Gymnastics Thriving at Palatine Park District

February 12, 2024

The Summer Olympics may be coming to Paris this July, but gymnastics is thriving right now at the Palatine Park District. According to Gymnastics Coordinator Nick Persino, 1900 participants came through the district’s gymnastics facilities at Community Center last year. “I’ve got 100 kids on a waitlist for Saturday classes,” he added.

Persino’s scheduling challenges have led to opportunities as well….enough interest to merit the revival of competitive teams at Palatine Park District. A pre-competitive girls’ team and a girls’ competitive team have been established. A boys’ team is in formation.

Persino, who grew up competing in gymnastics, said the district offers classes starting at 18 months through 18 years. “Every class has a process where students are evaluated,” Persino said. “When instructors see students excelling in advanced classes they are recommended for the pre-team and finally the team.”

Last year, Anastaisa Doyle, a life-long gymnast herself, joined the staff and coaches the girls’ teams. According to Doyle, being on a team has many benefits including learning integrity, discipline, and socialization skills. “I love that the girls get along and are compassionate,” Doyle said. “They root for each other. The girls are a nice group that really mesh – you don’t always find that.”

Doyle enjoys seeing how the girls flourish in competitions. “As soon as their arm goes up at a meet, they bring their A game and they get one chance to give their best performance,” she said. “One thing I like to tell them is you can’t win if you’re afraid of losing. I want them to have fun.” At each competition the girls are divided into age groups and compete against others in the same level and age bracket. To date, seven out of eight team members have qualified for the state championships.

The journey to the team starts with the minis – young students starting with the basic dynamics of gymnastics. “I love hearing the little ones talking to their parents asking if they get to come back,” Doyle said. “I want them to fall in love with the sport.”

The Palatine Park District currently has a team of eight girls on the competition team and 12 on the pre-team. It’s not unusual to see the girls running around Community Center’s track or going up and down the stairs. “We focus on conditioning, strength, and flexibility,” Doyle said.

Team members compete from November through May. They train year-round for three hours – three days a week.  “We have to make sure it is a good fit for the families as well,” Persino said.

“There is a sense of camaraderie being on a team,” Persino added. “You learn how to do something in gymnastics that you didn’t think was possible, and that carries over into other aspects of life.”

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