When Kellie French was just 6 years old, she discovered her passion for gymnastics.
After watching the film “Nadia,” based on the life of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, the first Olympic gymnast to score a perfect 10, French told her mother that she wanted to be a gymnast.
After begging for lessons, French’s dream finally came true and at age 8 when she took her first gymnastics class. That lifelong love of gymnastics has stayed with French, who’s now the owner and head coach at Champions of Excellence Gymnastics Academy in Gig Harbor.
Located at 2605 Jahn Ave. NW, Suite D1, the Gig Harbor location opened in September.
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A native of Portland, French attended Portland State University, where she earned her degree in business. After moving to Washington, French knew that she wanted to share her love of gymnastics with her community and open a gymnastics academy that would be welcoming to everyone. She wanted her gym to be a place where children were allowed to feel free to make mistakes without the pressure of a competitive aspect.
“We have something for everyone, there are no exclusions,” French said. “Everyone here is accepted no matter their skill level because gymnastics is really for everyone. Our gym centers around balancing fun with learning. Competition isn’t for everyone.”
French believes that besides the physical benefits of exercising your entire body, gymnastics offers many life lessons. French’s motto is “anything worth doing is going to be hard.”
“Gymnastics allows people to pursue something that’s difficult, teaches them perseverance, and helps them gain self confidence,” she said. “Maybe it won’t matter that you could walk on a balance beam a few years ago, but you did learn to face your fears and take risks, which can impact someone in a big way.”
Champions of Excellence provides many different programs, which include regular gymnastics lessons and skills that are taught at a progressive rate and improved upon with each lesson. Along with the basic gymnastics lessons, Champions of Excellence also provides “Ninja Gymnastics” for children.
These lessons, which include obstacle courses, combine the television series “American Ninja Warrior” with gymnastics skills, French said.
Champions of Excellence also provides “Parent’s Night Out” at the gym, where different themes are incorporated into lessons such as “Jedi Gymnastics” for kids.
“When kids come up to me after years and thank me for their gymnastics lessons and all that they learned, it really shows that we have made an impact,” French said. “That’s my favorite part of gymnastics.”
For more information on Champions of Excellence, visit cegagym.com.