Welcome to another Club Focus feature! This week, we would like to shine the spotlight on AcroPals and explore what makes them stand out in the world of acrobatics.
1. How did your club start?
AcroPals, founded by Ilyan Keay in 2018, was born from a passion for gymnastics. Ilyan's journey began in gymnastics, where she excelled, winning national medals and representing Australia in international competitions, including the world age games in trampolining. Despite these achievements, Ilyan faced burnout and emotional struggles, leading her to quit competitive gymnastics at 16.
"I wanted to create something better," says Ilyan, determined to provide a nurturing environment for kids. Exploring Acrobatics in dance schools, she decided to teach it independently, eventually giving rise to AcroPals. The initial classes took place in a small yoga studio, but demand quickly outpaced the space. Today, AcroPals thrives with multiple locations, all stemming from a vision to provide accessible and enjoyable Acrobatics training in a non-competitive and nurturing environment.
2. How many kids do you train and what skills?
Our school, despite its modest size with approximately 220 members, places a strong emphasis on individual attention. To ensure every student receives the dedicated instruction they deserve, we maintain small class sizes and focus on teaching one class at a time.
Our curriculum encompasses a wide range of skills, including fundamental gymnastics and acrobatics, tumbling, tricking, and basic trampoline skills on the double mini. Where we truly excel is in specialized areas such as aerials, handsprings, layouts, twisting, and a variety of dance acro elements, including helicopteros, valdez, leaps, jumps, headsprings, macacos. Moreover, we take pride in offering instruction in unique gymnastic skills like Healys, Onodi's, and Shushanovas, setting us apart as a school dedicated to fostering a diverse and comprehensive skillset in our students.
3. Do you have any special needs programs?
Not at this stage but we would love to in the future.
4. What’s your club’s vision statement?
The ethos of AcroPals is easily understood from its name, Acro Pals. The goal of AcroPals is to create a happy environment where children can build lasting friendships, inspire and collaborate with each other, and achieve their skill objectives, regardless of their body type, starting point or ability. Everybody has an acro body and everybody can be an AcroPals Acrobat.
5. What are some of the objectives of your program?
At AcroPals, we prioritize the enjoyment of our students in their classes. We do not conduct concerts, gradings or competitions. Our main focus is to help our students gain skills, build friendships, and improve their fitness. We encourage them to develop discipline and explore their limits to experience the incredible rewards of achieving their goals. Whether it's performing a backbend, an aerial for the first time, or landing their first flip, nothing can match the feeling of accomplishment. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to be pushed beyond their limits and achieve what they thought was impossible for themselves. Our primary concern is the well-being and skill development of our students, and we celebrate the pure love of acrobatics and the joy it brings.
6. What are you most proud of with your club?
I’m incredibly proud of our students first and foremost. AcroPals is truly run for our
students and to help them gain new skills is the greatest reward for myself and our other coaches, we hope one day to have our own venue and to run AcroPals classes at more dance schools, gym clubs and martial arts schools and spread our brand of Acro fun and make it available for everyone.
7. Why do you think your club is important to families and your community?
We are a really casual and family-friendly school, parents and siblings are always watching, laughing with and sometimes participating in classes. So many of our families have bonded through their kids attending and have created new friendships and support networks through AcroPals classes and our performance troupe Team AcroPals. Team AcroPals performs at local community events and our leadership program is helping to develop the next generation of AcroPals teachers and provide future employment opportunities for young people.
8. What’s a piece of advice would you give to a gymnast/student?
Prioritize your mental health and enjoyment above all else. If you find yourself not enjoying your training, putting too much pressure on yourself or feeling anxious about a competition or achieving a certain skill, don't hesitate to seek help. It's completely normal to ask for support and you deserve to fully enjoy your gymnastics journey. Remember, there is a place for you in gymnastics even if it's not in the competitive or club setting. The skills you're developing will benefit you throughout your life, regardless of which path you choose. If you love gymnastics, you'll eventually find your way back to it and always remain a gymnast. You can continue practising and loving gymnastics for life!