When Caroline Brown was a young girl with a passion for gymnastics, her mother searched high and low for a gymnastics studio in the D.C. metro area that didn’t emphasize training for a medal.
Brown’s mother, Cherie Hope, wanted a studio that trained gymnasts to follow their own personal goals. “The only places around were training for Olympic gold,” Brown remembers. Hope wanted the end result to be a happy child, not a gold medal winner.
So, Hope did what any loving mother would do, she started her own gymnastics studio. Hope’s studio would be open to children of all abilities, of all ages and sizes. It would focus on building a well-balanced gymnast and a well-balanced child. Out of a mother’s love, Silver Stars was born. Hope told her students that they were all stars, she told parents that their kids were stars and it didn’t take a gold medal to make it true. The vision was “gymnastics for every family.” In 1995, two years into Silver Stars’ journey, Hope opened her first permanent location for the gym in Silver Spring, Maryland. Thirteen years later, in fall 2008, Silver Stars Gymnastics opened a second location in Bowie, Md.
Gymnastics in the news
With an increase in gymnast abuse stories coming to light in recent years, many parents don’t feel as confident signing their kids up for classes. Just last month Kevin Mazeika, who guided the Team USA men to medals at consecutive Olympic Games, was suspended for ‘unspecified misconduct’ by USA Gymnastics. While not much was revealed about the terms of Mazeika’s suspension, the organization did stipulate that Mazeika was prohibited from having “unsupervised contact with minors.” In addition to being a three-time U.S. Olympic Men’s Team Head Coach, Mazeika is also president of the Houston Gymnastics Academy, so parents’ concerns are valid. This story represents the exact reasons Cherie Hope founded Silver Stars Gymnastics, and both she and Brown are disheartened by the impact these scandals have on the confidence of parents and children in choosing to be a part of the gymnastics world.
“It isn’t just about the sport or about being the best; gymnastics builds coordination and self-esteem.”
Brown doesn’t want children to miss out on all the positive benefits of learning gymnastics. It isn’t just about the sport or about being the best; gymnastics builds coordination and self-esteem. She emphasizes the “the teamwork, respect [and] life lessons that stay with the gymnasts beyond the gym.” She believes that gymnastics has the power of “building smarter, healthier children [who] succeed in other parts of their lives.” When someone joins or inquires about the gym, Brown asks them about their personal goals: “Do they want to be on a competitive level that requires a certain number of hours? Do they want to do it at a recreational level? Are there specific moves they want to master? Are they just looking for a way to have fun?” Silver Stars repeatedly reinforces the importance of “creating whole, balanced gymnasts [and having] time outside of the gym for friends, families, activities and education.”
Silver Stars Gymnastics is home to three teams:
- Competitive T&T Team: The team competes locally, regionally and internationally in tumbling and trampoline.
- Competitive Artistic Gymnastics Team: This team is tight knit, spending a lot of time together and also competing locally, regionally and internationally.
- Non-competitive Recreational In-House Team: For those who are honing their specific gymnastic skills without wanting to spend so many hours working out at the gym.
Among their gymnasts is Olympian hopeful Changa Anderson. At 17 years old, Anderson is training for the Olympic Trials, where it will be decided who will represent the USA at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Trials are set to take place June 24-27 at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The Tokyo Olympics open on July 23.
The Past Year
The pandemic has been challenging for Silver Stars. “Gymnastics requires a huge amount of space,” Brown says. There are “massive rent bills” threatening the gym’s financial health, including its determination to keep on as many employees as possible. “It’s been a struggle. I also gave birth, so I was at home working full time, raising a new infant and another child under 2 years of age.” But the Silver Stars community stepped up. “We follow the protocols that the CDC puts out for schools, and we have outfitted our entire facility to combat COVID-19 and we follow strict rules. We have not had a single case of COVID-19 in the building. The staff and families together have been working really hard. And it shows that it can be done.”
After closing on March 15, 2020, the gym remained empty until June 2020. When reopened, they permitted fewer than 200 people on their 15,000 square-foot premises. The gymnasts now practice with their masks on.
With the Olympics fast approaching, Brown is hopeful that the benefits of gymnastics will be highlighted and that there will be a shift in the way gyms are run. “The Olympics is a great time because it brings our sport front and center.” She remains enthusiastic about sharing the sport with more families and highlights the relationships of the students and their parents. “Gymnastics is not just an individual sport. It really requires the support of the staff, the families and everyone in the building. It does take a village to get to this level. It’s a lifelong community.”
Gymnastics Fun Facts:
- The US military brought gymnastics training to America in the late 1800s.
- Gymnastics earned a spot in the first summer Olympic games in 1896 and has been an Olympic sport ever since.
- There are seven types of gymnastics:
1. Women’s Artistic Gymnastics
Often shortened to “women’s gymnastics.” Generally the most popular and well-known type of gymnastics. Also one of the first tickets to sell out at the Olympic Games.
2. Men’s Artistic Gymnastics
The second most popular type of gymnastics in the United States and the oldest form of gymnastics.
3. Rhythmic Gymnastics
Gymnasts perform jumps, tosses, leaps and other moves with different types of apparatus. Currently a female-only sport in the Olympics.
Gymnasts perform high-flying flips and twists on every bounce. In 2000, trampoline became an Olympic discipline.
Power tumbling is performed on a spring runway that is much bouncier than the floor exercise mat used in artistic gymnastics.
6. Acrobatic Gymnastics
A team of two to four gymnasts perform all kinds of holds, handstands and balances on each other, while the team throws and catches their teammates.
7. Group Gymnastics
Athletes compete together in a group of six to 16 gymnasts. Groups may be all female, all male or a mix.