They always say you’ll never find employees who will love your business as much as you do. I have never disagreed with this statement more than I do in this moment. Let’s rewind a bit.

I’m sure we’re all tired of talking about 2020 by now. But if there was ever a year that shaped us as people, and as a company, it was 2020. Never have we had to demonstrate more resilience and reliance on one another in order to be strong for the kids who looked up to us. No matter what you felt or what you may have been going through – as a parent – you had to stay strong for your kids. You had to let them know everything was going to be O.K. whether you knew it would or not.

For our staff – most of whom are not at that stage of life yet – people in their young 20’s and college students – they had to grow up quickly for their athletes. That age is tricky as you’re navigating your own way through life and still looking to your parents for wisdom and guidance. One thing we saw in our staff in 2020 though was that they matured drastically because they loved and cared for Twister athletes so much.

About two weeks prior to the shut downs here in Johnson County, we gathered as a staff and started brainstorming how we could keep kids engaged and active if the shutdowns actually occurred. I knew a gym owner who ran an entire virtual program out of Memphis, so we immediately started picking her brain. We connected with hundreds of gym owners across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia where we shared virtual lesson plans and tips on how to create an entirely virtual cheerleading, tumbling and ninja program. Twisters was one of the leading contributors – teaching other gym owners how to build these lesson plans and getting creative with what tools kids would already have at home that could help them with skills.

Patrick, Melanie, Angie, Abby and I worked together to build recreational and competitive lesson plans for each program. We wrote systems for families on how to safely use Zoom and modified class schedules so kids could participate easily when parents were available to help. Lexi spent hours and hours rescheduling birthday parties and events and researched ideas on how to keep kids engaged throughout the day with online programming.

Staff members picked up live videos so kids could have fun and socialize during the day doing things like: Making friendship bracelets, baking mug cakes, and making crafts with common household items. Our staff hopped on live videos and told jokes and read stories to athletes on the other end of the screen.

All the while, Angie, Dustin, Justin and I were dually focused on keeping a restaurant (one without a drive thru) alive. Ultimately, our staff at Twisters saw that and stepped up to the plate.

Each week we prayed we could keep the attention of the kids through virtual programming so they could feel “normal” all the while hoping Twisters would be able to make it through the shut down. The amount of families who maintained their programming during that time was beyond heart-warming. In fact, to this day, we’ve never found the appropriate way to say, “Thank you for seeing our hard work and commitment. Thank you for your loyalty to our program.”

The emotional toll on our staff was exhausting, but they kept smiles on their faces and open hearts throughout it all. The number of phone calls we received throughout the shut down from parents who had lost their jobs was heart-breaking. There were a lot of tears, and through it all, our staff remained resilient and strong on every live video and every virtual class.

During the shut down, we were granted a child care license for temporary child care. A few weeks in, most parents didn’t need child care as they had been laid off. When it was time to reopen, parents were faced with challenges. Some were able to go back to work and others were able to start applying for jobs again, but there would be no child care in town for school-age children. Government-funded programs were under heavier restrictions than private business. So, our staff yet again stepped up to the plate.

Lexi, just a few months into her full-time job at Twisters, took on an 11-week, full-day summer camp program. Patrick spent his time building socially distanced lesson plans that allowed athletes to come back in the gym and train safely. Melanie focused on hiring summer camp staff – despite the lack of college students in the area at the time. Ally, who you may not have heard much about by now (as she was still in college at the time), committed to working full-time, split shift hours over the summer to help with summer camp and continue coaching at night.

At the end of 2020, two things were evident.

  1. The community supported Twisters and banded together like never before.
  2. Our staff was truly committed to the kids in the gym. So much in fact, that they put everything else aside – including themselves – to ensure the kids were cared for physically and emotionally.

Lexi, Patrick and Mel are the reason Twisters is what it is today. Despite the hardships all small businesses faced in 2020, it was necessary for us to show them how much their contribution meant to us. So, in September 2020, we took them to lunch and gave them a gift certificate toward a cruise. Cruises were still stateside at the time, and we were able to get them connected with an incredible vacation at an affordable price.

It’s now December of 2021. You’ll recognize an absence in the gym for the next week as these three head out to snorkel in Honduras and enjoy the beaches of Mexico. There is nothing that makes us prouder than having a staff who loves their jobs and treats Twisters like we would.

It’s likely you’ll see the front desk a tad slower than normal. It might take us a little longer to schedule your make up classes and book your birthday parties. Melanie, Lexi and Patrick spent the last few months training the staff and prepping us for their trip. They even bought the WiFi package for the cruise – as Lexi said – “in case you need our help with anything while we’re gone.” (Don’t worry – I’m not calling them once!)

So, when you see pictures of Melanie, Patrick and Lexi in some tropical location sent by Twisters, just know – we love our staff and are so grateful for them. We’d give them the world if we could. Also, give Ally some love. She wasn’t on our full-time staff until earlier this year, so she’s holding down the fort while they’re gone.

Have an amazing time, and we’ll miss you like crazy!