Jenks gymnastics program makes local impact
It’s been over 40 years since the inception of the Jenks gymnastics program, yet club leaders are trying to let the community know they’re here.
Jenks gymnastics isn’t part of the school’s athletic program rather it’s part of Jenks community education. The club isn’t well known but it’s well received.
“We usually hear, ‘We didn’t know Jenks had a gymnastics program. This is really cool,’” assistant program director Bailey Whitmore said.
There are programs available for children ages three to 15 at competitive and non-competitive levels. Those that have spent years in the program say it leaves a lasting impression.
“It feels like a family,” said Abigail Zemanek who is entering her fourth year with the club. “We might be mad at each other, but we still cheer each other on and then we get over that stuff. We’re all friends and family at the end of the day.”
Jenks gymnastics has built a culture of growth and giving back in the three years since director Katherine Siwek and Whitmore took over.
Siwek and Whitmore operate under the belief that they can mold young minds into being outstanding citizens through gymnastics. They do that first by teaching tough life lessons.
“One thing I tell the team girls is, ‘We’re teaching you how to fail. You’re going to fall more times than anything and what’s the goal of that? To get up and try again.’ That’s part of life…. We really want to teach life lessons here. Whether it’s a long time or a short time, teaching them resilience and perseverance is important,” Siwek said.
The program heads find avenues to teach the athletes about responsibility in a fun way.
If the group leaves equipment out instead of putting it away, they must pay the consequences by standing on the beam and singing “twinkle, twinkle little star.”
“We like them to clean up the gym after practice is over,” Whitmore said. “So, when they would leave their grips out all over the place, we would confiscate them, and they would have to sing that in order to get them back.”
It’s all part of the plan, Siwek says.
“We’re trying to teach responsibility and that there are consequences for your actions. We tried to make it a fun consequence,” she said.
Most of them were scared or embarrassed except for Abigail, who says singing the song is one of her favorite memories.
Aside from working to create a good work ethic, Siwek and Whitmore ensure the athletes are bettering the community.
Each year during the Winter Classic competition, Jenks holds a food drive. The team that brings the most food gets a community service award and the proceeds are donated to the Jenks food bank. Last year over 450 gymnasts participated.
“We think it’s important to make sure they know they’re fortunate to have this experience, but they also learn how to give back to the community,” Siwek said.
Throughout the year the club hosts activities for members and non-members.
They’ll be holding a national gymnastics day event Sept. 21 from 12-2 p.m. at the middle school where there will be an open gym, ice cream, raffles, and more.
Jenks gymnastics currently has around 150 enrollments but they’re seeking more. Normal class programs are held Monday through Thursday 4:30-7:30 p.m. Friday classes begin at 5 p.m. which leads into open gym from 6-7 p.m.
Those who are interested can contact Siwek at (918) 299-4415 ext. 5364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The regimen’s balance between gymnastics and growing the athletes has worked, leaving several happy customers.
“I like my coaches because they’re really nice and they help me and correct me,” said Karissa Roig, a six-year veteran of the program. “I also like my teammates; they support all of us and they’re good friends.”
Siwek and Whitmore hope more will give gymnastics a chance.
Siwek has a long history of coaching gymnastics at the club and collegiate level. Whitmore spent time in the Jenks gymnastics program growing up.
The two understand how beneficial the sport can be to participants.
“I think, for the most part, everybody can learn something from gymnastics,” Whitmore said. “Whether you’re truly athletic or truly coordinated or not, there’s always some benefit of gymnastics. Gross motor skills, fine motor skills, just being able to learn how to work with other people or other coaches.”