By K.J. WEBB
FAMILY BUSINESS: Tulsa World of Gymnastics, in business for 32 years now, is one of the city’s premiere gyms. A family-owned business, TWG strives to teach students life skills through gymnastics. From left are Tara Isler, Linda Bradshaw and Tina Miller. Miller and Isler are Bradshaw’s daughters.
MIRANDA ENZOR for GTR Newspapers
Mention the word “gymnastics” and people’s thoughts generally jump to elite gymnasts competing in the Olympics. Names like Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug and Shannon Miller come to mind. Despite the attention brought to the sport by these supremely talented athletes, gymnastics is not only for girls, and it’s not a sport reserved only for Olympic hopefuls. Gymnastics offers benefits in several areas to youths of all ages, competition-bound or not.
Linda Bradshaw knows the sport very well as she, along with her husband Wayne, have owned and operated Tulsa World of Gymnastics for over 32 years. The number of times that Bradshaw has seen the positive impact gymnastics has made on her students’ development is difficult to count.
“Today I received an invitation from one of my former students to her college commencement at Harvard University,” Bradshaw says. “She’s graduating Magna Cum Laude. Her younger sister, also one of my former students, is also studying at Harvard. It’s an example of how early involvement in the sport of gymnastics, in addition to all of the physical benefits, produces life skills necessary for success in adulthood.” Gymnastics produces self-discipline, a work ethic, teamwork, self-confidence, time management skills, perseverance, the ability to focus and concentrate, to take and respond to direction and to set and achieve goals.
“We started Tulsa World of Gymnastics because of our girls Tina and Tara,” says Bradshaw. “We decided to open the gym to provide the best training and learning environment possible. When we started, we were thinking along the lines of major competition.” However, as the Bradshaw’s noticed how impressively their non-competitive students benefited from the sport, their focus shifted to an emphasis on overall fitness and the life skills that develop naturally from participating in the sport.
Bradshaw’s eldest daughter, Tina Miller, administrative director, and younger daughter Tara Isler, program director, both emphasize the school’s focus on the fitness aspect.
“We have a fitness area for parents,” Miller says. “They can work out while their children are in class. Children learn by example and to see their parents go into fitness area to workout reinforces to them how important it is to exercise; and they get good exercise in their classes.”
“All children love to run, jump, swing, climb, skip and hop,” says Isler. “That’s part of what our younger students do when they’re here. It provides the opportunity for them to develop strength, coordination, timing and concentration. These are important foundational skills for the sport. It’s also a lot of fun for them.”
The preschool classes have both girls and boys.
“There is a wonderful window of opportunity at this age to make a tremendously positive impact on these children,” says Bradshaw. “They are little sponges and absorb everything. They love it. We have a teaching staff comprised of former gymnasts and teachers who work wonderfully with them.”
Though there is benefit in starting gymnastics at an early age, Bradshaw and Isler both point out that it’s not mandatory.
“This is one of the myths that surrounds the sport,” Isler says. “We’ve had many students starting at eight or nine years who do very well and just love it.”
Tulsa World of Gymnastics offers a variety of classes during the school year (August through May) as well as a summer session. Enrollment during the school year is usually between 1,150-1,200 students.
“Most of our students, boys and girls, are in the age range of two to eight years old,” says Miller. “We don’t offer a competitive program for boys, but as the girls get older, those who have decided to pursue it as a sport move into the competitive program. Of course, the amount of time they put in increases and this is when you really see the development of time management skills.”
“When you are putting in the time training for a competition and balancing a full academic schedule you have to be able to plan and organize your time well to get everything done,” adds Isler. “This teaches you to schedule your time in order to meet your responsibilities.”
With the start of the world’s most elite competition, the Olympics, less than one month away, gymnastics is bound to attract a great deal of attention.
“Gymnastics is the most-watched sport in the Olympics,” says Bradshaw. “These gymnasts are incredible to watch and are extremely rare. They train seven hours a day, seven days a week. Many people are under the impression that we do this at Tulsa World of Gymnastics, but we don’t. We love the sport and we have an excellent competitive team that competes regionally. We do very well in competitions with putting in three days a week for three hours a day. We don’t over train the body.”
She emphasizes the importance of family first: “All of our students need quality family time, study time and play time. Our preschoolers attend class for one hour one day a week. This is enough to build a good foundation.”
Speaking of competition, Tulsa World of Gymnastics is hosting the “Tulsa World Invitational” on Jan. 23-25, 2009.
“We’ve rented and contracted the Spirit Bank Events Center,” says Bradshaw, “It’s a very big event for us. We’ve hosted competitions before but this is the first time we’ve done one on such a large scale. As an invitational, teams can self-enter starting at level one all the way up to level ten. It will be great for our program and for our region. It will also provide our kids the opportunity to compete in a fabulous new facility, they’ll feel like they’re at the Olympics!”
With over 32 years experience in the sport of gymnastics, Bradshaw has what it takes to organize and host such an event. It’s more than the experience she values however.
“For over 32 years we’ve provided a real quality family-centered program that allows children to develop their physical ability in a safe atmosphere, receive excellent individualized training, and learn very important and necessary life skills that they can carry with all of their lives. It’s very gratifying to see how well our students succeed in gymnastics and other sports, and in life,” she says.
Tulsa World of Gymnastics is located at 7020 E. 38th St. in Tulsa. For information about classes, schedules and rates call (918) 664-8683 or visit www.tulsagymnastics.com.