Gym Built for Kids

It’s not a school.  It’s centered on one dynamic personality, but it’s not theater. Some parents silently pray, yet it’s not a church.  On some level, healing even takes place, although no one here claims to cure anything.

Chances are, most people don’t even notice the modest storefront business in the Farragut, Tennessee strip mall.  Yet by word-of-mouth, parents have been telling other parents over the past dozen years why Heidi’s Musical Gymnastics is unlike any other resource they’ll find for their children.

Kids just know it’s fun.  Painted murals of happy children line the walls, while big splashes of primary colors decorate most of the equipment.  Each week, excited students arrive to see what new obstacle course they’ll be able to maneuver.  Gymnastics teacher Heidi de la Rocha begins classes with motivational phrases like, “I have an ‘I can try’” attitude.  She teaches small classes of no more than a half-dozen kids, and focuses on developmental details, while lavishing plenty of praise.

“We just wanted the kids to have fun, build confidence and coordination, where there’s not a lot of risk involved,” de la Rocha explains the motivation why she and husband, business manger Ashley de la Rocha, opened the unique gym back in 1999.  A psychology major who earned her way to Brigham Young University with a gymnastics scholarship, the young Heidi had to eventually give up competition because of a serious injury.  She still has a small scar on her right leg from the surgery that followed the tear to her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus.  The injury influenced her leaning toward non-competitive gymnastics for students, although she’s often called upon by parents seeking to give competitive athletes an edge.

One obvious thing that sets Heidi’s gym apart from others is its wide array of custom-designed and handcrafted equipment.  She has no fewer than six different types of balance beams that no supply company makes.  She’s commissioned a custom ladder with sliding activity beads on it, a floor-level beam with bowling pins attached, and even a series of old tires augmented with dowels and other items to create a coordination game.  She seems to intuitively know what her students need, “The kids, they inspire me, just an idea I get in my head that I think would be really good for the kids,” and she has the equipment built.
Typical toddlers come to Heidi’s classes when they first begin walking.  Early skills help children build safely toward more advanced levels.  De la Rocha explains, “We start with the very basics of motor planning…a lot of the equipment that I’ve designed is really perfect for little kids, for babies, to build their skills and their coordination, to build them up to a level by the time they get to be 5 and 6 that they can do cartwheels and bridges.”

It doesn’t hurt that this mother of five remains fit enough to demonstrate all of the moves and work right on the floor along with the children.  Her work has attracted countless testimonials from appreciate parents, some in private, and some featured on the Heidi’s Musical Gym website.