Fun And Fitness For Keiki

Jack and Kay Leonard of Kauai Gymnastics Academy

Jack and Kay Leonard teach gymnastics in Puhi. Coco Zickos photos

Jack and Kay Leonard
Owners of Kauai Gymnastics Academy

Please tell us about your business. Jack: Kaua’i Gymnastics Academy, located in Puhi, teaches gymnastics a sport that’s also a fitness activity by working every joint and muscle in the body. There is a different rhythm for each age level that we teach. We teach all ages: 1 and up. We have creative apparatuses here to allow kids to get strong and make everything work for the goals they have. There are things where you hang, jump and balance. It’s like an amusement park where the tricks they learn are the rides. It’s a lot of fun factor. We started our business in 2005 and moved to the new, larger location last year.

What is the difference between a 3-year-old’s class and a 7-year-old’s, for example? Kay: It’s basically the same. We all have warmups, and we have two elements each week. So this week it might be bars and trampoline, and then next week it might be beam and cartwheels. I’m going to teach both children cartwheels, but it doesn’t mean the 3year-old’s cartwheels are going to look like the 7year-old’s. Although I have to say some of the 3-yearolds are pretty amazing.

Can adults use the facility as well? Jack: There is an adult drop-in on Wednesday nights. It’s not a class; it’s self-directed. We used to have a class, but we found that the adults, just because of simply their responsibilities and their careers, wouldn’t necessarily be able to come every week. So we made it more of a drop-in, and they can come every other week if they wanted to, or bring friends and they can work out. There’s a little bit of guidance along the way, but mostly it’s their free time for an hour and 15 minutes.

What is beneficial about gymnastics? Kay: One of the things that kids get out of gymnastics is a natural sense of balance. So everything that they do in here, it’s catching all those muscles and elements that will be used somewhere else. We’re a member of USA Gymnastics, and its mantra is “Begin Here, Go Anywhere.” Gymnastics is really a foundation of almost every other sport or physical activity you can think of.

How did you get started in this business? Jack: I began doing gymnastics when I was about 11 years old. I did it throughout school and earned a scholarship at The Ohio State University. I continued competing until I was 32. But then, with being a schoolteacher and a high school coach, I just didn’t have the time. So I started a gymnastic business where I’d go to elementary schools and run programs after school. I also have a degree in physical education and a master’s in pulse recovery.

Why did you start this business? Jack: It’s fun and you make money. I wanted to be a P.E. teacher since junior high you get to teach kids a sport and they’re having fun and you’re making your own living, and gymnastics was just singling it out.

Kay: Jack has always wanted to help kids have the same amount of fun he always had in gymnastics.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of this business? Jack: The life lessons that the kids learn. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t coach. The life lessons, which are so important and really make our hearts shine, are like when a kid will work on their own without being coached. In other words, you give a child an assignment and you walk away to help another kid, and they’re still working. That shows that they’re self-assessing and learning how to be an independent athlete.

Kay: Also, these kids, when their faces light up, are just wonderful.

What sets your business apart? Jack: Every single kid gets the attention needed. Every child gets the reinforcement and the instruction needed to have the success and the experience to walk away with.

Kay: It’s a place people like to be because of the variety and fun and professionalism.

What is the most important trick in gymnastics? Kay: A handstand, because it is used on every piece of equipment by both men and women. It’s one of those major building blocks to knowing something in every area that you’re going to go into.

4224 Hanahao Place, Puhi Industrial Park