Recreational and adaptive gymnastics for kids

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The People of Balance 180: Emily Reid

When Emily Reid was a gymnast, she loved to win. She liked to travel to meets, spray her hair with glitter, pull on her shiny leotard and compete to the best of her ability. She enjoyed the thrill of watching her scores improve every meet, knowing that all of her hard work and sacrifices were paying off.

Flash forward to today, and Emily Reid has enjoyed being a gymnastics coach for the last ten years. She is currently one of Balance 180’s competitive coaches, and she also previously served as the head coach for our Adaptive Gymnastics program several years ago. She still likes to win, but her philosophy has evolved over the years. As a coach and prior gymnast, she understands the stressors, mental battles, and obstacles that many gymnasts face.

“The sport is a disciplined sport, and it always will be, but it’s important to understand that the expectation isn’t to be perfect – it’s to get better and to grow.”

Emily believes that gymnastics is a gateway to teaching other life skills. She thinks it’s essential to run a disciplined class where athletes are motivated to grow and push themselves but also to maintain a balance and incorporate elements of fun. Emily understands that as a coach, you have the ability to impact so many athletes lives and your role is critical as the young athletes develop. She tries to find the joy in all aspects of life and serve others.

“I try to pour into people every day. And that’s for everyone in every situation: gymnastics, in school and life.”

Her passion for working with children who have special needs developed in high school. She participated in the ESE (Exceptional Student Education) program where she got to exercise and engage with children with mental and physical disabilities. She immediately enjoyed the interactions and understood that what these kids wanted was to be accepted and make friends like everyone else. When Emily went to college, she discovered the field of occupational therapy and was set on a course that would ultimately become her profession.

Balance 180’s Adaptive Gymnastics program was a big part of Emily’s life because it sealed her decision to pursue her master’s in occupational therapy (Emily graduated in 2017). Emily was passionate about growing an adaptive gymnastics program and giving kids with special needs the opportunity to enjoy the sport that she loved as a child. Emily notes the importance of a program that brings together children with special needs who can benefit from community resources and still get that experience like any other typically developing child. Today, she even teaches her pediatric patients how to do a cartwheel because she believes in making skill progressions fun.

“I use my gymnastics background to make occupational therapy more fun and more meaningful while working on the patients’ goals.”

Emily’s advice to anyone who wants to pursue a degree in physical or occupational therapy, speech therapy or any other health profession is to volunteer in the adaptive program where students get hands-on training as they lead athletes in an activity. There are few places where students can learn and have fun at the same time, all while making a difference in the community. As to her advice to parents, gymnastics is a beautiful way for kids to learn both motor and life skills, make friends and have FUN!

Written by: Julie Walter 

A Kid’s Guide to Summer

The end of the school year is quickly approaching, so we wanted to know what our athletes were most looking forward to this summer! From family vacations to beach days to grandma’s house, sounds like our athletes have tons of fun ahead of them!

Written by Jillian Tartt

Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the times you picked me up when I fell down.

For cleaning up my boo-boos and kissing them to make them feel better.

For drying my tears and replacing them with a smile.


Thank you for reprimanding when I mess up, so I can learn.

For arguing with me and teaching me the value of communication.

For making me do chores, so I know how to work.

And for putting me on time out, so I know the importance of discipline.


Thank you for driving me to friends’ houses, sports and anywhere I need to go.

Thank you for holding my hand at the doctor’s office, so I am not scared.

Thank you for taking off of work to come to my plays, games, and competitions.

Thank you for showing me what a strong woman looks and acts like.


Thank you for all the advice you give me;

And for not giving up when I don’t hear it the first time.

Thank you for holding my hand, even when I think I am too old.

Thank you for calling every day;

And never giving up when I say I don’t have time to talk.


Thank you for every hug, kiss and laugh you have ever given me.

For every smile, we have shared, and all the comfort you have given me through the years.

Thank you for knowing I always love you, even when I don’t say it.

And most importantly, thank you for making me feel loved even when we are miles apart.

I love you, Mom. To the moon and back.

Written by: Julie Walter 

The People of Balance 180: Matteo Gavilano

“I have Asperger’s, don’t worry it’s not contagious.”

As a child, Matteo Gavilano didn’t talk a lot. He was quiet and didn’t like walking on grass or sand.  Sometimes stretching his arms and his legs out was just too difficult. So at 2 years old, his family decided to visit a doctor and get a medical opinion. Matteo was diagnosed with a speech delay and then later with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  

“It was hard to accept in the beginning, he was so little and scheduled for therapy every day of the week. But in the end, early intervention made a big difference and paid off.”

Matteo has been a part of the Balance 180 gymnastics family since early 2012. Six years later, he is training on the Special Olympics Competitive team. He was chosen for the Jaime Gomez Scholarship, an award given to the athlete who most embodies one of our late founders Jaime Gomez.  And this past month, he gave a magnificent speech at the Young Athlete’s Program’s Culminating Event.

