Author Archives: Jess Forte

In the Spirit of Safety

By Jess Forte

Published August 10, 2020

Social Distancing. Quarantine. Travel Ban. Pandemic. Asymptomatic. Pivot. Masks. Sanitize. New Normal. Apex. Virtual…

These words have become what we wake up to every morning, what we talk about with our families, in “social” situations, at work. They infiltrate our heads as we lay down to sleep at night and try to hold onto the hope in our hearts that it will pass. This is our reality now, and it happened so abruptly that we didn’t even have the chance to process it. We are LIVING it. Breathing history, inhaling the narrative of a nation enveloped in fear of the unknown. We can either let it consume us, or we can fulfill our duty as the spirit of the country. Our friend and longtime industry professional/coach, Jeff Manhart, put it best:

“Remember it’s the cheerleaders that continue cheering when down 20 points with a minute left. While some fans head for the exit before time runs out, it’s the cheerleaders that are out on the floor after the game for one more fight song, or school song. Remember what we are: we are the people going nuts and loving life when our situation is going great! But what we also are is “HOPE” when our backs are against the wall. In my mind it will be the “cheerleaders” that won’t give up until the game is over.”

So, when given the “go ahead,” every gym in America created a “re-opening plan” in accordance with their own state guidelines and with the National CDC recommendations. Intensity Athletics in Albany, NY followed suit. New York was the last state to allow competitive cheer to resume in any capacity. So we are cognizant that the hesitancy with which we were allowed to reopen is still looming, so we needed to be as calculated and CAREFUL with our plan as possible.

The first thing that we did was a morning check in every day about any changes in the state of the pandemic and any regulations regarding our ability to operate. Watching our Governor (Andrew Cuomo) everyday at 11:30am became a ritual. This allowed us to gauge the process in regards to the reopening of other industries in preparation for our own to be released. We created a Phasal Reopening Plan which ultimately we were never able to implement as our gyms were not allowed to open in any capacity until the FINAL PHASE (July 6).

As soon as our sport guidelines came out, we read through them all and created a document with all of the regulations that would apply to our staff and our customers.

We then did a “walk through” of the gym and took notes on how to make each room compliant and what potential hurdles we would need to overcome. This allowed us to create a “To Do” list of things that needed to get done in preparation for reopening which we dictated in a separate document, along with a list of supplies we needed to purchase:

  • Gloves
  • Hand Sanitizers and Refill
  • Ice Bags
  • Ice
  • Lamination Paper 
  • Bleach Cleaner
  • Floor Stickers
  • PlexiGlass
  • Disposable PPE
  • Lysol
  • Lemocide
  • 3 Fumigators
  • Paper Towels
  • Automatic Paper Towel Dispensers
  • No-Touch Thermometers
  • 3M duct tape

All hands were on deck! Our staff each took responsibilities and got to work! Laminating guidelines, putting tape on the floor for social distancing, creating a gym entrance process. We even created a video that we pushed out via email, social media, and our website so parents and athletes knew what to expect and how they could stay compliant with the guidelines we needed to follow.

It took us at least a week to prepare for the BIG DAY! And still, we were nervous to press play. July 6 came and each staff member was ready! The multiple zoom staff meetings we had prior to opening day were important in creating cohesion where not only did everyone understand the plans, but they were “all hands on deck,” so to speak. All of the Intensity Staff was willing to not only do their designated jobs but to pick up the slack if something needed to get done, whether that was bring a child to the bathroom, open up doors for parents, run to the store to grab something last minute. 

Currently, in NY State nothing has changed since July 6 in the way of regulations for our sport. They have not tightened or loosened. We are playing it incredibly safe as we do not want to take advantage of this opportunity to physically operate after being virtual for so long. Right now, “group trainings” are not (and cannot be) mandatory. We set up a computer at every practice and create a google meets link which we attach to our google calendar which is shared with each team separately. This way, team members who do not feel comfortable coming into the gym, or are quarantined from it, can still participate! All of our practices follow social distancing, so we are not stunting at all. We are training with backpacks! And “stunt buddies!” We adapted these techniques and trainings based off of Spring CDT’s BASE system!

Kenny Feeley is a mastermind when it comes to stunting and his ability to pivot in this setting and to create a system so that our athletes are able to maintain (and gain) strength and technique for our sport is genius! This, coupled with some of our own drills have allowed our athletes to mimic the movements of stunting without actually doing it. We have created 2.5 minute stunt workouts to IPPs 8-count track that we repeat. Check one out HERE!

