Story and photo by Daniel Friedman
Every four years, we Americans get our gymnastics fix by watching the summer Olympics on television. But Valley gyms are full of kids in competitive- and recreational-level gymnastics every year.
Laura Pendleton and Janice Magsam, pictured here in the foam pit at their facility, opened North Valley Gymnastics three-and-a-half years ago. They immediately benefited from interest generated by the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Now they have about 850 kids involved in kindergym, cheer, tumbling & trampoline and gymnastics for ages 18 months to 18 years.
Magsam’s kids — Alex (16) and Amy (11) — and Pendleton’s kids — Daniel (15) and Olivia (12) — met while doing gymnastics and remain friends. Magsam and Pendleton coached at the same gyms over the years. Then, during breakfast on the way to a meet in San Diego, they talked about what they wanted in a gym, based on best ideas and practices they had seen.
Many businesses can be run from a spare bedroom, the kitchen table or even a laptop, but the overhead for the 26,000-square-foot facility Magsam and Pendleton have means creates extra pressure to make it work. Being business owners give them the freedom to call their own shots but it also is a huge time commitment. Staffing, staff training and communication with the families of 850 students take all their time.
“Even when you’re not at work you’re still at work, with people calling from morning to night,” says Pendleton who had worked in information technology as a business analyst for Motorola for 15 years.
They have learned they need to communicate as much as possible and be flexible to meet the needs and expectations of so many children and their parents. Managing their coaching staff takes a lot of time because their employees are young and for many it may be their first job. Magsam’s first job was as a gymnastics coach when she was 18 and she has coached on and off since then.
North Valley Gymnastics has more boys enrolled than many other gyms both on the competitive club level and the recreational level. Because both Pendleton and Magsam have sons deeply involved in gymnastics they knew there was interest among boys. Unlike traditional school sports teams, gymnastics doesn’t get announcements over the high school public address about the results of meets or the 25 hours a week gymnasts put in to compete, Magsam says. She says some high schools in the Midwest and East have gymnastics programs but in Arizona it is strictly a club sport.
With so much time spent at the gym, the atmosphere is family oriented, more “warm and fuzzy” than just a business, says Magsam. And that — plus seeing kids being successful and having fun at gymnastics — provides the enjoyment and incentive to put in all those hours.
Learn more about North Valley Gymnastics.
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