My parents nurtured a passion for sport in me from a young age. And like father like son, I encouraged my children, Emma and James, to be active from tiny tots. Emma and James grew to be passionate about gymnastics, and I thank them now for the introduction!
About 15 years ago, as a stockbroker in the City, I decided that the balance in my life (with two young kids) was wrong. So I left the City and started to look for a new adventure. My experience with Emma and James made me realise what an incredible boost physical activity at a young age could have on children’s all-round development.
And my new passion was born. I wanted to create a warm and caring space that gave other parents a smart, easy way to boost their kid’s self-esteem, social skills, and physical and intellectual development through sport.
As luck would have it, my wife, Anne, came across The Little Gym. We immediately knew this was the business we had been looking for. Kids were taught in small groups, they had lots of one-on-one attention from coaches, the kids were grinning like crazy, and our hearts just melted. So, I threw in my day job (a scary moment!) and started my new adventure with The Little Gym.
When we laid our Big Red Mat – the heart of any The Little Gym – we almost burst with excitement knowing that dozens of little feet would soon be bouncing on it. That was 12 years ago. Today, more than 650 kids of all ages and abilities come through our doors each week. They run (or crawl!) around, let off steam, learn new tricks, make friends, laugh (a LOT!), and discover what we hope will be a lifelong love of sport. Whatever their level, we celebrate their individual achievements. And I love that.
I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see the kids in our classes grow and develop each week. We love to hear stories and get videos from parents showing how our classes are boosting kid’s happiness and development at school and home. We hear again and again that our song, “It’s time to…” is also helping kids to get things done at home – much to Mum and Dad’s relief!
As a former stay at home Dad, I love how comfortable Dads and Granddads are in our gym. On Saturdays, in particular, our gym has a totally different atmosphere to other days. Let’s just say, there can be a little more Dad-led risk taking in our parent and child classes on a Saturday morning!
The day a child turned up to his parent/child class with a chauffeur (because the nanny was sick and Dad/Mum couldn’t bring him) was one of our funniest moments in the gym. The chauffeur had no idea that he was expected to go into the parent/child class. He was quite self-conscious, but he ended up having a great time in the class – and I was very proud of our team for making sure that he was comfortable and had fun.
Speaking of our coaches, they make the gym what it is. At last count, our five permanent staff members have been with us for six years on average. Every day, kids run in, speed over to their favourite coach, and give them a hug or high five. It’s brilliant to watch.
I’m still incredibly passionate about the role that being active plays in a child’s life. And we feel very privileged that, over the last 12 years, more than 8,000 members have let us play a part in their children’s development.
I am always looking for ways to improve your experience at our gym. So if you have any ideas or feedback, please let us know. We hope to see you in the gym soon!!
Alastair Kendall is currently not instructing any classes.