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Champion Staff

“Hi, I am Coach Melinda!” I am the owner of Champion Gymnastics, but that is not the end of the story. Before opening this gym, my story starts back in 1983. I did a brief stint in Gymnastics at a small facility in my home city of Pittsburgh before the facility closed. I cannot recall much from that time, but I do remember being the class clown and I remember the coach being paired with me to do middle splits against the wall & she pushed me all the way in, “Man did that hurt!”

Jump forward a few years I went back into gymnastics (different facility) at age 8 almost 9. Technically old for the sport, but I wanted to go to the Olympics! Something about me impressed the coaches & I was put onto Development Team right away. I was still a bit of a joker in class, I did not have the right body for gymnastics, I had a big belly & a big rear end, but I learned skills fast. I had a few different coaches, but the best coach, while he taught me, I was not his favorite. His favorite student was smaller than me, younger than me, and with the added attention she got from him, she was better than me.

That was when my dad began training me at home. Every day I practiced in the yard; I did games with neighbor friends that were strength & endurance building. Push up contests, walking on my hands around the block, exercises while watching TV & skills practice every time there was a free moment. Eventually I started to do better than the Coaches favorite student, he had no choice but to start working with me more. All that effort at home made my gym training & performance that much better.

I had to work hard to get strong for gymnastics. My parents were hairdressers, so I had a short haircut which made me look like a boy. I got made fun of a lot, by the kids in school and by the kids on my team. I was an underdog & an outcast most of the time. Kids were jealous that I was stronger than them, or that I could do skills they could not. My teammates were and girls will be girls & that is catty. They would give each other hugs before routines & say Good job, but when I got my hug they would say “Bad Job”. I learned to block out & ignore those who did not matter in my journey to my dream!

In 1989 I was Class 3 Pennsylvania State Gymnastics Champion. I had not only the highest all-around score in my session but also the entire event. Then in 1990 with some hard work & determination my parents opened Champion Gymnastics Training Center. Because they wanted me to reach my goals & have the best training.Over the next few year, I made it to level 9, I finished that season, so close to my dream but by then I was still old for the sport, I had Osgood-Schlatter’s in both knees, and a Fear of “What If?” that worked its way from my least favorite event to my best event, and not to mention I was punished severely if I did not practice well at gym. Eventually I knew it was time to retire from competition. I spent every day at the gym, a lot like I do now. But for a teen going into high school having no life outside of gym & training as hard as I had to at that level I was burnt out.

In Highschool I did Cheer (sideline & competitive) for a couple of years, because I was the only one in school that could tumble. I learned how to be a strong back spot, and never let my flyers hit the ground. I left the team when we got a coach who had no real cheer experience. She told me she learned how to teach cheer from a BOOK! One summer this coach thought that some team mates could go practice a back hand spring being spotted by me for 5min, then come throw it unassisted on the gym floor. A coach like that was going to get someone hurt & I didn’t want to be a part of that! I have never had any kind of respect for a coach, owner or anyone involved in any sport, but especially mine, that would put kids in danger with their lack of proper education in it.

I started Coaching after I graduated Highschool at the YMCA, I was the recreational coach & assistant Team Coach. I had to develop my coaching abilities without any real guidance, and to take a group of kids and make sure they knew how to do all levels of skills & in this time I learned you had to do progression training, you could not just have kids just jump ahead to big fun skills unless they had the basics 1st. In these times I learned a lot about all types of kids & their physical challenges & abilities or inabilities. Just because they couldn’t get something the way I was teaching it wasn’t enough, I had to find a way that they could be successful so developing my ability to coach different kids different ways lead to personal growth for my students & for me as a coach.

I have taught in Dance studios and Private gymnastics clubs, encountered thousands upon thousands of students & parents. I have learned every year just when you think you have seen it all, here is some new challenge. I have 3 sons of my own and have been teaching kids & even parents (from time to time) for 25 years. I have 35 years of knowledge & passion for my sport, how to teach it & how to get results from even the most challenging of students.

The last 7 years of Owning Champion Gymnastics Unlimited, I have brought all that history, passion, education, and experience to the students & members of the local area. Grown this program with the same focus & determination I had as an athlete. It has never been easy, but it is what I love so it has always been worth every moment.

Hi, my name is Coach Robbie. If you attend classes at Champion Gymnastics you probably have already met me. At Champion Gymnastics I am a manager and I coach preschool, C1, C2, team, and do most of the private lessons. Although I love my job, I never imagined that I would become so immersed in the gymnastics world.

Growing up I always knew I wanted to become a teacher. I would make all the neighborhood kids come over to my house so that we could play school. I ended up going to Longwood College and received my degree in elementary education with a certification to teach preschool through 8th grade. I taught for a short while before I married my husband and we moved to Germany. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home parent for my kids so as the Army moved us from duty station to duty station I never went back to teach inside a school. I did childcare and tutoring at my house for most of the time my kids were small. I have always enjoyed working with kids.

