Today, we are sharing some amazing people who you’ve probably come across at some point in your parenting journey. Each one is sharing his/her passion with our children and influencing the paths they take in life. Whether it’s through sports, the arts, music and education – these dedicated people are doing incredible things in our community every single day.
Fall is a big registration push for many of these businesses. So make sure you check out each and every one of them. We couldn’t be more proud of what these folks are doing for our little Smarties!
Note: This is a long feature, but such a GOODIE! So go get yourself some coffee and get cozy with this one!
Coach Justin Hardin, Head Football Coach, Charlotte Latin School
1. What’s your background in football?
This is my 14th year as a football coach. I was an assistant coach at Weddington HS, West Point Academy, South Pointe HS in South Carolina, and Charlotte Latin from 2007-2009. I’ve been a Head Coach at Weddington HS, Providence HS, Independence HS, and now at Charlotte Latin School. I’ve also served as an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator throughout my coaching career.
2. What’s your coaching philosophy?
I believe in developing relationships with my players based on trust and respect. I also believe in being a great teacher, and lead by example. I believe in Effort, Attitude, and Discipline.
3. This is your first season as head coach of Charlotte Latin School. What are you most looking forward to this season?
I’m looking forward to creating a great chemistry with our football team and coaches. I’m really eager to watch the Hawks fly around on Friday night, and give it their best effort.
4. What other coach (football or other) do you most admire and why?
My father – Bruce Hardin, my twin brother – Blair Hardin, Bobby Ross, Larry McNulty, and Bill Belichick, Mike Krzyewski.
5. What do you like most about coaching high school players?
I really enjoying getting to know my players as people and building a relationship with them, as they mature into young men.
6. What do you expect of your players?
I expect my players to act 1st class, represent their school and families in a correct manner. I also expect my players to have a positive attitude and great effort in everything they do.
7. How do you think football prepares young men for the future?
I believe football creates so many life lesson opportunities through the physical and mental demands of the sport. The time, preparation, and structure in football helps develop a core foundation of life long lessons. I believe the physical demands of football challenges young men in a positive way to push themselves to create real life experiences.
Charlotte Latin School
Charlotte Soccer Academy Coaches
1) Tell us about CSA and how it has grown.
Charlotte Soccer Academy was formed in 2009 by the merger of South Charlotte Soccer Association and Charlotte Soccer Club. CSA is the only full service club in the greater Charlotte area, offering our members opportunities to play and develop at all ages and levels: Recreation, 9U/10U Youth Academy, Classic, Southern Regional Premier League, and US Soccer Development Academy. CSA has grown to become seven geographic divisions: CSA-Charlotte, CSA-Matthews/Mint Hill, CSA-North/Cabarrus, CSA-Huntersville, CSA-Palisades, CSA-Uptown and CSA-Palmetto.
2) Tell us about CSA’s recreational program vs. competitive program. How do you decide which is a better fit for your child?
At CSA, we know that choosing the appropriate fit for your child can be confusing. The recreational level is a great option and it gives CSA staff the opportunity to see skill and ability level for the players and give guidance for future placement and paths. Once on the competitive side, tryouts are required so placement is directed by the staff. With each level of play, there are varying levels of time and money.
CSA’s Recreational soccer program has a fall season and a separate spring season and is open to boys and girls of all levels of ability. There are no player evaluations or tryouts – everyone who registers is placed on a team. Practices once a week/one local game. Many players who are interested in trying out for competitive teams begin their training by building a solid foundation in our recreational program. Our Recreational program includes our Junior Academy teams and pools, which are formed each season based on evaluations of players that show interest and aptitude for moving to our competitive program.
CSA forms teams at several levels of competitive (travel) soccer at each of our locations based on the results of formal tryouts held in the spring of each year. All players must attend tryouts every spring to be considered for a spot on a competitive team for the following year (August through May). Following tryouts, CSA will present qualified players with an offer of a position on a competitive team based on their demonstrated level of ability. Players and families are made aware of the team’s planned playing level, coach assignment and travel/tournament expectations prior to player commitment. Once the player accepts his position on the team, he is committed to CSA and that team for the entire playing year (August – May).
The start of the US Soccer Development Academy program at Charlotte Soccer Academy (CSA) in the fall of 2007 was one of the most important initiatives by the club. The Academy is designed to provide very high quality training, games and showcase events for talented youth soccer players. Through correct development and individual desire it is expected that many of the players will be identified to play at the collegiate, professional and National Team levels.
3) What is the best age to get your child started in soccer?
Since we offer rec at all ages, we have children start soccer as young as 4.5 years old and as old as 18. We think any age is a great age to start! Families looking for a more competitive option for their children do tend to start them at younger ages.
4) What is the coaching philosophy of CSA?
The mission of Charlotte Soccer Academy includes a five-pronged philosophy:
-An integrated soccer experience – Access to all levels of play.
-Quality coaching and instruction – State-of-the-art curriculum for our players.
