The People of Balance 180: The Grow Family

Allison Grow is a physician and a parent. She has been a part of Balance 180 for the last seven years and is on the board of directors. Allison’s children, Isabelle and Daniel, do gymnastics at Balance 180, and she wants to share her experience.

“I have two children, and talk about 180 degrees apart. They could not be more different. My 12 year old son, Daniel, is a straight A student and an enthusiastic athlete, playing football and soccer year round. He learns things so fast that he’s usually got the answer before I’ve finished reading the question.

My 14 year old daughter Isabelle had a prenatal brain injury and is mentally handicapped. She was delayed reaching every single developmental milestone, and there are plenty she will probably never reach.

What my kids have in common is Balance 180.

My son practices gymnastics because he realized it would supercharge his agility and core strength on the football field, and he just really likes doing flips.

My daughter started with Balance 180 six years ago and now is on the Alachua County area’s only Special Olympics gymnastics team. She has the least advanced skills of any kid on the team, by far, but let me tell you what she can do because of Balance 180.

When she was about five years old she figured out that you can walk backward as well as forward. I have this vivid memory of her taking off walking backwards down Jacksonville Beach; I had to chase her and turn her around the other way to keep her from disappearing backwards over the horizon. Now she can walk backwards on a balance beam, without looking.

Some of Isabelle’s friends are her Special Olympics teammates. She knows what it means to have teammates because of Balance 180. There are kids with cerebral palsy, kids with autism spectrum disorders, kids with Downs and other genetic syndromes, and kids like Isabelle whose difficulties don’t have a name. There is also a whole boatload of typical kids, who know how to reach out and help kids like Isabelle because they spend time at Balance 180.”

Allison mentioned that being at Balance 180 has encouraged Isabelle to learn use her iPad to look up songs that are incorporated into the classes as well as look up pictures of the friends and volunteer buddies she has met at gymnastics. She also pointed out that Isabelle will talk about Balance 180’s three weeks of summer camp which includes gymnastics, crafts, games, dancing, and special guests, long beyond when the program finishes. Isabelle has a knack for names, and recalls the names of her teammates and the coaches and volunteers who she has trained with over the years.

We are honored to have the opportunity to train Isabelle and Daniel, and enjoy getting to learn how to best tailor our approach to their unique learning styles and abilities. Thank you, Allison for sharing your experience with Balance 180 and for allowing us to work with your awesome children.

Taking the “Road Less Traveled By”…

What does taking the “road less traveled by” look like?

At Balance 180, a dedicated group of people’s paths have crossed and together they are taking the road less traveled by. The journey down this road started with a vision. A vision to provide children with and without special needs the opportunity to have fun, to be a part of a team, and to build confidence using gymnastics as the catalyst.

The snapshots we have taken along this journey to capture the special moments have been humbling, rewarding, and absolutely amazing. The most recent snapshot for the scrapbook of our journey brings us to last weekend.

Take a quick walk with us while we explain…

Earlier this year, Balance 180 made the decision to partner with Special Olympics Florida (SOFL), Alachua County to bring SOFL Gymnastics to our area. This program would give our gymnasts with special needs the ability to compete on a local and state level.

Last weekend, five gymnasts on Alachua County’s inaugural SOFL team competed at the State Fall Classic at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. The awards ceremony was so much more than watching the kids receive medals. It represented giving all kids the opportunity to be a part of a team and to reach their potential in sports.

Also happening last weekend, we had a competition for our USA Gymnastics gymnasts in Tallahassee. Regardless of ability, all of our competitive team athletes were showing off their gymnastics, representing their hometown, and making special memories with their coaches, teammates, and families.

Will you join our journey?

Together with an awesome team of people and supporters, Balance 180 is committed to “taking the road less traveled by” by providing an encouraging and positive place where all kids can enjoy and excel at gymnastics.

Will you help us on our journey, and consider making a donation to Balance 180? Our goal is to raise $20,000 fundraising goal by December 31st so that we can continue to offer high quality recreational and competitive programs to children with varying needs and abilities.



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7 Ghastly Things That Happen to All High-Level Gymnasts


1. Wedgies 

There is nothing worse than feeling your leotard slowly start creeping higher and higher up, especially in a meet where you can’t fix it until your routine is over. Got a cheek hanging out? Too bad, you’ve got to keep tumbling!

2. Rips ☠️

More like R.I.P. to my poor hands. Gymnasts are notorious for overly blistered hands. Not always a pretty site, but definitely a badge of honor. #gymnastprobs

3. Accidents 

Peeing yourself isn’t just reserved for toddlers and older people. Nope, most gymnasts have little accidents ALL the time. Sometimes jumping can be a little more than your body anticipated. Front tumbling has taken many victims in its days.

