Glenwood Gymnastics Academy flying high
One might not expect to see snowboarders flying through the air at a gymnastics academy, or break dancers practicing their moves to throbbing music, or an 80-year-old man doing back flips on a trampoline.
Those scenes and more are played out each week at Glenwood Gymnastics Academy. Referring to back flipper Jim Hayes, academy owner Rob Jones said, “He’s been with me since I opened. He comes down from Aspen once a week, and is in pretty good shape.”
While Jones and his gymnastics academy have earned a state-wide reputation on the competitive level, he’s well-known locally for his Friday night open gym sessions, where kids get the run of the place – supervised, of course.
“We had 65 last Friday night,” Jones said.
Jones, a former collegiate gymnast, and his wife, Carmel, opened Glenwood Gymnastics Academy 17 years ago, after coaching in Texas, Missouri and Arkansas.
“I wasn’t a very good collegiate gymnast,” Jones said with a laugh. “I hope I’m a better coach.”
The academy boasts a 6-foot-deep landing pit, with 13,000 foam cubes. That’s what the snowboarders used to practice their aerial maneuvers when they came down from Aspen last week.
The 8,000-square-foot gym has wall-to-wall trampolines, balance beams, parallel bars, uneven parallel bars, men’s high bars, vaulting horse, a 40-by-40-foot floor exercise mat and more.
The gym is located in a low-slung building behind True Value Hardware, just south of Glenwood Springs High School. From 200 to 300 kids charge through the doors in any given week.
Jones said the only comparable facilities are in Grand Junction and Denver, and some of his competitive gymnasts come from as far away as Vail.
Scores of trophies stretch end to end across the center beam that arches across the ceiling between the floor exercise mat and uneven parallel bars.
“Kids like putting them up there,” Jones said.
On the walls are painted cartoon characters such as Yosemite Sam, and “fun” seems to be the operative word.
Sometimes, when a kid announces that he has a loose tooth, Jones will whip out a pair of pliers and offer to do something about the situation.
“It’s a joke. I pull jokes on the kids all the time. Being goofy is their favorite part,” he said.
Several of Jones’ competitive gymnasts have gone on to collegiate careers, but there is more to his philosophy than just gymnastics.
“It’s more important to raise a kid than a gymnast. This is just one aspect of their lives. We don’t want it to be their whole life. We want them to be dedicated, but also do other things,” he said.
Even with 15- to 20-hour weekly workouts, compared to 25 to 35 hours that some other gymnasts around the state put in, the Glenwood Springs team fared well at a recent meet in Denver.
Jones pointed out that competitive gymnasts usually carry high grades “because they know how to manage their time.”
While the competitive teams receive most of the publicity in local newspapers, the core business for Glenwood Gymnastics Academy is kids. Some of those kids come to birthday parties at the academy.
“In the past two years, more people have been doing birthday parties,” said Jones, who charges $50 per hour for up to 10 partyers.
Although a little heavier than his collegiate weight, the 5-foot-7 Jones still has a gymnast’s build. He’s probably more fun-loving than most gymnastics coaches, and no doubt laughs more than most. He said the best part about owning the academy is working with kids.
“We’re mostly here for kids, and don’t think of it as a business thing. It’s a labor of love. That’s what it is,” he said.
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