Making Gymnastics Fun Is Goal of New Ellsworth Center – Ellsworth American

http://ellsworthamerican.com/archive/2005/09-01-05/ea_sports1_09-01-05.html
Put a Bounce in Your Step

 By Hugh Bowden

ELLSWORTH — For more than a decade, Doug Springer dreamed of operating his own gymnastics center.That dream came true earlier this year when Springer and his wife, Kristel, opened Springers Gymnastics Center about a mile out of downtown Ellsworth on the Bucksport road.

 

Doug Springer works with Melissa Weaver, a former Mount Desert Island resident who now lives in Miami, Fla., during a training session at the new Springers Gymnastics Center.

Jennifer Crowley of Gouldsboro is suspended upside down in mid-air as she practices a move off the trampoline at the new Springers Gymnastics Center in Ellsworth.

Mom Kristel Springer lends a guiding hand as 21-month-old daughter Elena takes a walk on the balance beam.

Molly Dow of Bar Harbor goes into the air after completing a round-off during a practice session at Springers Gymnastics Center in Ellsworth.

staff photo by hugh bowden

 

 

Though just in their 30s, the Springers offer a wealth of experience to would-be gymnasts.

Both became involved in the sport as children, have competed extensively and have been teaching and coaching since their college years.

Offering programs beginning with infants and toddlers and including youth right through to college age, the center is alive with activity these days.

Doug got his introduction to gymnastics through ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

“I asked my mom to sign me up so she did,” he said. He trained and competed all through his school years and was recruited for the U.S. Naval Academy gymnastics team after graduating from high school.

After two years at the academy, Doug went home to New Jersey and coached for two years, taking his team to five state titles, a regional title and a national title.

He joined the Marine Corps in 1992 and served until 1997, when he moved to Blue Hill and began working at Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor.

“I didn’t know anybody and I was alone and it was December,” said Doug, so when he discovered that the MDI YMCA had a gymnastics program, he offered to help.

“Two weeks later, they gave me the program,” recalls Doug.

He ran it until January 2003 when he was called back into the Marines and deployed to Iraq.

In that time, the program grew from 35 kids to more than 150 and the competitive girls’ team expanded from 11 to almost 40.

During that time, Doug also met — and married — Kristel, who had started the gymnastics program at the Down East Family YMCA in Ellsworth in 1997.

Their baby daughter, Elena, was born in November 2003, shortly after Doug returned home from his military deployment.

The two decided to give up coaching to stay home and be mom and dad, said Doug.

“But that winter, we we’re really missing it. We missed the kids, we missed the coaching, we missed all of it. We started talking about what we do now.”

With the help of Jeff Dalrymple at the First National Bank of Bar Harbor, the Eastern Maine Development Corporation and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Springers Gymnastics Center was born.

“My wife and I designed this building from a blank piece of paper,” said Doug. “It took us a little over a year. Now here we are and it’s been awesome.”

Most of the 6,480-square-foot building is one big open space, filled with all manner of gymnastics equipment. With a nine-acre lot, there’s plenty of room to expand.

Even before the building was completed, the Springers were enlisted by Peter Farragher, executive director of the Down East Family YMCA, to take over the struggling gymnastics program there.

“So now we represent the Down East Y and their team,” said Doug. “In return, YMCA members who come in here get a discount. So far, it has worked well.”

The center is off to a good start.

“We expected this to be a really hard summer,” said Doug, “but it’s been surprising.”

And sign-ups for the fall programs that begin next week are “looking pretty good,” he said.

The University of Maine cheerleading squad also will be traveling to Ellsworth to work with the Springers.

“Gymnastics is hard work and it’s by no means an easy sport,” said Doug. “But it’s not so hard that it’s intimidating. You’re not going to come in here and go, ‘holy smokes, this was a mistake.’”

Whatever their age or experience, every participant can proceed at his or her own pace.

Most of all, it’s fun.

“Who doesn’t want to come in and bounce on a trampoline?” asks Doug.

“You can come in and every day you can have these little break-throughs,” he said. “You can always keep moving. Once you master something, you move right on.”

Nor is gymnastics just for girls, as some folks believe. Nearly 25 percent of the clientele at Springers are boys.

Those who are interested can stop by for a visit or go on line and check out the center’s Web site www.springersgymnasticscenter.com.

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