New gym opens for young ninjas, parkour traceurs in training

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 24, 2018
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Thomas Desmarais, 10, hops between obstacles.

Three years ago, Martha and Doug Lally watched in awe as young athletes scaled walls and hopped along makeshift obstacle courses built out of mats at Bay State Gymnastics Academy.

It was the academy owners' first exposure to parkour, one of two innovative yet obscure sports which now have a dedicated home at the their newly opened Bay State Movement Academy.

Parkour is a sport with a simple premise: Move from Point A to Point B in the quickest and most efficient way possible. This involves traversing through environmental obstacles, or in the case of a gym environment, carefully designed ropes, monkey bars, jumps, and other roadblocks.

“They were doing all these crazy things, so we quickly learned what it was they were doing and began parkour at our gym,” Martha Lally recalled of the young traceurs, or parkour practitioners.

Since starting parkour classes three years ago at their existing Ventura Drive gym, demand has grown substantially alongside a somewhat related yet different sport: Ninja Warrior. Around the same time parkour classes began, the show American Ninja Warrior premiered on cable and later network television.

It inspired the rise of a whole new sport focused on navigating tough and physically grueling obstacle courses, and the Lallys were not afraid to try it out. Both sports incorporate gymnastics fundamentals like rolls, handstands, and cartwheels, but attract a much broader audience of young athletes who might not have considered gymnastics.

“Not every kid wants to get up on a balance beam or swing from bars,” Martha Lally said. “Parkour lends itself a little bit more to what the child feels comfortable doing, rather than a set of structured skills.”

Jamie Wasilowski is one of the instructors for both programs. He’s been involved in gymnastics since he learned to do his first frontflip at age 13 at the gymnastics academy, where he has taught for a year and a half.

Parkour is not a competitive sport in the traditional sense, he explained. It’s his favorite part about the sport: it’s all focused on the individual athlete.

“My favorite part is you’re never competing against another person,” Wasilowski said. “It’s always about building a better you.”

When enrollment at the original ninja warrior and parkour classes peaked at 175 kids, they decided to move the classes to its own facility. Two weeks ago, Bay State Movement Academy opened its doors in the Route 6 Marine building off of Faunce Corner Road.

Staff worked with a gym equipment company experienced in the programs to outfit the 3,600 square foot space with obstacles including the warped wall -- a steep incline budding ninjas must race up and scale -- cargo nets, rope climbs, and monkey bars.

“It’s been a perfect opening,” Martha Lally said. “Summer is historically our lowest enrollment time, but it’s been a perfect flow to start our opening.”

Currently, 60 kids are signed up for both programs, with a 50-50 split between them. Doug Lally noted they are expecting classes to begin to reach capacity once the fall back-to-school season picks up.

“There was a strong interest of the kids that were already in the gym and siblings who didn’t necessarily want to do gymnastics,” Martha Lally said. “This was just another avenue for them to become involved in athletics and become physical active.”

Thomas Desmarais, 10, and Andrew Lally, 11, pose for a photo while holding on to the top of the "warped wall." (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Coach Jamie Wasilowski watches as Blake Hallett, 6, crosses the monkey bars. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Kathryn Desmarais, 6, crosses the monkey bars. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Bay State Movement Academy owners Martha and Doug Lally in front of the "Warped Wall" obstacle. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Andrew Lally, 11, completes a flip. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Thomas Desmarais, 10, races across an obstacle. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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