BATON ROUGE – Daily conditioning, practicing and stumbles all to stick the landing are a part of Baton Rouge Valor Elite Group’s weekly routine.
Maycee McKnight has filed into the Elite Group after 10 years of practicing gymnastics.
“I’m excelling more than I think I would have,” McKnight said.
But Simone Biles’ Olympic mental health crisis after dropping out of gymnastics events this summer changed McKnight’s perspective.
“Maybe something’s really going on, and maybe this is an important thing that we really need to look at and call more attention to,” McKnight said.
McKnight can relate to Biles as she has also battled with physical injuries and self-pressures. Not only are gymnasts balancing on the beams, but they are now balancing their mental and physical health as well with the help of Valor Gymnastics.
“We partnered with a physical therapy group called METS because part of mental health is physical health,” owner of Valor Gymnastics, Bryan Kiser said.
Kiser also said Valor has paired with Patient Plus, an urgent care clinic, and has advanced parent communications.
While Valor Gymnastics is full, Kiser stated his gym still experienced a 15% decrease in enrollment compared to other Olympic years.
“What we have gotten as gym club owners is, ‘hey, you guys are pushing these girls, what are you doing for their mental health,” Kiser said.
As the subject of sexual abuse in athletics has received more national attention, Kiser focuses on openness with glass windows for parents as well as security cameras.
“I have nothing to hide,” Kiser said.
Another major improvement at Valor, Kiser does not allow his coaches to yell or scream at gymnasts.
“There’s no yelling and screaming at my gym,” Kiser said. “No one is pushing kids really hard. We keep them moving. The fun is in learning the gymnastics.”
With gymnastics also comes physical and mental injuries. Valor’s partnership with METS Physical Therapy allows the gymnasts to have a safe space to go when feeling any pain or anxiety.
“One of our gymnasts likes to come in any time she has anything—if Mr. Mike says she is okay, then she knows she is okay,” said Kirby Moseley, CEO of METS.
With METS’ specialty features such as the Oxfit and Gameready, young gymnasts can be treated before major injuries occur and can avoid lengthy referral procedures.
“Confidence in knowing that if something goes wrong, Mike’s going to get me back,” said Michael Moseley, METS Physical Therapist and Owner.
METS has the only Oxfit pre-screening machine in the state as well as a Gameready machine and other features that are helpful for performance enhancement for young, developing gymnasts.
Gymnasts pay a monthly fee to receive this special membership that allows Moseley to examine any injury or pain that may be bothering them.
“We are able to see them from that first ‘my elbow hurts,’” Kirby Moseley said.
Kiser hopes other gyms throughout Louisiana will follow his program.
“For the state, this is something to be modeled, and for the country, it’s time to turn the page,” Kiser said.
McKnight will continue to train for competition season in January and hopes to compete for an SEC school one day.
“I know that I’m going in the right direction and doing the right things,” McKnight said.
Through her gymnastics journey, McKnight knows she has the support of not only her family but her Valor team as well.
“If I feel that I’m stressed out, I talk to a coach and my parents. We say ‘Okay, let’s plan something out and make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed,’” McKnight said.
The new wave of mental and physical health focus in gymnastics may bring a new generation of all-around healthy gymnasts.