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Passing the Torch

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Gary Giaffoglione handing tumbling club over to daughter, Gina

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

For Gary Giaffoglione it was something he’d long hoped for.

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For Gina Giaffoglione it was a day she hoped would never come.

Gary, a longtime tumbling and acrobatics coach, is stepping down from running the day-to-day operations of the business he opened 22-years ago, and handing the reigns over to one of his first pupils, his daughter Gina.

“This has been in the works for a long time,” said Gary at last Tuesday’s Glenwood boys basketball home game, where his Fantastic Flyers tumbling team performed at halftime. “My health has deteriorated a bit. I have to be able to spot the kids and I didn’t want to worry about their safety. I just thought it was time.”

Gary, 61, opened his tumbling school in the early 1990s.  Gina, and brother Adam, were two of their dad’s first students in Gary’s first class of six students. Gary can still name that first crew and still speaks to many of his hundreds of former students.

In his second year, that number more than quadrupled. These days Gary’s Tumbling has typically 150 students practicing in his Vine Street gym below the Glenwood American Legion. His hand-picked performance team, the Fantastic Flyers, travel nationally to two dozen competitions and have performed halftime shows at area high schools as well as Creighton University, UNO, Bellevue University, Dana College, Iowa Western Community College, Nebraska Wesleyan, Peru State College and the College of St. Mary’s sporting events.

Much of what Gary taught in the early days he still teaches today. With a few subtle differences.

“The level of difficulty is higher and the creativity is better but a lot of it (tumbling) is the same as it was when we started with six kids 22 years ago,” Gary said.

“There’s stuff we did at six (years old) that we did tonight. There’s tons of moves we still do, there’s just 12 kids in a group now instead of six,” Gina added.

Gina, a 2005 Glenwood graduate, has mixed feelings about her dad stepping down. She never thought her father would retire nor did she want him to.

“He’s still going to be in the gym,” Gina said of her father, who plans to stay on as a consultant. “I’m not going to let him go away that easy.”

Gary will remain on call for when his daughter needs him in the gym. Mostly, Gary said, he plans to spend more time with his favorite hobby: landscape photographs all over Iowa.

“Old cars, barns, the scenes of southwest Iowa,” he said. “I spent all last summer doing and I plan to spend a lot more time doing it.”

Gina opened her own tumbling school, dubbed Tumbling With Gina, in Wayne, Neb. in 2007. She plans to shudder the Wayne school after taking over her Dad’s club.

“This will be my last year up there in Wayne,” she said. “After I’m done (in Wayne) this summer, my whole focus will be here at this gym. That’s where my energy will go. I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little girl. But it’s going to stay ‘Gary’s Tumbling.’”

A few years ago Gary invited Gina’s competitive tumbling team in for an “exhibition hour” at Gary’s gym. It was the first time Gary had ever invited another tumbling club in to perform.

Gary said back then his and his daughter’s teaching styles are almost identical.

“We haven’t changed what we’re teaching throughout the years,” Gary said. “The safety aspects are the same, other aspects of how we teach with self discipline, respect, and all the other things and goals we’ve taught for year, she’s doing the same with her program. There’s a lot more to what we both teach than just tumbling moves.”

You might say it runs in the family.