Gymnastics is one of the world’s oldest sports and remains popular today. And growing interest in the sport has created a burgeoning business in gyms for young athletes to practice tumbling, learn the art of proper balance and get fit – including in San Diego, where San Diego Gymnastics, the county’s largest gymnastics school and camp program is preparing to open its fifth location since 2008.
Soon to join San Diego Gymnastics sites in Point Loma, Chula Vista, La Mesa and the La Costa area, a new 8,000-square foot gym is coming to Westfield Mission Valley West at 1144 Camino Del Rio North in January.
San Diego Gymnastics works with about 600 to 800 athletes per location, with its total student population fluctuating between 2,500 and 3,000 annually. The company offers after-school programming with transportation options and holds camps four times a year.
In addition to a full slate of gymnastics equipment and training apparatus, the Mission Valley site will also offer a complete parkour set up, giving it a more diverse set of class offerings and settings. Parkour is a growing fitness endeavor that involves athletes moving quickly and efficiently from one point to another in a complex environment, typically with assistive equipment.
“We are thrilled to expand the San Diego Gymnastics footprint in San Diego County and we hope families and kids that have never tried gymnastics or parkour visit the Mission Valley location and find a class that energizes them,” said San Diego Gymnastics co-CEO Paige Conroy.
According to New York-based Statista, Inc., the number of U.S. participants 6 years and older flexing their tumbling prowess in gymnastics grew by 10.9 percent in 2021 to about 4 ½ million.
The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique says that parkour began in the outskirts of Paris in the 1990s, when French actor and stuntman David Belle and some of his friends put the spotlight on a particular art of movement involving jumping and climbing over stairs, barriers, walls and other fixtures.
San Diego Gymnastics opened its first location in Liberty Station in 2008 behind owners and Point Loma residents Doug and Christina Grady, who were crunched for time. While working full time, they were also shuttling their three children to various activities, including driving their daughter more than 30 minutes each way to gymnastics three times a week.
Experienced entrepreneurs with fitness backgrounds, the Gradys had an understanding of the demand for a dedicated gymnastics site in Point Loma.
“They started talking to people who also were driving far for their kids’ gymnastics,” said co-CEO Erin Adams. “Doug grew up in Point Loma, and they both knew tons of parents with young children. They didn’t advertise anything, it was all word of mouths, a true grass-roots effort. They opened the Point Loma site in 2008 and it took off.”
San Diego Gymnastics expanded in 2013 to Chula Vista with a location at Otay Ranch Town Center, and four years later the Gradys opened a gym at Grossmont Center in La Mesa. The business headed to North County with a spot in Carlsbad/La Costa early last year, and later in 2021 the team relocated the original Point Loma gym to the Midway District.
Adams said that the business caters to children “from the time they can walk” up to age 17.
“Gymnastics, like a lot of sports, is about teamwork, confidence and overcoming fears,” she said. “It’s not an easy sport and can be scary but with it comes learning a lot of athletic fundamentals. Balance, strength, body awareness… foundations that can be brought to any sport later.”
Adams said San Diego Gymnastics offers a variety of programs that expose children to fun and fitness in a unique and safe environment, promoting healthy competition in a supportive setting. “We want kids coming in, having fun and learning fundamentals,” he said.
All San Diego Gymnastics coaches are background checked, USA Gymnastics certified, CPR- and First Aid-certified. Its team members include California credentialed teachers, collegiate level gymnasts, parkour coaches trained by a certified World Freerunning Parkour Federation instructor, physical and occupational therapists, kinesiology and child psychology majors.
San Diego Gymnastics and Parkour
FOUNDER: Doug and Christina Grady
CEOS: Paige Conroy and Erin Adams
HEADQUARTERS: Point Loma
STUDENTS: More than 2,500
NOTABLE: Founder Christina Grady was a top high school basketball player in East County in the 1990s.