-Reasonable fees – Leverage buying power, sponsorships and size to provide the best value for our members
-Investment in player development at all levels – Charlotte Soccer Academy’s objective is for each player to have a balanced and fulfilling experience regardless of the level of play.
-A family-oriented environment – Players and staff will make friendships that will last a lifetime.
5) How does year-round soccer prepare kids for middle and high school teams?
Physical activity of any type is so important! It helps brains as well as keeps our bodies fit! Year-round soccer programs for players wanting to participate in school programs can give the “edge” to keep the body in shape and game ready. Bodies that are used to a rigorous and age appropriate training schedule tend to have less injuries.
6) Do you ever see athletes burn out if they start year-round sports early?
Just like any sport there will be players that burn out. For players who have played at a highly competitive level, burn out can happen. What we most commonly hear isn’t as much burn out as much as that other activities also become important, especially when players enter high school and start to establish a more rigorous school schedule and of course, a social schedule. Others continue throughout high school ages, consider playing in college, and then decide it’s time to hang up the soccer cleats and be a full-time college student.
7) How do you encourage kids who didn’t make their high school team or competitive CSA team and motivate them to try out again the following year?
This is one reason that feel our recreational program is so important! This season we are focusing on helping each player find their personal success. We will be using the children’s book Inch and Miles the Journey to Success, by Coach John Wooden as part of our recreational lesson plans. If you are unfamiliar with Coach John, he is a former basketball coach and teacher at UCLA. It is said that his UCLA basketball teams are responsible for creating “March Madness” and won 10 national championships, (7 in a row!) and had 4 perfect seasons with an 88-game winning streak and 38 straight victories in tournament play. (To say that he knows a little bit about coaching is a slight understatement.) It’s a children’s book that every adult should read!!!
8) What is your favorite part about coaching kids?
I think all of our coaches in CSA would say getting to be around kids and watching them find success. It’s amazing to see players who started with us at the age of 5 and they are now on high school age teams!
9) How do we sign up?
Fall rec season is in session right now. Spring rec season opens mid-December and the season starts in middle-end of February.
Tryouts for competitive soccer take place in May of each year. **Exception is for the older girls – those occur sometime in February or March of each year, so check the CSA website and often!
Fall Rec soccer registration opens in June, season starts at the end of August.
Spring Rec soccer registration opens in mid-December and season starts end of February/March.
Elizabeth Dewey, Instructor at Jami Masters School of Dance
Elizabeth Dewey began her dance training at Morgantown School of Dance and the WVU Dance Ensemble in Morgantown, WV. She is a graduate of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she received a BA in Dance with a concentration in ballet. Elizabeth attended Point Park on a dance and presidential academic scholarship. She has performed with the Morgantown Ballet and the Pittsburgh Playhouse Dance Company. This is Elizabeth’s 15th year teaching at Jami Masters School of Dance.
1) Tell us how you got started in dance.
My parents tell me that I just danced around the house, so they asked me if I wanted to take dance class. I started taking ballet when I was six years old and have always loved it. I never wanted to do any other after school activities as a kid, and as I got older, I became more committed and advanced. I wanted to take ballet class and rehearse/perform as often as I could. By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to a conservatory of the arts for college to major in ballet.
2) What age do you recommend little girls and boys get started in dance?
I think any age the child shows interest. Dance class is wonderful for preschool age kids because it offers them a chance to have fun, be creative, learn basic movement skills, musicality, and have social interaction. Older kids can learn technical dance skills and a sense of discipline and commitment.
3) What classes should they take and how many? Benefits of exposing to multiple styles of dance?
Most children should probably start with one class a week until they are sure they really like it. Until kindergarten, I would recommend combo classes or a pre-ballet or very basic acrobatics class. By 1st or 2nd grade (when dance classes become more technique based) I would have the child try different styles to see what they like the best. I always say that they should at least take ballet because it is the foundation and helps with most other styles of dance. Once a child receives a good technical foundation (through ballet), they should definitely try multiple styles to become a well-rounded and versatile dancer.
4) When a dancer gets more serious about dance, what advice do you have to prepare them for auditions?
I say, go to as many auditions as possible. Auditions can be nerve-racking, so the more experience that a dancer has with them, the better. Dancers should also ask their dance teachers for audition advice as most teachers should have experience with them. Try to learn from as many different teachers as possible and have a good foundation of technique and vocabulary (especially ballet). No matter what happens, just try to have fun with auditions!
5) How do competitions factor into dance training?
I don’t have a lot of knowledge about dance competitions, but they do offer dancers more opportunities to perform, which is always a great thing. The more comfortable a dancer can become with being on stage, the more likely they are to be able perform without stage fright. There is nothing better than the ability to just let muscle memory take over and completely get lost in performing.
6) How can dance help condition an athlete for other sports?
Dance is a great thing for athletes to add to their training. Dance helps with gross motor skills, agility, flexibility, strength, endurance, muscle tone, and believe it or not, quick thinking. Everyone, not just athletes, can benefit from taking dance!
7) How do you use your dance training for auditions at your school?
