“We want this to be a place where kids achieve something they never thought they could do,” said owner of Hart Gymnastics in King, Casey Hart.
When Hart opened the gym in 2009 her head coach, Beth Boyd had a group of 12 girls. Since then, the program has grown to over 300 enrolled in competitive, recreational or preschool classes.
“It’s been really exciting. We’ve seen kids go through the program and then come back to us and want to help coach. For them to choose to come back means even though they’re not practicing the sport there was something they connected to here in this place, and that’s special to us,” Hart said.
The gym was recently chosen out of 25 in the country to kick off a national licensed charter program. Ninja Zone, a class geared towards boys offers a series of obstacles using combinations of skilled spins, rolls, flips, jumps, and kicks.
“We lobbied hard for it. We’ve found the older boys get, they typically shy away from gymnastics but this is a program for them. We’re a smaller demographic but I think they chose us because they wanted this area to be a pioneer in the market. The classes started small but we’ve been expanding them,” she said.
Hart has found young children benefit physically and developmentally when beginning gymnastics at a young age.
“Of course there’s the physical aspect of it. It provides balance, agility, and coordination. But there’s also left and right brain connection they’ll use in school for reading and writing. We do a lot of study on the science of movement and how that prepares a child for learning later in life,” she said.
Teaching combined with encouragement has worked well for their programs.
“We give a lot of high fives and good jobs around here. Children are wired to show off and we provide them that opportunity in a safe environment full of support.”
The gym is also mindful of body image issues and is quick to combat the epidemic.
“When they’re here we want them to realize they can do amazing things with their body. Our focus is on being healthy and strong and look what your body can do for you,” Hart said.
One way the staff promotes positivity is when an athlete learns a new skill, they ring a bell centered in the middle of the room. The girl or boy is recognized when they perform the skill again for their peers.
“It’s a big accomplishment. We also video it and at the end of the week we put a compilation together of all the skills achieved. We call it the ‘Bell Report’.”
While gymnastics training can run year-round, the competitive season is from January through May. As of now, 40 girls represent Hart Gymnastics competitively on a state level and a regional level that spans from North Carolina to Florida.
Hart attributes much of the gym’s success with her trained staff of coaches.
“We all have a common desire to grow and be better. At the end of the night we brainstorm about what went well and what we can improve on. We talk about the kids specifically by name. If we’re having a hard time getting through to one of them, we come up with a way to get out their maximum potential,” she said.
It’s important to Hart that kids in the area have an opportunity to try gymnastics. For the third year in a row, during the week of Black Friday, she offers a deep discount of $10 gift cards worth $100 that can be redeemed by anyone who’s never visited the gym.
“It was a huge part of my life. It’s something I’ve never been able to get away from. I was a gymnast and then I coached in my hometown under my coaches. Then I went to college and coached,” she said.
In a community where sports play a vital role in many families Hart believes gymnastics offers a strong foundation.
“We want to aid kids, give them a leg up, regardless of what sport they go onto. Whether they choose gymnastics as their sport for years to come, kids will definitely reap the benefits of that important early development.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.