Andy Taylor discusses the intricacies of designing and building a great parkour gym. Along the way, we talk about what makes a gym inspiring, the evolution of build standards that are safe without limiting parkour vision, and how parkour has been instrumental in the development of a young autistic girl.
Craig: One of my favorite questions is something that I call the story time project, which is where I ask people, Andy, is there a story you’d like to share with us?
Andy: I could talk about this nice young … This 5-6 year old [00:32:00] autistic girl, who was non verbal, has been coming to our gym for a while and I’ve been coaching for a long time, but I haven’t worked with special needs. Not really. And I sat down with her and I tried to learn who she was a little bit and she’s been coming back with her parents, thought that we worked well together.
Because she couldn’t hold her weight up with her hands, her feet kind of turned in, she had stump feet [00:32:30] in the sense that she couldn’t point her toes, her feet looked fine. Maybe they were a little bit slanted, but she didn’t use them. So, she’s been coming in for a while, maybe a couple months after we opened and she would just come in for open gym.
And I would say, “You know what let’s … She needs to be able to hold to this bar” and her mom’s like, ” Well, she can’t hold her bar, she’s special needs.” And I’m like, “Well, first thing that we’re going to is teach her that she can’t climb with knees and elbows in here”. And every [00:33:00] time … I would just sit there with her for 15 minutes or so, she’s trying to climb on top of stuff and I wouldn’t … Every time she put her knee up, I wouldn’t let her.
And eventually I put her feet up there and then take them down, then she’d put her feet up there and she got it. And we’d hang her from a bar, we’d put her hands on a bar, I put my hands on top of her hands and just hold them there and just let her dangle there.
And now from just teaching her body how to move as opposed to trying to talk to her or anything like that, [00:33:30] she is now able to hang and swing from a bar. She is jumping up and down on the trampoline, she can jump into the foam pit. She couldn’t jump at all, she can jump two things now, she can climb up on top of everything in the gym and climb down. She uses the knees and elbows now and then still, but we’re working on it.
Craig: That’s Andy’s pet peeve. No knees and elbows.
Andy: Yes, the big one. But she is now because of that way ahead of her schedule, she’s made [00:34:00] huge improvements. And she is talking here and there. She will- Randomly when you catch her off guard, be able to say words, but then you ask her to repeat it and she can’t, because she’s thinking about it too much. But her parents have just sworn by us and we’re trying to figure out how to develop that into a special needs program and work with the little people more. But it’s been [00:34:30] huge for her, for sure.
Craig: And hugely rewarding, I’d imagine, too, right?
Andy: It’s pretty cool.
Craig: Okay, Andy, final question. Three words to describe your practice?
Andy: Fear, Fun, Repetition. Aah, that is not easy to do, because I have a lot of words.
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