Jones, president and CEO of America's Best Cheer and Dance Inc. and Spirit Innovations, was recently named to the inaugural class of the Spirit Industry Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was created to recognize leaders with high integrity and character who have significantly contributed to the advancement of the cheerleading and dance industry over a period of 20 years or more.
A 1981 graduate of Kelly High School, Jones, the son of Bill and Geneva Jones of Sikeston, Mo., said while he was always interested in gymnastics, it was at the urging of Pat Hoffman, the Kelly physical education director, that he first thought about becoming a cheerleader.
"She was so far advanced in what she was doing - we had gymnastics classes, modern dance classes - these were classes that larger schools didn't have back then," recalled Jones. "Even when I was a sophomore, she saw something in me and wanted me to participate in the program."
Between his junior and senior year, Jones did try out for the cheerleading squad and earned a spot. He attended cheerleading camp at Southeast Missouri State and was a cheerleader his senior year.
"Back in 1980 there weren't very many male cheerleaders in Southeast Missouri, I was kind of unique," said Jones. He added his thanks to the members of his squad for their backing as they cheered together.
Following high school, Jones was a three-time NCA Collegiate All-American while serving as head cheerleader at Southeast Missouri State University. Also he worked at the National Cheerleaders Association, headquartered in Dallas, from 1981 to 1999.
During his tenure with NCA, Jones began as a summer camp head instructor and later was responsible for one-day clinics, NCA youth camps and finally, event operations, which included producing and directing bowl game, parade and special event performances for cheerleaders and dancers all over the world, including a segment of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games opening ceremonies.
In 1999, Jones created his own company, America's Best Cheer and Dance ,and now serves as the president/CEO of the business which produces about 30 cheerleading and dance competitions for school, youth league and all-star squads across the country. Also, he is founder, president and CEO of Spirit Innovations, a catalogue-based business offering cheerleading and dance apparel, such as uniforms, campwear, poms, bows, etc., for cheerleaders. Both companies are based in Carrollton, Texas.
The past 25 years have brought many changes to cheerleading, Jones said.
"In the 1980s in Southeast Missouri there were some really good cheerleading squads for the period," he said. "Even then, my squad tumbled a lot but today it is a much more athletic activity."
He also has watched the growth of all-star squads, which are competitive squads that are part of local gyms.
In response to this growth, Jones has worked with others in the industry to develop programs and shape policies for cheerleading and dance safety. He serves on industrywide boards and committees for American Cheerleader magazine, the United States All-Star Federation and the Spirit Industry Trade Association.
According to Jones, today's cheerleading competitions parallel the levels of skill similar to the levels used in gymnastics competition. Judges look at teams for what the individuals do and what they do as partner stunts, he said. "There are restrictions at every level. This has helped to create a safer atmosphere for the all-star cheerleaders so they don't exceed the limits of what they are physically and mentally ready to do," Jones said.
As a result of his efforts, American Cheerleader's All-Star Insider magazine recently named Jones to the "25 Most Influential" people in all-star cheerleading. He was featured in Cheer Coach & Advisor magazine for his contributions to the industry, as well.
Jones called his selection as one of seven industry leaders inducted into the Spirit Industry Hall of Fame on Sept. 29 in New Orleans a "huge honor. It includes other colleagues that I respect and have known for years," he said. "It is a true honor and I feel very blessed to be there and to be recognized by my peers."
Also honored were: Lawrence R. "Herkie" Herkimer, founder of the National Cheerleaders Association and Cheerleader Supply Co., retired; Jeffery G. Webb, chairman and CEO of Varsity Brands Inc., Memphis, Tenn.; Gwen Holtsclaw president of Cheer Ltd., Fayetteville, N.C.; Elaine Pascale, founder/
co-owner, World Cup All-Stars, Freehold, N.J.; Lance Wagers, president, American Cheerleaders Association, Dallas; and Steven G. Wedge, president, Cheerleaders of America, Columbus, Ohio.