Community Impact Article
By Susan VanDeWater
Friday, 09 October 2009
At Jump! Gymnastics, children are not just having fun, they are laying the groundwork for healthy, happy and self-confident lives.
“Our goal is to be the most fun way for kids to learn,” said Natalie McKee, co-owner and gymnastics director of Jump! Gymnastics.
McKee, who has been a gymnast all her life, wanted to build a gymnastics program that was different from any other she had seen in Austin.
“My coaching philosophy is unique in that it focuses on child development and sports psychology. I want to use gymnastics to lift these kids up and inspire them,” she said.
McKee and her co-owner/business director, Robert Palm, first opened Jump! in April 2007 inside the Austin Sports Center. They quickly outgrew that location and began renting space in a martial arts studio. The gym continued to grow, and in June 2008, the business moved into its own facility on Manchaca Road.
With 250 students, Jump! Gymnastics offers classes for ages 2 to 7. A class comprises a group cardio warm-up and stretching, then four circuits with multiple stations, such as vaulting, bars, beam, tumbling and trampoline.
“We try to keep the children active throughout the entire class,” McKee said.
Classes are skill-based, as opposed to age-based. Students use charts to record their progress. As they master different skills, they advance. It is a philosophy similar to that of martial arts.
“By grouping the children according to skill level, we can keep them challenged and motivated. And using sticker charts is a fun way for the children to see the progress they’re making toward a goal,” McKee said.
About co-owner Natalie McKee
“Gymnastics is a great way to establish a habit of fitness,” McKee said. “It makes exercise fun and builds confidence.”
- McKee began taking gymnastics in 1980 and has been coaching since 1995.
- Some of her former students are now attending college on gymnastics scholarships.
- McKee has training in sports psychology and child development.
- One of her former students is currently a coach at Jump! Gymnastics.
2919 Manchaca Road, Ste. 205
McKee designed the program’s curriculum to use a skill-deconstruction approach.
“Instead of saying, ‘Do a handstand,’ we break it down into smaller pieces,” McKee said. “As the children master each step, it builds confidence.”
All of the coaches at Jump! are certified by USA Gymnastics, the governing body for gymnastics in the U.S. In addition, McKee and Palm have designed a training program for the coaches that focuses on safety, child development and coaching techniques. McKee also provides the coaches with a curriculum to guide their classes.
Jump! offers preschool classes two days a week, parents’ day out on Fridays, birthday parties, parents’ night out and day camps when Austin public schools are out. Class ratios are 1 instructor: 6 children or fewer.
Jump! Gymnastics and its employees are active in the Austin community, supporting local charities through fundraisers and sponsoring a free booth at the Austin Kite Festival. Palm, who helps run the festival’s ticket sales, also serves on the board of SafePlace, Austin’s domestic violence and sexual assault survival center.
In the future, McKee and Palm hope to expand to a full-size gym with gymnastics programs for all ages.