Under the leadership of Amanda Borden-Cochran, the 1996 Olympic team—dubbed the Magnificent Seven—scored their infamous gold-medal victory. But Amanda's accomplishments didn't stop there; she now adds gym owner to her résumé as the founder of the brand new 25,000 square foot Gold Medal Gymnastics gym. At two gyms in Chandler and Tempe, she works alongside a roster of accomplished athletes to teach the fine art of gymnastics to preschoolers and teens alike. In addition to traditional gymnastics classes and open gym time, the coaches teach dance lessons and sports skills at the Chandler location.
Youthful shrieks and the slap of feet on mats fill the air at Southwest Gymnastics Training Center, drifting past a climbing rope and floor-level trampoline. Coaches preside over the 10,500-square-foot facility, improving more than somersaults?they also help give kids the self-esteem and discipline to excel in school or run a successful ant farm. The safety-certified coaches encourage positive traits in their young charges during recreational and competitive classes for ages 18 months to 18 years. Designed to adhere to USA Gymnastics guidelines, the curriculum helps kids build skills in a logical order, ensuring that no one has to do a cartwheel before learning what a wheel is.
The coaches also teach trampoline and tumbling skills, occasionally retiring to the sidelines to supervise open gym sessions. During these unstructured play sessions, kids can safely experiment with any equipment or practice pushing a wheelbarrow full of gold medals. Recreational classes for girls aged 6?18, boys aged 6?18, little ones aged 18 months?5 years, and athletic action figures, as well as competitive classes for advanced-level acrobats. Tumbling and trampoline lessons build knowledge of the sport, with a bouncier surface than a circus seal's mattress.
If they can walk, they can learn gymnastics?that's the philosophy at Tumbleweeds Gymnastics. Classes teach basic tumbling skills as well as how to be a good listener, interact with other kids, and safely somersault away from conflict.
As children grow more comfortable and skilled, they can graduate to more challenging classes, or eventually to specialty classes that focus on competitive cheerleading or gymnastics.
For an example of Tumbleweeds' success, just look to the owner. Courtney Dennison spent her youth racking up awards on the Tumbleweeds gymnastics team before receiving a full-ride scholarship to join the team at Oregon State University. Coming full circle, she eventually returned to take over the school and help others follow in her cartwheel-tracks.
If you've seen Olympic gymnasts Kurt Thomas and Kerri Strug perform, then you've seen the work of Don Gutzler. A longtime professional gymnastics coach, Gutzler co-owns Gymnastics World Northwest, where he and fellow co-owner Yoichi Tomita, also an Olympic coach, instill gymnastics skills and techniques in their students. To that end, they offer summer camps, which teach balance, kicks, and tumbling moves alongside games and free play, and competitive teams, which help build endurance and teamwork skills.
Scott Barclay, a former gymnastics champion and current coach of ASU men's gymnastics team, dreamed of opening a facility to help young kids discover gymnastics. In turn, Aspire Kids Sports Center began with recreational gymnastics for kids as young as 15 months. Through time, the organization—headed by Scott and his wife, Donna—grew to include classes for martial arts, swimming, dance, and cheer.
At Aspire's present 32,000-square-foot facility, instructors help fledgling gymnasts traverse an 80-foot tumble track on multiple trampolines. For tykes, there's a wealth of preschool gymnastics equipment, while more advanced gymnastics teams can compete on spring competition floors.
Or take advantage of the indoor heated swimming pool with movable platforms, where you can immerse yourself in year-round swimming lessons and stage performances of The Little Mermaid.
In 1971 Lana Whitehead was a YMCA staffer charged with devising a swimming program for infants. She turned to the expertise gained from her degrees in exercise physiology and special education, and with the help of her own baby son she created a new approach to child swimming and water safety. The basic techniques have since helped many youngsters learn to swim and escape drowning at young ages.
Soon after, Lana founded SWIMkids USA. Conceived as a child-development center, the facility today supplements its pioneering swim instruction with child-friendly programs in gymnastics, dance, and even kids' jujitsu classes that teach how to handle aggressive octopi. Lana's involvement in the world of swimming as an author, educator, and swimming official has also taken her all over the world, giving seminars at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the World Aquatic Baby Congress.