AT VICTORY GYMNASTICS ACADEMY, THEY’LL
‘TUMBLE 4 YA’ – WITH A DYNAMIC RANGE OF COMPETITIVE AND
RECREATIONAL PROGRAMS TEACHING VAULT, UNEVEN BARS,
BALANCE BEAM AND FLOOR TO KIDS OF ALL AGES
With The Largest Gym in San Diego, the Female Owned 18,000
Square-Foot Facility Has an In-Ground Foam Pit, 40-Foot
Tumble Trak, 40×40 Competition Floor and a Dedicated Coaching
Staff That Includes Three Time Pan Am Team Champion
Charlie Tamayo and Gym Director Cy Platt of The Platt Brothers,
A Musical/Acrobat Group That Has Appeared on America’s Got Talent
There’s no force of nature quite as unstoppable as a mom on a mission – and with the wild growth and success of Victory Gymnastics Academy (www.vgasd.com) in San Diego, Shawna Meyer has brought a perfect mix of fun, fitness, focus, discipline and healthy competitive spirit to the kids of thousands of other moms over the past seven years.
A veteran realtor specializing in building and selling residential properties, Meyer became increasingly frustrated with the non-profit gym where her then grade school aged daughters Madison and Cameron—both talented competitive gymnasts—did their training. In her search for another local facility, she realized that there were no other big gyms in San Diego offering the kind of gymnastics programs she was looking for. Meyer and her husband found a building, refurbished it and opened Victory in its original 12,000 square-foot location in 2006.
In January 2011, the facility moved to its current 18,000 square-foot space in the Kearny Mesa area—which makes it the largest gym of its kind in the San Diego area. Exciting safety meets playful amenities include a six foot deep foam pit filled with thousands of red, white and blue cubes—the perfect safe landing spot after dismounting off the uneven bars, tumbling off the floor or vaulting. There is also a 40 foot long in-ground Tumble Trak, which functions like a long trampoline and allows for easy, safe flipping. The vault area features an 80-foot runway and the downstairs area has a 40×40 foot Olympic type competition floor, made from what Meyer calls “fiberglass with springs covered by carpet bonded foam.”
“Having seen what the gyms that were not doing well lacked, my business plan with Victory Gymnastics Academy has always been to focus on the recreational aspect of the sport – although we do offer a competitive team program as well,” she says. “The idea was to get kids of all ages excited about gymnastics enough to come in for an hour or more per week, depending on how many classes they wanted to take. We grew by word-of-mouth, promoting the gym as a state of the art, clean facility with coaches who are upbeat, exciting and love working with kids. Gymnastics offers a strong conditioning foundation and balance for kids who then want to move on to other sports like cheerleading or soccer.”
Meyer estimates that 600 kids per week come to Victory to participate in the facility’s wide array of classes, with 50 of them on the competitive team. The recreational classes are divided by age and kept small by design, usually eight kids per coach, with individualized attention to every event on their rotation schedule – vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. The recreational and competitive gym is separated from the pre-school gym, which is specially designed for their “Gym Bugs” program that includes age-appropriate, scaled down equipment—ideal for those with small hands and feet. In both areas, parents can enjoy watching their kids from the spacious viewing areas, which include complimentary wireless Internet.
With School-Age Programs including Recreational Gymnastics Levels 1-5, tumbling and Boys’ Freestyle Gymnastics, Victory Gymnastics Academy’s goal is to teach safe, progressive gymnastics in a fun, low pressure environment—and to in turn raise the level of the children’s confidence through a sense of accomplishment and improved fitness.
Beyond building a financially successful business, Meyer is proud of the fact that the programs at VGA contribute steadily to children’s self-esteem—sometimes, she says, the only place where some kids are able to get that kind of reinforcement. She is also pleased to give back to the community, by helping raise money for local schools by auctioning off a month of free gymnastics classes at their local fund raisers.
In addition to state of the art equipment and a multitude of popular programs to fit all age, skill and interest levels, a key reason for Victory Gymnastics Academy’s success is her highly skilled, enthusiastic coaching staff (which currently totals 22 coaches). Because many of the coaches over the years are college age, creating workable schedules has always been a challenge—but her hiring criterion has always been the same.
