Gymnastics academy in Kaiserslautern offers array of programs for kids — and parents
By BRIAN FERGUSON | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 27, 2018
What went through my head as I walked into Gymfinity International GmbH in Kaiserslautern, Germany, was: “I’m probably going to hurt myself.”
At 40 years old, 6 feet, 1 inch tall and about 230 pounds, USA Gymnastics would be lucky to have me. Because, of course, every high-level gymnastics team needs an out-of-shape journalist with back and elbow problems.
Gymfinity has open gym on Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For 4 euros, kids up to six years old can stop by and explore the gym and equipment, while adults are free.
My 3-year-old daughter Phoebe, dressed in her best leotard, was ready to go, even though I only brought her so I could play on the equipment. Neither of us had ever done gymnastics, and I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to sign a waiver assuming the risk, which everyone must sign to participate.
The owner, Ande Silberman, is a U.S. Army veteran and has been involved in gymnastics her entire life. She opened the gym a little more than a year ago, and most everyone from the staff to the clientele spoke English. It’s basically a U.S. gym in the middle of Kaiserslautern.
“I saw the need for a gym here,” Silberman said. “The German system has an elite track for gymnasts, but they won’t take an American in that system. There were no options here for competitive American gymnasts. Now, American families have an option if they PCS here with an elite gymnast.”
The gym looked like what I imagined. There was a trampoline, a vault, uneven bars, a high bar, several balance beams and a bouncy floor for the floor exercise. It’s an overconfident, inexperienced gymnast’s dream.
Parents are responsible for their children during toddler open gym. Somewhat hesitant at first, Phoebe tried everything, and I was right there with her, waiting for my chance to shine. I passed on the balance beam, however, for fear of what could happen.
I made it over to the high bar and was pretty sure that I could swing all the way around. It was already chalked, so I jumped up. As I started to swing, I could feel the skin leaving my hands. I asked one of the moms there to photograph my awesomeness. Huge mistake. I swung back and forth about five times before I let go for the dismount. I didn’t make it around, and I’m pretty sure I lacked form and grace.
Next up: the vault. I watched my daughter run down and jump on the springboard and stop. That’s not how you do it.
“Let me show you how to do it,” I said.
As I started to run, I could envision myself flipping through the air onto the soft pad. As I hit the springboard, I felt my knees buckle and the most I could bring myself to do was a leapfrog over the vault. What a sad display.
We spent the next 30 minutes jumping on the trampoline, which was fun for everyone. Phoebe loved the experience and was so tired she laid down on the mat and said she was going to take a nap, which never happens. I was just happy I hadn’t hurt myself.
“I think some adults come in a little overconfident and practically break themselves,” Silberman said. “When they fall, they fall loud.”
After class, Silberman informed me there was an adult class I could attend. I’m back in the game.
Gymfinity International has classes for most anyone interested in gymnastics or fitness. Classes, prices and times can be found on their website, and they accept value-added tax forms.
Not totally disappointed in my performance, I think next time I’ll just stick to what I’m good at: floor exercise.
DIRECTIONS: Address: Merkurstrasse 14A, 67663 Kaiserslautern, Germany
TIMES: Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
COSTS: Varies by class
INFORMATION: Online: gymfinityinternational.com; phone: (0631) 311 60042 or +49 631 31160042