Dreaming of the Gold with NOLA GymnasticsApril 1, 2021Coach Ivan Ivanov takes NOLA Gymnastics to national and international championships What started as single mom Gretchen Schultz teaching gymnastics at local after-school programs grew into a dream of creating national and world championship teams. Making that dream a reality for NOLA Gymnastics is Coach Ivan Ivanov, who joined the teaching staff in 2016. Says Gretchen, “As a three-time national companionship competitor myself, I started bringing my kids to the nationals and competing in 2010. I always wanted my gym to be known for high level athletics, and that’s why I hired Ivan. I knew that he could take our teams to the next level and compete with the best.” International Rankings Coach Ivanov’s international reputation is stellar, having been a nationally acclaimed, six-time Bulgarian National Champion himself, and going on to coach acrobatic gymnastics (or “acro”) for the past 16 years. Prior to New Orleans, his students have won 12 medals in World Championship, World Cup, European Championship, and European Games. And being an internationally ranked judge and professional member of USA Gymnastics makes Ivan a unique in New Orleans competitive gymnastics, translating to higher coaching standards for his local students. Since joining NOLA Gymnastics, Ivanov’s teams have won five gold, three silver, and four bronze medals in USA Gymnastics’ national championships. By training to his higher levels, the gym’s elite acro trio team not only were named US National Champions two years in a row, but also won silver and bronze medals in the 2019 International Acrobatic Cup in Cesenatico, Italy. (2020 competitions were not held because of coronavirus.) Notes Coach Ivanov, “Since joining NOLA Gymnastics, our athletes have progressed developmentally, from the 2018 US Level 7 Team National Champions award from USA Gymnastics, to the international track with the medals they won in Italy. It’s terrific! We’ve never had such awards in New Orleans!” He continues, “Our trio also won the coveted Glenn Sunby Award from USA Gymnastics in the 2019 Nationals. That one is like the Best of Show, with the artistry, drama, dancing, and routine. It’s given to the athletes with the best artistry and performance in all levels. We were so proud.” Teaching for All NOLA Gymnastics’ after school programs are still taught at Newman, McGehee, and the Academy of the Sacred Heart (though on hiatus until the fall, due to COVID restrictions). The main programs and athletic training, though, is done at their home base, an enormous Uptown gymnastics facility on Newman School’s campus.And it’s not just the acrobatic teams that Coach Ivan works with; he instructs all ages and abilities at NOLA Gymnastics – from kindergym and beginner to pre-teen programs. By coaching all ages, Ivanov can develop talent from a very early age and establish strong relationships with the kids who may stay with the gym for years, into their teens. Comments Gretchen Schultz, “Not all of our students will be athletes, but they’ll come for years and enjoy gymnastics in a positive environment as a hobby.” Mentorship Ivanov is committed not only to his star athletes but to the New Orleans community at large. He also makes a difference in young local lives as the creator and program director of NOLA SPARKLE, an eight-week empowerment-mentorship program for young gymnasts, established in 2020. Using gymnastics, storytelling, and the S.P.A.R.K.L.E. curriculum, the program encourages girls to be the best they can and become more confident, caring, and capable individuals, shining not just in the gym, but in all areas of their lives. Ivanov now sees himself as a New Orleanian and has put down roots as a local homeowner. “I love what I do and the culture here, and fishing, sailing, and cooking. I can’t wait to see what comes next!” See nolagymnastics.com for more information. Trevor Wisdom is a mom and native New Orleanian, and managing editor of Nola Family.