Business owner keeps tumbling forward
Jonathan Herrmann news-herald.net
Matt Guldan has been offering tumbling and gymnastics training in Lenoir City for more than 10 years, and from a humble start, he is now owner of Summit Sports Training Center at 1961 Martel Road.
“I started out years and years ago with no money and would go to Lenoir City park and move the duck poop out of the way and would tumble with girls just out in the grass,” Guldan said. “I went from there to the Tennessee Sports Complex … rented that for a decade, then bought this in 2014 and have loved it.”
The process of going from playing at the park to ownership of his own training center has been slow but has been in line with Guldan’s long-term goals.
“I’m an awful advertiser,” he said. “It’s always worked that just word of mouth has been my only means of advertising. So folks would just tell their friends. ... I didn’t want to jump in and buy a million dollar property right off the bat and have a hard time keeping that. So I would just slowly grow as I could. For me that business philosophy has worked out.”
Guldan’s path to training gymnasts started when he was a gymnast himself growing up.
After attending college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and majoring in exercise kinesiology, he decided he wanted to continue being involved in sports through his adult life.
“It’s just one of those things that once you have that passion you stick with it,” he said.
As he has shifted from competitor to coach, he has noticed that winning prizes as a competitor does not fuel him as much anymore. Instead, he now gets enjoyment from seeing his students accomplish their goals.
“When you’re coaching, you’re still competitive, but your joy is not yourself taking first place, but when you see their joy, when you see their eyes light up when they have reached their goal,” Guldan said. “That’s the new prize for a coach. ... It’s exciting every time I see them reach that goal, and the confidence that goes with that and the self-esteem that goes with that is very rewarding.”
Confidence is a big part of what Guldan wants his students to take away from his Beyond Tumbling program.
Tina Spears of Lenoir City, whose daughter Kendra Smith is a student in one of Guldan’s classes, said confidence has been the biggest change she has seen in her daughter since she joined the program more than a year ago.
“Her confidence has really, really bloomed,” Spears said. “She used to be kind of shy and didn’t want to do anything in front of nobody. Now she really just blooms and goes.”
Guldan stresses positivity in his classes and said his focus in his classes is about enjoying the sport and teaching lessons rather than competing.
“We do the recreational gymnastics, and that’s what I love,” he said. “At most gyms the competitive program gets your best, most qualified coaches. Here, since we just offer the recreational side, our recreational kids are getting the best, most qualified coaches, which is a fresh change.”
That attitude is what has kept Spears and her daughter coming back week after week.
“(Guldan) is the biggest reason why we come here,” she said. “My little girl, she doesn’t really trust a lot of people, so Matt really helps her with social skills she needs, really getting her involved and showing her he cares for her.”
Spears and her daughter considered at several other gyms in the area and made visits before settling on Summit’s program. “When she came here she just fell in love with the facility,” she said.
Each student that comes to one of the Beyond Tumbling classes is taken in with the same initial approach.
“I’ve got some kids who come in, and they are very advanced already,” Guldan said. “With each kid we start where they are and go from there. I’ve got the preschooler who comes in, and they’re ready to learn the forward roll, to the college athlete who is trying out for a college level team and doing advanced skills. Step one is figuring out where they are. Step two is where they want to go, and step three is how we’re going to get there.”
Guldan employs 12 part-time coaches in addition to himself, and he said as the business continues to grow, he may soon be in the market for additional employees as well.
“I’m very good out there teaching, coaching, just doing that,” Guldan said. “I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m awful at administration, advertising and that side of the business. In its early days that was fine because I could do it all.
“Now that it’s getting bigger,” he added. “I’m to the point where I’m probably going to have to hire someone to help with the front desk and that kind of stuff. ... I’ve just been used to doing all of it for so long that part of it is habit, part is control freak and part is finding the right people to fill those roles.”
In addition to tumbling, Guldan offers a Hero Training class for boys that combines strength and agility training.
“I would have some moms that would say I don’t really want my boy to try to be a hero, that’s dangerous,” he said. “I’ve got three boys and I fully expect them to do the right thing regardless of the consequence as they grow older. It’s neat to see these guys at a young age already start to view themselves as heroes.”
Adventures Beyond is another aspect of the Summit business, which takes groups into the mountains on weekend trips that includes activities like rappelling, rafting and spelunking.
That began primarily with youth groups but now includes business team building trips and father-son trips.
Batting cages are also located in the Summit complex, and Guldan offers private lessons in addition to tumbling and gymnastics classes. For more information, visit http://www.summitsportstrainingcenter.com.