Dancers use their training for auditions specifically at Jami Masters by auditioning for Junior Company (rising 6th-8th graders) and Company (rising high schoolers). One of the goals at Jami Masters School of Dance, is to train well-rounded dancers. To get in to either company, dancers must be proficient at Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Tap, all of which they are required to take if they make it. Then they have the option to take other classes such as Contemporary, Lyrical, Hip Hop, and Musical Theater. We try to prepare elementary school age kids by encouraging them to take at least the first four disciplines before they audition.
8) At what age is it safe for my child to take Ballet Pointe?
The answer to this question varies by student. It depends on how many times a week and for how many years a dancer has taken ballet technique. They need to have great core and ankle strength to be able to safely take pointe class. Many dancers and parents don’t realize how easily students can be injured if they take pointe before they are ready. It is important to take ballet classes and make sure that your ballet teacher gives permission before you go out and buy pointe shoes.
9) Nutrition and dance – how does a balanced diet help a dancer throughout his/her career? Favorite snacks to always have in a dance bag?
A balanced diet is absolutely important for a dancer. Protein, complex carbs, fruits and vegetables are the way to go to feel energized but not too full. I always feel so much better if I eat healthy meals before I teach. I also drink lots of water and keep a water bottle with me when I’m at the studio. My favorite things to snack on are almonds, granola bars, baby carrots, and I almost always have a homemade smoothie with me when I am teaching.
10) How can I register my child for JMSD classes?
JMSD is currently registering students for the 2018/19 dance year. Parents can register online at jamimastersschoolofdance.com or at the studio in the back court of Park Road Shopping Center.
Jami Masters School of Dance
Park Road Shopping Center / Back Court
Charlotte, NC 28209
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Caroline Calouche, Charlotte Cirque & Dance Center
How long have you been in aerial dance and how did you get started teaching?
I started dancing when I was 8 years old and began flying at 27 (now 38). I started small with people who knew I was getting into aerial dance. From my ballet, Pilates and Gyrokinesis training, I immediately created a syllabus and analyzed the aerial skills to make aerial dance accessible to a variety of body types and experience. Full bio here!
Tell us about Charlotte Cirque & Dance Center.
Charlotte Cirque and Dance Center, will move you to new heights not only in your physical training but in everyday life. The programs will support your aspirations whether they be professional or an adventurous hobbyist. Specializing in Aerial Silks, Contemporary Dance, Lyra, Trapeze, Jazz, Acrobatics, Hip-hop, Spanish Web, Hand Balancing, Ballet and more for all ages. We are dedicated to inspiring people of diverse backgrounds to explore beyond their boundaries through performance and education. Our vision is to create educational opportunities for people to experience the world from a unique and artistic perspective, which will enrich their lives and the lives of those around them.
Tell us about your teaching philosophy.
Our teaching philosophy values creativity, support, understanding and community. While we teach skills and technique, the faculty also focuses on helping students see dance as an form of expression and an art form. This involves a student to problem solve how to use their body, mind and soul to convey meaning.
Tell us about your instructors.
Our instructors are diverse in background and have extensive experience in performance and teaching.
At what age do you recommend a dancer get started in aerial?
Our classes start at age 6 with an adult program.
What classes do you offer?
Contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, acrobatics, partnering, aerial silks, trapeze, aerial lyra, rope, Spanish web and Pilates.
Next Performance: Perspective. September 15-16 from 11a-4p, on the façade of the Mint Museum Uptown.
Aaron Hinz, Head Coach, Carolina Diving Academy
Aaron Hintz is currently the Head Coach at Carolina Diving Academy in Huntersville. He has diving running through his veins and he’s always looking for young athletes who he can expose diving to. Not because he’s looking for the next Olympic champions, although he can be found coaching a few of those on any given day. But because he has a true passion for the sport of diving. You’ll catch this vibe the minute you meet him.
Carolina Diving Academy is one of those best kept secrets in the QC. We hear about the amazing swim program in our community but you never hear about diving. Did you know that HFFA’s Carolina Diving Academy Huntersville facility is the only public facility in the Southeast with an Olympic-sized, 50-meter competition pool and 10-meter dive tower and that HFFA regularly hosts aquatics events with up to 2,000 spectators for regional, national, and international swim and dive competitions? Didn’t think so. People come from all over the country to little ‘ole Huntersville. We felt like we needed to shed some light on this amazing program. If you have a diver in high school, chances are they train in Huntersville, under Aaron’s guidance. He’s pretty amazing and we can’t wait for you to meet him!
How long have you been a diving coach?
I started coaching in 1990 at Coe College, a division III school in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That was enough for me to catch the bug. I began coaching in earnest as an assistant age-group coach at Tualatin Hills Dive Club near Portland, Oregon in 1994 and haven’t stopped since. My career has taken me through Muncie, Indiana, as an assistant at Ball State University; Noblesville, Indiana, as the head coach of my first age-group program; Western Illinois University as a head diving coach at the Division I level; then to Orlando, Florida and Team Orlando – an elite age-group team; then here to Huntersville 10 years ago when I established the Carolina Diving Academy and started coaching at Davidson College. In 2015, I left Davidson to concentrate exclusively on the age-group divers who were preparing for Olympic Trials and Senior Nationals.
