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September 1, 2014
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Tulsa Boys Gymnastics is a Growing Program

Boys’ gymnastics in the Tulsa area has had its share of ups and downs over the years, but for young men interested in the sport, there is now a reason to reach for the top bar.

Oklahoma is a state divided. According to Maria Fernandez, who coaches for Jenks schools, Tulsa’s fair sister city to the west has a far stronger men’s and boys’ gymnastics presence than Tulsa. A few years ago, she and some other interested people began to change all that.

While there are plenty of gymnastics training facilities in Tulsa, few have a dedicated boys’ coaching program that includes access to competitive events.

“Boys’ gymnastics is very popular in Oklahoma City,” Fernandez said, “but on this side of the state, it’s not at all.”

Two years ago Tulsa Boys’ Gymnastics had a coach dedicated to training area boys, but they didn’t have a facility. After a long search, help arrived from a Broken Arrow business, SSB Kids, which provided equipment and space for the group. The parents felt they had finally settled into a routine with a gym and a coach. And then, one year into their efforts, their coach was hired away to a national training facility in Iowa.

Now, instead of searching for a space to practice, the group needed a coach. Jacob Blanco, a former competitive gymnast, stepped in to the position and now runs the competitive and feeder program for Tulsa Boys’ Gymnastics. He said that when he was a young gymnast, there were about “250 level 10 mens’ gymnasts,” meaning they could compete in college athletics. “Now,” he said, “there are about 50. There were at least three gyms with competitive boys’ programs. Now there’s only one.” Fernandez said that they are entering, for the first time, a “year when we don’t have to look for a gym or a coach.”

Blanco has about 10 boys from age 6 to 15 training 12 hours a week and competing regularly. There is a recreational program for younger athletes who want to improve their event skills before working into the competitive side.

“There are gyms in Tulsa where boys can train, but they only go to one competition a year,” Fernandez said. “This program allows us to travel all over. The kids get to compete at least eight times.”

When they began, there were seven boys in the program. Now there are over 20 boys who travel from Pryor, Claremore-Sequoyah and Bartlesville nearly every day of the week to train.

And the boys are doing well in those events. The youngest competitor is in the first grade and the oldest is in ninth. Fernandez’ son has won the All Around State Champion gymnast twice. Blanco said that SSB Kids has done “a great job of marketing the program and answering questions from interested parents.”

He encouraged anyone to try the program and talk with him about what they’re doing. According to Fernandez, some parents enroll their wrestlers and football players in the recreational program to improve their athlete’s conditioning and flexibility which helps during matches and can also prevent injury.

“It’s a great foundational sport,” he said.

Contact SSB Kids for more information at 918. 258.5437.

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