4. Broken Toe Nails ?

You know you’re a real gymnast when you’ve stubbed, smashed and even destroyed your toenails.

 5. Burns 

Rug burn. Rope burn. Beam burn. Shall I continue? There is no avoiding the catastrophic falls that eventually show up as nasty bruises.

6. Body Odor 

There is nothing grosser than the smell of B.O, chalk and the funkifying heel cups that have so many sweat stains they’ve changed a different color.

7. Unexpected Farting?

A little flatulence isn’t unheard of in gymnastics, in fact, it’s actually very common. And as a prior gymnast and now coach I can proudly say that I have both farted and been farted on in practice…many times.

All that being said, us gymnasts love our sport and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Gymnastics is not a sport for the weak, but that’s what makes it so special. So, as you are getting ready for Halloween tonight, consider dressing up as the most boss athletes ever. A gymnast!!

Written by Julie Walter.


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How Old is Too Old to Do Gymnastics?

Once you’re in your 30s or 40s, have had two kids, and work bogs you down, you may wonder if you still have IT. While your Friday nights used to involve a night out on the town and now revolves around watching Disney movies on repeat, you are never too old to show up your little ones. At Balance 180, our competitive team gymnasts challenged their parents to attempt the workout they do every night, and well let’s just say things got interesting.

At first, it was an uneasy start…

Gymnastics can be an intimidating sport, and if you haven’t been jumping around a lot for the last several years it is natural to get a little nervous. The seemingly endless obstacle course full of jumps, pull-ups, and other tortuous activities was the first real event testing our new athletes’ grit. When asked if they felt ready to take on this challenge, the confidence levels were a little shaky.

But with a little help, 

We didn’t just throw our parents into the deep end…well not alone at least. Each parent had their own personal trainers, their daughters. Even though they were competitors, our gymnasts gave their parents important tips and tricks to make their first day at practice a little easier. Advice included comments such as, “Mom, you really need to bend your back if you want to do a bridge,” and “was that supposed to be a cartwheel, maybe you should try again.”

They slowly started to get it. 

With of all the smack talk happening in the gym, the parents were determined to hold their own. Despite most of the parents having no background in gymnastics, they caught on fast. Not only did they master some pretty impressive skills, but they also learned the fundamentals of dance in gymnastics. Some grasped the concept of form, others perhaps did not.

At the end of the day, everyone had a blast!

The gym was full of laughter and excitement. The parents were able to test themselves and have fun sharing a valuable experience with their young ones. They also gained a better appreciation for how much strength, coordination and discipline goes into every practice. And the kids, well lets just say they were amazed to see their parents in action.

The parents also offered some helpful advice for anyone who wants to try gymnastics for the first time, regardless of their age. “Go try it, right now!”, “It’s a very fun time for parents and their kids!” and “Don’t eat chicken right before doing gymnastics…also just do it.”

Are you up for the challenge? 

On Sunday, October 29th from 1-5pm Balance 180 is hosting an open gym where you too can prove that you still have it. Everyone, no matter their age, will be encouraged to play on the equipment, try their hand in some strength challenges and have the opportunity to show up their kids. Hope to see you there!

Written by Julie Walter.


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A to Z Guide of What it Takes to be a Competitive Team Gymnast


Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a competitive team gymnast? While we could never summarize competitive gymnastics in a single blog post, we put together an A to Z list. If you have ever considered competitive gymnastics for your athlete, this is a good place to start.


A is for… Athletic

Competitive gymnastics consists of a lot of conditioning, flexibility, endurance, and strength. Needless to say, being athletic is a necessity to be on a competitive gymnastics team!

B is for… Balance

Because competitive athletes spend so much time training it is crucial for them to develop the tools to balance school, social activities, and gymnastics. Competitive gymnasts become pros early on at time management and handling stressors.

C is for… Commitment

Gymnastics is a lifestyle that undoubtedly is a huge commitment. This commitment is not only made to oneself but also to the team, coaches, and gymnastics center.

D is for …Determination

Some days in the gym consists of mastering one skill after another. Other days gymnasts may struggle to finish an assignment they easily completed the day before. Regardless gymnastics, like many other sports, requires determination and perseverance.

E is for… Expect Events

Competitive gymnastics is not solely limited to the gymnastics center, as there are meets, team bonding events, etc. that are organized throughout the year. Last year our team had the honor of performing during a University of Florida Gator Gymnastics meet!  

