Recreational and adaptive gymnastics for kids

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The 5 Kids at an Easter Egg Hunt

What’s better than seeking out plastic toys full of candy, dressing up in your best clothes, and having the chance to win a competition? Easter eggs hunts have a little bit of something for everyone involved. As Easter approaches, we figured it was only appropriate to describe the 5 different type of kids in an Easter egg hunt.

The Daydreamer

This little one might as well be strolling through the woods on a fine summer day. They are just taking it all in and might pick up an egg or two if it stumbles along their path. This child is more likely to be found looking up into the sky than down for those eggs.

The Hunger Games Candidate

You might mistake this child for one from the 13 districts. They run from egg to egg picking them up with speed only a truly determined child could conjure up. This child isn’t above pushing smaller children out of the way to snatch that golden egg (not recommended).

The Dynamic Duo

These siblings are often found attached at the hip. Pointing out eggs and picking them up together, they are cute as a button. They may be slower than the rest, but should get extra points for teamwork.

The Mathematician

Each egg is meticulously counted and placed carefully in the bin. This child is tactical and locates the prime egg hiding spots quickly. They are able to calculate just how many eggs they need to win the competition.

The Sweet Tooth

This child is more interested in the candy than the competition. Sometimes they are found munching on jelly beans as they search for the rest of the hidden sweet treats. This child loves Easter almost as much as Halloween.

Happy egg hunting, everyone! And may the odds ever be in your favor.

The People of Balance 180: Emily Peoples

Dana and Emily Peoples are just like all sisters. At times they are best friends, laughing and watching TV together. Emily is a proud older sister, often showing her friends photos of her sister and boasting about how wonderful she is. Sometimes they bicker over frivolous things, like who gets the TV remote. They take selfies and dance in the car. They laugh and love each other. But unlike most siblings, Dana has Down syndrome and autism.

Growing up Emily acted like a third parent. She looked out for her sister, always making sure she knew where she was. Eating together and making sure she didn’t choke. Playing together and keeping a watchful eye. Encouraging her to get outside and exercise. Advocating and standing up for her.


“I helped be her voice,” Emily says.


For Emily and her family, Dana is nothing but a blessing. You see they have this family poem that they like to read. It’s called “Welcome to Holland”.  It’s a beautiful poem about planning a trip to Italy. You have all of the guidebooks prepared, all the destinations mapped out and activities planned out. But when you land, the stewardess says you’ve landed in Holland. And while it may not have been the trip you planned out, it is just as beautiful and perfect. That’s how Dana’s life has been in the Peoples’s eyes. Maybe they landed in Holland, but what a magnificent place to be.


As Dana got older, her family became a guiding light for other families who had a newborn with down syndrome. They visited the babies and their families in the hospital and provided support. Introducing the families to their new and loving community.


When Emily was a child she had two paths she could have gone down. The first being a path of jealousy and destruction. The second a winding path, full of love and acceptance. Emily choose the second one.  Her sister Dana served as an inspiration and Emily volunteered her time at Balance 180, working with athletes with special needs and ultimately choosing to become a pediatric occupational therapist. Emily is currently enrolled in the Occupational Therapy program at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Her sister Dana recently visited Emily in her class and interacted with some Emily’s peers, some of whom had never held a conversation with someone who has special needs.

Emily says, “I can use my experiences to help other kids and families.” She knows what it’s like to live with an individual who has special needs. She knows how every struggle can seem so difficult but every victory so big. She knows the value and the love that children with special needs possess and she knows the greatest secret of all. If we can just slow down and give people with Down syndrome and other disabilities our undivided attention, our lives will undoubtedly be enriched.

Thank you, Emily Peoples for sharing your story and for inspiring us to appreciate the beauty in everyone.


Written by Julie Walter. 

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10.0 Things You Didn’t Know About Gator Gymnastics

Last Friday, Balance 180 was given the opportunity to perform before the final Florida Gators Gymnastics home meet of the season. Our athletes had a blast and made some memories that will last a lifetime! The University of Florida gymnasts are a huge inspiration to us and we are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to share a bit of the spotlight with some of our hometown heroes. We decided to delve a little deeper to learn more about who the Gator gymnasts are and what goes on behind the scenes at the Gator gymnastics meets.

Here are 10.0 fun facts that you might not have known about Florida Gators Gymnastics:

1. Each year, Florida Gators Gymnastics holds their breast cancer awareness Link to Pink meet. The event is in its 12th season and had the opportunity to honor 75 breast cancer survivors and their families this year.

2. The Gator gymnastics team actually designs all of their leotards from scratch. Some of the designs have even been inspired by an outfit Beyonce wore and even wedding dresses. Nice!

3. The giant inflatable Gatorhead the gymnasts run out of each meet takes a team of about five people to inflate and deflate. The Gatorhead is set up after warm-ups and taken down immediately after introductions. We have heard the record time that it has been deflated in is SIX seconds!

4. Kennedy Baker is not only an amazing gymnast, but she is also a proud member of the Signing Gators Sign Language Club. She has even performed with the group during the National Anthem at a few meets this season. So awesome! 

5. The gymnasts come from all over the country – Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, and North Carolina are just a few of the eight states Gators gymnasts hail from.

6. Florida Gators Gymnastics fans set an impressive season attendance record this year, with an average of 8,304 fans at each meet. Go Gators!