We are confident that we will have no problem getting back into the groove of stunting once it is safe to do so.

It is so important to us to put the athletes first right now. Every family’s situation is different, so it is very important to us to be aware of this and make sure we are not making any families feel uncomfortable. We are also very aware of the reality of what would happen if a breakout happened at our gym. We need to be looking 10 steps ahead. If we were to have multiple athletes with COVID in our location, we would need to shut down again, losing revenue and potentially customers. It could cause the government to tighten restrictions on all NY State All Star Programs. Not to mention, our athletes contracting it could have serious health ramifications for them and their families. Because of this, we are 100% abiding by the NY travel ban. We are also sending athletes home if they have ANY symptom whatsoever. Headache, tummy ache, cough, runny nose. You name it, they are going home! We even have our bathrooms labeled by which floor the kids are practicing on for contact tracing! We are going by the motto that “you can’t be OVERCAUTIOUS!”

Today I asked an athlete who was frustrated about the situation, “who won the race? Did the hare win? Or the tortoise?” Right now, patience will win out. We have a responsibility to our athletes to keep them safe. They are trusting us. And most importantly, their parents trust us. That is a huge responsibility. When they are dropped off at our front door, as we take that temperature and escort them to their “x” on the spring floor, their well being lies in our hands. Right now we show our families that we are that “home away from home.”

We need to be the constant in their lives. We were there virtually the moment the pandemic shut us down. We were there to “foot-five” the kiddos after they did their back handsprings for the first time again in 3 months. We will be there this season in whatever capacity we are able to practice (and compete) our sport! The kids need us to be that constant, but also need us to have their best interest at the forefront. The health, the wellbeing, and the safety of each athlete is the priority in the “new normal.”

Remember, we are making history. Let’s do it right!

Home Quarantine Workouts by Jess Forte of Cheer Intensity (with videos)

Home Quarantine Workouts for Cheerleading

By Jess Forte

Published March 20, 2020

This is our world...

I often liken the anticipation, the adrenaline we experience to climbing that first major drop of the highest roller coaster in the amusement park. It’s “Scary” in a sense, but also exhilarating!  This sense of “fear” has ironically preceded almost anything and everything great in my life. Or is it not irony? 

One of my Level 5 athletes was walking to perform in A Hall at NCA Nationals a few weeks ago and asked me “why do I keep doing this, even though I feel like I am about to vomit? But I continue to want to cheer, to put myself back on that stage?”

On Deck
The butterflies
The jittery hands
The lights blinding
The roar of the crowd
The smell of sweat
The 9 panels
The music starts
A snap, a wink, a smile
Let’s go
The point stunt
The last pass
Your coaches’ eyes scream “you’ve got this!”
The final structure
The last pose
The embraces
The tears

I recently read a book entitled “Fearvana” by Akshay Nanavati. He firmly believes that fear is an essential element to unlocking our potential, our success, and our passion. That finding and enduring a worthy struggle can open doors that we didn’t know existed and allow us the ultimate amount of  bliss and fulfillment. So basically, All-Star Cheerleaders are onto something! Akshay defines fearvana as “the bliss that results from engaging our fears to pursue our own worthy struggle.” We experience our own version of “Fearvana” when we stand in the corner to throw a new pass, or when we set for our routine at Nationals. 

So now on May 20, 2020 we find ourselves in a very odd situation. Our season, as we had envisioned it, was stripped from us by the Coronavirus. And there are so many unknowns. As an adult, I am having to draw on all I have known in my life to come to a logical conclusion that “this too shall pass;” that difficult situations come upon us and we are equipped as humans to work through them and overcome obstacles. Our athletes may not have this frame of reference. For them, their world is potentially about to be turned upside down. What I want to tell them is that you are right where you are supposed to be. If that is in a state of FEAR, that’s ok. 

Because fear keeps us on our toes; it elicits a heightened sense of reality that allows us to be our best selves. And who is better equipped to handle this fear than an all-star cheerleader? You all face it head on every day! And not only that, but you thrive on it! You hit that stunt, you land that pass, and you rock that dance – butterflies and all! So you have the tools to handle this, too. 


