On September 9, 2016, the Kippettes opened the door to their twelfth competitive season with the highest enrollment metrics in the history of the program housed at Kendrick Recreation Center located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. After a seven-week adventure with the Kendrick Gymnastics Summer Experience, a gymnastics day camp held at Kendrick Rec and encompassing seven weeks of training, five days a week, the athletes were eager to get the season underway in September.
Team Coordinator, Saranne Miller, recruited and enrolled 27 athletes on the Kippettes USAG-sanctioned travel team roster with high hopes of hitting scores to earn the Kippettes 26th team trophy this year.
“We are a small team in comparison to our competitors,” Miller said. “It’s tough for these kids to gain footing in the region. This isn’t like cheerleading or dance where coaches can register kids as recreational athletes. USAG is the Nation’s Junior Olympic arena where recognition for kids who train in a rec center can be nil. But these Kendrick kids have big hearts and big dreams. We remind them everyday that anything is possible. Our track record has proven this.”
Indeed, the Kendrick Kippettes travel team boasts 27 State Championship titles, 25 team titles, and the first USAG Level 8 Regional Championship title medalist in the history of the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation.
Having enrolled more than 300 beginner and city tumbling gymnasts in addition to the USAG team enrollment at Kendrick this August, Program Director and Head Coach for the Kippettes, Janette Mancini, is eager to take the USAG team on the road this year.
“We’ve made some big changes to our team this year,” Mancini explained. “I’m excited to see how the girls measure up against these bigger clubs in the region. We have girls at new levels and we have restructioned our approach to coaching the team.”
Miller and Mancini grew the Kippettes USAG team from scratch starting out in 2005 with taking just three kids to their first competition in Lebanon, PA. Five years later, in 2010, the Kippettes travel team was busting at the seams. Kippettes gymnasts were progressing at an unexpected rate and training in a public recreation center posed problems concerning safety and achieving athlete growth potential.
“We are painfully limited in space at Kendrick,” Miller said. “We still vault through the lobby of the building, we have no pits, no spotting belts. We are always short on mats and spotting blocks. But at the turn of every season, we go to these state-wide meets and I realize that our kids measure up. We take home medalists and team placements, and I breathe a sigh of releif that we pulled it off for another year.”
Eleven years from the launch of the Kippettes USAG program, Miller and Mancini, with the help of head coaches, Kathy Cielsielka and Maya Lerman, continue to deliver the best possible results regardless of the limitations under which their athletes must train.
This year, the Kippettes are celebrating team member, Zoe Singer’s, final year on the team at Kendrick. Singer is a first generation Kippettes gymnast and represents the start of the team as a Competitive City Tumbling gymnast in 2005, and then later as a USAG-sanctioned gymnast in 2007. Singer is a senior at Carroll High School and will be retiring from her 12-year career as a Kendrick Kippettes gymnast in June 2017.
“Thinking about Zoe retiring is bitter-sweet,” Mancini added. “I remember Zoe’s very first gymnastics practice. I’m proud that she fulfilled a complete career and represented Kendrick as a level 9 gymnast in the end, but it is going to be very sad for all of us to see her go in June. She is an icon in our gym.”
The Kippettes have a full house for the 2016-2017 season with levels 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 heading into competition at West Chester University in November. In addition, the Kippettes are training 12 gymnasts for a brand new Xcel team at Kendrick that will be kicking off in November at WCU with their optional-level couterparts.
“We have more kids at new levels this year than we’ve ever had,” Miller explained. “It’s exciting and overwhelming all at once.”
Miller says that regardless of changes to the Kippettes this year, the strong bond among coaches and athletes remains the same.
“Janette says it every year at our annual show,” Miller recalls. “Our number one priority at Kendrick Kippettes Gymnastics is the family that forms year after year. It’s something that never fades.”
Check out the Kendrick Kippettes Competitive City Tumbling Team and USAG Travel Team by visiting the Kippettes Facebook (CLICK HERE) and Instagram (CLICK HERE) to stay current with team-building activities and training progressions. Fans can also add @kippettes on Snapchat to enjoy live photos and videos of athletic training and team recreation at Kendrick Recreation Center.