ST. LOUIS — More than 200 local volunteers from 14 gymnastics organizations across St. Louis worked for two days to make the Dome at America’s Center a home for some of the best athletes in the world.
Barron Gymnastics founder Diane Barron took part as one of the volunteers in the process. She’s devoted her life to one mission: expanding the sport of gymnastics in St. Louis and impacting lives in the process.
“I went on to do college gymnastics at Southwest Missouri State, now Missouri State,” Barron said. “And after I graduated, I taught and did summer gymnastics. I had a summer gymnastics program that evolved to a full-time career, and here we are.”
Diane founded Barron Gymnastics in 1978. Thousands of children have come through the Oakville gym in its 43 years.
Some take classes, and some compete on teams with the goal of competing at the highest level.
“I want them to set goals and set high goals, but I want them to be able to attain them,” Diane Barron said. “And if their goal is to use gymnastics to springboard them into something else that makes them a better athlete, a better student, then that’s really when we’re proud of them.”
Melissa Barron has been a full-time coach at Barron’s for the last two decades. She said there’s two main differences from then to now: the increase in participation and the level of talent.
“Gymnastics has grown exponentially in the last 20 years,” Melissa Barron said. “The skills that these girls are throwing now were skills that we would do on the floor, and they’re doing on the beam. It’s just out of this world, and Simone has brought this sport to a whole new level.”
Olympic gymnasts like Simone Biles have achieved success that the vast majority of gymnasts never will. But what they all share in common at any level, are the dreams and the life skills the sport provides.
Barron gymnastics owner Julie Barron was an athlete at her mother's gym and utilized her competitive years to transition to playing college soccer.
After soccer, she's spent years training young gymnasts at Barron's because of the way the sport impacted her own life.
“I felt really strong when I was a gymnast, and I also felt like I could do anything,” Julie Barron said. “I remember looking up to gymnasts that were on The Mag Seven, and when they won the Olympic gold I thought, ‘You know, I think I’m going to go to the Olympics. That’s what I’m going to do.’
“So it just really teaches you to dream. And even though I didn’t go to the Olympics, gymnastics taught me so many skills that I have carried on through life, knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to.
“And that’s what I think about these girls out here too on our level at Barron Gymnastics.”