By Lynn Marshall
It’s Saturday morning and things are in full swing, literally. Encouraging voices echo throughout the many rooms of this 20,000 square foot facility. “Swing higher, tighten it up,” yells one coach, spotting competitive gymnast Dianna Sierra on the uneven parallel bars. A few yards away a karate master and his students chime “kiai,” while another instructor sets up her section for some rhythmic moves.
One of Boca Raton’s popular gymnastics facilities has relocated and reopened as the area’s first multisport gym, even adding to its name: Kids Choice Sports, Dance & Fitness. The gym is hosting an Open House this Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 7 during those same hours.
“We are seeing a trend in the industry,” says gym owner Julie Willmott, who packed up her Rising Stars Gymnastics troupe a few blocks away on East Rogers Circle, enhanced the name and moved to the 6500 West Rogers Circle location a few months ago. “The new wave of the future is offering family choices.”
Willmott, who was a competitive gymnast, has been a coach for nearly 20 years and a gym owner for more than half that time. She’s known industry wide for focusing on character building, self-esteem, and mental and physical strength. Willmott, who has three competitive gymnast daughters, wanted an all-around- gym for many years, and once a large enough facility came about, seized it.
The new facility houses Rising Stars Gymnastics, Villari’s Martial Arts, Star Power Cheer, Dance Starz Dance Academy, Mini Stars Gym & Learn Preschool, Premier Gymnastics-Rhythmic Gymnastics, and Optimum Personal Training. It also features a daily indoor “playground” for tots, seasonal camps, birthday parties and Parents Night Out on Saturdays.
Sierra, for example, says she may take advantage of having a dance program in the building. At 14, she is a Level 8 gymnast and feels
taking dance will help with many of her gymnastic events. Sierra and many of her teammates placed within the Top 10 at Nationals held in Orlando this summer. She’s been part of the gym family for five years. It was ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that brought her there.
“My pediatrician recommended it and said it would be the best way to get my energy out,” says Sierra, who is enrolled in Honors classes at Boynton Beach Community High School. “It helps me focus. It’s really fun.” Sierra got a taste of martial arts and rhythmic gymnastics while working as a counselor in the gym’s summer camp.
For her mom, Donna Sierra, an accountant, it’s been gratifying to see her daughter focus and set her own goals. Sierra says the sports being offered at the gym can help children with time management skills as it has her daughter. Her youngest daughter, Alexandra, 7, earned a yellow belt in karate during summer camp there.
“I think the self-esteem these sports promote is probably the most important,” says Sierra, noting the similarity in motivating children most of the disciplines offered at the gym promote.
That’s why Mark Pearson brought his Shao Lin Kempo karate there. The owner of Villari’s Martial Arts is an eighth-degree Black Belt and has been an instructor for 30 years.
“For years we have been trying to combine martial arts with gymnastics and dance and other athletics to offer a place that would satisfy many different interests,” he says. He’s already seeing kids come over from gymnastics and with siblings interested in karate. He teaches children and adults.
Willmott and Pearson both have a special interest in children with exceptionalities, both noting how the sports offered in the gym pay particular attention to focus and control. Willmott is looking into getting certified for Special Needs. Closer on the horizon, however, is the gym’s VPK certification. There’s already the aforementioned pre-school program, but getting certified VPK will let the four and five year olds develop better coordination and focus while learning.
“This has been a dream of mine for years. I’m so happy that we are now able to serve the whole family, as we continue to grow as a major fitness facility.”
Back in the gym, coach Amy Ducy smiles with pride as she watches Dianna do giants- a series of rotational full-stretched swings on the high bar. Ducy, who also is the Department Director of TOPS (Talented Opportunity Program), has been coaching for nearly a decade. The larger gym gives the gymnast in TOPS more room –even a place to run stairs. The national program, which works on strength and flexibility, is a new program to the gym and offered to competitive gymnasts. Dianna is one of them.
“Go, go, Dianna!” she shouts as the teen swings fully stretched from her encouragement. It’s obvious the TOPS training helped Dianna. As for the multi-sport gym: “Just look around,” she says. “There is something here for everyone.”
For more information on classes and events, call 561-998-4225 or go to www.gokidschoice.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.