“I never thought I had a disability before the day my dad told me.”

Matteo is in fifth grade and preparing to undertake middle school at the Howard Bishop gifted program next year. Starting middle school is scary for everyone but preparing a child with autism can be a bit more challenging. Matteo’s family decided it was time to tell Matteo about his diagnosis.

They started by showing him videos and told him why he is so unique. They explained what made him different from other kids, especially when it comes to social interactions. Matteo now understands autism and explains it as “the reason he is special”. But Matteo wasn’t the only one his parents had to inform. Matteo’s sister, Camilla and the rest of the extended family in Peru also had to be educated.

Giovana, Matteo’s mom, says educating the family is a process. They understand his diagnosis, but there are certain things they can’t comprehend. When situations come up, it’s hard for them to know how to respond in the best way.  It’s one thing to know what autism is, but it’s very different to live with it.

Autism awareness in the United States has made incredible progress, but in Peru, there are far fewer resources available for families who have children with special needs. Giovana’s is grateful that her children were born in the US where Matteo can get the education, supportive recreation, and therapy he needs. She says through therapy sessions and gymnastics classes two to three times per week he has been able to gain more confidence, improve his flexibility and strength tremendously and create valuable social connections. Matteo Gavilano has grown into a strong and independent young man, and we could not be more proud of him.

Written by Julie Walter.

People of Balance 180: One story at a time.


10 Reasons You Don’t Want to Miss Out on Summer Camp

Balance 180’s summer camp is always a blast! The days are filled with an abundance of activities that our athletes love! Here at the ten things your kids don’t want to miss at Balance 180 summer camp.

1. Gymnastics!

The main focus of Balance 180 camp is learning gymnastics! We have a great team of experienced coaches who are excited to work with our campers. We have campers of all ages and ability levels join us, and we take care to divide the kids into groups according to age and ability so that they are challenged accordingly. From beginners to experienced gymnasts, we are excited for the campers to have a fun and safe place to learn new skills.

2. Obstacle courses and challenges

Campers get to enjoy a variety of obstacle courses and fitness challenges throughout their time at camp! They can swing from the rope, jump on the trampoline and show off their best moves throughout our fun obstacle courses. We also sometimes like to get a little competitive and form teams to do relay races, push up contests, handstand hold contests, and more. Watch out for the coaches who like to show off a bit!

3. Friendships that last a lifetime

Our camp is specifically designed for facilitating friendships! Our tagline and hashtag this year is #SummerofFriendships! All of our activities involve interacting with kids of all ages and abilities and generate plenty of smiles. One of our favorite parts is when our campers do not want to go home at the end of the camp day because they do not want to leave their friends.

4. Games

Games, games, games! We play so many fun games it’ll make you want to be a kid again! When athletes arrive at camp they get to choose a station with their favorite game (dance party, fort building, and Twister to name a few) and play with a smaller group. Then throughout the day, we have designated times when we play games like four corners, shipwreck and red light green light with all of our campers. Not sure what shipwreck is? Just ask your camper, and you are sure to get a smile and a lengthy explanation.


5. Open gym

Every afternoon our campers are able to practice their favorite gymnastics skills on each event! During this time, the campers get to choose what skills they want to work on and tell the coaches what skills they would like help with learning. The kids LOVE using this time to perfect current skills and master new ones.


6. Dress up day on Fun Fridays!

Each week of camp is themed! This year our themes are, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Trolls! Every Friday, campers are encouraged to dress up in their best costumes and have the chance to win a costume competition!

7. Coaches performances

Fun fact: Every single one of our coaches is a prior gymnast! Most of them still love to perform and will be doing so at the end of each week of camp! Here is a show they put on at one of our last events…

8. Special guests

Gainesville is full of inspiration and incredible people, and lucky for our campers many of them will be coming out to the gym! In previous summers we’ve had police officers, fire fighters, CPR instructors, karate instructors, dancers, yogi’s and so many more awesome guests join us to tell us about what they do and share their talents. 


9. A chance to show off their creative side

Each day the kids do crafts, play games, and learn a part of a special dance that they perform for each other at the end of the week. All of these activities tie into our theme for each week. The kids get to have fun being kids and have the opportunity to show off their creativity through these different outlets. Such great ways to learn and have fun through hands-on and active play.

10. Camper of the day

We have some pretty awesome campers and we love to recognize them. At the end of each day, we pick a camper of the day from each group that the kids are divided into for gymnastics and other activities throughout the day. These campers are chosen for traits like being good friends, being great listeners, working hard, or accomplishing new skills. They also get to be the team leader for the next day and have important jobs with assisting their coach.

Written by Julie Walter

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