FROM THE JUNE 2013 ISSUE OF INTERNATIONAL GYMNAST
Housed in the old Pixar building in the little town of Emeryville, Calif., sits Head Over Heels Academy of Athletic Arts. Tired of playing poker or sitting on my couch after my retirement from college coaching, I decided to check it out. After all, my dear friend and former student Michael Ashe coaches there. If Michael is happy and contented, I thought it must be a cool place. When I walked in the door for the first time, I could hardly believe what I saw and felt. Like iron to an electromagnet, I was pulled in. Once again, I felt The Power of Gymnastics.
Michael heads the boys' program, which clearly is on the rise. For you to understand a little about who Michael is, I offer this: Anyone who has ever taken the International Brevet Judges' test know it as a difficult proposition. Very few pass this test on the first try. Knowing how brilliant Michael is, I was not surprised when I learned he left the field behind on his very first attempt. I used to be a rule-book junkie, but if you want to know anything about the rules of men's gymnastics, just as you might have asked Jeeves, simply ask Mike.
The women's program at Head over Heels is headed by a very knowledgeable woman, Katreece Stone. There are so many great, talented gymnasts in Katreece's arsenal, it's mind-blowing. I was thrilled to see hoards of fundamentally sound, excellent athletes. Assisting Katreece is David Seiler, who I now think of as the James Brown of gymnastics. Simply put, I have never seen anyone who so loves the sport and works so hard as David-and I've seen them all.
Occasionally, my concentration on what I'm doing is interrupted by one of David's huge belly laughs. Makaela Brady completes this coaching trio. Her no-nonsense attitude and determination make it clear how important the work is to her.
Heading the pre-team and feeder program is Zoe Sayetta. To help you understand who she is: in our very first conversation she told me, "Gymnastics is my life" -exactly as I remember telling my mother at age 13.
Head over Heels features a recreational program, circus training (even a trapeze bar over a long pit ... what a trip!), adult classes and much more.
Now here's the good part! Head Over Heels is a nonprofit enterprise, with wonderful people on the gym floor or anywhere else in the organization, serving the city of Emeryville and the San Francisco Bay Area. The board of directors at Head over Heels consists primarily of parents and of retired gymnasts, many of them my former students at Cal. Accordingly, it's easy for coaches to get money for equipment or anything else the children may need.
Had I found a place like Head Over Heels earlier in my life, I might never have chosen to come to Cal. No matter, I'm here now at Head Over Heels. Just another iron filing pulled toward that mighty magnet-kindred spirits all!