The Carolina Diving Academy is a comprehensive diving program that accommodates divers of all interest and skill levels. We have divers ages 5 to 62 years old, some who have just started and others who are national finalists or Olympic Trials competitors. While our Elite team supports national and international aspirations, our lessons program encourages the exploration of sport just for the fun of it and stretches from diveKIDS for those 5-7 years old to masters practices for those young at heart but up to 90 and more, chronologically.
Tell us your coaching philosophy.
Our official philosophy is: “There is no diving gene. Some people learn more quickly, but everyone can learn.”
Any skill can be taught to anyone if broken down into small enough pieces. Some divers need to be shown a skill only once to learn it, and others on the opposite end of the spectrum need a skill broken down to its most basic elements, and one’s mode of learning does not necessarily indicate the quality of the outcome. Our entire program is based on this principle.
What options do we have in the Greater Charlotte Area if our kids are interested in diving?
We are the only year-round diving program. There is a fantastic summer league diving program called the “Greater Charlotte Diving League” in South Charlotte that provides a great initial exposure to aspiring divers. The Plym Twins started in this league!
What is the “best” age for a child to start diving?
Ideally, prospective divers will find us at or around age 9 – this gives us time to introduce diving slowly and focus on fun for a while before settling down to prepare for competitions. But really, the best age is whatever age they are right now!
How do gymnastics and diving go together?
Gymnastic skills are used in diving and are very valuable, but the skills are not executed exactly the same way. Divers and gymnasts flip, but we initiate the flip differently because the springboard is much slower than the spring floor. Divers and gymnasts twist, but we initiate the twist differently because we have to enter the water head first instead of landing on our feet. Sometimes gymnasts make the transition quickly and sometimes it takes a little longer – generally gymnasts advance quickly in diving.
At what age should a diver consider the Elite Team?
The perfect age is the year he or she turns 11, with either a couple of years of diving under their belt or a combination of experiences in other sports like soccer, basketball, gymnastics or tumbling. But, we have had divers start on Elite upon entering their junior year of high school who ended up diving at the division I level in college.
What does a training schedule look like for an Elite athlete?
Our Elite divers train 3.5 hours per day and 17.5 hours per week. The typical day starts with 15 minutes of warm-up and stretching; 10 minutes of handstand work; 30 minutes of acrobatic training on our trampolines and dry mounted springboard, in and out of spotting belts; then 1 ½ hours of skill training in the water; and concluding with 1 hour of strength and conditioning work.
Jen Plym here…this video is a really cool lens to show how connected Coach Aaron is with his divers. Listen to his cues, so impressive!
What can a parent expect from a first dive meet?
The first diving meet should be an introduction to competition. We host a number of invitationals throughout the year, so the first meet should be a “home” meet. Divers often start off in the novice or intermediate division so they can experience competition without the pressure of competing the harder dives.
How do you prepare your athletes for college and beyond?
While we don’t specifically prepare our divers for college, our divers are recruited by the top college programs across the country. Our practice is to prepare our divers for junior and senior nationals, and that process both the training and the competition, positions them for success in their college athletic careers.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite aspect of coaching diving is witnessing the epiphany, the eureka moment, when a diver accomplishes something they didn’t think they were capable of. Whether they just hit their hardest dive for 8s in the national finals, or they just performed their first forward dive, the look in their eyes is the same. Those are the moments I work for.
How can we register our kids?
We start a new season every fall, but new divers are allowed to sign up any time of year as long as space is available. We process our registration on paper at HFFA, but you can download all of our information at: hffa.com/carolina-dive-academy/. Or call me at 704-766-2222 for detailed instructions.
Ian Bollinger, Director of Instruction at The First Tee of Greater Charlotte
Tell us a little about your background in golf. I actually started golf later than most. The first time I picked up a club I was a freshman in high school out in California. Soon after I started working at the golf course where our team played and fell in love with it and the business. I played college golf at Brevard College and became a professional in 1997. After working at two clubs in Charlotte I made the jump to The First Tee.
What made you want to become a coach at The First Tee of Greater Charlotte?
Making the move to The First Tee was kind of a calling. The opportunity to work full time with kids was something that I couldn’t pass up. It is a decision that I have never regretted. I feel that this is the legacy that I get to leave in the game that has given me so much.
What’s your coaching style?
First of all it must be fun! As a First Tee coach, it is all about relationships. Helping young people understand what it is to conduct themselves in the right way using our core values. If you give them the opportunity to explore the game without feeling judged or being told that they are doing everything wrong, they have a chance to excel as a person and at the game. As a golf coach, it is still about relationships. I feel it is vital to help build confidence in the individual. Every person and every swing is different. My goal has always been to help the individual become as effective as possible.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is getting to positively impact kids every day! I am blessed to get to interact with so many kids and their families. Again it goes back to the relationships that you get to build. Some kids come in and you can see that they don’t trust you. To be able to break down their walls through positive interactions and see them start to open up is really special.
