FROM READERS: Father and Adapted Gymnastics co-coordinator reflects on Tiger Academy Gymnastics' impact

Thursday, July 4, 2013 | 10:00 a.m. CDT
Tiger Academy Gymnastics' Adapted Gymnastics program was created 19 years ago and meets 28 Sundays each year.

Jeffrey Krug is the co-coordinator of Adapted Gymnastics for Tiger Academy Gymnastics.

I have never been associated with gymnastics. My gymnastics experiences were watching the Olympics and MU women’s meets. How surprising then that a significant part of my life revolves around this sport, specifically Tiger Academy Gymnastics (TAG).

With TAG I have two perspectives: as co-coordinator with Max Lewis of Adapted Gymnastics, a program Max and TAG created 19 years ago, and as a parent of a gymnast at TAG. Adapted meets 28 Sundays each year. The gymnasts are children with varying physical, cognitive, communication, social, &/or behavioral impairments. The coaches are student volunteers from the School of Health Professions at MU.

I’ll be honest, there are Sundays I’m tired or busy. Awful as it sounds, heading to the gym isn’t appealing. One step into the gym changes that. Words cannot describe the joy and amazement that take place at Adapted. The benefits are many. Thanks to TAG, children with special needs get to just be kids. They run, jump, walk the balance beam, tumble, play games, talk, learn, develop relationships and have fun, and the coaches help them be successful.

For the 200 students who volunteer each semester, Adapted provides experience working with kids. I cannot describe the pride I have in those children and students, watching them develop confidence and skills. The room is filled with smiles and “watch me mom!” and laughter and energy. Parents get to relax and chat and enjoy their child’s success. Every week I find myself standing in the middle of the excitement, marveling at the wonder of it all and grateful for the opportunity to serve others. I’ve seen children take their first steps, play their first game of kickball, and playfully push their coaches into the foam pit. The stories are endless.

One parent of a non-communicative autistic girl joyfully told me how she mentioned it was time for gymnastics and her daughter ran to her room and started putting on her leotard. Then her daughter started lifting her bedspread up and down like we do with the parachute. Her daughter had never tried to dress herself or initiated play on her own before! It's stories like these and knowing something new and exciting happens every week that gets me to the gym.

My daughter is a gymnast at TAG. Her excitement for gymnastics was initially thrilling but worrisome. All I pictured were injuries and angry parents and coaches and the pressure faced by gymnasts as depicted on TV shows. It was silly of me to worry; TAG facilitates gymnastic development while promoting physical and emotional well-being. The gymnasts learn teamwork and responsibility. Coaches are positive and encouraging. It is an honorable program with many benefits. TAG and its gymnasts are also dedicated to participating community service. The camaraderie, between the 450 gymnasts and parents alike, is something we are blessed to be a part of. Watching these youngsters work so hard and cheer each other on is stirring. I am proud of my child’s development as a gymnast, but even more so in her growth as a person through the work of TAG.

Despite being at MU for 33 years, TAG has been asked by the Athletics Department to move out of its campus facility. This is scary but TAG sees this as an opportunity to grow. Amie & Craig Butler took over TAG on June 1st and they want to rent a facility and eventually build a complex. More importantly, TAG will continue its mission of community service; they want to provide scholarships for children interested in participating but who may lack funding and increase the number of activities for children with special needs. They will continue the excellent instruction and guidance provided to young gymnasts as well. TAG touches everyone it comes in contact with. They need assistance to continue; there is a building to rent and equipment to buy. But based on all TAG does for others, I know it will succeed.

If we’re lucky we find things in life we have a passion for. I never dreamed gymnastics would be that for me, but it is huge part of what I do. Through gymnastics I get to see inspiring things happen every day and I’ve found people and a program I can believe in.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. Here's how you can contribute. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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