Towny Waco: Longtime Friendship behind Flips Gymnastics
(Welcome to the Act Locally Waco/Towny blog series. Towny is an app that exists to connect consumers with local businesses. It’s fairly new to Waco and is loaded with answers to the question, “Why local?” Through this blog series, the folks at Towny will be sharing the stories behind some of our high-quality, local products and helping you get to know some of our energetic local entrepreneurs. We hope you enjoy it! Supporting local business is a terrific way to support the Waco economy! Plus, it’s just fun to get to know your neighbors. For more posts in this blog series, click here: Towny Waco.– ALW)
by Beth Whittington
Normally, a gymnastics facility is just that, but at Flips Gymnastics in Waco, Texas, there’s (unintentionally!) much, much more behind the name. We’re hearing from Stephanie Mayfield, owner of Flips, to hear about the place where generation after generation are…learning to flip!
What’s the story behind Flips?
I lived outside of Dallas, in Duncanville, and did competitive gymnastics for seven years with coach Darlene Brooks at her gym, Duncanville Gymnastics Center. It was so different then – I actually didn’t start until I was 10 and did it until I was 17.
(Stephanie won three state championships, went to nationals, and was a regional competitor in Texas.)
I also worked for Darlene through high school. I got out of competitive gymnastics and did cheer my senior year and went on to the University of Texas at Arlington – majored in business. Duncanville wasn’t very far from Arlington so when I was 20, I worked for her again for my last two years of college at the gymnastic center that I grew up in.
Darlene and her husband inherited some land and were going to be moving to West, Texas. For one of my projects at school, we did a business plan on starting a gym in Waco. (Stephanie laughs.) That was Flips!
So, I proposed it to Darlene’s husband and he said if you can find a gym, we’ll see. We found an existing gym in Hewitt. Darlene and her husband bought it out, and that became Flips.
I managed Flips starting in 1993. I coached and Darlene coached, we both were very involved with it. Ten years later, in 2003, we bought another existing facility in Waco, actually the location we are in now. In 2008, my husband and I bought the Brooks’ out and have owned Flips for the last 10 years and Darlene actually runs our office – she’s our office manager. (Plot twist! Didn’t see that one coming!) She is still there; we have not parted ways. My husband now coaches, we offer recreational gymnastics, and have been opened for 25 years!
How does Flips benefit kids?
It can be SO beneficial for kids at every level. You do not have to be that kid that thinks they’re going to be in the Olympics. It’s so beneficial for every other sport, you know?
I don’t know that we see the fruit of everything we build, but we have kids in all the time where their doctors say they need to be more coordinated, they need to have more body control – and everything these kids are doing in gymnastics– that’s exactly what they’re improving. They look like they’re swinging on a ring and dropping in a pit. But they’re learning to control their body and when they land, they’re not just flopping and hurting themselves. There are so many things they learn!
We have kids who started out at three and four and five years old. They go on to play soccer and when they trip on the soccer field, instead of hitting the ground on their face, they know to roll out. They have so much more body control in other sports. We’re just building a good foundation that leads to a lot of things. And then some kids learn to tumble and go on to do cheer or diving. But what we give them as young kids – strength, flexibility, and body awareness – you don’t get in other sports.
What did gymnastics teach you as a kid?
I spent hours and hours in the gym so learning self-discipline, learning to prioritize my time, a work ethic I wouldn’t have gotten had I not gone deep into a competitive sport. It taught me a lot of independence, that an injury can change everything. If you have big goals and then have an injury, it deters your entire focus. I learned about failure, as well. I had a lot of success, but I had to learn to fail, too.
What do you offer at Flips?
There’s not the intensity here that I had growing up in gym. We want to provide a safe place; we want them smiling, happy. We don’t offer a pressure sport; we want them to learn skills, have fun with their friends, and have some value come out of it as well.
We start at two and a half-year-olds – our kids take gymnastics until age 12. We offer recreational gymnastics that has all the events: vault, bars, balance beams, floor, trampolines, safety foam pit, rings, all within a 15,000 square foot facility that is fully air-conditioned. (Stephanie wanted everyone to know that!!)
And then we offer a basic cheer/tumble class and a basic tumble class. We don’t offer competitive cheer or gymnastics but we do offer grooming for both of those. Both boys and girls come to Flips, beginner to advanced classes. It’s mostly a one hour a week recreational gymnastics class.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about Flips?
I don’t think a lot of people know our story. Especially when they walk in, because, a lot of people that call the gym know Darlene, like, they know her name, but they have no idea that the backstory is that our roles are almost entirely flipped, except, in addition, she was my coach. I think that backstory makes the story of our gym quite different. A lot of people don’t even know she ever coached gymnastics, much less was my coach and owned the gym at one time.
What has the relationship been like?
She was my coach, which– any competitive gymnast has a very strong relationship with your coach because you spend so much time with them, weekly. So, she was very much a mother figure to me for many years and it evolved, more so as I got to be a little older, into a friendship. And we truly are best friends. Before we knew our spouses, we knew each other. We have a very long history. We have known each other for 37 years. We have always had a respect for one another that we could respect our work roles yet change over and have a personal friendship outside of work. It’s a pretty rare thing we’ve been able to do – work for each other and sell a business one to the other and then, still, we are best friends.
What do You two like to do together outside of work?
We don’t spend as much time as we used to, but (she laughs) we eat Mexican food every week together! We’re just good friends all the time, though. We’ve vacationed together…we were in each others’ weddings. I actually wore her wedding dress!
What does it mean to you when people shop local?
The mere fact that we do have a wonderful gym. We have many, many people who took at Flips when they were children and now bring their child. That’s SUCH a compliment. People tell their friends to bring their kids here and that is the BEST compliment I could get.
What do you love about Waco?
I love that it is a city but that it has such a small-town feel, I love that it’s Christ-centered. It’s a wonderful place to raise your kids. It’s such a great environment to raise your kids…I love that you turn on the TV and see people you know. You open up magazines and see people you know. It is big enough that people you meet, you may not know them, but you know the same people – you’re inner-connected.
Beth Whittington remembers sitting on the Waco suspension bridge as a girl, visiting family friends. Legs dangling off, watching the Fourth of July fireworks spark the sky. Been a Waco local for the better part of 19 years. Gaps explainable by the awkwardly untrue term of “ex-missionary.” Beth thrives on: generating ideas + copywriting. Can’t wait to: visit South Africa. Favorite part of Waco: Bangkok Royale + the HOTHTC. Wants: everyone in Waco to get Towny because it’ll make life better for us all if we let it.
Take your local support up a notch – pop in Towny + have a look around.
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