Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Win Kids celebrating 25 years of fun and friendships

Propped against a window in Mike Winburn’s cluttered office is a captivating photo of him and his daughter, Taylor. In the photo, taken on September 11, 1998, Mike is seen crouching down during a brief break in gymnastics practice as little Taylor in her leotard gently leans toward him for more instruction — perfectly capturing the sweet bond between a dad and his daughter.

It’s the sort of photo that’s become quite the conversation stealer over the years, especially when you hear the bigger story behind it.

“People do ask me about that picture when they come in. That was our start [for Win Kids], and that’s my daughter,” Winburn said. “Both my kids went through the program, and Taylor was one of the first to see how I wanted kids to experience what we do.”

Anyone who has grown up in or around Flower Mound has heard of Win Kids, which is celebrating a staggering 25 years as a staple of this community. Granted, the concept has meandered its way through several locations, name changes, and expansions in that time. When it first started, it was just a gymnastics class. But today, the 27,000 square-foot athletics and entertainment facility located on 5.5 acres off FM 2499 and Waketon Road is impossible to miss. Thousands of kids as young as 12 months to as old as teenagers visit each week for everything from gymnastics, swimming, tumbling, and trampoline to preschool, voice and piano lessons, Acrosport, Ninja Warrior, summer camps, private birthday parties, parent’s night out, and everything in between.

More than just gymnastics and competition, Win Kids has become the place where memories are made, friendships are forged, trophies are earned, and former students can return to teach the next generation — all in a fun, friendly, and positive environment.

“You get told ‘no’ a lot when you’re trying to build something like this and convince banks to believe in your idea. But as you go along, you have to have persistence,” the 57-year-old Winburn said. He joked that he still has his original business plan from 1997, which included many of the activities kids get to experience now. And he keeps it on a shelf right under that picture of him and Taylor. “And I see that persistence in these kids, too. Sometimes, it’s not as much about the athletic talent they have as much as it is about their persistence. You can become outstanding at almost anything if you have that.”

He added, “I believe in our approach here. We produce results that balance kids’ lives with participation in sports.”

If you look beyond the dad and daughter moment in the photo in Winburn’s office, you can see what Win Kids used to be and how far it has come. Back in 1998, it was called Gym Kids, and the classes Taylor was in were being held in a 17-foot by 54-foot room tucked between the Health and Athletics Center and childcare center next door on Garden Ridge and Main Street.

It was an old storage room featuring a random pole smack dab in the middle. Winburn was more than willing to work with the meager accommodations, though. He previously borrowed $1,100 from his dad to purchase a white cargo trailer to house his mats and equipment and had been sharing space for his gymnastics classes at the Cross Timbers Family YMCA and the racquetball court and aerobics room at the Health and Athletics Center. Each day, he’d have to unload, set up, break down, and reload his equipment into the trailer — many times tuckering himself out before classes even started.

The old storage room at least gave him a dedicated space. So he designed a waiting room for parents and a front desk and put all his energy into those classes. And it didn’t take long to develop a following.

“In 1998, Flower Mound was booming. There were all these young families looking to invest in their kid’s activities, and my classes got popular pretty quickly. Everyone knew me as Coach Mike; I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without being recognized by all the kids,” he said with a laugh. Winburn grew up in the big blue gyms of Florida and Texas and had worked his way through college while coaching competitive gymnastics. “I always enjoyed coaching kids and got a lot of that love of working with children from my mother, Jan Winburn. Incidentally, she’s been helping at Win Kids since the beginning and still teaches the Music Kids private piano lessons.”

Gym Kids quickly grew to 275 students a week, and it only took a year before a wealthy businessman approached Winburn about a new concept he had called Parker Square. The idea was that Gym Kids would be the first tenant in the luxury business center, and before Winburn knew it, he went from making things work with an 800-square-foot space to having a 2,400-square-foot facility of his own.

The only problem was that he was more popular than ever. Gym Kids grew to 400 students per week and was beginning to host birthday parties in addition to gymnastics. He moved into a 4,000-square-foot facility, then went through a fourth expansion to a customized 12,000-square-foot space and grew it to 1,200 students per week — all at Parker Square.

“The problem was that I outgrew it in a snap,” Winburn said. “I was looking for land to build on and came up with this space we’re in now. It was a struggling charter school at the time that was set up like military barracks. I approached them to buy this building, which ultimately became our fifth and final expansion. It wasn’t until we moved that I changed the name to Win Kids.

“The goal has always been to have a place where parents could have a one-stop-shop for their kids to really enjoy all the fun aspects of fun and activities — with just enough competition to challenge them. It was all in my original business plan, and now we’re finally here.”

Operations manager Kristy Pierce has been with Win Kids for 17 years and said what they’ve built is special beyond words.

“It’s not just gymnastics. It’s childhood for these kids,” Pierce said. “They can have their birthday parties here, meet their best friend at camp, and just have a great time. It’s not a business we see ourselves coming in and out of every day. We are part of this community.”

Winburn agreed, saying he wouldn’t be shocked if Win Kids is around for another 25 years and beyond.

“We have 53 employees now, and a third of them were students here at one point. That’s the culture we’ve built,” he said. “We found people who think the way I do and believe in what we do. We’re all a major part of what happens here each day for these kids.”

To learn more about Win Kids, visit winkids.net.

(Sponsored content)

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