When family tradition meets entrepreneurial spirit, you find organizations like Salem Gymnastics & Swim. It’s a business model that’s been built on integrity, community, and a family-friendly atmosphere. Founded in 1980 by Frank and Barbara Minter, Salem Gymnastics & Swim is now co-owned by Frank Minter (the father), Beth Morphis (the daughter), and Kenny Morphis (the son-in-law/husband).
“Our business,” shared Beth, “is truly a family thing. Even our son, Jon, is a swim instructor and gymnastics coach and our daughter, Page, assists in many ways. Because our family is invested in the business, we work hard to make sure other families feel welcome and valued.”
As you enter the facility, you see a sign prominently displayed that reads, “All decisions made by this company are based on one simple question: What’s best for the kids?” Beth affirmed, “We provide experiences that grow the whole child through movement. Most children today do not get out and move like past generations did, so, sadly, they never gain the physical foundation they need for a healthy life. Salem Gymnastics & Swim is committed to helping children learn how to move well both in the water and on land. By doing so, we help them build confidence to enjoy being active for their entire lives.”
“It’s not just about being physically healthy,” continued Beth. “Studies have shown that an active child has increased self-worth, is more engaged in the classroom, can hold their focus and attention longer, and overcome academic challenges.”
To that end, Salem Gymnastics & Swim has 30,000 square feet of space, every inch designed to maximize the overall experience for everyone, including some adult classes that the whole family can enjoy!
Salem Swim School
The decision to expand Salem Gymnastics to include swim lessons came about after much thought and consideration. “We opened the swim school in 2016,” said Beth, “and have been committed to teaching swimming—not for competition—but for children (and adults!) to learn to swim well and to love the water. It’s a life-saving skill that everyone needs.”
When you walk into the locked and secured swim area, the atmosphere is clearly designed with education in mind. There are two pools, and both are four feet deep. One of the pools has a comfortable ledge around the edge to give swimmers a place to rest, observe, and wait their turn with their instructor. The other pool has wide steps that lead into it—something babies love! “They love to stand in the water and pat the steps,” said Beth.
What may look at first glance like toys are actually tools used to help students gain confidence in the water as they learn to swim. “We use a variety of tools to help students learn how to stay safe in the water, float, and move, as well as use proper swimming strokes.”
Beth shared, “We came into the swim school industry a few years after a nationwide boom. Honestly, we think the timing served us well because we were able to incorporate ideas learned from others’ mistakes. In the past, swim schools were a short, intensive, two-week program in cold water. This often left children with fearful memories and a reluctance to return to the water when swim season drew near. Our model is patterned after the newer school of thought—that consistent swim classes in a warm, nurturing environment not only help with safety, but also improve self-confidence and cognitive development. Over time, our students learn not only all the proper stroke techniques, they achieve overall body strength and learn to appreciate the joys of swimming without the fears.”
According to the CDC, formal swim lessons can reduce the chance of drowning by 88%, and since drowning is the leading cause of death for children aged one to four, an investment in swim lessons can help save lives.
“We offer classes to infants as young as six months old,” affirmed Beth. “And we have classes for all ages, even for adults, as well as swim team prep classes.”
Parents can enjoy watching their children through an observation window, or on closed-circuit TVs in the lobby area. The pool is heated, and in addition to a rinse shower, changing stalls are offered, as well as four family-style bathrooms and a suit spinner to dry suits before going home.
Competitive Boys’ Gymnastics
In the 1980s, competitive boys’ gymnastics was thriving at Salem Gymnastics. Chris Young was a part of that team. After a stellar career in gymnastics, including the opportunity to live and train at the Olympic Training Center, Chris’ Olympic plans were derailed because of a torn Achilles tendon.
Chris has now returned home to Salem Gymnastics bringing with him a boy’s program competitive at the national level.
Beth shared, “Chris is second-to-none when it comes to leading a boys’ gymnastics program, and we wouldn’t have considered this addition with anyone other than him at the helm. Parents love that a former National Team member is working with their children—they are not only getting a true professional for their instructor, they are getting a strong mentor with a big heart.”
For his part, Chris is thrilled to be back at Salem Gymnastics & Swim. “We’ve purchased new equipment for the men’s gymnastics area, and it’s an honor to train these boys at a higher level.
“I love working with them to develop their athleticism and endurance,” continued Chris, “but more than that—it’s about developing them into young men of character and respect. It’s a joy to watch them develop the skills that will carry them on the mat, but, moreover, will carry them through life.”
