What is a compelling athlete?

Jennifer Bonn

Unforgettable Moments

A compelling athlete is someone who makes you want to be the best you can be in every aspect of your sport. It is an athlete who understands the value of hard work and commitment, understands there is more than the self that matters, is willing to go beyond the minimum to improve, and is always striving for excellence.

The eighteen members of the MPC competitive cheer team are all examples of compelling athletes. It is one of the factors that has contributed to the team winning the state title ten times. No one else has come close to that record.

These outstanding female athletes tumble, jump, perform gymnastic feats in the air, and toss each other around as if they were tossing feathers. They perform a routine that must be perfectly choreographed. If someone is slightly off it can spell disaster.

To achieve the necessary excellence, the team spends hours in practice perfecting the routines, but they also spend time in the gym building strength and stamina. They attend tumbling and stunt classes and individuals have private classes depending on what they would like to improve.

Coach Paige Johnson starts each season developing the rising seniors to be the team leaders and establishing out-of-season training, so they are ready physically for what the sport requires of them. She wants to plan and practice to equip each girl mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Sophia Bohannon is one of this year’s seniors. Here is what she said about her experience with competitive cheer. “Being on a team like this is something I will value forever, and having a coach and mentor like Mrs. Paige is something I will be forever grateful for. I have met life-long friends, learned to overcome challenges, and learned life lessons. Most importantly, we have been able to grow and strengthen our relationships with God. Nothing would be possible without him. The bond and connection of the team are like a family. We love each other like sisters. We are taught core values and the value of hard work and relentless effort to not stop until it is perfect. Coach Paige loves people through the struggles, she pushes you to be a better athlete, but most importantly, she teaches you how to be a follower of Christ, and she teaches us lessons every day that carry over into other parts of our lives. "

The hard work paid off this year as the team earned a score of 105 out of 107. I asked Coach Johnson what she tells the girls before they start their routine at state. She said she tells them they are more than ready for this. All the preparation, prayer, bonding, and development are going to reach its perfect timing of coming together and to trust the Lord and his proven faithfulness and trust their preparation.

Cheer does much more than preparing the athletes physically. The team learns mental focus, how to work well with others and grow spiritually. Coach Johnson wants her girls to know that they do everything for the glory of God, and through him all things are possible. She starts each practice in the word.

Each season has had a name. Here is the list.

Audience of one

Back to Back



Strive for 5

For the record

Stairway to 7

Destined for gr8ness



To win ten straight titles there has to be a common denominator and her name is Paige Johnson. Paige has been around cheer her whole life and she cheered all through college where she was the head cheerleader for Auburn University. The girls will tell you that Paige can always find something to improve. She makes those corrections with love though. She is proof that a coach can encourage excellence without yelling or giving negative criticism. Coach Johnson said, “The goal of Mount Paran’s Cheerleading program has always been to invest richly in each girl to develop life skills they can apply for the rest of their lives: in their personal development, their relationships, the workplace, and their faith. We give them an arena to see and feel the value and reward of hard work and of putting others before themselves. We also work hard to give them a sense of responsibility and purpose for their community at Mount Paran and in our country. Through this, they understand the importance of investing and giving back to those around you. The girls train year-round, in the weight room, tumbling, stunting, and not only preparing for our routine and competitions but also supporting our teams on the sidelines.” She adds, “What a privilege it has been to walk this journey with this amazing group of athletes! Their grit, determination, and perseverance are above and beyond the normal drive and commitment. I am so proud of them and the amazing women they are and all they have accomplished. I am honored to be a part of their lives. I am also beyond grateful for Catina Taliaferro who coaches with me and the impact she has had on me, the girls, and the program." Catina said, “This season has been very special to me personally. I have seen this young team develop athletically, academically, and spiritually. The girls are better because of the spiritual investment and work ethic and pursuit of excellence Paige instills in them. Coaching at this level requires the girls and families to buy-in. You sacrifice so much to compete at this level, but the reward is great, and that reward is bigger than the trophies. Discipling girls, developing character, working together as a team are so special.”

Unforgettable Moments

Winning a state title ten times is extraordinary, but changing young lives and teaching them hard work and strong character, and walking with them in God’s truth is even more important. I’m not sure about you, but I can’t wait to hear what the theme for next year will be!

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I am passionate about running, parenting, education, and self-help information. I enjoy writing articles that will offer readers the information needed to help them in some way. I recently retired from teaching French and Spanish for forty years. I run every day and have done all kinds of races from 5ks to ultra-marathons. I have three children and three grandchildren. I write for several magazines in my area, I am a contributor and in charge of the Pinterest board for a parenting magazine called Screamin Mamas, and I have a second book about to be released through Loving, Healing Press called 101 Tips to Ease Your Burdens.

Kennesaw, GA

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