Hawaii Academy offering gymnastics at JBPHH

Two-year-old Alyssa Rafal bounces off the trampoline with the help of Hawaii Academy Pearl Harbor trainer Zach Moore during a parent/child session.

Two-year-old Alyssa Rafal bounces off the trampoline with the help of Hawaii Academy Pearl Harbor trainer Zach Moore during a parent/child session.

Story and photos by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor

Since 1999, Hawaii Academy has been inspiring budding gymnasts, both young and older, to a lifetime of physical fitness and love for the sport.

In October, the academy, though an agreement with Morale, Welfare and Recreation, brought its family-friendly program to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and the union is turning out to be a great match.

Located at the former Bloch Arena annex, Hawaii Academy at Pearl Harbor is one of the many new programs offered through MWR youth sports and fitness.

And while it does teach gymnastics to toddlers from 18 months, the facility, said Hawaii Academy Director Max Vercruyssen, also serves adults as well.

“It’s all ages for all abilities,” Vercruyssen said. “We have one-year olds and our oldest (at its Kalihi location) is 99 this year. We have multi-generational families. It’s really lifespan fitness. Our principle interest is gymnastic-type activity for everyone.”

Open from Monday through Saturday, Hawaii Academy at Pearl Harbor has classes for pre-school (ages 3-5), trampoline, tumbling, gymnastics, fitness for all ages, adult gym fit (ages 19-49) and senior flex fit (50-99).

There is even a parent/child class that lets parents assist their children, ages one-three, for fun time on the facility’s padded workout floor and trampoline.

Vercruyssen noted that at Hawaii Academy, parent and child interaction is not only encouraged, but also recommended.

“The goal would be for the adults showing the kids, then the kids growing up to be adults that do it, too,” he said. “Then the grandparents and great

grandparents get involved, so that what you learn, you use your whole life.”

The Pearl Harbor facility is fully stocked with all of the state-of-the-art equipment and apparatus that you would expect to find in a top-class gymnastics-training center.

The former youth basketball and volleyball gymnasium has been totally transformed and features eight rectangular trampo-lines, a tumble tramp, double mini-trampoline, inflatable tumbling strip, parallel bars and still rings.

While the equipment may seem intimidating at first, Mia Vercruyssen, associate director, said that no one is ever expected to do more than they can handle.

“It’s definitely tailored to each individual,” said Mia, who also pointed out that the facility could be booked for birthday parties. “Some are more advanced than others, but it’s pretty much open to everyone. We’ve had all ability levels come through our program.”

Avigail Rafal brought her two-year-old daughter Alyssa to the parent/child class after noticing that she loved to do gymnastic-related activities at home.

Although it was their first time at Hawaii Academy Pearl Harbor, she said that they both enjoyed the experience and will be back for more.

“She (Alyssa) likes it,” Rafal said. “She’s always doing it at home like hanging on things. She likes the bouncing.”

Max added that while gymnastics is a great stand alone fitness program, the exercises in the sport are also beneficial to other areas of life.

In fact, he said, it is a perfect fit for military training.

“Gymnastics is fundamental to all activities,” he said. “All the way back to its origin, it’s doing calisthenics, so it has a direct link to PT in the military.”

Since arriving at JBPHH, Max said that he is absolutely excited about the warm reception that he has received from base families.

Starting off with only 40 students in October, Max said that the enrollment has grown to over 300 participants in only four months.

“People are enthusiastic about having it on base as opposed to going into town,” he stated. “There is such a sense of community.”

For more information about Hawaii Academy Pearl Harbor, visit the MWR website at www .greatlifehawaii.com or call MWR youth sports and fitness at 473-0789.

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Category: News