I have always believed that gymnastics is unique. I grew up in an era where you didn’t “specialize” in a sport; you played many: baseball, soccer, bowling, volleyball, track & field, and gymnastics. But gymnastics, more than any other, stays in your blood, long after your last “salute” to any judge.
To this day (a full 26 years after my final salute) I still dream about gymnastic comebacks in my sleep (or perhaps I should say I nightmare about them!).
Gymnastics taught me things that I failed to learn in other sports:
- It gave me an identity at a critical time in my life
- It shaped my attitude toward physical activity, work ethic, accountability, and long term thinking
- It helped ensure I would have time management skills that were well beyond my years – translating into graduating college in 4 years at a time when almost everyone around me was beginning to need 5
- It gave me an appreciation of the fact that the only circumstances I had control over were my own attitude and decisions. After all, the high bar doesn’t care how much your shoulder legitimately hurts; nor do the judges. Either, you put in the work and got better, or you didn’t (I learned that lesson the hard way, as I literally scored a 1.2 on high bar once – but that’s a story for a different blog post!)
I share this to make you aware that gymnastics GAVE to me in abundance. And when the time came, it only felt right to give back.
9 Years Before the Doors Opened…
The story of ETC Gymnastics began in 1991. I was a sophomore in college, working full-time as a gymnastics coach in Evansville, IN, and a political science / pre-law major at the University of Evansville. At some point during that year, I was enjoying my time working with young people so much, that it occurred to me I might want to re-evaluate my career path.
After much “discussion” with my parents, they decided I should “stay the course” 😉 .
But the further I got in college, the more I realized: “I was born to work with children.” I LOVED it. Meeting Jennifer (now my wife) in 1993 just prior to losing my father, and having graduated college in 1994, I was at a crossroads of sorts. I had to choose: continue on the path I really wasn’t excited about (Law School); or, head in the direction my heart was leading me (gymnastics coach). I was offered a job in Nashville, as a coach, and I took it.
How Did ETC Get Its Name?
Eventually, I left my original offer in Nashville to take a job in Franklin, working for a HUGELY successful gym owner. This man, unbeknownst to him, stepped in and filled a “father-figure role” for me, as my father had been dead less than 2 years when I took the position. I was upfront, and told him: “One day, I’d like to own my own gym.” And he was upfront with me, saying: “If you’ll agree to open up 30 miles away from me, I’ll take you under my wing and teach you everything I know.”
That he did. Most importantly, my new boss was a born-again Christian. And of all the things I learned from him, the greatest thing I learned was that you could love Jesus, AND be a manly man.
Our Early Mission
Having learned much about gymnastics, life, and Jesus (I gave my life to the Lord in 1995), my pregnant wife and I decided it was time to “leave the nest” and open a gym of our own. We opened the doors to ETC Gymnastics in June of 2000, in a dumpy little warehouse building where I literally had to shovel human feces off of the floor!
Our initial vision for ETC (Everything Through Christ) Gymnastics was:
- Have an effective ministry inside our walls
- Teach actual gymnastics even in our recreational program (which is harder than you think!)
- Have an excellent women’s team that is nationally competitive
- Provide VALUE to every parent that spends a hard-earned dollar at our school.
Through the years, we have added some substance to our original vision, including: making sure that our ministry goes beyond our walls; making sure that ETC Gymnastics is a “blessing” to the communities we serve; and making sure that ETC Gymnastics is a blessing to those people who work inside our walls.
Who Are We Now?
In the last 16 years, our program has blossomed into a nationally recognized program for a number of reasons:
- Our little dippers curriculum / program was an original invention (most gyms do “mommy-and-me” at that age, and they don’t teach gymnastics – they play)
- We have a unique staff training, hiring, and education process, which allows us to attract some of the brightest coaches in the nation to come work with us
- We have an enrollment that is in the top 3% of the gymnastics schools across the United States, in a city with a population that is nowhere NEAR the top 3% of the United States
- And, of course, our women’s teams have won more awards and accolades across the country than we can even count.
Ultimately, we think the story of ETC Gymnastics runs parallel to the story of the “Talents” in scripture. We have been given a sum, and we are doing our best to multiply the sum for the Lord. As a result, He continues to pour out His favor on us; and hopefully, we continue to serve Him by serving His people.