By Cidonie Richards
Photos by Ralph Lauer
Kids can play out their parkour dreams — safely — at Tempest Freerunning Academy.
We enter the gym, but it’s unlike the pristine environment of a basketball court or mirror-walled weight room. Instead, it looks like we’re on a building rooftop surrounded by skyscrapers. There are ramps and monkey bars and “brick” walls everywhere. And there are lots and lots of foam pads. If there were ever “sports” designed for adventurous kids, they would be parkour and freerunning — both use running, climbing and jumping to efficiently get from one point to another. Parkour, developed in France, was derived from military obstacle-course training; freerunning adds acrobatics to the formula. The gym, Tempest Freerunning Academy, provides the training to do it all safely.
The beauty of parkour and freerunning is that they require little special equipment, appeal to both boys and girls and are great workouts while emphasizing play over exercise. There’s also the cool factor of learning some of the moves seen in action-movie sequences. But novices and little ones need trained supervision to learn to make moves and fall correctly, which is where Tempest comes in. I’m probably not the only mom who worries about ambulance rides to the emergency room, and I’m happy to report that safety is a top priority at Tempest.
Open since December, the Southlake location is the first in Texas for the California-based company. While open to adults, too, it offers classes and open gym sessions specifically for children. When we first arrived for the beginners open session, we were greeted by the friendly staff and introduced to TJ Stuart, one of the instructors. My kids, who range in age from 8 to 13, are varied in their athletic experience. None had ever tried parkour. As soon as we entered the gym, we were enthralled by the seasoned kids flipping and dropping off high ledges with ease. Stuart made the kids feel safe and confident from the get-go.
Within the hourlong stay, my 8-year-old learned to drop and roll safely from heights and successfully ran up the warped wall — like a skateboard ramp — with success. My 11-year-old daughter, not the sportiest of kids, had fun climbing and balancing on the beams. She conquered a few fears in a minimal amount of time. And my 13-year-old, who is a diver and quite flexible, achieved her goal of doing an aerial backflip on the floor mats. With support staff working with her on how to focus and visualize her goal, she quickly nailed one. All the kids learned basic parkour tricks and tips. Success came with big smiles and high-fives from everyone in the gym. And the best part? They were too busy to notice if I cringed or cheered them on from the glass-windowed viewing platform.