Tucked away down a typical Island dirt road in West Tisbury, the Island Gymnastics facility looks like nothing more than a large, lackluster building. When you step inside though, it becomes something else entirely. Kids are lined up in sparkly leotards, excited and restless to get into the gym and begin warming up, and the gym somehow emotes happiness with its new, vibrant purple spring floor mat. The sense of joy was probably always there when kids walked into class at Island Gymnastics Teaching School (IGTS), but the mat is new; and that’s thanks to Peter Goodale, who donated the $20,000 mat last month.
Peter is the father of Sara Goodale, 11, who is on the Xcel Gold team. Peter’s roots with IGTS and gymnastics in general go deeper than his daughter’s involvement with the team. Peter and Island Gymnastics coach Beth Goodell have been doing gymnastics together since they were kids. They met at a gymnastics summer camp called Tumble Bugs. Since then, they’ve nurtured their friendship and love of the sport, and turned their passion into a multigenerational pastime. Beth said that when she started Island Gymnastics in 1990, there were only five kids involved and it was just a side business for fun. “It just kept expanding,” Beth said.
Since 1990, over 6,500 Island kids have come to IGTS to learn, grow, and most important, have fun. As soon as some are able to walk, they’re tumbling in the gym — no matter where that might be. IGTS has leased space in an aerobics studio, in school gyms, in part of an ice rink, and even in a boat shed before moving into its current facility in West Tisbury in 1996. That year they also officially became a gymnastics preschool, and got their nonprofit designation. The gym looks a lot different now than it did in 1996, however.
Taking a break from helping the 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds in the advanced beginners class keep their hips square while practicing their splits, Beth said, “I really think that gymnastics is the basis for all sports. More than that, I think it’s the foundation for self-esteem. What you can physically do is how you feel about yourself in the world, how you navigate.”
Island Gymnastics doesn’t cater only to year-round kids. It has summer camps as well, and visitors from around the world. The walls of the gym are lined with flags, as a way to remember all the different kids who have come through the gym and been a part of IGTS. “It’s just fun,” Amy Maeda, 10, who has been with IGTS for two years, said during practice. “You get to do gymnastics, but you’re also with all your friends.”
There had been no major overhauls of the gym since they moved into the space in 1996, Beth and Peter explained, other than a 25-foot rock-climbing wall that was installed in 2016. Aside from that addition, nothing had really changed in 20 years, so the gym was in need of a facelift.
As Peter began explaining the process he and Beth went through to make the upgrade happen, Beth chimed in. “He tricked me!” she said, laughing. “We had talked about [buying a new mat] for a year. We were going to do a capital campaign and a fundraising drive.” Then, before they even had a chance to raise the money, Peter went ahead and bought the mat.
Being a concrete specialist owning Goodale Construction Co., along with his love and history with Island Gymnastics, Peter felt he was the natural solution to IGTS’s dingy digs. “The YMCA and other Island organizations already get so many donations,” Peter said. “We sometimes get forgotten over here.” Peter also contributes to other community organizations, such as the YMCA and the Vineyard Triathlon. He is also a Boy Scout leader.
Designated as a nonprofit organization, IGTS was able to get a tax break on the cost of the mat, and Mark Nicotera of the construction company Trademark Services, LLC, donated manpower to help install the mat. “They did three days of work in one day,” Beth said of the eight workers who helped her, Peter, and Mark with the heavy lifting. “We had kids lined up at the door ready for class while we were finishing up, but we did it.”
Peter sometimes spends time at the gym while his daughter Sara practices, and recently has been brushing up on his skills as well. He put on a show for the team, attempting the coveted bar skill called a “giant” that takes some practice to achieve. “I haven’t tried that in 20 years,” he said after completing one on his first try, with his daughter and the rest of the Xcel Gold team watching in awe.
Coach Goodell and the many Island kids that come and go each day haven’t been shy about their total appreciation for Peter’s generosity. His daughter presented Peter with flowers after practice, and they all gathered around to say thank you with a hand-drawn sign that read, “Thank you Peter Goodale for your amazing, generous donation of our new purple floor system — state-of-the-art- spring floor … thank you Mark Nicotera and crew for installation!”
Hundreds of kids will continue to enjoy the IGTS gym, just with a little extra spring in their step.
Open-team tryouts for girls ages 5 and up, and boys ages 7 and up, will be held Tuesday, May 15, from 3:15 to 4 pm at the Island Gymnastics gym in West Tisbury. There is an informational meeting for parents the same day and time; $20 to preregister ($10 for current students), $25 at the door.