Building a strong foundation for young athletes the goal of American Gymsters
It’s a sport that for years has had people doing cartwheels and backflips at the Key Biscayne Community Center, while having fun and building an athletic foundation along the way.
American Gymsters started in 2004 as an outlet for kids to gain both confidence and coordination, and its founder, Camilo Sanchez, continues to teach the virtues of gymnastics today.
“I was a gymnast myself,” said the 49-year-old Key Biscayne resident. “I’m from Colombia and I came here to do my masters at UM and to start a business. This opportunity came along and I went for it.”
Starting in a studio facility nearly two decades ago, with only two students, Sanchez now teaches 80-100 youngsters at any given time in the Community Center.
American gymsters start at age four working on simple activities that develop coordination skills.
“They learn as they play,” Sanchez said. “That’s how I put it. They are learning how to move their muscles. We do motor skills, hopping, walking on tiptoes, which is really important foundation.”
Practicing twice a week, the youngest kids called “tinys” get together on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30 p.m., while older kids in more advanced programs train Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until noon.
The program is primarily attended by girls but boys are welcome.
Sanchez points out that there’s more to American Gymnsters than learning how to do a handstand or flip. He prides himself on developing skills that translate off the mat.
“We don’t just teach gymnastics,” he said. “We help with basic physical development. And I’m instilling with them (that) you’ve got to believe in yourself. Just keep trying; you can’t do it now but keep trying.”
Sanchez said most young students are afraid when they start doing cartwheels. “I say no, you’ve got to change your attitude. If you imagine yourself doing it, you will to it… Your brain will tell your muscles how to do it.”
Sanchez has seen his own children benefit from participation in various activities and sports.
“I have three kids and today all of them excel at their sports,” the proud poppa said. “They practice and play well, and I say this is thanks to gymnastics.
Not surprisingly, Sanchez believes gymnastics is the perfect sport to help kids excel in other physical pursuits.
“They get power, agility, awareness while learning how to go up-and-down, turn upside down, while rolling around, and that gives them a whole new sensation in the brain,” he explained. “And when they do something else in other sports, those skills comes back.
“It really is a great foundation.”
You can learn more about American Gymster here.