Maybe not every single person in the neighborhood knows Andy Davenport, but an awful lot seem to.

Maybe that’s because he spent his entire childhood here, going through Wallace, LHJH and LHHS. Maybe it’s because of his years of involvement with Young Life, first as a teenager and today as a volunteer leader. Maybe it’s because when he was a freshman, and the cheerleaders didn’t make it to one of the games, he and a buddy “got in front of the crowd and told them to yell ‘Go!’ and they did.”

“I loved it,” Davenport laughs. “I thought, ‘That’s it.’ I wanted to be involved, and I was too small to play football.”

So Davenport cheered his way through high school, came home to the neighborhood after college, fell in love got married, bought a house in Lake Highlands and started the Cheer Basics Training Center on Shoreview.

“There’s nothing else I can imagine doing,” he says.

That might be the end of the story, albeit a cheerful one, if Davenport just ran a regular coaching school – but that isn’t it by a long shot.

Anyone who followed the legal case in recent years of the Texas mother who chatted with a hit man about knocking off on of her daughter’s cheerleading competitors might have a certain image in mind when it comes to those involved in the rivalry of sis-boom-bah.

That kind of thing isn’t going to happen on Davenport’s watch.

“They’re so young – we have some that are still in elementary,” he says. “I can’t imagine trying out for a team with your best friends in third grade and them making it and you not. I know those experiences in life build character and make you who you are…but I can’t tell some little girl that she can’t be on a team. It would be like telling her we’re too good for her.

“So what I decided to do is to find a ‘home’ within our gym for each child who tries out. I think these kids are going to have too many heartaches in life as it is, and I want us to prevent those as best we can.”

Lake Highlands mom Susan Inman says Davenport not only coaches her children, Jordan and high-schooler, Taylor; he’s also her son Garret’s Young Life leader.

“The reason I bring my children to him is that he understands that they need balance in their lives. And he sees what they can be,” she says. “Andy’s helped so much with Taylor’s confidence; he just lit a fire under her.”

LHHS Abby Evans took her first lesson from Davenport in her front yard when she was in sixth grade.

“Andy’s my coach, my friend and my Young Life leader,” Abby says. “He’s like my big brother – he’ll drop whatever he’s doing if I’m having a problem and take me to Jake’s for a hamburger. He’ll listen to me.”

Davenport speaks of his students with admiration, too. He remembers when Whitney Mildren, captain of the varsity squad last year, broke her hand just two weeks before tryouts.

“Whitney’s one of the most talented girls I’ve ever coached. It was going to be her senior year – she was devastated. And then she decided to learn how to tumble with one arm, which is unheard of.”

“Sure I was upset at first,” Whitney says. “It was swollen, but Andy just stayed calm and said I could do other things. But I wanted to do (my routine), and he worked with me. He’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had because he helps me like a regular person. He cares more about me than cheerleading, and that’s what’s different.”

Not that the kids don’t hustle – teams from his gym go to national championships. “We train, and we train hard,” Davenport says. “But mainly we want to laugh and yell and dance around and make sure the kids are having a good time.”

Davenport says activity at the year-round school “comes in waves” – spring school tryouts, tryouts for competition teams, summer camp, and fall practice to keep in top form for the football games. But the kids’ dreams run steady.

“I have to admit that my very favorite memories are the girls who didn’t have God-given gifts, didn’t have natural talent. They’re the ones you’d never expect to see on the sidelines on Friday night, but they smile and they laugh and they try.

“And then they go and try out for their school squad and with no one expecting them to make it, they make it. Because of their heart.

“There’s a cheesy saying: ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.’ But that makes sense to me now that I’m a little older. If my kids don’t win, that’s OK.”