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Vaulting into action

Published 12:42pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

City programs provide professional training

Alexander City Parks and Recreation wants people to go head over heels for its gymnastics and cheerleading program.

“It’s not just simply a recreational program – it’s a training facility,” said director and head coach David Coleman. “It’s a professional training facility for any child that wants to pursue a beginning career in gymnastics that may end up with great potential for college scholarships in the future or national competition levels.”

Jennifer Baker, ACPR program director, said they have 120 children enrolled, from ages 3–18, in different classes divided by skill level.

“(Gymnastics students) train and learn on all the gymnastics equipment – the uneven bars, the balance beams, the vault and the floor,” Baker said. “We’re getting ready to start our second competitive season … We did eight competitions all over the state, (and) we had three state champions last year.”

Students must begin in one of the regular classes, but they can advance to the competition team based on skill level.

“Gymnastics is fun and exciting,” said Palmer Pepper, 8. “If you really want to do it, don’t be afraid.”

Coleman said gymnastics isn’t quite what people think it is.

“Most people think about gymnastics as just doing cartwheels and back flips,” Coleman said. “But the underlying philosophy behind it is the amount of structure and discipline that the young people get. It’s an amazing place to come to really feel part of something … You get that sense of teamwork because that’s how each of the classes are set up.”

Alexander City Gymnastics also has a boys’ class, which was started last year.

“We have about seven boys right now, and they absolutely have a ball,” Baker said. “The boys who are in our class are going to benefit because gymnastics is such a great sport to learn controlled body movements, agility and flexibility, and all that will help them in whatever sport they play, whether it’s football, baseball, soccer – anything where you can improve your strength and flexibility helps in all sports.”

Coleman also praised the boys’ class.

“We have a very strong boys’ class, and we’re considering adding more levels to our boys’ gymnastics program,” Coleman said. “We would love to entertain the possibility of having boys (competition) teams.”

The program also features a pre-school class for ages 3–5.

“The parents seem to be very happy with it and the coaches have a lot of fun with it,” Coleman said.

Coleman said they are also working on building their cheerleading and tumbling squad and may have a competition squad in the future.

One new aspect that will greatly enhance the program is the new spring floor, which Baker said they recently received permission to buy and will soon be installed at the facility.

“It will really benefit the gymnastics program,” Baker said. “The floor is built on springs. As our girls get better and better and build more advanced skills, the stress on their wrists and ankles on a regular floor is a safety issue. With this floor there’s a little bit of give with the floor so all that constant pounding on their ankles and knees and wrists (is minimized).”

Children can try one class for free if they are considering signing up for the program. To sign up or for more information, call Baker at 256-329-6736. Preschool classes are $45 per month; beginner classes are $50 per month; and intermediate and advanced classes are $60 per month.