Salem Gymnastics & Swim – Forward Strong

photo by JEJ PHOTOS

When family and integrity are at the heart of a business, success comes naturally! 

Since 1980, Salem Gymnastics & Swim has cultivated a safe, fun, professional place for kids in Winston-Salem to grow and learn healthy movement for life. For Beth Morphis, daughter of the school’s founders Frank Minter and Barbara Haas, and now its President, it has been a year filled with challenges and loss, but one she has faced with endless grace and hope.

In the fall of 2021, Beth’s husband, co-owner and fellow coach, Kenny, received a double lung transplant. Thankful for that sacred gift, she says the two lived their best year yet. Unfortunately, Kenny’s lungs became ill, and he died a year later. The time since has been quite a journey for the company, staff and athletes of Salem Gymnastics & Swim.

“Our family has grieved his death, but we are not the only ones,” she adds. “Our company lost a leader, a mentor and a friend. For many of our athletes, it was the first time they lost someone they loved.”

In many cases, Beth says athletes had spent more time with Coach Kenny than with their own dads – and they always looked to him for guidance.

“His death left a hole in our company, as well as our personal lives,” she explains. “Kenny and I coached together for decades, and although I had spent recent years working on administrative aspects of the company and being a mom, I decided to step back into coaching for the season. The team needed my leadership, and I needed a purpose. 

“The day after the funeral, I went to work early and explained to the competitive team that death is the most natural thing in the world. We all do it. It’s sad, but it’s okay. I concluded our talk by telling the girls that it’s okay to cry and important to talk about Kenny and our grief. But, Kenny would kick our butts if we sat around and moped!

Declaring this would be a “Legacy Year” for the team – it was time to get to work!

“It was a tough year for our athletes, as during the fall months – when most upper level gymnasts are polishing up their routines and pushing hard to get their ‘up skills’ competition ready – these ladies were dealt a blow,” shares Beth. “They had trained long hours in the gym with Kenny at the helm. His death was a hard life lesson, and it’s one we have traveled together.”

Now, Beth is enormously proud to announce a wonderful recognition for the school that is a testament to the team’s reaction to challenge and loss – and the integrity they have led with for 43 years.

“Three months after Kenny’s death, I got a cold call from the ‘World’s Greatest’ television show,” Beth says. “We are thrilled and humbled to announce our school’s commitment is being recognized on a larger stage, as Salem Gymnastics & Swim will be featured this month on the nationally syndicated television show!”

The show features organizations of all sizes – highlighting both global companies that have changed the world, and also “hometown heroes” who impact their communities in positive ways. Past featured organizations include Coca Cola, NASCAR, Dollar General and 3M, to name a few.

The “hometown heroes” angle perfectly describes the school, and producers were impressed by how Salem Gymnastics & Swim presents itself to its target audience. 

“They liked the quality of our swim school, gymnastics and summer camps – and our online classes during COVID. On our initial phone interview, they were intrigued by our diversity (gymnastics, swim, camps, school’s-out days), as well as our longevity in the community and our integrity in winning the BBB’s 2018 Torch Award for Ethics. A subsequent interview lasted almost two hours, and when the finalists were pitched to the show’s executive producer, we won!”

On May 22nd, a camera crew spent the day at the popular Winston-Salem school, filming classes in the gym and by the pool, shooting footage of everything from advanced gymnastics to the tiniest students just starting out.

“I was interviewed, along with Chris Young, former gymnast and current coach, and they left with hours of footage!” says Beth. “The show is now being edited into its final format and will be aired in August. We are thrilled!”

Beth wholeheartedly believes what sets the school apart – and earned them this honor – is the wonderful people on staff, along with integrity and a devotion to family friendly activities. 

“We carefully screen, train and mentor each coach, instilling in them our mission of building confidence through healthy movement. We strive to be the best part of a child’s day!” she says. “Every staff member is encouraged to be their best both inside and outside of the gym, and our coaches stress the importance of being a supportive teammate.”

Beth also feels the school has an edge by keeping up-to-date with equipment, facility and training methods, and by addressing problems head-on. Their instruction reaches kids at a very young age – three months for swimming and 12 months for gymnastics. By building a solid foundation in movement at an early age, children more often remain active as adults! While few become top competitive gymnasts, many continue in the sport here and at other local facilities, some become champions in other sports and many excel in the classroom and by leading active lifestyles.

While this season has been a grind and they have persevered through many trials and tears, athletes have also totally rocked!

“The upper level girls finished with a State Champion, multiple top three finishers, seven girls advancing to the southeast regionals and four graduating seniors – sixteen amazing young women who have grown so much and have bright futures ahead of them.”

Salem’s boys’ team finished the year with five athletes at Level 10 Nationals, including graduating senior Tyson Phelps, cover photo, who just joined the gymnastics team at West Point.

The energy at Salem is contagious, and several former gymnasts work here full-time, including Chris Young, Abbie Lowder, Brittany Hull Swain, Sam Colvin and Dani Brown. Many former students bring their children and grandchildren to learn here, which Beth says is the greatest compliment! “It’s evident that passing along the positive experience they had at Salem is something they want to share with others — which says a lot about our culture,” Beth adds. “There’s no shortage of role models for current students.”

Beth continues to be proud that they have really created a family feel at the school. “Now, my sister, Susan Loper, is on staff, as well as my son, Jon Morphis – he’s a gymnastics coach and very popular with the kids!” she adds.

It goes without saying, but Kenny would be so proud!

Visit Salem Gymnastics & Swim to witness their spirit at 4870 Country Club Road, Winston-Salem, NC, 336.765.4668. Email info@salemgym.com for more information, visit the website (Salemgym.com) and follow them on Instagram @salemgym. Registration is year-round and ongoing, and parents can download their free app to have easy access to the parent portal. Salem Gymnastics & Swim is also honored to work with the Hope Floats Foundation which relies on partnerships with local businesses, individuals and swim schools to distribute scholarships for lessons in local communities. Donations to Hope Floats can be made at the following link: https://us.commitchange.com/va/woodbridge/hope-floats-foundation/campaigns/save-a-life-with-a-swim-lesson.

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