A lasting legacy

Pelham gymnastics facility nearing 10th anniversary

Written by Emily Sparacino

Photos by Dawn Harrison

Gymnastics has defined multiple seasons of Brianna Mitchell’s life.

She started gymnastics when she was 6 years old and envisioned becoming a college––possibly even a professional––gymnast someday.

Injuries derailed her plans.

“I took a four-year break from gymnastics in high school,” Mitchell, 32, said.

Then, Mitchell’s grandfather died. As she grieved her loss, Mitchell realized she had another void in her life, one she had the power to fill: Gymnastics.

“The only place I wanted to be was the gym,” she said.

She landed a summer coaching position at her home gym, Joel Inman Gymnastics Academy, before she left for college at the University of Alabama.

Fast-forward to summer 2007, and Mitchell was ready to strike out on her own. She opened Legacy Gymnastics in Pelham.

“I knew I loved gymnastics and wanted to do something with kids, and also something God was calling me to do and that was purposeful,” she said.

She and her husband, Steven, 33, married in 2009, and Steven joined the Legacy staff as a coach in 2010.

Three of Brianna’s former teammates were among her initial staff members, which led to the idea of naming the facility “Legacy” and the motto “Creating a new legacy of champions.”

Legacy offers recreational, competitive and special needs programs for boys and girls.

“Our competitive teams have always been in the top teams in the state,” Mitchell said. “Over the last nine or 10 years, we have had numerous state individual and all-around champions and team champions.”

Last year, Legacy started hosting a joint junior Olympic and college meet as part of the “Elevate the Stage” meet in Birmingham.

“We also host two camps at our facility each year,” she said. “We have sent two kids to a national meet (and) have also had numerous regional qualifiers and regional place holders.”

Legacy’s enrollment is about 400 students, thanks to a boost from the Olympics this summer, Mitchell said.

Recently, former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson led a clinic at Legacy during a fundraiser, the proceeds of which were earmarked for Mitchell’s plans to build a new, larger facility in the Pelham area by 2017.

Owning a business is time-consuming, Mitchell said, but it’s a team effort for her and Steven, who also stay busy chasing their 18-month-old son, Harrison.

Steven has a storied background in multiple sports, including football, basketball, baseball and track. He played football at Maryville College.

“He has truly always had a passion for coaching,” Brianna said. “We felt like (opening Legacy) was a good move for our family. When we first opened, we had a staff of four to five; now, we have 15. God has provided for us the whole time.”

Gymnastics teaches more than flexibility and physical strength, Brianna said. Self-discipline, structure, mental toughness, the value of work ethic and fun are several benefits of the sport.

Her favorite part of coaching is seeing a child that struggles with anything––self-doubt, fear or another personal hang-up––overcoming those struggles.

“If you stick with it, gymnastics doesn’t allow you to run from those things,” she said. “You have to face them.”

Brianna stressed Legacy’s emphasis on creating a safe, healthy environment for children at the facility through mental skills days, working with physical therapists on injury assessments for competitive gymnasts and constant encouragement.

“This is a small, family-owned business that really loves to know our kids and parents well, and make them feel like this is a safe place for (them) to be,” Brianna said.

Classes are available for all levels, and newcomers can participate in a free trial class.

Legacy Gymnastics is located at 188 Chandalar Place Drive in Pelham.

For more information, call Legacy Gymnastics at 663-9015, go by the facility or visit Legacygymnastics.com.