While the sport itself has found popularity in the United States over the years with legendary figures such as Mary Lou Retton, Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes and more recently Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas, there are still parts of the country that are beginning to be introduced to gymnastics. In Flight Gymnastics (IFG) seeks to fulfill this growing need within its territory.
Founded in 2006 by head coach Derrin Moore, IFG, based in Decatur, has sought to expose today’s youth to healthy activities that will become a part of their lives forever, something that wasn’t always present in DeKalb county.
“I was a young gymnast and always wanted to own a gym of my own,” said Moore, who is originally from Tallahassee, Fla. but has been a Georgia resident for 15 years. “I felt there was a need for a gymnastics center in an underserved community such as DeKalb where there are girls who would find interest in the sport.”
Starting with only three athletes in its first year of existence, IFG has grown into a multi-faceted organization that includes competitive gymnasts, an adult division that even includes senior citizens and a circus program that performs at events and private parties throughout the state.
“Our gym gains interest once people know that it’s available,” said Moore. “Gabby Douglas winning the Olympics last year caused super interest in us but sometimes it’s difficult because there are so many other sports here. However, once people hear about us and see it, they want to participate.”
This past month, several gymnasts from IFG have won national competitions. Kyla Little won first place in the modified optional balance beam competition for the 11-year-old and older division at the AAU Southeast Regional competition in Charleston, S.C. over this past Memorial Day weekend. Nyla Loyd earned top honors at the uneven bars for the under-eight-year old division at the AAU National Championships, which took place from June 12 to 15 in Orlando. Camryn Graham won the bronze medal in the floor exercise and finished second on uneven bars in the under-12 group at the same competition.
When the young gymnasts enter high school, the gymnastics center is still available for usage. “Several of the DeKalb public schools have teams that we work with,” stated Moore. “I’ve assisted with high schools here such as Martin Luther King, Southwest DeKalb and Lithonia. Those teams generally have sponsors with minimal gymnastics knowledge so they will come to us for tips and we may run a clinic for them.”
In Flight Gymnastics also has a boys’ acrobatics class that includes parkour, break dancing and other non-traditional disciplines. Moore stated that the AAU has added a freestyle gymnastics division which may increase the participation of boys in her gym.
Another unique aspect of the gym is former gymnasts such as Aryel Stevenson and Micahya Gill returning to the center, serving as assistant coaches this summer. “It feels amazing to have the girls back here and it lets me know that what I’m teaching to them sticks,” said an emotional Moore. “It means the world to me.”
The gymnasts at In Flight Gymnastics constantly train throughout the year for numerous competitions and may work for two to three hours a day for one to four days within one week. However, the mission of the gym goes beyond learning how to flip. “The first thing that the girls gain by training is self-esteem,” stated Moore. “They learn discipline and the understanding of the muscles in their body that will never go away.”
For more information about In Flight Gymnastics, visit InFlightGymnastics.wordpress.com.
The last sentence of the In Flight Mission Statement is to “produce well rounded youth that will prosper in the present and future.” After witnessing a morning session at the gym, DeKalb county will benefit from these athletes greatly for years to come.