BELLVILLE — The world revolved around gymnastics for 11-year-old Alyssa Sloey.
She would practice 25 hours a week with her club team and take private lessons outside of practices. In three years, she earned multiple state, regional and national championships and advanced to the highest competition level before Junior Olympics.
“While I knew I was capable of Junior Olympics, I wanted to also have a normal childhood outside of the gym, and that was not going to be a possibility,” Sloey said.
After her gym closed, Sloey quit gymnastics and started competitive cheerleading. She stayed closely involved with gymnastics, becoming a coach at age 15 and opening her own gym in January 2020.
Heart of Ohio Athletics is located in the former Darr Events building at 5780 State Route 13. Sloey owns the building and moved her equipment from a 2,000-square-foot space to an 8,000-square-foot space this year.
The gym’s membership has grown since taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic. The club team consists of 42 girls ages 5 to 18 — who earned 42 regional titles to end the 2022-23 season.
Heart of Ohio is part of region 5 consisting of club teams in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. On May 7, the team earned 42 regional titles and multiple gymnasts claimed top five honors in their age divisions.
- Submitted by Alyssa Sloey, Special to Richland Source
“All of our girls have a maximum of two years club team experience and they’re winning events sometimes going against people who have been on teams for six or seven years,” Sloey said.
The club team ends its competitive season at regionals. Each gymnast needs to travel to four meets from November to April to stay on the team, but Sloey said they have nine or 10 meets throughout the season.
“They are expensive, but their confidence gets better and better at each tournament they go to,” she said.
“A lot of parents will tell me about the confidence boost they’ve seen in their kids, or improvements in school. Even the confidence boost I’ve seen in my own 5-year-old is amazing.”
Club gymnasts practice between five and 12 hours each week depending on the amount of time they want to commit. Heart of Ohio also offers classes for all ages starting at 14 months for steady walkers. There are also recreational and competitive adult teams.
“I want kids to know they are welcome to have the career in gymnastics or cheer they dream of, whether that be less commitment and to do other sports, or fully commit, and make it their life,” Sloey said.
“Everyone does better when they realize there are other options and more than one commitment level.”
Sloey said the Heart of Ohio Athletics coaching staff aims to build a physically and mentally safe space for gymnasts.
“We have structure but we also want to make sure everyone feels good about themselves, not only as gymnasts, but as friends and people,” she said. “We want them to empower those around them and start their own journey to greatness inside and outside of the gym.”
The gym also has a club cheer team and openings for spring and summer classes. 14 coaches help train gymnasts and lead classes throughout the week.
Information on each class Heart of Ohio Athletics offers can be found online.
“Gymnastics gives everyone a really strong foundation for any sport,” Sloey said. “You’re balanced, you’re physically strong and it can complement a lot of other sports and activities.”
Heart of Ohio Athletics can be found online and on Facebook. There is a recital scheduled for June 16 at Clear Fork High School featuring a variety of recreational and team athletes from multiple classes.