How do you think golf prepares a child for life?
Neither golf nor life will ever be perfect. Your ability to handle the imperfections, and still be successful, really showcases how both parallel each other. This game also forces you to be social and act with a certain decorum. In the rules book, the first section is etiquette. That should tell you a lot!
What do you think children gain from the program?
I don’t have enough paper to answer that!! The core values and the understanding of how we use them in all aspects of our life is the foundation of what a child can gain from this program. A love of the game, friends and social interactions, college scholarships, a lifetime of memories are just a few of the things they can gain.
How can we register?
You can register for the program at www.thefirstteegreatercharlotte.org
The First Tee of Greater Charlotte
Suzie Sanocki and Hannah Mulvihill, Owners, Perfect Balance Training Center
Tell us how you got started in gymnastics.
Both Hannah and Suzie (owners) were gymnasts growing up. Their love for sport evolved from gymnasts to coaches first as a part time job and then as a career coach following college graduation.
What is your training philosophy at Perfect Balance?
Our name (Perfect Balance) says it all. We are very committed to training happy, healthy children to the best of their ability. They are children first and athletes second. It is very important to us that our athletes have balance in their life and not only have the opportunity to pursue their gymnastics goals to the fullest, but also to experience, pursue and excel in other aspects of their lives.
What age is prime for kids to get started in gymnastics?
There isn’t necessarily a “prime” age for kids to get started in gymnastics. We love to get kids in the gym and actively improving their coordination, listening skills and gross motor skills as toddlers. As with any sport or activity, the younger they get started, the more time they have to achieve their goals and excel. Gymnastics as a sport is an incredible foundation for almost any physical activity or sport so we highly recommend it to any child, whether their long-term goal is to be a competitive gymnast or not. Perfect Balance starts recreational preschool classes for crawling kids as young as six months.
What types of classes do you offer?
Perfect Balance offers a wide variety of gymnastics classes. Our preschool gymnastics classes are co-ed and range in age from six months to five years of age. Our recreational girls classes begin at age five and we offer beginner, intermediate, advanced and elite level classes. Our boys recreational classes also begin at age five. In addition, we have a new program at Perfect Balance called “Gym Ninja.” Our Gym Ninja classes combine gymnastics, strength and ninja warrior training. We also offer tumbling classes from beginner to advanced for athletes just interested in improving their acro or tumbling skills.
Tell us about your “Special Activities” program.
Our special events/activities have become one of Charlotte’s most popular activities for kids of all ages.
-CAMPS – We offer amazing camp opportunities both throughout the summer and on school holidays. These camps are themed and include basic gymnastics instruction coupled with games, crafts, exciting visitors and tons of fun. We offer both preschool and school age camps to both PBTC members and non-members. Check our calendar online for upcoming camp dates.
-PARENTS NIGHT OUT – PBTC holds its monthly Parents Night Out typically on the third Saturday of each month from 6:30pm – 9:30pm. This event is open to kids ages five and up. PNO is an awesome opportunity for parents to provide their kids with a night full of fun including basics gymnastics, ninja warrior courses, games, contests and crafts. It also includes dinner and a drink. Parents Night Out dates are listed on our calendar.
-TOT TIME – Tot Time is Charlotte’s premier and most loved toddler activity at a bare minimum cost! It is non-instructional play time for toddlers ages birth to five years of age. We offer it throughout the school year Monday – Friday 11:30am – 12:30pm.
-OPEN GYM – For those wanting a little extra practice and to try gymnastics training without committing to a specific class, can attend one of our Open Gyms. These are currently offered three times per week. It is highly recommended that your pre-register as space is limited. Check out days/time on our calendar.
-BIRTHDAY PARTIES – We offer birthday parties every Saturday! There are two types of parties – Premier Party Package and Personal Party Package. Both parties are an hour and a half with an hour of gymnastics and fun in the gym with thirty minutes in our party room for cake, presents, etc. PBTC birthday parties are so popular that they fill out a couple of months in advance! Be sure to book your party early!
How do I know if my child is a good candidate for team?
The best thing a parent can do for their child is allow them to enjoy the sport and encourage them to try their best. There are so many factors that play a role in a child being a candidate for team and many of those are out of the child/parent’s control. Our highly experienced and trained team staff is always assessing kids for potential tryouts and participation in our competitive team program. Remember to cheer them on and remind them that no one excels without hard work and dedication.
What does a team commitment look like for a family?
Perfect Balance is proud to offer two team tracks. Both programs are one of the largest and most competitive in the state of North Carolina.
Our AAU Team is a more recreational competitive gymnastics program that allows gymnasts the opportunity to participate in competitive gymnastics without committing to a strenuous training schedule or huge financial obligation. This program allows gymnasts more time for additional activities.
