JC Gymnastics raises the bar at their new location.
Strength, flexibility, and confidence — these are three words and skill sets that can change the trajectory of a child’s life. JC Gymnastics is a powerful example of putting these words into action. As an individual sport, gymnastics provides opportunities for individuals to develop physical agility and coordination. Gymnastics builds character; promotes life-long discipline, and teaches the importance of self-reliance, time-management, respect, and trust. It challenges one’s physical and mental fortitude limits.
“We are a happy, safe place where kids can be kids while realizing their full potential,” says Eric Burkett, co-owner of JC Gymnastics. “We are like one big family and wouldn’t have it any other way. Parents tell me their kids wish they could live here all the time.”
Under Eric’s guidance, and with much help from fellow co-owners, the facility has grown and moved several times, landing at its current site in March of 2023. The new site, previously used as the Capital City Job Center, was damaged during the 2019 tornado. Eric and his business partner Shawn Schilp purchased the building, and with Shawn’s vision and contractor management expertise, they renovated the facility to meet their expansion needs. This included raising the roof to accommodate the regulation height for a dedicated gymnastic gym. The new facility is one of only a few Missouri gyms to boast two full-size competition regulation spring floor mats for training. In addition to regulation beams, bars, and mat equipment, the facility sports a pole vault pit and exercise climbing wall.
For some, the gym is a recreational outlet; but for others, it’s helping to build dreams of competing on a more professional level. Eric’s son, Joey, was a participant in the program, and while he didn’t pursue gymnastics itself, his training led to his success as the state’s 2012 high school Class 4 pole vaulting champ and as a dynamic linebacker for the University of Missouri football team. There’s no doubt the gym has helped transform many students into the successful people they are today.
“Our students are incredible,” Eric says. “They learn to simultaneously juggle school responsibilities with the rigors of gymnastic training, which is an invaluable discipline for life skills, management in the workplace, and beyond.”
The program had 150 students in its first year of opening. Today, they serve over 792 students with a staff of 40 coaches and trainers.
“We notice for our school age and team kids, gymnastic challenges increase their self-esteem through learning how to successfully achieve a skill on their own,” says Program Director and Coach Jessica Hokanson. “The kids are amazing! I love it, and that’s why I am here!”
Eric and Shawn take pride in all the coaches and managers, many of whom were once students of the program.
“We are very fortunate to have an incredible staff of coaches with varying backgrounds and expertise who love their students,” Eric says.
The JC Gymnastics competition team participates in various competitions around the state on a regular basis.
“All of our students shine, but I feel everyone in the gym would agree that Isabelle Mutert champions the definition of team spirit and support,” Eric says. “She’s there to rally behind her teammates and will often ask, ‘Did I give you a hug yet?’ Isabelle just exudes an incredible vibe of energy and positivity that can’t be denied.”
“Our students are incredible. They learn to simultaneously juggle school responsibilities with the rigors of gymnastic training, which is an invaluable discipline for life skills, management in the workplace, and beyond.”Eric Burkett
Isabelle’s parents, Brian and Dana Mutert, wanted an outlet to help her reach her full potential. When they approached Eric about their initial reservations about the sport, Eric, without hesitation, insisted she join one of the regular classes and take it at her own pace. Isabelle surprised them all. At 12 years old, Isabelle competed at level 3 beam and all-around and took third at the Heart of Missouri League competition. While this accomplishment is commendable on its own merit, Isabelle was also the only one competing as an individual with Down syndrome.
“Isabelle has gained so much from this experience,” says Brian Mutert. “We are eternally grateful for Eric’s guidance and sense of inclusiveness to accept Isabelle into the program.”
“I love JC Gymnastics because I can do skills, tumble, and see Eric too,” Isabelle comments.
For children who are interested in trying gymnastics, the gym offers a complimentary class that allows them to see if the sport really piques their interests and is a good fit for them.
“There are so many benefits to starting as a toddler with our Tiny Tumbler program,” Jessica says. “It offers them the foundation to develop their critical cognitive coordination skills and body awareness, allowing them to understand spatial awareness while building self-reliance and self-esteem.”
“Sarah Brower also heads up the preschool program, and has for several years,” Eric adds. “We visit five different preschools throughout the area with our van full of gymnastics equipment and provide classes on-sight at their facilities. Sarah also manages a lot of the classes and activities we do with Tiny Tumblers every day of the week.”
JC Gymnastics is a full-service gym that provides seven class levels, including beginner, immediate, and competition level classes for both girls and boys ages 2-18. Private training programs are also offered to students qualifying for state gymnastic competitions and other school sporting events.
“Our goal is that each participant enter the building with a smile on their face, and every participant leaves with a smile on their face,” Eric says. “That’s our mission.”