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LOOK BEFORE LEAPING INTO GYMNASTICS

By D Magazine |

In the wake of the U.S. Olympic gymnastic team’s outstanding performance at the Summer Games, managers of three of the largest gymnastics schools in the Dallas area say they’ve had dramatic increases in their fall enrollments.

Those increased enrollments, they say, include a significantly greater number of boys, as well as a greater number of preschool children.

David Martin, owner of the Dallas Gymnastics Center, says he expected the surge. He opened his school following the 1976 Olympics and had anticipated another surge of interest during the 1980 Olympics. But after the United States boycotted the Olympics that year, he says, enrollment stayed the same.

Last fall, the center’s enrollment was about 650 students; this fall, it climbed to nearly 1,000. Martin teaches girls only, but he says he gets calls daily from parents wanting to enroll their sons. He says that one day immediately after the Summer Olympics, parents stood seven deep in his office, money in hand, and all three phone lines were busy.

Brad Wunderlich, who manages Gymnastics Inc., says he also expected to see an increase in enrollment. “I pretty much knew the U.S. team would do well, but I expected silver medals, not gold. We were prepared for the increase. We started looking for coaches last year.” Although the school would not release enrollment figures, he says it’s up by 100 percent, and he expects no drop-off.

Gymnastics of Texas is owned and operated by Lynne Vinyard, who says that her fall enrollment shows an increase of 200 over last year’s figure. “We’re shocked at the number of boys coming in. A lot of them are interested in competing, and this is their first time to take gymnastics classes.”

Even though the gymnastic school managers are reveling in the increased business, they advise parents to be cautious about where they send their children. The facility itself should have good ventilation and well-maintained equipment, but it’s even more important to find out what the coach-to-student ratio is.

Most classes range in size from one coach per six students to one coach per 10 students, with preschool children in the smallest classes. Wunderlich explains that younger children have a shorter attention span; thus, an instructor needs to spend more time with each student. “Large classes could be dangerous for younger children,” Wunderlich says.

Vinyard says, “The biggest thing is that parents should be permitted to observe classes at any time, so they can see what their youngster is doing.”

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