7. Not only will you see incredible performances at Gators Gymnastics meets, you might also spot a celebrity. In past seasons UF President Kent Fuchs, ABC’s The Bachelor contestants Luke Pell and James Taylor, National Champions Gators Baseball Captain JJ Schwarz, and Gainesville’s own “Hot Cop” Daniel Rengering have all come out to support the Gators. Starstruck! 

8. Rachel Slocum is one of six kids! Her siblings all came out to support her at last Friday’s Senior Night meet. We wonder who she gets her dance moves from?!

9. Doors to the meets may not open until 5:30 PM, but staff from the University Athletic Association and the Stephen C. O’Connell center sometimes get to the O’Dome as early as 7:00 AM to set up signage and prepare for the thousands of fans to arrive.

10. Local gymnastics academies and community groups are sometimes given the chance to perform before the Florida Gators Gymnastics meets, including your very own Balance 180! Check out the highlights from our time at the meet last Friday. So thankful for this opportunity!


Written by Jillian Tartt. Video by Julie Walter. 

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5 Tips for Positive Coaching

Positive coaching is a practice of instructing athletes that focuses on building self-confidence through motivation. It is a method that coaches around the world use successfully to inspire their athletes and help their athletes grow as individuals. The Positive Coaching Alliance just announced the 2017 Double-Goal Coach Award National Winners. The double goal is to strive to win and to help teach athletes important life lessons through sports. Congratulations to each of these winners, and we are grateful for the impact they have on youth sports!

Here are five tips to implement positive coaching today:

 1. Reward every accomplishment

By rewarding small accomplishments coaches are able to build trust and confidence in their athletes. Rewards can be as simple as giving a high five and providing additional praise. Check out our previous blog The Winning Perspective.

2. Note the importance of communication

Communication is key to a successful relationship between the coach and athlete. An athlete must be comfortable letting the coach know if they have any concerns or injuries. As a coach, it is important to communicate openly and often. Easy ways to do this are asking an athlete throughout the day how they are doing, or even just asking how their day is going. This opens the door for communication and makes the coach more approachable

3.  Build the athlete’s self-esteem

One of the easiest ways to build an athlete’s confidence is to give them the opportunity to be successful throughout their training. Starting out with simple tasks and gradually increasing the difficulty will not only increase their confidence but will also increase their performance. “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment” – Thomas Carlyle

4. Be tough, but fair

A coach’s ability to distinguish the difference between tough and fair is what often separates positive and negative coaching. Positive coaches will always push their athletes towards greatness while respecting the boundaries that each athlete has.

5. Teach kids skills they can use in life

Sports are so much more than just technique, endurance, and strength. At their core, they are a way to teach athletes self-confidence, determination, and discipline among other life skills. By discussing these important life lessons in the context of their sport, coaches can help athletes can learn valuable tools. These tools provide a foundation of fundamental skills that are crucial in an athlete’s development. 

Thank you to Positive Coaching Alliance for recognizing these amazing coaches, their hard work, and dedication to youth sports. An athlete’s coach can be a very impactful figure in his or her life, and we must do our part as coaches to be a positive influence.Written by Julie Walter.

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The People of Balance 180: Jaime Gomez

We all have someone in our lives who has made a lasting impact. A role model of some kind. Well for me, that person was one of my former gymnastics coaches, the late Jaime Gomez.

Jaime Gomez was my coach, my mentor, and my inspiration. He was kind and generous with a passion for gymnastics that was almost tangible. He was the kind of person you couldn’t help gravitating towards, and if you were lucky enough to find yourself in the same hemisphere, you knew your world was going to change for the better.

For those of you who did not have the good fortune of meeting him, Jamie was a dedicated gymnastics coach, male gymnastics judge, and a mentor who was wholeheartedly committed to helping his athletes achieve their full potential. One of his main qualities was that he believed in his athletes and would do anything to help them succeed. Jaime believed in me, my 10-year-old version of me. He believed in me more than I think I’ve ever believed in myself. He made me want to succeed, even on the toughest days where all I could think of was giving up.

Jaime was the kind of coach who would push you and push you hard, but it was different than those coaches you feared or detested. In my case, I wanted to be pushed by him, I wanted him to challenge my limits, and push me further than I thought I could go. Because at the end of the day, I knew it was because he really believed that I could do better, be better. And that feeling that I got as an athlete, the way he inspired me to work for something and achieve it, lives on in me every day.

So how was Jaime linked to Balance 180? Jaime Gomez was part of the original team who dreamt up Balance 180. He envisioned a gymnastics center that exuded positivity, a place where children of all abilities felt not only welcomed but celebrated, a place where athletes could shine. He drew up our very first blueprints, researched the equipment we needed, and brought his passion to the project. He dreamed of a place where every athlete felt supported, challenged and special.

Today and every day I think about Jaime Gomez with pride and inspiration. Inspired to be the kind of coach he was by making all of our athletes feel empowered, challenging them, and helping them believe in themselves. Inspired to keep his memory alive every time the Balance 180 doors open and we welcome all of our gymnasts.

Jaime was an outstanding coach and passionate about gymnastics and committed to the athletes he trained. He was taken from us through a tragic traffic accident. In his memory, we have established the “Jaime Gomez” Scholarship. This award is presented to a Balance 180 athlete who displays the same charisma, enthusiasm and work ethic that Jaime displayed every time he entered the gym. Thank you, Jaime. We love you and your legacy lives on. 

Written by Julie Walter.

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