Nome gymnastics program grows into Tundra Tumblers
Last week the Nome Elementary School’s gymnasium was the venue for a week-long gymnastics camp taught by a former competitive gymnast out of Fairbanks, teaching 64 Nome kids aged 15-months to 15-years-old the art of gymnastics. On Friday, their last day, a group of 12 ten to 18-year olds showed off what they had learned throughout the week. After a thorough warm-up, they casually did cartwheels, one-handed cartwheels, got pretty close to mastering the handstand – giggling as the handstand turned into a bridge, a move unimaginable to a less limber person.
One talented young gymnast bent over backwards, like a folding table, until her hands touched the ground, and wheeled her legs up and in front of her to stand up straight and smiling. Don’t try this at home, unless you’re made of rubber.
Alexandria Biden, the Fairbanks coach with Gymnastics Inc. and Chelsea Hubert coached the camp. There were four age groups, with six kids in the 2-3-year-old class, 15 kids in the 4-5-year-old class, 23 in the 6-to 9-year-old class and 12 in the group offered for 10 to 18-year-olds. The kids spend five days learning forward rolls, backward rolls, donkey kicks, handstands, headstands, back walkovers, front handsprings, front tuck flips, cartwheels on the beam, handstands on the beam, among other things.
Hubert said that the kids were challenged all week. “By Friday it was so rewarding seeing the kids land skills they had practiced and strived to finish all week,” she said. “All kids were so positive and supportive of each other. Always cheering one another on, no matter what the skill level of each child.”
Most of the group had no prior exposure to gymnastics, making it all the more remarkable with what ease they controlled their flexible bodies in pretty challenging positions. But others had already been part of a Saturday Gymnastics program that started last October.
Irving Barnes started a gymnastics program in Nome last year. “He was looking for people interested in helping coach, which is how I got involved,” Hubert explained. “We started as a small class, that was offered week to week at different dates and times, and have grown into a well organized program that offers regular scheduled classes.”
She said the program has grown to 45 kids who regularly attend. The group received funds from the Bering Sea Lions Club to buy a balance beam and large tumbling mats. Saltchuk Family of Companies (including Carlile Transportation, Tote Maritime and Northern Air Cargo) worked together to get the gymnastics equipment from Seattle to Nome, she said. Kawerak provided liability insurance for Saturday Gymnastics and the Camp. “We’ve also received funding from Wrenchers, Grizzly Building Supply and Norton Sound Health Corp, and large support from the Elementary School Staff with coordinating a place to have the events,” she said. And with enthusiastic help from parents, the program is growing in leaps and bounds.
Hubert said that she enjoyed gymnastics as a youngster growing up in Nome and that it was something she wanted her kids to try as well. “When I was in elementary school there was an after school gymnastics program, the school had a vault, beam and floor mat,” she remembered. The program was discontinued and the school disposed of the equipment. “While on a trip in Fairbanks I enrolled my girls in two gymnastics classes at Gymnastics Inc. I asked the receptionist if she thought anyone would have interest in coming to Nome to teach a camp. My thought was, I could pay lots of money to send a couple of kids to Fairbanks or Anchorage to attend a camp or classes, or I could pay for one person to come to Nome and teach lots of our youth and help them build confidence in themselves! I figured I wouldn’t hear back from the receptionist, but as I was walking out the door she told me that Alex was interested. And we ran with it from there.”
Up to now all work had been voluntary for the Nome Gymnastics program. The Saturday classes had four volunteer coaches helping out regularly. They were Shamrock Twaddle, Kimberly Bishop, Angela Eberhardt and Chelsea Hubert.
“From here forward there will be more that goes into the gymnastics group, so we are going to call it Tundra Tumblers,” Hubert said. Their current groups are Mommy and Me, Otters (preschool kids), Seals/Walrus (5-18-year olds, split by skill level). She said Tundra Tumblers will start back up in the fall. Hubert said that the classes were free of charge and on a drop-in basis. But this may change. “This fall we will have to obtain our own liability insurance, so that may change things but it isn’t certain yet,” she said.
She also hopes to offer another week-long gymnastics camp in Nome. “The kids seemed to really enjoy it, and so many gained so much confidence in the camp,” she said. Even the 15-month-old kids were doing somersaults on their own by the end! It was really impressive!”