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Gymnastics: How Cumming Gymnastics keeps family dynamic during quarantine
Cumming Gymnastics
The Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics program, which is run by the Cumming Recreation and Parks Department, has conducted virtual practices during the coronavirus pandemic. Photos courtesy Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics

The profile picture on the Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics Facebook page indicates a clear mission plan.

“Changing the world, one child at a time,” it reads across a map of the world. 

And in a time marked by constant change, when that world has virtually been turned upside down, those children quarantined at home, and their coaches temporarily out of a job, that goal remains the same. 

The coaching staff at Cumming Gymnastics has taken to online instruction during the coronavirus pandemic, posting workout videos and hosting video conferences to help keep its students active.

The coaching staff posts a new video to its Facebook page three days a week, and a challenge twice every week, according to girls team director Cathy Campfield.

“Most families are happy to have something to keep their kids connected to their regular life,” said Campfield, who has worked for the Cumming Recreation and Parks Department since 1998 and has 37 years of coaching experience. “Even if it’s different, it does keep a bit of a sense of normalcy in a very abnormal time. After our first workout, one parent thanked us for bringing giggles back to their house. That was a nice compliment.”

Of course, operating through video presents inherent difficulties, such as providing hands-on instruction through a computer screen. Then there’s the challenge of keeping students engaged.

“It can also be difficult to keep the kids’ attention while online,” said Chris Wise, the program’s boys team director. “They are in their living rooms, out on their deck, or in their backyard. Lots of opportunities for distraction that have to be overcome, but the guys have been great. It has allowed them to socialize a bit and at least know that they are not doing these workouts alone.”

Still, while the goal is intended to keep the program’s students active, one reward is simply giving students the chance to interact with the people they are used to seeing multiple times a week.

Cumming Gymnastics
The Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics head coaches. Photo courtesy Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics
Oftentimes, it’s just as much a reward for the coaches.

“The most rewarding part of online workouts is just being able to see the kids,” Campfield said. “To know that they are OK, and to hear about what is happening in their lives. I am struggling and confused as an adult. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for these children. The online workouts aren’t really about gymnastics. They are about the connection and maintaining a team mentality. We are a family and they need to know that we will always be there for them, even if we can’t see each other everyday.”

That family atmosphere has permeated across the program — some parents have even offered to pay the coaching staff for their instruction. 

Operating as subcontractors, members of the Cumming Gymsations Gymnastics coaching staff suddenly found themselves out of a job once the city of Cumming suspended its recreation programs and closed all city facilities on March 27, which has been extended until April 26.

That includes Campfield, whose family of five has felt the ripple effect of the coronavirus in different ways. 

Her daughter is a teacher who now must work from home. One of Campfield’s sons is a student at Georgia Tech whose summer study abroad program and the engineering co-op he had lined up in the fall have been canceled. Her youngest son is a senior in high school, where traditional senior milestones are being pushed back until the summer.

“I definitely feel for the families and kids out there,” Campfield said. “Everyone has their own struggle right now, and we as coaches are no different.”

Despite the lack of any guaranteed compensation, Wise said the connection between the coaching staff and the students made it a simple decision to continue showing up to work, albeit behind a computer screen. 

“I had a parent text me one evening to tell me she was going to Venmo me and (gymnastics coach) Amin (Arbab) some money,” Wise said. “ She said that she would have been paying tuition anyway and she wanted to do whatever she could to help us out. So many of our parents have been so supportive of us. It is impossible to not try to do something to continue to help the kids.

For program director Deven Pressley, the decision to work around children is one she made at an early age. 

In fact, during such an uncertain time, Pressley looks toward her students for inspiration.

“Children have always given me hope,” she said. “When I was young, the song ‘We are the World’ came out. As a child, hearing famous singers come together and sing, “we are the children” made me think that song was written specifically for children. From then on, even as a child, I saw the future was with children. 

“Many moments in my childhood developed who I am. And I want to be able to help develop the children I work with to have the same compassion and empathy for those around them, just like in the song.”