F is for… Friends become Family

Teammates become sisters and coaches start to become like second parents. The gym is a home away from home and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

G is for… Grips

It’s not uncommon for gymnasts to have some gnarly calluses and blisters on their hands as a result of swinging on the uneven bars for hours.  Grips, a type of handguard, help prevent excessive ripping and are a rite of passage in gymnastics.

H is for… Hours

Competitive gymnastics is not for the weary of heart. Athletes train numerous hours a week depending on what level they are. Our gymnasts currently practice 6-10 hours a week.

I is for… Inspire

Our competitive team starts every practice with reading off an inspirational quote from famous authors, important leaders, celebrities, professional athletes, etc. to set the tone for practice. One of our core values at Balance 180 is to inspire our athletes. So important for all competitive team gymnasts.

J is for… Judges

Competitive gymnastics is known for its performance, for the hard skills, the crazy flips, and the gravity-defying movements. What is lesser known are the judges on the sidelines, furiously scribbling away and noting every minuscule mistake. In training, we tediously attempt to perfect routines to prepare for these judges.

K is for… Kips

Kips are one of the hardest critical skills to master on bars. You will know when a gymnast masters this skill at the gym because there will be lots of cheering, high fiving, hollering, and victory bell ringing. Big accomplishment!

L is for… Love for Leotards

Black ones, Blue ones, Velvet ones, and new ones. Leotards are at the heart of gymnastics, and a way for athletes to express their personalities. Not to mention our competitive athletes compete in a gorgeous, long sleeved, rhinestone-studded leotard!

M is for… Medals

There is nothing better than hearing the sound of your name being called to the podium and being awarded a beautifully crafted medal. Well, maybe the sound of multiple clanking medals is a little better, but still, you get the point.

N is for… Numerous Naps

Learning how to take advantage of the twenty-minute drive to the gymnastics center is a talent most competitive gymnasts (have to) master almost immediately.

O is for… Olympic Order

Did you know that the Olympic order of events for women’s competitive gymnastics is vault, bars, beam, floor?

P is for… Plenty of Passion

Coaches become more than random strangers who teach athletes how to master a simple skill. They become mentors and role models on how to preserve, how to push oneself further than they thought they could go.Our competitive coaching team is all former gymnasts who are passionate about the sport of gymnastics and passing along their love of the sport to our gymnasts.

Q is for… Quality and Quantity

Competitive gymnastics is all about proper form and technique…performing the skill perfectly! Repeating the skill over and over and OVER until the skill becomes second nature for the gymnast is very important.

R is for… Respect

It is amazing to see the respect our team athletes have for each other and their coaches. We build a TEAM that supports, challenges, and inspires each gymnast to reach her potential.

S is for… Some Serious Strength

Gymnastics conditioning is no joke. And no not conditioner like the stuff you put in your hair, we are talking sit-ups and push-ups for days. Our athletes could give some of the parents and coaches a run for their money.

T is for… Tons of Teamwork

Although gymnasts are scored individually in competitions, gymnastics is a team sport. Athletes rely on their teammates for support and encouragement during practices and competition. And of course, we can’t forget the giant trophies allotted to team awards.

U is for… USA Gymnastics

USA Gymnastics is a national organization dedicated to creating a safe and well-regulated environment for gymnastics all across the United States. They set rules and policies for competitive gymnastics. All of our team coaches are USAG certified and our gymnasts become members so that they are eligible to compete at competitions.

V is for… Value of Victory

Winning and losing gracefully is something all gymnasts learn. Sometimes you have a great meet or practice, and sometimes you do not. Learning to celebrate the small victories along the way (mastering a new skill) is equally as important as the large victories (moving up to the next level).

W is for… Walking (on your hands, of course!)

Gymnasts spend equal, if not more time, upside and on their hands than most people do right side up.

X is for… eXciting experience

For a competitive gymnast, gymnastics is a journey that can be exciting, frustrating, thrilling, disappointing, and amazing. Our hope is that the sport will be LIFE CHANGING and that our team coaches will do our part to make the sport a great experience for each of our competitive team athletes.

Y is for… You can do it!

Competitive gymnasts balance school, extracurricular activities, and lots of hours at the gym and traveling for meets. Along with great time management skills, the gymnasts need encouragement from their family, teammates, and coaches to keep their drive and stay motivated.

Z is for… Zero Hands

For parents of competitive team gymnasts, be prepared for the day your gymnast says “Look mom and dad, no hands!” as they proudly perform a “hands-free” skill (back tuck, front tuck, ariel, etc.) for the first time.

Written by: Julie Walter



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