Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: LaFleur’s Gymnastics Club of Largo is not hurting for business.
With nearly 850 current members and more than 800 state, regional and national champions having trained at the 20,000-square-foot facility, LaFleur’s is unquestionably one of the biggest gymnastics schools in the area.
But according to owners Mike and Melody LaFleur, every four years, business gets even better.
“There’s always an Olympics boost at this time of year,” said Mike LaFleur, a Wisconsin native and an accomplished gymnast himself.
“A lot of times it depends on how the U.S. team does. When they do great, or one gymnast in particular does well, we do well.”
This year, with the entire United States women’s team — Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman in particular — having captured the nation’s hearts, business at LaFleur’s is understandably brisk.
“The phones have been ringing off the hook,” LaFleur said.
Founded 32 years ago by three members of the LaFleur family, Mike and Melody, who is also a former competitive gymnast, took over the business in the late '80s and helped build it into the powerhouse it is today.
According to the LaFleurs, the majority of their members are there to participate in classes, the stress-free, fun-filled activities that help pass the time when school is out and give kids a chance to find out how much they like the sport.
But a number of the students move on to teams, where they are placed in levels based on age and skill set. LaFleur’s teaches levels 3-10, with 10 being right below elite, or Olympic, level.
“The bulk of our business is kids who want to try gymnastics and have fun doing it,” Mike LaFleur said. “Some have ambitions of becoming a gymnast, but others just come to have fun.”
So what do the LaFleurs tell the ones who watch the Olympians on TV and then come in and say they want to be the next Shawn Johnson or Jordyn Wieber?
“We’re very honest with them,” Melody said. “We tell them to have a great time, make sure you love the sport, and see where it takes you from there.”
“I never tell a kid they can’t make it to the next level,” Mike said. “They’ll find out themselves whether they can or not.”
Address: 8550 126th Ave. N.
Hours: please visit their website for class schedules and information