Every athlete is being dealt the same hand right now. But it is your choice how you decide to handle it. If you are forced to be home for an undetermined amount of time, what is going to propel you from the state of fear, disappointment, or anger into a state of being that is productive for your goals in the sport! Here is a suggested to do list:

  1. Write down 3 of your goals every morning. The same 3!

  2. Write down actions you can take NOW to take a step towards those goals (conditioning, studying technique, reading motivational books, contacting college coaches if you are an upperclassman, applying for scholarships at your dream school, e-mailing you gym owner to ask for internship hours, or your coach to help set a plan to achieve your goals when the gym opens back up.)

  3. Schedule those actions for each day. For example:

  • 9:00 am – wake up and get ready
  • 9:30 am – eat a breakfast high in protein and fats! (Think eggs, sausage, bacon)
  • 10:00 am – journal goals and current emotions (this will be cool to look back on)
  • 10:30 am – school work
  • 12:30 pm – lunch high in nutrients (think salads, fruits, veggies)
  • 1:30 pm – Conditioning workout (example below)
  • 2:30 pm – more school work
  • 3:30 pm – watch tumbling technique videos, read a motivational book, or work towards goals
  • 4:30 pm – flexibility regimen
  • 5:30 pm – Dinner high in protein and carbs (think pasta, steak, potatoes, meat)
  • 6:30 pm – Relax and connect with teammates, coaches, etc.
    Get at least 8 hours of sleep!

Adam Forte's Conditioning Workout


30 seconds each exercise X 3

  • Jog in place
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Mummys
  • Heisman


Upper Body 

    1. Finger wiggle and squeeze
    2. Motorcycles
    3. Wrist circles (both ways)
    4. Arms behind head
    5. Arms across body
    6. Hold hands behind back and pull up
    7. Look up, down
    8. Tilt head to both sides
    9. Shoulder rolls
    10. Arm circles forward and back
    11. Small arm circles forward and back
    12. Arms up tilt both ways
    13. Hips washing machine
    14. Hips figure 8
    15. Leg swings forward/back 5x each
    16. Cross leg swings (knee to front)
    17. Pony (alternating knees)
    18. Ankle circles (both ways)
    19. Sit on shins and rock back and forth
    20. Sit on heels and arms behind head turn (to both sides) and tilt 3x
    21. Hands and knees one arm behind head elbow up/elbow down 5x


    1. On hands and knees circle around
    2. Fingers facing you
    3. Side to side
    4. Cross hands (both ways)
    5. Back to all fours and do 5 flicks
    6. Palms up


  • 10 Double Marked Jumps
  • 10 Double T Jumps

4. JUMP Conditioning

3 Rounds

  • Fast Kicks – 20
  • Side Hurdler Lifts – 20 Right and Left
  • Hip Rolls – 20 Right and Left
  • Toe Lifts – 20
  • Floor Jumps – 20

5. TUMBLING Conditioning

3 Rounds (you can lower amount on each if you would like)

  • Plank – 1 Min
  • Side Plank – Right and Left 30 Min
  • Superman Hold – 1 min
  • Lunge Hold – 30 Sec*
  • Lever Hold – 30 Sec*
  • Heel Kicks – 30*

*Do one leg then the other

6. Stunt Focus

3 Rounds of 30 seconds each

  • Mountain Shrugs – 20
  • Lib Lifts – 10 Right and Left 10 
  • Full Up Squats – 20
  • Ext Pops – 10

7. Cool down/stretch


Adam Forte's Flexibility Workout


30 seconds each exercise X 3

  • Jumping Jacks – 30 Seconds
  • High Knees – 30 Seconds
  • Butt kicks – 30 Seconds
  • Mummys – 30 Seconds
  • Sprawls – 10


3 Rounds

  • 3 Count Bridges – 10
  • Bridge Hold – 30 Seconds
  • 1 Leg Bridge Kick Right – 20
  • 1 Leg Bridge Kick Right – 20

3. Split Warm Up

Alternate Right and Left Leg 3x

  • Leg Lift Kicks – 12/10/8
  • Forward Lunge Twist Stretch – 30 Seconds
  • Forward lunge kick – 30/20/10

4. Right and Left Splits

1 Min hold each

  • Sit up – 30 Seconds flex foot and lock back leg
  • Chest Down
  • Head up arms back in should stretch


1 Min hold each

  • Squat Stretch
  • Frog Stretch
  • Center Split

7. Cool down