Bonding on the balance beam

August 18, 2005|By: Christen D'Alessandro

One wouldn't think of it in volleyball-strong and aquatic-minded

Newport Beach, but girls gymnastics seems to be taking off.

The city of Newport Beach offers gymnastics classes at Lincoln

Elementary School for girls ages 5-8. The classes teach gymnastics,

while it also is motivational for the girls and boosts their


"This class is about enhancing confidence," said gymnastics


instructor Marti Gangnes, who coaches about 10 to 12 girls in each of

her three classes.

Gangnes likes to use a technique she calls "teaching with

success." She breaks things down into little pieces so the girls can

succeed while they're learning.

There are many different reasons to join this class.

"Lily wanted to learn how to do cartwheels because her friends

were doing them and she didn't know how to so I signed her up for the

class," said Moujan Walkow, mother of 6-year-old Lily Walkow.

Mandy Tapfer and Callie Spooner, both 6, are best friends and

started taking the class when they were 4.

"Gymnastics is cool," Spooner said, while Tapfer added, "and it's


The girls start out learning the basics, like cartwheels and

flamingos across the low and high balance beams. They also learn to

perform bridges on the floor.

When they master the fundamentals the young gymnasts start

learning more advanced moves like cartwheels off the balance beam,

one-handed cartwheels, monkeys off the uneven parallel bars and

bridges into backhand springs.

At the end of the day the girls huddle in a circle with Gangnes,

close their eyes and picture what their favorite thing was that they

did during the day. After that they give themselves a big round of

applause for their success during the class.

Seven-year-old Kristen Wilder has been taking classes with Gangnes

for about a year now.

"I like it because it's fun and I learn a lot of stuff," Wilder


Gangnes teaches her students not only the fundamentals of

gymnastics, but also confidence and respect for one another.

"Coach Marti is really great with self-esteem," said Leslie

McInally, mother of 7-year-old Abby McInally.

Gangnes also has a mentoring program for the girls who have been

with her for a while. Annabel Pidgeon, 11, has been taking classes

with Gangnes for many years. Now she assists Gangnes in teaching the

classes for the 5- through 8-year-old girls.

Three classes are held every Thursday at Lincoln. There is a class

every 45 minutes starting at 1 p.m. Classes start at a beginning

level and increase in age and level as the day goes on.

Gangnes does wonders for these girls' self-image and even teaches

them some gymnastics along the way.

"Coach Marti is awesome," Moujan Walkow said.

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