Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics hosts the dynamic traveling bootcamp headed by Olympic medalist Samantha Peszek.
GreyHawk Landing's Chrissy Fairey knows it takes courage for her 13-year-old daughter, Sasha, to climb on the balance beam in gymnastics.
But the mom's hope is that her home-schooled daughter learns much more, whether that comes in her regular training at Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics, or during special clinics such as the Beam Queen Bootcamp that came to Lakewood Ranch July 19-21.
She wants her daughter, who is a Level 8 gymnast (Level 10 is the highest level in the Junior Olympics program), to learn life lessons, such as how to react when she falls off the beam, or stumbles in life.
The elder Fairey, who watched her daughter with the other parents from a balcony July 20 above the gym floor, was convinced Beam Queens would do just that.
"This is more about getting back up when you fall," Chrissy Fairey said. "Sasha is not necessarily going to the Olympics."
Samantha Peszek, a 2008 Olympic team silver medalist, a 2007 World Championships team gold medalist and three-time NCAA champion (twice in the balance beam), founded the tour three years ago knowing she needed to present lessons that would be universally beneficial whether those taking the clinic were elite gymnasts, or relative beginners.
"We do a whole session on confidence training," Peszek said. "It helps them present themselves in competitions, but they also need confidence in life, whether that means applying for a job, or taking a test in school."
Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics owner Laura Parraga scheduled the Beam Queen tour, which makes stops all over the United States, to present such lessons to her club members. Chrissy Fairey and fellow Lakewood Ranch Gymnastics mom Lauren Kelly praised Parraga for providing such important training on a regular basis. Both said Parraga stays current when it comes to the newest coaching techniques.
Of course, if life lessons are a bi-product of the Beam Queen Bootcamp, becoming proficient on the balance beam, of course, is the main focus.
Peszek assembled an impressive lineup to accomplish that goal. Among her team of coaches is her 2008 Olympic teammate Bridget Sloan, two-time NCAA national champ for UCLA Katelyn Ohashi and four-time NCAA champ from the University of Florida Alex McMurtry.
Her mom, Luan Peszek, provides education and information to the parents during the camp.
The event attracted 180 girls, who had a wide spectrum of goals. Kelly's 13-year-old daughter, EmmaGrace, is a Level 7 gymnast and her hope is to perhaps continue her gymnastics career in college.
"It makes EmmaGrace even more confident on the beam when she learns tips from coaches who are not usually around her," Lauren Kelly said. "It's a different perspective. And they get to learn those tips on their own training equipment."
Samantha Peszek calls the balance beam the biggest obstacle for many gymnasts and making advancements has to do with confidence, or lack of.
"We have an entire session on confidence training," she said. "That's also confidence in life, and that can help with applying for a job or taking a test in school."
Lauren Kelly said EmmaGrace has learned many lessons from gymnastics, such as how to face her fears. As a first-grader, EmmaGrace broke her arm in a gymnastics fall. While such an injury would seem to complicate instruction, Lauren Kelly said her daughter became even more determined, and learned to face her fears in other aspects of her life as well.
"It taught her to get a goal ... and to go get it."
The mothers said it's harder for them to face their fears when their daughters perform.
"We don't really breathe," Lauren Kelly said. "But we know even when they are young, it's not like they are playing checkers."
Luan Peszek holds a session for the parents called "Confessions of a gym mom." She talks about her own personal journey in leading her daughters through the world of gymnastics.
"The big thing is to be positive, and to remember the big picture," she said. "You have ups and downs, injuries and fears. But the goal is to develop a wonderful daughter."