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Comets Put Twists and Turns on Traditional Cheer

IF YOU EVER FIND yourself driving through the industrial park in Jeffersonville and see a pillar of red, white and blue clad acrobats protruding into the air, one thrown into the sky – twisting and turning gracefully through the horizon – then descending back into their peers’ arms have no fear, it was a Twist-N-Turns Comet.

Misti Paynter’s premier competitive cheer and recreational tumbling facility, Twist-N-Turns (TNT), is a world class gym located right in Southern Indiana. The Comets – TNT’s official team name — may not be commonly seen from miles away billowing into the horizon like their namesake, but they are dedicated to defying expectations.

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Paynter established TNT in January of 2002, close in relativity, of course, to 9/11.

“Everyone was like, ‘You’re crazy to open a business right now; the economy is going to crash,’ ” she said. “I thought that was the best time to do it, to help everyone move forward.”

Paynter takes pride in this mentality, deciding to make her signature Comet uniforms red, white and blue.

“Twist-N-Turns I made up on my own because it abbreviates cool,” she laughed.

Starting with 800 square feet in Clarksville, TNT is now housed in an 8,500 square feet location in Jeffersonville, the fourth location since their origins 15 years ago. With the current size at 225 total members, TNT has grown a great deal from humble beginnings.

“I have taught gymnastics since I was 15 and only took a break to get my master’s in psychology and social work,” Paynter said. “I got my master’s and missed doing this, so I opened TNT thinking it would be something to do just on the side. In six months it blew up and turned into a full-on business.”

tnt5The current line-up of teams at TNT include six competitive cheer teams, including the Tiny, Mini, Youth, Junior and two Senior teams; two exhibition teams; and a special needs team. Cheer teams range in age from 4 to 18. TNT’s competitive teams have seen no shortage of success.

“We’ve been very successful, especially in Southern Indiana. We’re definitely the most winning gym in Southern Indiana,” she said.

TNT has made a number of appearances at various competitive cheer events, including Worlds, a coveted competition in the cheer world, twice. The most recent accomplishment is winning four bids to the Summit competition. “Summit is new and last year all of our teams made it,” she said. “You have to get bids to go to these things. You focus all year to get bids. They’re in Disney.”

You’d think with a reputation of winning history TNT would focus entirely on competition. Instead, however, the core of the gym is founded on other intentions.

“What I’ve tried to make our core belief, or what we’re known for, is developing young people to get out in the world,” Paynter said. “This is about more than cheerleading. There’s so much more to it. You get so close and tight to everyone. We’re very much a family atmosphere.”

Paynter puts a large emphasis on making sure everyone feels important at TNT. Everyone gets one-on-one time, and she strives to makes sure all of her members never feel as if they’re just another face, another number.

“We have 225 kids. Some gyms have up to 1,000 kids. We don’t want that,” she said. “I know every kid’s name. With my social work and psychology background, I feel like that gives me a benefit with parents and kids.”

There’s also a philanthropic element to called Comet’s Care. Through the initiative, tnt4TNT cheerleaders have volunteered for several organizations and charity events, including J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter, Angel Tree, Toys for Tots, Children’s Hospital Slash and Dash Walk, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation One Walk for diabetes, among others.

“(Comet’s Care) started about a year ago to build character, and not just cheerleading,” she said.

Junior team member Tania Ray can attest to that.

“Twist-N-Turns has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my competitive cheer career. I love it! There’s nothing but love, hard work and awesome motivators,” Tania said. “Being on this team taught me that being here isn’t all about just competitive cheer and competition, it’s about strong character and wonderful personality, and to always remember you’re more successful as a team than an individual.”

TNT is staffed with 15 coaches and two office staff alongside Paynter, not to mention the strong support of parents and Paynter’s husband, Dwain. “He’s Twist-N-Turns’ number one fan,” she said.

The competitive season runs November through May with summers dedicated to training. Two teams already have bids this year, with hopefully more to come.

The special needs team at TNT practices once a week and competes in four to five performance competitions a year. TNT also offers regular cheer clinics, with Cheerleading magazine set to host in April.

“I’m incredibly proud of the teams and athletes TNT has developed, but our core focus has always been to instill in them integrity and self-worth so that they will be positive young people,” Paynter said. “There is much more than cheerleading and tumbling going on at my gym. I hope to have a part in each of them building character, which in turn will pass on to the community as young adults.”

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The Isley Brothers (and then The Beatles) may have coined the twist and shout, but the Comets have the twist and turns under their patriotic sleeves. If interested in joining in on the twisting and turning, flipping and twirling of competitive cheer or tumbling, sign up by phone or email. TNT can be reached at 812.284.6543 or twistnturns@att.net.

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