When my kids took classes at Coach Wayne’s Gymnastics, I offered to assist with anything the gym needed. The next thing I knew I was being trained as a gymnastics instructor. I knew nothing about gymnastics and knew even less about teaching gymnastics. A month after I took the job Coach Wayne moved to a different state for a possible job opportunity and left me as the only instructor to run his program. It was super stressful. I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I am good at working with children and teaching comes naturally to me. Coach Wayne decided to shut down his gym and had me sell off all his gymnastics equipment. I was relived because I did not feel qualified to teach gymnastics and sad for my youngest daughter because she loved gymnastics and did not have a place to take class.

This is when I met Coach Melinda. She came to buy equipment for her gym. I asked her if my kids could come try out her gym. Of course, she said yes but she was more interested in trying to hire me to coach for her gym. I told her no, that I know nothing about gymnastics. Which was not entirely true but all I could see was all that I did not know about the sport. Fast forward two weeks later and my youngest daughter had not only tried a class, enrolled in the rec program when Coach Melinda invited my daughter to join team. My child was over the moon excited. When I asked about the cost of joining team, she told me not to worry about it. That I can help at the gym for some extra money. Twenty-four hours later I texted Coach Melinda asking what kind of help she needed from me. I figured it was running the front desk. Nope, her response was…being a competition coach! I knew nothing about competition gymnastics. I told her no, and she said yes. Anyone who knows Coach Melinda and I knows this happens a lot. So, I started working for Champion Gymnastics. Every day for a month I figured that today was the day I was going to be fired because I had no idea what I was doing. Coach Melinda saw through my inexperience and saw that I was a born teacher. I have always been able to relate to children. Coach Melinda figured I could be taught the rest of what I needed to know. And…she was right. I asked millions of questions, studied books, and watched lectures from coaches. Every day I learned how to teach gymnastics.

A year after I started at Champion, Coach Melinda informs me that I need to become a gymnastics judge. I said no, she said yes. BTW, Coach Melinda always gets her way. So, I studied day and night for months. I was sure that I would not pass. There are thousands of deductions a judge can take and how was I going to be able to remember all of them. The day of my exam the proctor looks around the room and informs us all that there are several faces she does not recognize. That must mean that it is our first time taking the test. She tells us not to stress about it, no one ever passes the test the first time anyway. This did not make me feel any better. I did not want to have to keep stressing about this exam for one more day. I did not need to, because I passed! Now it has been nearly 6 years since I started at Champion Gymnastics. I no longer worry about what I do not know about gymnastics. I know gymnastics! I am lucky I get to come to work and do something I love. I take pride in every accomplishment that my gym kids accomplish. Their victories and struggles are my victories and struggles. Coach Melinda and I are quite different people, and many have referred to us as mom (me) and dad (Coach Melinda). I like to think everything through and am much more rainbows and unicorns around people than Coach Melinda. Coach Melinda is more a bull. She is straight forward with people and when she has an idea, she already has the plan to immediately implement it. Although we have our different ways of approaching most obstacles, together we make a great team and work each day to make sure that each kid loves being inside of the gym.

"Hello, I am Mr. Curt, you may have seen me around the front desk at Champion Gymnastics.

I was medically retired from the Army in the summer of 2016 due to migraine headaches and other injuries from various deployments. Some of you may have noticed that I am occasionally distracted or confused while at the front desk and the migraines are a major factor in that distraction. Between the pain and the medication to deal with the migraines I sometimes need to take a break more often or have Ms. Linda or Melissa cover the desk for the entire evening. I would like to apologize for any inconvenience this causes to our customers.

When Melinda started Champion Gymnastics in 2014, running it out of the auction house on Rye Patch we were a small program. Most nights I would leave work after formation or a field problem and come to the gym, still in uniform, to help check students and answer questions for parents until classes finished. Seeing what Melinda has grown this program into over these eight years has been amazing. From a hand full of students to a constantly growing program, Champion Gymnastics has exceeded all my expectationsAfter leaving the Army, I took on a larger role at home. For four years I have been acting as the primary “learning coach” for our sons, Dominic and Deacon, while they attend virtual classes with Georgia Cyber Academy. From 2017-2019 I was also working on my Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, graduating Summa Cum Laude last summer.

Insert from Coach Robbie: Mr. Curt is the backbone of this gym. He is Coach Melinda’s and Coach Robbie’s go to person. If working the front desk is not hectic enough, we come at him with: “we need more paper towels, a kid peed on the floor, the toilet is clogged because someone flushed diaper down it, this parent needs to be talked to so their child can move up, this equipment needs to be fixed or moved. The parking lot needs the trash picked up.” Whatever we need from him, he does. He runs autopay and makes sure the coaches get paid. This gym would not run as smoothly as it does without Mr. Curt.

Insert from Coach Melinda: Mr. Curt is the reason Champion is a reality, he supported the idea when I thought I could open a gym in Hinesville. He helped in every physical task needed to build equipment or put-up walls. He is a sounding board when I have ideas for the gym and stands behind me in every endeavor, I think up to make this place better. He is the best Husband, & Gym assistant a Coach like me could ask for!

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