Gymnastic facility growing by leaps and bounds

Champions Westlake owner Gretchen Huddleston knew she wanted to be a cheer and gymnastics coach early on but took a roundabout way to get there. While attending The University of Texas at Austin as a college cheerleader, she changed her major from education to engineering at the suggestion of her father before switching to finance and earning her degree.

After UT, Huddleston moved to Houston where she worked as a stockbroker. But it was not until she moved back to Austin and became a preschool teacher that the opportunity to become a coach arose.

Huddleston's good friend, Janet Pfluger Scott, had opened Champions Academy in January 1996 and in August 1996 asked Huddleston to partner with her in opening a Westlake location. Since Huddleston was a single mom, the flexibility of the schedule worked well with raising a family. At the time, classes were taught at The Hills Fitness Center, followed by what Huddleston calls her "temporary" space at the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, where classes were held for 14 years.

Scott still owns and operates Champions West Austin Youth Association—now a separate business from Huddleston's.

In March 2011, Huddleston moved her business into a permanent location on Bee Caves Road, next to the former Sprouts in Rollingwood.

"The problem with the church facility—the only problem, because it was such a great space—was we had to get our equipment out and put away every single day, which limited the quality of equipment you could have," Huddleston said.

The new location—at 15,000 square feet—is three times larger than the former one and allows the center to have a spring floor, which is necessary for competitive cheerleading and gymnastics training.

"So much about this building felt like divine inspiration. It was pretty much laid out self-prescribed, with springboards only fitting in certain places," Huddleston said.

In addition to gymnastics and competitive cheer classes, the new space has also allowed Champions to offer more classes.

For instance, the company offers a class for boys called Urban Motion, a dance class, and, most recently, Spark University.

Spark University introduces children to a variety of different activities to inspire them and to boost self-esteem.

"I just feel like every kid, plugging into something they are passionate about, can get confidence, poise and self-esteem," Huddleston said. "This really gives them something to plug into without having some skill where they can find their skill—and it doesn't have to be gymnastics or cheerleading."

For those who are interested in competitive gymnastics and cheerleading, Huddleston recommends students take two classes per week to see the most progress.

This year Champions Westlake's Crush Cheer All-Stars won three All-Star Championship National titles.

These days, Huddleston allows her approximately 30 coaches to lead classes while she takes on a more administrative role in the business.

"I can't have my hands in everything anymore, but it's tempting," Huddleston said. "But I'm there supporting them and giving them praise."

Champions Westlake, 2805 Bee Caves Road, Ste. 405, 426-1990,

Correction: The article originally stated that Gretchen Huddleston increased the number of students at the facility from 30 to more than 100. Huddleston increased the number of students from 600 to more than 1,000.