She’s come a long way baby!
From a young lady with a lot of determination and a couple of fold-out panel mats, Kathy Dwyer, driven by her passion for gymnastics, has grown her business in to three gyms and 1,200 students that now make up U.S. Gold Gymnastics.
With three facilities, two in Miramar Beach and one in Crestview, U.S. Gold is celebrating 25 years this year.
“I was very determined and had big, high goals for myself,” Dwyer said while sitting on the mats in her main gym in Miramar Beach. “Self confidence was never an issue for Miss Kathy. Never as a child … I always thought I was going to the Olympics, thought I would be state champion. Some things happened and some things didn’t. I just figured if I kept working hard and was there all the time and put in a 100 percent. It would just happen.
“Thankfully I’ve been growing steady,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer started in January of 1992 with a couple of mats at the Destin Community Center with about 40 kids and within two months she was already up to 75 youth wanting to learn gymnastics.
After a year at the community center, Dwyer was able to rent space at the Industrial Center on Airport Road in Destin.
“We had no air conditioning, one bench for the parents to sit on and we were backed up behind the sewer plant,” Dwyer said.
But out of that small gym with no spring floor and a low ceiling, Savannah Evans was berthed.
“We only had eight steps to the vaulting runway,” Dwyer said.
So Evans would have to get a running start out of the bathroom, through the door and down the runway to the vaulting horse.
Nevertheless, Evans went on to the University of Florida and scored a perfect 10 on the vault her freshman year and went on to be a four-time first team All-American.
“Yes, those were days,” Dwyer reminisced.
After about five years at the Industrial Park facility, she moved the business east to its current facility at 12432 Emerald Coast Parkway.
“When we got into this building … that’s when it really got real for me,” she said. “I can’t just be a gymnastics coach anymore. Now I have to be a business person. I wasn’t prepared for it. I just flew by the seat of my pants.”
But with the help of some local business people she was able to secure the property, which was then located off a clay road, to build the facility.
“That one little step someone did was invaluable,” Dwyer said.
They moved into the gym in 1997 with about 350 students, and still didn’t have air conditioning.
Slowly and surely she made improvements at the gym, enclosing the parent’s area and adding equipment.
“(Before) I hit 400 kids, I never thought I’d have 400 kids. Then 500 came and 600 came,” Dwyer said.
However, like all business, she said they have hit tough times as well with drops in number of students.
“But I kept my staff,” she said, noting some have been with her 23 years.
Between all three gyms, Dwyer has 40 people on staff, six which are full time.
The Crestview gym opened up in 2012 and then the Team Training gym in Miramar Beach opened in 2013.
Dwyer is a hands-on kind of coach.
She splits her time amid the three gyms, going to Crestview a couple of times a week as well as to the Team Training gym across the road from the main facility in Miramar Beach.
“This is not just going to happen by myself,” Dwyer said. “I go because I believe in it. We work together. This person works with me, not for me. Yes I started it, but it has grown because of the people, both in the office, especially in the office. I’ve been blessed to have great people in the office so I can do what I love to do.”
And her love is “being out of on the floor,” she said.
“If a class is going on, I just have to be out there. The office is not for me,” Dwyer said.
And classes are always happening at U.S. Gold.
U.S. Gold offers classes for kids 18 months old all the way through senior high school.
From preschool programs, the youth move into recreational programs. The recreational programs start with the kindergarten group and up.
“Gymnastics is not an easy sport,” Dwyer said. “A lot of kids are scared to get up on a 4-inch beam that’s above their heads or hang on a high bar or flip over a bar.”
Nevertheless, she said, “I still get excited for a kid who does a backward roll for the first time.”
And just like the youth learning new things, Dwyer has learned to stop talking and learned to listen to peoples' suggestions.
Out of those suggestions, Kid’s Night Out was berthed as well as open gym on Friday mornings.
“It’s an open gym, no instruction … they get to play,” Dwyer said, noting it’s a good break for the parents as well.
But what’s next for U.S. Gold?
“I’m at a crossroads,” Dwyer said. “We are almost outgrowing this facility. We’re thinking about adding onto this building.
“In my 20s it was figuring out the kids. I was all about gymnastics. I didn’t know how to talk to the kids," she said. "The 30s was figuring out the parents. Understanding what it was like to be a mom. Now I know and I don’t know how you do it with more than one child.”
Her 40s was about figuring out the employees and the new generation.
And now at 50, “what’s next?” she pondered
“The goal is getting more scholarships for the kids. For us that’s the ultimate goal,” she said.