Our USAG Team requires a much larger training and financial commitment than our AAU Team. These girls begin competition at a very young age and are typically on a track to train and compete at a high level. This program requires a lot of hours in the gym so the ability for these gymnasts to participate in additional activities is limited.
What about your athletes inspires you?
Our athletes inspire us each and every day. THEY are the reason we do what we do and work so hard. We love seeing our recreational gymnasts excited to participate in their gymnastics class and to watch their love for the sport and their connection to their coach grow over time. Our competitive gymnasts inspire us because their commitment, perseverance, work ethic, character and determination are ever present and incredibly outstanding.
How can I register my child?
You can register your child on our website at www.perfectbalancecharlotte.com.
Wendy McCall, Girls on the Run Charlotte Coach, Morehead Stem Academy
Tell us about yourself and your background. My name is Wendy McCall and I am a Girls on the Run (GOTR) coach at Morehead Stem Academy. I have been coaching with GOTR for about two years as a coach and with the organization for about five years as a volunteer. I am also an Ambassador for Black Girls Run! Charlotte. I love sports and played softball and basketball growing up, but I was not a runner until about six years ago. My daughter asked me to be her run buddy for the end of the season GOTR 5k so I decided to get in shape and train to run the 5k with her. I joined a couch to 5k training group and completed my first 5k a couple of months before the end of the season GOTR 5k. I decided to keep running and have since completed countless 5ks and 10ks, multiple half marathons, Spartan races, mud runs, relay races and many other race types and distances. I am also currently training for my first Triathlon.
What made you want to be involved with GOTR?
My daughter enjoyed her years with GOTR and the messages were so positive and uplifting for girls that I wanted to continue to support the program even after my daughter was too old to participate.
What do you like most about the program?
The weekly lessons and the community impact project. The girls learn about being a good friend, self-esteem, how to handle conflict, bullying, healthy eating, positive self images, and many more during each practice. The lesson incorporate running along with fun games and activities and the girls really enjoy each and every practice. The girls also complete a community impact project at the end of every season. This teaches the girls about giving to other and how they can make an impact on their community. Since the girls choose the project, plan it, and carry it out with the help of the coaches, it is truly their way of making a difference in their community and showing care and concern for others. The pride they take in the project and helping others is truly heartwarming.
What role do you think GOTR Charlotte plays in helping a girl’s self esteem?
I think every young girl needs this program! The girls learn so much about self-acceptance and self-esteem because GOTR teaches them that each girl is different and that’s what makes them special. We teach lessons and celebrate the things that make you beautiful and special that have nothing to do with looks. The girls are also encouraged to run their own race and not compare themselves to other girls. Lessons such as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “How are you different and how are you the same” reiterate to the girls that it is ok to be just who you are!
What about your athletes inspires you?
One of the most inspiring things about my GOTR athletes is their ability to celebrate the small things. I believe as adults we often forget that even if its a small win, its still a win. The girls get so excited when the run a little farther then they did the last week, do 1 more lap than they set as a goal, run the whole lap without walking and many other accomplishments that happen each week at practice leading up to race day. They inspire me to make sure I celebrate my small wins on the way to accomplishing my overall goal!
Any Smarty tips for getting your child started in the sport?
Just sign them up! All they need are comfortable running sneakers and a water bottle, the program will do the rest. GOTR fosters an inclusive environment and all girls regardless of physical ability are encouraged to participate.
How can we register for GOTR?
Go to http://www.gotrcharlotte.org to register!
How can someone else be a GOTR Charlotte coach?
If you have a desire to be a GOTR coach, please visit http://www.gotrcharlotte.org/volunteer to register to volunteer with GOTR!
Girls on the Run Charlotte
Erin Romeiser, Greater Charlotte Program Coordinator, Let Me Run, and Head Coach, Beverly Woods
Whitley Hamlin, Head Coach, Selwyn, and member of the Greater Charlotte Advisory Council for Let Me Run.
Tell us how you got involved with Let Me Run Charlotte.
I first met Charlotte area director Jay Seago at a run at Noda brewing company where I learned about Let Me Run. I thought it sounded like it could be perfect for my oldest son who is more of an introvert and individual sport type of kid. It sounded like it could nonchalantly be a great confidence building opportunity for him and I wanted to learn more. My son’s school, Selwyn Elementary, was looking for a new head coach. Let’s just say Jay was easily convincing and very good at his job!
Erin: Ha! It is a bit of long story, but the short answer is my awesome friend, Jen Sweet, told me about a job opening at Let Me Run that she thought I might be interested in. I was trying to get back into working after staying at home for 11 years, and, Jen was correct, Let Me Run was a perfect fit. I now am employed by LMR as the Greater Charlotte Program Coordinator, but I also volunteer as a coach at Beverly Woods because I love the program so much.
What do you love about Let Me Run?
Whitley: Everything. As a competitive runner in high school, I experienced many great benefits from being a part of the track team. I felt surely there would be similar qualities in Let Me Run, and of course there are. Most of all, it is a wonderful character building program for boys, starting at an age when it really matters.
