Local Olympic gold-medalist opens gym with progressive ideals and goals
Dominique Moceanu, Olympic gold-medalist and member of the 1996 US women’s gymnastics team, has called Northeast Ohio home since 2002. Currently, Moceanu lives in the Hinckley area and has recently opened up the Dominique Moceanu Gymnastics Center in Medina with her husband, Dr. Michael Canales, who was also a former collegiate gymnast at Ohio State University. Together, they have given local gymnasts and their families a facility that operates with a mission of providing a safe, non-traditional and empowering environment for children to learn the fundamentals of gymnastics the right way. The Center purposely chooses not to focus on competition, but rather the development of physical skills, life skills and an empowering spirit that will serve their athletes well; not only in the time-being, but for many years to come as they progress through their competitive years and eventually into adulthood.
Moceanu knows all too well the perils that come with competitive gymnastics. At the age of 10, her family re-located from their home in Tampa, Florida to train and compete at the famed Karolyi ranch near Houston, Texas. The training facility was home to other famous Olympians, such as Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug and Aly Raisman. It was here that Moceanu learned at a very young age the pressures of competitive gymnastics. And although she went on to achieve great success and fame from her sport, she feels like there should be a better way for children (and their parents) to get the most out of the sport.
“Parents and their children are being told that they have to compete,” said Moceanu. “But why is this? Have you asked yourself as a parent, ‘Why are we doing all this? Where are our dollars going? Why do you have to go to 10-15 meets per year? What is the added value?’ We have to re-evaluate and think: What do we want our dollars going towards and how do we want our children to be developing as gymnasts?”
Moceanu firmly believes that the development of skills at a young age, and not competition, is what’s best for the athletes at her gym. Her goal is to prepare the gymnasts for competition at the high school level and to teach them valuable life skills along the way as well as providing them with a safe and pressure-free environment that will help develop confidence and high self-esteem.
When speaking of the typical gymnastics centers in the area, Moceanu said, “They’re all competition-based for the most part. Mine is the only one right now with this thought process. I feel like there are other ways to approach the sport…there are other ways to improve on the sport.” As she told me this, Moceanu and I stood on a mezzanine overlooking the entire gym. All around us were parents–some sitting off to the side, working on their laptops, others standing alongside us watching their children and some engaged in conversation with fellow parents. This area is an important feature of Moceanu’s gym. Not all gyms have an area like this.
“Some gyms don’t let you watch the kids,” she said incredulously. “How are you going to know if your child is improving? How are you going to know if the coach is treating them right? I’ve decided to be very open with my gym. It’s nice to be able to sit up here and not be closed off to everything and this gives them a good opportunity to have a view of everything that is going on in the gym.”
“Make sure that your children are learning something,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many bad habits I have to keep fixing and it’s the same things over and over again. A lot of coaches get sidetracked and overlook the basics because they are focusing on the ones that have the most talent and they are so concerned with the competition aspect of the sport, not the development of skills.”
Moceanu added, “Competition is great…and I love competing, trust me. I’m a competitor by heart and by nature, but I always tell them: ‘You practice with integrity, from the moment you walk in the door.’ I say, ‘Do you know what that means? Do you know what it means to practice with integrity?…Do everything with excellence. Don’t slack just because you think it doesn’t matter…even when you warm up, do it to the best of your ability! And do it every time, because you’re going to instill this work ethic into your life and you’re going to take it into whatever career path you choose and also with you for the rest of your life!’ And that’s what we are trying to teach here at this center. You have to think of the big picture. All of this is going to make them better people and good citizens.”
Moceanu’s center also provides a yoga studio for anyone in the community who is interested, not just her athletes and their families. She recently became a certified instructor and has other instructors on staff as well. “I’ve only been doing yoga for about 2 1/2 years now,” said Moceanu. “Not a long time, but long enough to know that it’s made a difference in my life!”
To learn more about Dominique Moceanu visit www.dominique-moceanu.com and www.dominiquemoceanugymnasticscenter.com.
734 N. Progress Dr.