I’ve researched,” he said. “I am the president of the company, and my office is in the middle of our lobby: I greet. I introduce myself to parents. I get feedback. I help them place their kids in the correct classes. I listen to their needs. Every one of our customers feels like they can call me. When they have a change in class, I’m the main point of contact.”
He continued, “Our coaches are focusing on coaching; I’m focusing on the clientele.”
Mathison said his emphasis on accessibility sprang from his time as an educator in the Papillion-La Vista School district and, after that, his tenure working as vice president of sales and program development for P & L Technology, the Chamber’s September 2011 Small Business of the Month.
“(P & L President Phil Lieber’s) business-to-business training and his idea of what customer service is really made an impression on how we do things here,” Mathison explained.
Mathison’s wife, Michelle, a Papillion-La Vista High School teacher, has been a gymnastics and cheerleading coach for 25 years and serves as an Airborne Academy consultant. Between its All-star Cheer and Trampoline & Tumbling Teams, the center employs an additional 24 coaches, including head coach Jim Bertz, a World Elite tumbling champion and inductee in the World Acrobatic Society’s Hall of Legends.
“The caliber of instructors you’ll find at Airborne Academy is unmatched,” Mathison said. “Our instructors are experts whose athletic careers revolved around the areas they are now coaching.”
Most rewarding for all, said Mathison, is getting to know the athletes and seeing them progress – in terms of talent and as people.
“We teach things like personal responsibility in the middle of practice and making sure you’re a good teammate,” he said. “In the cheer world, you tend to focus on competitions – and you should – but we’re not going to let anybody here, if they have an off-competition, define themselves by that two-minutes-and-30-seconds. We’re going to define our people by how they act every day.”
Leading by example in that respect, Airborne Academy has made community involvement a priority.
“We have a number of special days, including our ‘Pink Out’ where our cheerleaders wear pink to practice to support breast cancer while taking donations. A recent contest between all of our teams brought in more than 2,000 rolls of toilet paper for the Open Door Mission,” Mathison explained. “We also sponsor cancer walks and are willing to donate to any cause or hardship our members may be having. We are currently setting up a scholarship program for deserving girls who may not be able to afford our teams here.”
Mathison said his thoughts do tumble to the future quite often, and his mind “never stops racing about what the next step could be.” Expansion? More buildings? In time, perhaps. But for now, the present takes priority.
“I want to focus on the people who are here now, the people who came here when we first opened, had the confidence in us and said we know you guys are going to make this work,” he said.
You can see more about Airborne Academy at airborne-omaha.com.
Paypal sponsors the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award.
To nominate a small business online, visit www.omahachamber.org. Nominees must be current Chamber members with 50 employees or less.