Happy Birthday Cherokee Gym, aka Texas East Gymnastics, aka Texas East Kids!
That’s right, we just celebrated our 50th birthday. The Parsley family has been serving kids of east Texas a long time and looking back, it’s easy to see paramount change, but we think it’s more interesting to look at what has stayed the same!
As we’ve grown our name changed, our street number changed, our building size changed and our city changed. “Growth” in a service industry also means keeping up with the times so our apparel changed, our hairstyles changed, our equipment and coaching techniques changed and our interface with technology has changed and allowed us to become more efficient at serving you!
In the midst of all that change though, two constants have remained, #1 kids are still kids and #2 TEK’s mission to kids since 1969. From day one we have been determined to instill an “I Can!” attitude in every child and keep them in the habit of enjoying being physically active.
Kids In Action
Recently, I had the pleasure of watching kids make choices about how to occupy their time. I was at a “back to school bash” and activities like swimming, a slackline and corn hole were easily accessible. No one was told what they could or couldn’t do so certainly the air-conditioned house with activities like tv, Xbox, and cell phones were also an option.
To my delight, I watched boys and girls alike choose to stay outside in the sun and water and move their body and brains in active ways! They swam and played in the water, challenged each other to races, and even enjoyed relaxation and face to face conversation. All eventually experimented on the slackline and some took a turn at corn hole.
And then it happened, kids began thinking for themselves and using their imagination. Almost spontaneously a wrestling match (in the grass!) ensued with opponents who lined up to wrestle the winner! Still, others noticed bamboo in the neighboring yard; then they sought out tools, cut stalk after stalk of the bamboo, then designed, built and launched their boat!
So you see the “Back to School Bash” proves that the kids behind cell phones today are still the same as those in 1969! Furthermore, with the onset of technology activities like swimming, balancing, throwing, wrestling, and yes chopping bamboo and building a boat have become absolutely critical for kid’s continued brain development.
Studies In Brain Development
Not only does physical activity instill an “I Can!” attitude but research is showing the positive relationship between “high aerobic fitness levels and improved concentration, attentional control, accuracy and faster reaction times.” (Hillman et al 2009b; Hillman et al 2005).
Not surprisingly then studies have also proven that “fit children tend to have greater brain volume in the hippocampus, a brain region associated with memory (Chaddock-Heyman et al 2014) and these kids show signs of enhanced long-term retention.
When schools have programs that allow kids a couple of short bouts (20 minutes) of physical activity it is proven that test performance improves (Altenburg 2015). And when schools go a step further and offer after-school exercise programs “kids who get 70 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day show improvements solving tasks that taxed executive control (what helps us pay attention, plan and resist distractions) and working memory (Kamijo et al 2012; David et al 2007).
It is really cool to know that scientists have literally proven cause and effect of physical activity and brain development, but people don’t really need to read scientific journals to know movement is important; movement is innate to life itself and history shows that clearly, folks just need to follow their instincts.
Thankfully many in East Texas do just that! Hiking and biking trails are more abundant, parks are upgrading green spaces and play equipment, and soccer and baseball fields are more often full than not. Hopefully, children are receiving the same opportunity for brain breaks and physical movements within their school days.
As Texas East Kids looks forward to another 50 years I can’t guarantee what our name will be, or what will be fashionable but I can guarantee that kids will still be kids and that, God willing, the Parsley family will continue to instill an “I Can!” attitude in children along with a joy of physical activity so that their brains can develop to their maximum potential.