By Emily G. Peters
Gymnastics made headlines this week in the form of Simone Biles, making history once again by clinching medals in every event at the World Gymnastics Championship. She’s undoubtedly inspired plenty of kids to explore the sport—but to Brian Smith of GymnastiKids and TNT Dunk Squad, it’s not all about the gold.
“Our gym is different: it’s a no-pressure, fun atmosphere,” said Smith, a lifelong gymnast who opened GymnastiKids in Pasadena in 2003. “We’re not necessarily creating Olympians, but teach kids of all ages to have fun, gain confidence and get exercise.”
The fun of the sport is what keeps Smith, 53, up and at it every day. A three-time All American, Smith pursued gymnastics throughout high school, college and beyond.
“I moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles to study stunt work, and was teaching gymnastics in Burbank on the side. One day, I read an ad that needed trampoline dunkers for the Bud Light Daredevils—and I ended up making it. We toured all over the United States during basketball season, then internationally during the off-season,” he said. “After three years, I started a mobile gymnastics program to teach the sport at schools—but realized I didn’t want to carry a balance beam into a preschool when I was sixty. That’s when I started GymnastiKids.”
While Smith still offers mobile classes and even birthday parties, the GymnastiKids gymnasium also teaches kids core basics: balance beam, tumbling, bars and vaulting. The custom-built gym includes an in-ground trampoline, tumble track and loose foam pit: choices made for safety in training and which are relatively unique to Smith’s gym. Classes are small, instructors are flexible and fun is paramount.
“The number one reason kids stop sports is because it’s not fun anymore, especially when you start competing. We use constant motion in our classes to keep it interesting: training, stretching, even obstacle courses—and before you know it, everyone’s sweaty, having fun and not thinking about video games and cell phones,” said Smith. “Kids tend to hear no so often, we go out of our way to keep classes positive. I’ve never had a day where I don’t laugh with our kids.”
Smith hasn’t fully shaken his own need to move, either. His years as a Bud Light Daredevil led him to launch the TNT Dunk Squad, a team of trampoline acrobats who combine feats of athleticism with thoughtful, kid-centric presentations.
“We talk to the kids about reaching for your goals, making positive, healthy choices—and there’s a show attached to it so they actually listen,” laughed Smith. Between the TNT Dunk Squad and his ongoing classes at GymnastiKids, the sportsman has plenty of opportunities to show the tie between gymnastics and positivity.
“I competed and kind of felt it saved my life. I went to college because I wanted to compete, I stayed healthy because I wanted to compete,” Smith explained. “Now I tell parents that, just like all kids should learn to swim, all kids should learn gymnastics—because it teaches them to move, feel confident in their bodies and have a lifetime of fitness. And everybody wants to learn a cartwheel!”
GymnastiKids is located at 2237 E. Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. For more information on GymnastiKids or TNT Dunk Squad, contact Brian Smith at www.gymnastikids.com | www.tntdunksquad.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | 626-796-5437 and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @gymnastikids.