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The sport of gymnastics is very much like the game of life: there are many paths that come “full circle” but it takes many years to get anywhere- and often it comes with many unexpected twists, turns, and falls. And when we fall, we hope to land on our feet.
Coach Dirk Ooijkaas from Rotterdam, Netherlands is very familiar with both the game of life and the sport of gymnastics. As a 4x National Champion, World Championship competitor, and Olympic Team qualifier, Dirk was drawn to the state of California by the warm sun and laid back lifestyle. He moved to the United States in 1988.
Dirk spent many years as a master clinician and even started his own gymnastics club in San Francisco in 2001. But, as many gym owners know, affordable space in a crowded city can be a major obstacle for any program. After San Francisco lost its affordable lease, Dirk moved onto other ventures.
Fast forward 10 years: after a happenstance run in with a former coaching colleague, Coach Dirk’s love of coaching was rekindled, bringing him “full circle” back to the gym.
Today, Coach Dirk is back where he belongs: owner and operator of a unique gymnastics program where he has found a way to make use of a city-owned space without the expense of renting high cost square footage. In 2015, Flying Dutchman Gymnastics was born. Dirk began shifting his focus from large-scale national competitions to community based educational gymnastics for all: including special needs, mobile educational services, and inclusion of under-represented and less affluent families. He uses the space after school and on weekends. Daily, he and his staff sets up an impressive and effective floor, full of engaging and professional equipment.
Coach Dirk’s schedule keeps him fit, fulfilled, and moving forward. Currently, he is in the planning stages of partnering with local schools to make gymnastics education accessible to as many children as possible. He and his team are brainstorming ways to use a mobile tent structure to create an indoor-outdoor accessible mobile program. This 10,000 square foot tent structure is capable of sustaining 110mph hurricane winds and survive 8.0 scale earthquakes (a notable asset in the Bay Area).
When asked what Dirk is most proud of in his 29 year career, he describes the relationships that he has built with this students, colleagues, and families who have made lasting impressions on his heart. The world of gymnastics is enormous, but so small and intimate at the same time. Dirk has found success through his determination, generosity, and hard work – not to mention his hard, fast rule “Altijd op je voeten landen!” (Dutch translation…”Always land on your feet!”)