FOLEY, AL –  The Alabama State Championships gymnastics meet was scheduled to be held at the Foley Event Center in the spring of 2020, but a global pandemic flipped the script. Now, the meet is back on the books for March 25 – 27 and it has everyone counting their blessings.

Alabama USA Gymnastics State Administrative Committee Chair, Mike Holdefer remembers the exact moment when COVID-19 began to impact the sport throughout the state. It was March 12, 2020 and he was blocks away from a facility in Birmingham where they would be holding a meet when he got a phone call that the competition had been cancelled.

“Over the next few days and weeks, every gymnastics club in Alabama shut down due to COVID-19. It was a very bleak time at first,” Holdefer recalled. “As summer approached, gyms began to open back slowly and with greatly reduced numbers. Only one gym remained closed and is still closed.”

For Bama Bounder Gym Owner and State Championships Event Coordinator Erin Holdefer-Kightlinger, the spring of 2020 was a time of innovation. They found ways to give their members a sense of normalcy by hosting free Facebook Live classes and other virtual activities. All of that created a very strong bond between the gym and the community, one that is being celebrated with the hosting of the Optional State Meet.

“I think that this just showed all of our customers how blessed we truly feel to be able to continue to stay connected to them. We did contests, games, videos, and many other activities as well. It made our staff appreciate the little things at the gym, but also in our lives as well. We are so incredibly blessed to be able to pour into our gym kids and families,” Holdefer-Kightlinger said. “This event just continues to show how blessed we are. It means the world to us to be able to continue in a business that we love so much. We are so excited to see every gym in the state to continue to thrive in our sport. It is an amazing feeling to get to watch as the sport grows in our state.”

And grow it has. Holdefer said that the numbers of registered gymnasts around the state of Alabama has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels and shows no sign of stopping.

“Many gyms are reporting waiting lists for their classes as enrollment numbers increase,” Holdefer said. “It seems Alabama and most of the gymnastics facilities have made a successful comeback from the spring of 2020.”

City of Foley Leisure Services Director David Thompson said while there is no returning to life pre-pandemic, Foley Sports Tourism continues to do all it can to ensure that kids can continue to compete in a safe environment.

“Sports will always be more than medals and trophies to us at Foley Sports Tourism,” Thompson said. “It is a place for kids to learn about life and who they are not just as athletes, but as people. The pandemic was a scary time when everyone was trying to find ways to cope without that outlet. But it also made our organization, our community, and the sports industry as a whole stronger. All that we had to lose became very real and it made us work all the harder to make sure we never lose it.”

For more information on the Alabama State Championships Meet contact Stephanie Donald.