Senior send their passion to the next generation of athletes

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Senior Elise Ezekiel assists one of her gymnasts with a handstand.

Isabella (Isa) Searle, Mirada Staff

If you walk into Fliptastic on a Tuesday afternoon, you will find senior Elise Ezekiel teaching a group of level 2 gymnasts to properly perform a handstand while senior Matthew Taylor tries to reign in his chaotic yet talented tumbling class of young boys. Both competing and teaching gymnastics, Ezekiel and Taylor have dedicated themselves to the sport. 

Teaching beginning and intermediate tumbling as well as level one and two gymnasts, Ezekiel spends around 14 hours a week working. She feels that she has taken on an important role in her students’ life. 

“Gymnastics classes from when I was a kid were always super fun because I got to learn new skills and because of the way my coaches made me feel,” she said. “Being that person for other kids now means the world to me and I love seeing everyone having a great time, just like I did.”

Taylor has been coaching since 2018. During his three years of teaching, he has coached the boy’s competitive team, ninja classes (a class that combines traditional elements of gymnastics with parkour) and tumbling classes. 

“Being a gymnastics coach is so fulfilling,” he said. “I have always loved working with children and now that I have been able to teach them the gymnastics I learned when I was young is a dream come true.”

Ezekiel, once a level 7 competitive gymnast who now takes recreational classes, takes inspiration from her past while working in order to give her students the best experience possible. 

“I base most of how I interact with my athletes on how I interacted with my coaches when I was younger,” she said. “I like to incorporate the activities I enjoyed doing while taking classes into the ones I teach today.”

Whether it’s seeing an athlete getting a skill they’ve been working hard on or just telling a joke to make a student smile, Taylor expresses that coaching is one of the most rewarding aspects of his life. 

“I think the most rewarding part of being a gymnastics coach is to see the growth and development of my students both regarding their skills and as people,” he said. 

Having a job as a coach gives Taylor a lot of flexibility during his shifts. Each week, his classes will do something different and he continually thinks of new rotations so his students don’t get bored. However, his classes do have to have some structure in the form of goals for both himself and his students so that everyone stays on track. 

“I tell my students to do a certain amount of one skill or complete a circuit X amount of times before moving on to something else or joking around with classmates so they can get work done while still having a lot of fun,” he said. “As for myself, I just make sure that I’m constantly in motion and talking with all my students so everyone gets the same treatment.”

Both working and practicing several hours a week, Ezekiel and Taylor have found a way to send their passion for the sport along to the next generation of gymnasts.

“Seeing the kids smile after they finally get down a skill they have been working really hard on makes it all worth it,” Ezekiel said.

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