Dedication to wellness, as well as a sound mind and body is happening right here at GymKat Sports Center in Granbury.

In the wake of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, gymnastics is on my mind as it’s the olympic event I always look forward to. Athletes train nearly their entire lives for this competition. At a tender age many leave traditional education, peers and even family to practice and push their bodies to the ultimate physical limits, in hopes they may have a chance to represent their country on the world stage. It’s truly amazing to witness pure dedication at this level.

The awe-inspiring opening ceremonies of the games always moves me. Each year the show is more elaborate than the last, as the new host country gives their all to push for the very best in lights, sound and drama. The world’s most influential people, families and fans speculate as each athlete in participation has a chance to make their entrance. This is the only time during the games that athletes of every sport and of every country are in one place, each very proudly representing their country and peers.

For gymnasts, this peak performance usually happens only once in their lifetime. It’s apparent that on the Olympian level, the window for the perfect symmetry of mind and body is a small one.

Dedication to wellness, as well as a sound mind and body is happening right here at GymKat Sports Center in Granbury. The Center started in 1979, they just celebrated 37 years on June 1. They are a tumbling and trampoline gym that serves Granbury and the greater community, from Aledo to Stephenville.

GymKat has ancillary programs that make for a well-rounded recreational space. This includes their Starz Extreme program, a competitive cheerleading group, yoga and boxing, and they’re always looking for new activities. Owner Kassie Hooser explains, “[For GymKat Sports Center] I want to be the house that everyone gets to come to and do their thing… be it martial arts, boxing, competitive dance… we’ve dabbled in yoga, zumba, and what have you.” Kassie likes to keep an open mind and provide a safe environment for Hood County’s youth.

Kassie grew up in a gymnastics environment and so did her mother, Kathie. Kathie Walley started training at the age of 8 and coaching at age 13 with the Country Day Private School in Fort Worth. “I’ve never wanted anything else,” says Kathie, “As far as Kassie… it’s all she knows and it’s all we’ve ever wanted to do.” Kassie nods in agreement.

Kassie is a devoted mother, daughter, businesswoman and athlete. She is committed to maintaining a recreational gym that is affordable for our community. Yet another example of this is Friday Fun Nights at GymKat Sports Center. This open gym event is quickly gaining popularity in Granbury. Parents have the option to bring their children to play for a couple hours and have the night for themselves. Every step is taken to ensure the children’s safety, from attentive staff to a clean environment. Extra care is put toward security as well. Each child signs in and is assigned a number with a coordinating wrist band. The parent has the same number marked to their wrist with invisible ink. This way, at the end of the night, instructors can be sure that each child is leaving with the correct chaperone.

Creating a safe space where local children and teenagers can come to train, exercise and have fun is the goal. Growing up I had peers that were dedicated to gymnastics, dance and cheer. As a new mother myself, I’ve considered the stigmas surrounding some of these competitive sports, specifically the time away it takes from regular life (at the elite level) and the cost. I’ve found myself speculative about what may be best for our family.

Sure, all of us parents consider our babies to be as talented as any Olympian when we burst with pride at every new skill they master. And competitive sports are great for teaching discipline, hard work, team work and how to be a winner, also maybe more importantly, how to handle defeat. All of these skills can be very useful when applied to various arenas of adulthood, be it our professional or family lives. However, losing out on precious moments in childhood can also be detrimental to development. As well, understanding ourselves and our boundaries with a healthy self image is equally important, in my opinion.

I was happy to learn that Kassie and Kathie take the safety of their athletes very seriously. Kassie said, “We train slowly and steady, instead of fast and furious… we’re training at proper progressions from our little babies all the way up.” Because of their attention to a natural pace, many of the GymKat athletes, even at Elite levels rarely suffer injuries. Also, they don’t require braces and ice packs constantly, something pretty commonplace in a competitive tumbling atmosphere. Even still, there are times coaches agree that the athlete is ready for the next level, however, if the student does not feel they’re ready, the coaches respect the wishes of the child. They aim to be mindful of preventing injury, mental block, or signs of burning out.

It’s about accountability, communicating with the parents and the athlete, hand in hand with teaching and upholding a healthy self image. As many instructors know all too well, communication with parents is key in any educational or extracurricular environment. To give you an idea of how each level progression works, each tumbler must master 39 skills to advance to the next level of which there are ten. Beyond that, the athlete reaches an Elite status for which there are greater, albeit more grueling competitions, but they may open doors to high school and college scholarships for the teen. There are currently three graduates of GymKat who are elite gymnasts and have realized their dreams on the college level.

Kassie has been building up a team since the late 90s. She explains of her class of Level 9s, “We have a crop coming up now, ready for Level 10, which is the highest you go before you mobilize for Elite.” 19 of her tumblers qualified for Nationals this year, one injury (a broken finger) meant then 18 qualified, six (eight yrs old – Elite) went to Nationals in Rhode Island in June and ten of the 12 five – seven year olds are off to Nationals in Tulsa this July. Two of those twelve opted out.

Each year the Granbury Optimist Club raises a $500 Scholarship to be awarded to a GymKat athlete. As well, the GymKat administration is always offering fundraising ideas to parents, such as cookie dough sales (much like they do for schools). Money raised is applied to the child’s GymKat tuition. In addition, the staff along with Kassie and Kathie keep a close watch on their tumblers and have covered costs for children in the past who needed it most. For instance, family illness, depending on the severity can completely cripple a family, not only financially, but emotionally. Their mission is to offer stability for kids when they may have to endure life’s trials at a young age.

We may be shaping miniature Olympians right here in Granbury, but most importantly we have a local place for our youth to tumble and exercise in a fun and safe environment. A place like Gym Kat Sports Center is a pillar for a strong, healthy community. Much like the pride felt for the Olympians that represent our country at the games, we should be proud of the adults this kind of environment has the potential to produce. It’s been said that a happy life is really a string of happy moments and maybe superstar athletes would agree. However, it’s a real blessing that in our hometown, we have GymKat Sports Center for all that’s inbetween.

Checkout all the programs and hours of open gym made available on the website at gymkatsportscenter.com.