Photo by Heather Middleton
For the tumblers, their moment of truth begins at the end of a 100-foot-long lane.
The local youngsters will experience that moment later this month, when they head to a national power-tumbling competition.
Tumblers in the McDonough-based Flipcity South Tumbling and Trampoline Program are gearing up to compete in the Junior Olympic National Championships in Virginia Beach, Va., according to Keith Dennis, one of the program's tumbling coaches.
Nine members of the program's tumbling team will take part in the national championships, held from June 27, through July 2, according to Dennis.
He said the competition, however, is secondary to the value of the tumbling program. The non-profit group provides extra-curricular enrichment activities for area youths.
"Our main goal is to keep the kids off the streets, and give them something productive to do," said Frank Riley, the owner and operator of Flipcity South.
Riley said he created the tumbling program about six years ago through his non-profit organization, Riley 4 Kids. He said he continues to operate the program through donations and grants.
"I really just started going from place to place doing demonstrations," said Riley, a former tumbler, from Newark, N.J.
Dennis said he joined Riley's program about three years ago, as a coach. The pair now coach 60 young people throughout metro Atlanta, including Locust Grove, Decatur, Stockbridge, Lithonia, McDonough, and Douglasville. They instruct children, ages 5-15, on tumbling, at the Cheertown Athletics facility in McDonough.
Riley said he was able to move his tumbling program from Lithonia to McDonough, last July, with the support of Cheertown Athletics owner, Rick Paridis.
Riley noted that he works at the Atlanta Food Bank during the day, but he said he most enjoys working with the area's young tumblers in the evenings.
"This is what I love to do," he said. "I tumbled as a kid, and took second place in the Junior Olympics, when I was 17."
Riley said he believes some of his younger tumblers, and trampoline gymnasts, will surpass his achievement well before their late teens.
Lithonia teen, Valentine Mba, said he believes he can do just that. The 15-year-old, started with the program in 2008, and will be on the team that competes later this month at the Junior Olympic National Championships.
"When I started, I strictly wanted to do tumbling," Mba said. "I thought that was the coolest part, and I like the adrenaline rush."
Mba — who describes himself as determined, and destined for glory on the tumbling mat — said he has already seen the benefits of participating in the tumbling and trampoline program.
"It does keep me disciplined," Mba added. "And it keeps me determined. I want to go to the next Olympics [London, England, in 2012], and win."
To learn more about Flipcity South, visit the web site at www.flipcitysouth.com.