Teacher Spotlight: Teaching gymnastics, ChalkHeadZ style.

August 24, 2021

Teacher Spotlight: Teaching gymnastics, ChalkHeadZ style.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

PERE MARQUETTE TWP – Kathy Bootz and her team of instructors at ChalkHeadZ Gymnastics, 5042 W. First St., have all had a love for the sport for many years. Bootz opened ChalkHeadZ four years ago with her husband, Luke, and they’ve been teaching the sport of gymnastics to boys and girls of a variety of ages. Bootz originally began coaching with Sheryl DeWeerd, when she owned Flipstar Gymnastics. Bootz worked there for 10 years before venturing out on her own.

“I’ve been an owner of ChalkHeadZ for four years, but have been coaching now for 14 years,” Bootz said. “There are a lot of things that are very important about coaching. I guess a few of the most important for me are connecting with the kids and families here. This is a place for kids to be able to get away from things in their home or school and be able to focus on themselves and not worry about what may be happening in their life. Planning and prepping lessons for the kids to enjoy as well as the parents is something I find very important. Engaging with kids, watching them grow and succeed is always so important.”

ChalkHeadZ offers a variety of classes for many different skill levels, which are taught by a few different coaches.

Coach Alycia Peterson said many people don’t really understand the difficulty of the sport itself or what it can do to an athlete’s body and health.

“Gymnastics is not an easy sport,” she said. “It is beautiful, but it is also extremely difficult. Athletes train hard and can exhaust themselves both physically and mentally. For a gymnast to perform satisfactorily they need to hydrate, eat well, and rest/sleep well. Gymnasts learn to listen to their bodies and make better decisions when it comes to their overall health. Their healthy experiences and notable rewards are showing the public what it means to have an overall healthy and well-balanced athlete. Gymnastics can turn anyone into the healthiest person they have ever been and that’s the best part.”

Coach Lexy Cornwall said she also believes that gymnastics provides a great opportunity for any gymnast to become more aware of their bodies, skills and overall wellness.

“I love gymnastics being in the topic of health and wellness,” she stated. “Kids need a place where they can be silly, learn new tricks, make friends, create a team bond, all while learning how to keep their bodies safe through strength, flexibility and technique.”

All the coaches at ChalkHeadZ agree that gymnastics can be a great starting point for any child looking to develop skills for any sport of their choosing. This is one of the main reasons Bootz go into the sport in the first place. Bootz’s daughter, Avah Anthes, started doing gymnastics at the age of 3 and has grown in the sport and has done very well for herself and this fall she will be attending Central Michigan University as a freshman on the university’s gymnastics team.

“Gymnastics provides a great foundation for athletes looking to play any sport, Peterson said. “Gymnasts develop strength, flexibility, balance, agility, and coordination through hours of training. Gymnastics teaches athletes resilience and mental toughness. It’s a sport where you fall again and again, but you need to continue to get back up to succeed. Not only is gymnastics a foundation for sports, but it’s also a foundation for life skills as well. Gymnastics requires kids to stand in line, take turns using equipment, clean up after themselves, and listen to and apply a coach’s feedback. These things develop real skills like patience, the ability to follow directions, to be quiet, and to respect others. Gymnastics teaches athletes commitment, dedication, respect, time management, and builds confidence and self-esteem for a lifetime.”

Bootz herself understands how gymnastics can play such a great role in developing life-long skills, her three children are all involved at the gym and coach and assist in classes but being able to have a place for her daughter to train to meet the expectations she wanted to achieve has really been a blessing.

“I have a daughter who wanted to go to be a college gymnast,” Bootz said. “There were no gyms in this area that offered the Junior Olympic program that she needed, we were also not able to commute out of town, so ChalkHeadZ was born, and training was started. What the amazing part about it is that my daughter just signed with CMU to compete for their gymnastics team this fall. She is also the only gymnast in the Mason County area to reach a JO level 10, and that has signed with a division 1 school.”

Whether in the gym or outside in the real world, Bootz and her coaches believe that the sport of gymnastics holds all the traits for athletes to mold themselves into strong and confident individuals, even if they came into the sport with little courage and no previous exposure.

“I believe gymnastics is such a good sport to get involved in because you are always trying to improve yourself,” coach Haley Stakenas said. “You set your own goals and you gain confidence by reaching those goals and maybe even going beyond what you thought you could achieve. I’ve worked at ChalkHeadZ for about three years coaching the preschool and toddler classes. This age group is so important because it really gets the kids interested in gymnastics and they get excited about learning their basic skills.”

Information pertaining to ChalkHeadZ and the classes they offer can be found online at chalkheadz.com, on Facebook or by calling 231.843.8007.

“I guess my role as a coach and owner affects everyone who steps through ChalkHeadZ’s door,” Bootz said. “I try my best to make each family and child feel welcome and that ChalkHeadZ is a place that anyone can join. My staff is affected by me, my family is also. My staff has become part of my family. I treat them as my kids, since I am older than everyone. But I also make them feel like an equal. I want them to feel important and that they have not only a job, but a home, a person who backs them up and cares not only about their coaching, but about their life. I have realized just recently how lucky I am that I have a staff that was picked carefully, that does their job above and beyond what I expect and this shows me that we as a team have affected each other in so many positive ways and that we are building a gym that is different.”

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