Erin: I love pretty much everything about Let Me Run. I have used running for stress relief since college. I also love it as a competitive outlet, a way to stay fit, and a great way to create strong friendships. Let Me Run teaches the 4th-8th grade boys in the program these same lessons through both running and the affiliated lessons at each practice. We also sneak in so many additional important lessons on goal setting, teamwork, healthy competition, perseverance, gratitude, being yourself, anger management, etc, etc.
PLUS running is something anyone can do – it is the great equalizer! So we are able to reach boys from private schools to Title 1 schools equally with the exact same programming. So few programs are able to do this the way we do.
How do you think Let Me Run helps young boys as they get into middle school and high school?
Whitley: Let Me Run serves as an excellent foundation for learning how to treat others with kindness, respect and dignity.
Erin: Let Me Run is reaching boys at an impressionable age when we can teach them that they do not have to live by what is called the “Boy Code”. The Boy Code is the unreasonable set of expectations that we put on our boys that they must cover up their authentic personalities and interests in order to conform to an archaic idea of masculinity. We also hope that the boys will take with them the lessons they are learning on successful goal setting and being a good teammate. The hope is that boys will continue to draw on these lessons as they get into their teen years.
What makes a great Let Me Run coach (do you have to be a great runner?)?
Whitley: Honestly I can say I have been the one to learn—just as much if not more—from being a Let Me Run coach. Working with 10-14 boys will do that! You do not have to be a runner; you just have to have an open heart and mind, and maybe a little patience on the side—Ha!
Erin: The number one quality in a Let Me Run coach is enthusiasm and buy-in for the program. An appreciation for running is only a bonus, but by no means a requirement. We actually have a current coach who is not a runner, but rides her bike on days her team runs through a neighborhood. I consider myself an avid runner, and I often do not run alongside my team. The boys run large laps around the school, and I prefer to stay in a central location so I can check in on each boy as they pass me. Other coaches have used the program as their own couch-to-5k training. A strong belief in teaching the boys the lessons in our curriculum is the most important asset.
How can someone find out more about coaching at Let Me Run?
Whitley: Visit the Let Me Run website to find a program close to you! I am happy to speak with anyone about my experience.
Erin: I would absolutely love to talk to anyone who reads this and might be interested in the program. You can reach me at email@example.com. Finding coaching for our teams is, by far, the hardest part of my job. We have SO MANY schools asking for a team, but finding interested volunteer coaches is the key to our success. It seems like a big commitment, but it is my actual job to make it as easy and fulfilling as possible.
What are some tips for helping your child complete a 5k?
Whitley: Train properly, slow and steady wins the race, and definitely run the 5k with your child—so rewarding!!
Erin: Sign him up for Let Me Run! (Kidding – kind of :)) Train with him! Set a goal for yourself to run as well. My kids LOVE when my husband or I run with them at various races. Make small goals for each training session. Maybe try to start by doing a combination of running and walking, and slowly increasing your time running. That time with your child will be time well spent.
How can we sign up for Let Me Run?
Let Me Run
Voice and Video
Alexis Bruce and Levin Chaskey, Owners, Charlotte Star Room
Tell us how you got into the business of voice and video.
Alexis: I’m a singer first so I always was involved in music. My first job out of college was working with a music management group managing Pop Stars & rappers. I continue managing artists, cultivating talent and giving vocal lessons in the studio.
Levin: Video & Film is something I’ve been passionate about my entire life. My first job out of college was at a post-production house in NYC & LA, so I began my career as an editor. We worked on music videos primarily. I would say editing was my first love but around that same time I met Alexis while she was at the management group so…
If your child is a naturally gifted singer, what are some ways parents can foster that talent?
Alexis: Always encourage them & get them into voice lessons!
What if your child isn’t naturally gifted, but loves it. Is there still hope?
What age do you recommend someone really get serious about their voice talent?
If they love singing then the earlier the better! Most young kids listen to how people are singing on the radio and they try to mimic it, forcing them to not breath properly! Breathing is key!
What if your child is already serious? What are some things parents need to remember as they take the next step in a singing or acting career?
Always remember to keep supporting and encouraging them. Continue to keep building the talent with lessons & classes.
How can taking voice and acting lessons help a child’s self confidence?
It’s hard not to be critical of your own voice. Voice lessons allow you to really hear & get comfortable with your voice. As a singer, you’re putting yourself out there – it takes guts. I have watched many of my students come in completely shy, not even sure that they want to sing at all. They have all become confident, great singers who want to now perform for friends and family!
Do you have any advice for kids and teens who are passionate about creating video content? Maybe something to steer clear of or really pursue?
Watch the shows and content producers you enjoy with a critical eye. See what works and what doesn’t for you, and develop your own stylistic intentions. Find other young filmmakers to collaborate with, it’s 100% a team sport. It’s both fun and essential to learn all the roles that go into filmmaking, and through that discovery you will find what you are most passionate about!
Any particular websites or software you’d recommend for creating awesome video?
