When you look up on the wall behind the parallel bars at the Kips Gymnastics Club in Cambridge you’re greeted with a sign that simply says, “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you wanna be” this immediately tells what the Kips is all about. It’s about building futures; it’s about instilling in kids that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
Walk a little farther onto the main floor of the gym and you see all these small pieces of tape laid out on the floor, each piece with a corresponding name of a Kips gymnast, so they know exactly where their take-off and landing is to be. It’s then that you can see the inspiration and drive that goes into making sure that every movement is just the way it should be, so that they can achieve that perfect routine they so desperately seek.
You look around the gym and you can see the effort and determination in each handprint laid out in chalk and sweat on the beams. Where perhaps that first routine wasn’t exactly what they wanted; but close your eyes and you can also see the determination that says, “I won’t give up,” and then, although exhausted, they re-chalk their hands and they do it all again, knowing that next time will be different, next time is going to be perfect.
These kids don’t do it because they want fame or fortune, they do it because they love it, and you have to love it to practise 17 hours a week, when your friends are out playing or watching TV. One of these kids is 10-year-old Megan Heyes who practises her routine over and over again. But her hard work was rewarded this past year she won third place all around, level 7-9 at the 2012 Gymnastics Ontario Championships.
But this club is full of stories of hard work and dedication, it’s not every day that a business can boast of 42 years of service to a community, especially in a competitive business like gymnastics, but Kips is not your average run of the mill gymnastics club.
Run by a small staff, it is headed by Allan Koyanagi, general manager, and lead by Joanne Heyes, president of a dedicated volunteer board of directors which oversees a committed group of coaches. All the coaches have a minimum level two certification and who themselves don’t know the meaning of the word quit.
Kips is more than a business, it’s a not-for-profit business, and being as such they are involved in the community of Cambridge in ways that most gymnast clubs are not. The club’s students and volunteer parents participate every year in the local Canada Day parade and the Santa Claus parade.
“So they learn that being a gymnast at Kips comes with some social responsibility, we try to make it as fun as possible,” said Koyanagi. “But you’re a Kip, and that means a lot in this community.”
The facilities encompass two campuses, the main campus in Preston which is 10,000 sq. ft. and the north campus which is another 7,000 sq. ft. Most competitive gymnastics is at the main campus while the majority of the trampoline disciplines are at the north campus. Between the two facilities up to 1,000 kids are enrolled at any given time.
Take a walk up the front stairs and you’re greeted with a tiny room no bigger than the average living room which overlooks the preschoolers’ gym.
On any given Monday, you will find a room full of anxious parents, each one intently watching their little one attempting to make it across the beam for the first time without falling or climbing the rope all the way to the ceiling.
Every now and then though they fall, and the parents hold their breath, waiting for that smile that says “I’m okay mommy,” then the breath is released and all is good again.
Look around in this room and you will see up on the wall their achievement for “The Best Gymnastics Club in Cambridge” by the readers in the 2012 Cambridge Times Readers’ Choice Awards. It’s awards like this that Heyes is most proud of, which says the community understands the value of Kips.
A club this size, in a community this size, and open for the number of years that Kips has been, and you are bound to touch a few lives. The club is seeing parents who themselves grew up as Kips and now find themselves bringing their own children to start the cycle again.
“When you say you’re a not-for-profit immediately a wall comes down, people understand what not-for-profit means, it’s about serving the community, it’s about helping people who want to put their kids in a sports program but can’t always afford it,” said Koyanagi. “Yes, we have to be fiscally responsible, but we’re also there for families in need.”
Included in that serving the community thread is the many programs that Kips puts on for kids, such as PD days where parents can drop their kids off for a small fee and have them in a supervised environment or March break and summer programs which offer the same type of thing. They also cater birthday parties for up to 15 children where kids can come and play on the trampolines, bouncing to their hearts content.
It’s all about the kids at Kips. Teaching them to have a healthy balance of sport in their lives and teaching them to always strive for that goal, even if you don’t make it, you can hold your head up high and say you tried.
“I’d like to see another good 42 years, I don’t see us going anywhere, just continuing to improve on what we have and going another 42 years serving Cambridge,” said Heyes.