If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your child participate in competitive gymnastics, the road to the Olympics may very well begin in Emeryville. Head Over Heels Athletic Arts (HOH), has been training toddlers, children, teens, and adults since it was founded in 1977. The nonprofit’s philosophy promotes self-confidence through organized athletics that will follow an individual throughout their lives regardless of if they achieve their competitive dream.
Their Emeryville facility, where they’ve resided since 1991, is tucked away behind Pixar at Doyle & 47th. When you walk in the front door, you’ll be amazed by the enormity of it. It’s in fact the biggest gymnastics gym in Northern California, boasting over 20,000 square feet of mats, bars, foam pits, spring boards, and ropes.
The second thing that you will notice is the unbelievable amount of energy that fills the space – kids of all ages are literally bouncing all around to loud music and the even louder commands from their teammates and coaches.
I was lucky enough to chat with Katreece Stone, the passionate young Executive Director of HOH, who has been a part of the gym since 2003. Stone grew up as a Bay Area gymnast, stayed involved in the sport while attending college at UC Berkeley. In addition to being a standout athlete, Stone was also an NCAA Academic All-American.
When she graduated with a degree in social welfare with a focus in non-profit management, she knew she couldn’t leave the sport behind. She started part-time coaching and by 2005 found herself in the Director position, juggling running the gym and her life as new mom.
This proved to be no small task. She and her team have doubled the business since 2009 with 600 students to their current enrollment of over 1200 students. Initially they leaned upon local grassroots marketing, posting flyers in schools and attending community fairs. Nowadays they don’t have to market at all!
Their world-class program has wait lists to get into classes despite offering an impressive roster with daily classes, 7 days a week. From baby level Gym Tots, where your toddler can do a mini course of tumbling and trampolines, to recreational programs from floor, rings, pommel, vault, bars and all other gymnastic events.
While your child may start at a more basic level, nonetheless this is where your dream comes in. HOH is home to two Elite Level Gymnasts who train over 34 hours a week (a full-time job!) to be able to compete with the best in the world in international competitions. Eventually they even have a shot at the Olympic team through winning world championships. These two amazing athletes are truly ‘elite’ as they are only 2 of 10 in all of California!
It is almost unbelievable that this local gem resides in Emeryville (in a historic railroad servicing station no less). Other than the central location that Emeryville provides, Katreece “feels like we’re a part of the community” with programs for local kids from both the ECDC and ECCL. Parking and the rising cost of running a non-profit in Emeryville represent challenges for the facility, but Stone doesn’t hesitate to say that “the benefits outweigh the negatives”.
I’m personally happy to report that HOH is here to stay for Emeryville and its families. My spirited daughter couldn’t get enough of the rope swing, trampoline and super tall mat slide at Gym Tots and I am personally very excited to host my baby boy’s February birthday safely indoors at the gym. I couldn’t agree more with Katreece when she says, “Everyone should definitely come visit at least once…It’s a very unique place you can’t find anywhere else – it’s fun, it’s contagious, and the kids have a really good time (adults do too!)”. Please follow our advice!