“Obviously, most have done gymnastics and gymnastics training for years,” she says, “but just as important is that our coaches have great personalities and can have fun with the kids. Kids of any age get very attached to their teachers and coaches, and what they want most is a coach who will encourage them but also be fun and smiling and having a good time as they are teaching valuable skills.”
The competitive program at Victory Gymnastics Academy, which includes many young girls doing level 9 and 10 gymnastics, is run by Head Team Coaches Charlie Tamayo and his wife Nicole. The Cuban born Charlie is a three-time Pan Am Team Champion who made Cuban history twice for winning world medals. His accolades include being a bronze medalist at World Championships, gold medalist at World Cup, silver medalist in rings at Pan Am Championships, being Pan Am vault champion and being vault champion five consecutive years in Cuba. In addition to working with young gymnasts at Victory, he travels to gyms across the country to offer his services to others who love the sport as much as he does.
Victory’s Gym Director is Cy Platt, who with his brothers Boone and Cheetah toured with The Platt Brothers, also the name of their full-length theatrical production featuring acrobatics, dance, comedy and music. Voted “Best Live Comedy in San Diego,” the show has toured across America; in 2009, The Platt Brothers made several notable appearances on “America’s Got Talent.”
The programs at Victory Gymnastics Academy include Preschool, Schoolage, Boys Freestyle and Tumbling. There are also Clinics (for children seeking to improve single skills) and Summer Camp, a lighter, full day program which runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m. daily for six weeks during the summer.
The Preschool Gymnastics Program is all about learning and exploring while providing a fun and safe environment where preschoolers form positive learning attitudes and habits. It includes fundamental movement education and basic motor skills that help children develop a sense of physical fitness, coordination, spatial awareness, strength, flexibility and balance are a part of weekly themed lesson plans. The young gymnasts learn basic skills as well as climbing, rolling, swinging, jumping and balancing while improving their listening skills and ability to follow directions. Body awareness and small motor skills activities are the major components of each class.
Victory’s school-aged recreational program focuses on early level skill development, gymnastics terminology, and, above all, fun, for children ages 5–17. The goal is for participants to experience improved strength, flexibility, balance and spatial awareness through learning skills on the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. The program combines compulsory elements from the USA Gymnastics guidelines in the Level 1 through 5 classes. Basic gymnastics progressions keep the classes challenging, enjoyable and safe. As children develop skills in one level, they will then advance to higher levels in the program. Believing that positive reinforcement is the best way to help a child progress, VGA nourishes their emotional confidence and self-esteem by “ringing the bell” for newly learned gymnastics skills, and providing a “Gymnastics Diploma” for completion of each level.
Another offering, Boys Freestyle Gymnastics, focuses on practicing efficient movements to develop one’s body and mind—comparable to martial arts in its ability to overcome any obstacle. Boys Freestyle Gymnastics got its start in France, during World War I and World War II when French soldiers were taught how to move efficiently through challenging obstacle courses or “parcours.” The skills involved include walking, running, jumping, quadrupedal movement, climbing and balancing. At VGA, the Boys Freestyle Gymnastics classes are most popular with boys, but are open to both boys and girls of all ages. Students will develop natural physical capabilities including bipedal and quadrupedal movement, jumping, landing, climbing and vaulting, along with, focus, perseverance and creativity.
For those kids wishing to merely “tumble” and not do all four USA Gymnastics events, VGA offers Tumbling classes for both boys and girls. These classes focus on basic and advanced tumbling, from back handsprings to back tucks and twisting skills. These classes are ideal for all ages, and especially for cheerleaders who need to perfect their tumbling skills.
“One of the things I hear quite often from both coaches and parents alike,” Meyer says, “is the fact that I run the gym like a business. I don’t coach, try to coach or have any desire to coach. I am there to run the business as it should be run. The reason this is different is because the majority of gyms out there are run by coaches who have decided they want to own a gym but don’t actually run it the way a business should be run. It’s difficult to train, coach and run a business at the same time and be successful. I am also the only female gym owner in San Diego who runs a gym the size of mine and, when the economy turned, what did I do? I moved to a bigger facility! That may have seemed crazy at the time, but we have continued to grow every year.” Seeing all of those smiling faces day in and day out makes me realize I am doing things right!