Chris brings with him assistant coach Edwin Maffiold, and together they are working to help boys aged 6–18 to prepare for future college opportunities. Chris remarked, “Our goal is to get them to college first. As great as it is to aspire to be an Olympian, and it’s certainly a dream I understand, these boys need an education first. We want them to love the sport of gymnastics, but we also want them to enjoy their childhood and invest in their academic futures, too.”
Competitive Girl’s Gymnastics
Kenny Morphis enters his 30th year leading the girls’ competitive team. Assisted by a staff of six diverse and highly qualified coaches with backgrounds in education, dance, World Class tumbling, Division I College athletics and fitness, the staff is able to blend together at all levels of competition. “The Salem Team is focused on developing not only collegiate- and national-level competitors,” said Kenny, “but also confident and strong young ladies who are unafraid of a challenge. We want them to have the confidence to persevere through the setbacks inherent in sports and life. We feel that gymnastics is the medium which allows us to help guide these athletes on a path that will lead them to success throughout their life.”
Preschool & Recreational Gymnastics
Children as young as 12 months old can enjoy gymnastics, and beyond that, the fun that comes with learning to tumble, kick, flip, and roll—other benefits include improved balance, flexibility, coordination, and skills that can translate to other athletic interests.
Beth explained, “Gymnastics isn’t always competitive. It’s very important to get kids moving from an early age. After all, the playground is where self-confidence can begin and flourish. Preschoolers pick up on non-verbal cues to learn what the world is like and how they fit into it. Young children do not judge social status by how much money they have or who is the smartest. They judge social ranking using physical markers, such as, ‘Who can get all the way across the monkey bars?’ ‘Who can swim without floaties?’ Or, ‘Who can swing by themselves?’ Sadly, many kids see themselves as being awkward, clumsy, or non-movers before they even start kindergarten, and that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Recreational gymnastics is a way for children to gain these skills at an early age, and help foster their own self-confidence.”
Salem Gymnastics & Swim offers Capital Martial Arts, and classes are available for children, adults, and families; classes are designed for all skill levels, from Beginner to Advanced.
Beth noted, “In addition to the most well-rounded martial arts program in the area, we offer a Real Life Self Defense course designed to help men and women know how to handle [themselves in] true emergencies.”
There are a number of reasons to check out Salem Gymnastics & Swim. From recreational and competitive gymnastics, to cheer tumbling, swimming, and martial arts—Salem Gymnastics & Swim is where movement starts, and confidence soars.
Salem Gymnastics & Swim is located at 4870 Country Club Road in Winston-Salem. Call them at 336.765.4668 or visit online at SalemGym.com. Be sure to like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram!
Chris Young: Then and Now
I remember vividly the first time I saw Chris Young. Salem was in its early years, and gymnastics was a novelty in town. Salem’s owners, my parents, received a call from the Big Brother agency telling them they had a youngster in their program that was really good at “cutting flips.” They wondered if he could visit Salem Gymnastics to see a professional gym, and my parents welcomed him in. I loved nothing more than spending my afternoons and weekends flipping around, so I understood this kid’s passion. Chris was a skinny little guy who seemed distracted by the sights and sounds of Salem. Coach Bob Kohut wanted to test his skills on the boy’s equipment, but Chris looked over at my optional level team as we tumbled across the floor and said, “I can do that.” And sure enough, he could.
Being in the gym with Chris as an athlete was always an adventure. He was a natural who seemed to pick up new skills with grand style and little effort. Sometimes he would get a little gleam in his eye and a crooked smile, and we would whisper to one another, “Watch Chris.” He was about to do something spectacular that he envisioned in his head and he was pretty sure his body could do. Sometimes it was a huge trick, like a double twisting double backflip. Sometimes it was something simply crazy, such as performing an optional-level vault over the horse—without using a springboard! Whatever Chris did in the gym, he did with joy, and it was contagious.
If you look up “Chris Young gymnastics” on YouTube, you’ll see that after graduation Chris went on to be on the USA National Team, and that surely he would’ve been in the 2000 Olympic Games, were it not for a torn Achilles tendon. While he was certainly a star gymnast, that’s not the reason we are so happy to have him return to Salem!
Chris has a pure love for the sport of gymnastics, and he coaches with a big heart for helping children grow into strong, confident adults. That love is still contagious as you will notice as you walk into Salem Gymnastics & Swim today.
Welcome home, Chris. We’re glad to have you back.
~ Beth Morphis, Co-owner, Salem Gymnastics & Swim