For aspiring pro’s – Lynda.com & masterclass have awesome tutorials and e-training courses where you can learn a wide variety of filmmaking skills (Smarty team note: check out our post from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library about how you can access Lynda.com FREE with your Library card!). As everybody with a smartphone knows ( at what age should they receive their first phone again? 🙂 ) youtube has content on almost anything you’re looking to learn.
Software-wise, I love Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Many use Premiere Pro, part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud. That’s a longer debate. There’s so many targeted smartphone apps as well depending on what you’re looking to do, so just experiment and have fun creating!
In constantly-changing industries like voice and video, what remains the same to you?
Levin: Great question. I’d say authenticity. With so much content saturation, it stands out more than ever. Also when considering narrative, viewers are always a step ahead, and require that respect.
Alexis: Yes, the importance of authenticity and originality. Be yourself!
Charlotte Star Room
Miki Oskerow, Club Director, Charlotte Ambush
1) Tell us about Charlotte Ambush and how it got started.
Charlotte Ambush is a 501c(3) not for profit organization that started in 2008 as a way to spread the game of field hockey to young women in the Charlotte community. We started by offering travel team opportunities and beginner’s clinics. From there we started working with schools to offer club teams and an avenue for young student-athletes to play a non-traditional sport and represent their school at the same time!
2) What types of programs do you offer?
We now offer several levels of play. I describe the organization with three tiers of programming:
1) Clinics and Leagues for the Beginner to Intermediate level player.
2) School Teams for our members who want to play/represent their school.
3) Select Travel Teams. We also offer both indoor and outdoor field hockey. Indoor is a fun variation of the game similar to futsal for soccer. It is a great way for athletes to play on a faster paced surface and improve stick skill speed and decision making.
3) What age is best for girls to get started in field hockey?
We believe you can start at any age. We start offering programming for 2nd graders. However, we have had athletes who started playing in 9th grade who play for their school teams or select. And, we have some “late starters” who are even going off to play in college!
4) Tell us about the coaching philosophy at Charlotte Ambush.
Our coaching philosophy at Charlotte Ambush is to create an environment where each athlete feels empowered. We want to create a positive environment that allows young athletes to take risks and celebrate their mistakes. At each level in our programming, coaches collaborate on session planning, individual skills and game coaching so that the athlete hears and learns from several different voices.
4) How do I prepare my child for Select Team tryouts?
We encourage all of our athletes who are trying out for the Select Program to try to relax and have fun at the tryouts. We know that tryouts can be stressful, but our coaches look for athletes who take risks, play with intensity and have an understanding of the game based on the level for which they are trying out. I would encourage your child to mentally prepare by being willing to learn new things. Coaches look for athletes who they believe are coachable and who will work hard. Many people ask me if they should get private lessons. I honestly believe those are good for certain skills, but the best way to consistently improve your game is to work on stick skills 10-15 minutes a day. Hit in the yard, dribble on a carpet, lift a tennis ball into buckets. That will help your child reinforce the skills they are learning at practices. They can also attend camps and clinics. We encourage athletes newer to select to challenge themselves to attend some of our optional select tournaments in the summers. These tournaments give them exposure to the next level of play. If she hasn’t played select before – encourage her go to a tryout even if only for experience! It’s good to see what level you are at and see if it’s a level she feels like she wants to push herself towards. Who knows – she may already be there and just didn’t know it yet. Also, if she doesn’t make a select program team, we would then encourage her to participate on a Select Development Team.
5) How do you prepare athletes for middle and high school team tryouts?
I would say it’s the same thing as above. All coaches look for different levels of skill and fitness depending on the program. I believe fitness is sometimes overlooked especially since we are a fall sport and a lot of kids have had relaxing summers:-). Since field hockey is a sport that includes a lot of technical skill, it is important to be able to execute skills properly even when the athlete is tired. Keep in mind – a midfielder can sometimes run 4-5 miles a game!
6) Where is the best place to get field hockey equipment in Charlotte?
Aerial Field Hockey. This company was created by an Ambush parent who saw a need for good field hockey equipment, but also for good service when purchasing equipment. She found that she kept spending money on the wrong stick or wrong goggles and wanted to help others get it right the first time. She has since sold the business to another Ambush family! Their website is www.aerialfieldhockey.com.
7) Share your favorite coaching moment.
I honestly have quite a few but one that comes to mind is more of an experience than a moment. We had one young lady who traveled to several tournaments with us to support her big sister. I remember when she was in 5th grade and more excited about sitting on the bench with her big sister than the game. Then one day she asked the team to teach her how to hit the ball and we all had so much fun sitting in the shade showing her different tricks and hits. I just remember seeing this excitement in her eye, this desire to figure it out. She played that whole day and then never put the stick down. As she got older, she would show up an hour before practice and be on the field hitting into the cage. She figured out how to do so many skills, but just playing and hitting before practice or in her garage. She ended up becoming one of the top players in Charlotte winning several state championships. This moment has nothing to do with the time I spent coaching but more about the opportunity I had to witness this young girl find a passion and joy in something that made her feel so confident.