Up Close: Deaf Coaches Teach Gymnastics At Lehi Gym
LEHI, Utah – A one-of-a-kind gymnastic gym is making believers out of kids hoping to one day compete in the world stage.
What sets this gym apart from the others? The two head coaches were both born completely deaf, and one of them is also blind in the right eye.
“In my good eye I have to guess where I am in the air,” said 36-year-old Aimee Walker Pond through an interpreter who speaks sign language.
Aimee is a former internationally recognized elite gymnast who competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials and was on the UCLA gymnastic team that won the NCAA National Championship in 2004.
She later transferred closer to home to Brigham Young University where she competed in 2006 and 2007.
“I could never start thinking it’s too hard. I had to tell myself that quote – ‘Never, never, give up,’ was always going through my mind,” she told KSL’s Dan Rascon.
Aimee is not alone. Coaching at the very same gym is one-time national gymnastic champion Kevin Perkins, who was also born deaf.
“I didn’t really care what people said about me if they said negative things about me if they said the deaf couldn’t do it I would just have to prove them wrong,” Perkins said.
— Dan Rascon (@TVDanRascon) August 21, 2019
As far as they know, they are the only two elite gymnast in the world who are completely deaf.
When Aimee was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times. She barely managed to survive.
“The doctor told my parents that I possibly would never be able to walk. I would not be an athlete,” she said.
They later found out she was deaf. It was devastating news, especially to her mother, who was a talented musician who played the drums in a popular band, The Clingers.
“She was devastated, but both of my parents… they are the best and they are super optimist,” Aimee said.
As a result, by the age of two, Aimee was walking.
“I just started taking some unassisted steps. It started slow and my parents looked at each other, they looked at me and their jaws were hanging open. They start(ed) crying. They couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Aimee.
By the age of eight, she was on her road to become an incredible gymnast, even getting a chance to perform in the hit TV show Baywatch next to David Hasselhoff.
After all of her success, she now has her dream job – coaching at her own gym called Champion Sports Center in Lehi which she runs with her husband.
“Yes definitely a dream come true. Ever since I was a young kid this has always been a dream of mine, to be a coach, to work with kids. I love children,” said Aimee who’s incredible story can now be found in print. The book is titled, “No Excuses”
“Never think something like, deaf can’t, blind can’t, people can,” she said.
Kevin, who moved from out of state to come to Utah to work at the gym, is also living the dream as a head coach. Something he has also always wanted to do.
“I was never able to be a head coach because people thought that I couldn’t. Moving here I can prove people wrong that I can be a head coach and I can do things like that,” said Kevin through a sign language interpreter.
This kind of attitude from the head coaches have made believers out of parents and their kids who take lessons.
There are about 400 kids enrolled in a variety of classes. They also hold two classes for the deaf children.
“I was concerned, I was worried that he was not going to be able to understand what she wanted him to accomplish,” said Brittany Meredith who’s nine year old boy is one of Aimee’s students. “It was the exact opposite. He was watching her he couldn’t space off or look off into the distance, because he had to be looking at her because she wasn’t speaking.”
“I like it because in my old gym it was so loud, everybody was so loud,” said Sienna Perry, one of the students. “Here everybody is paying attention and focusing. It helps me learn a lot more.”
For more information about Champion Sports Center in Lehi, visit their site, championssportscentercsc.com.
The gym is holding a grand opening Saturday from 11 a.m.to 2 p.m.