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Acro Spotlight of the Month - Ivan Ivanov
posted on 04/01/2021

NOLA Gymnastics acro head coach, Ivan Ivanov, was formerly a decorated international elite gymnast and is finding creative ways to pass that legacy on to young gymnasts in Louisiana. Ivan not only has grown the NOLA team to include higher level gymnasts, but he has also developed a unique mentorship program to instill positive character traits and foster team unity within his program.

NOLA Sparkle is an 8-week program that mentors and empowers young gymnasts with a focus on different characteristics each week:

  • S portsmanship
  • P ractice
  • A ttitude
  • R espect
  • K indness
  • L eadership
  • E motion

Gym owner, Gretchen Schultz says, “The kids are so excited while they have to guess the word of the week. They share feelings and experiences with each other that creates team bonding and builds strong relationships.”

We asked Ivan to answer some questions about his background in acrobatics as well as his vision for the future at NOLA Gymnastics.

Q: At what age did you start acro?
A: I started acro at age 5 in a beginner class in Sliven, Bulgaria. My first coach was Rumen Lachkov. He was the reason that I was recruited for acro. When I saw the high-level athletes, I aspired to be just like them. My last coach was Kiril Kirov. He was also Rumen's coach. Both men came to the US and continued to coach high level acro athletes.

Q: Where did you train in Bulgaria and what was a typical week like?
A: I trained in Sliven, my hometown. From 1st grade to high school, I was in sports school and our practice was 2x/day.

Q: What types of partnerships were you in?
A: I was in men’s group, mixed pair, and men’s pair.

Q: What are some of your career highlights?
A: I am most well-known for my Bulgarian Junior and Senior men’s group athletes. Combined they were awarded 12 medals at the World Championships, World Cups, European Championships, and European Games. I was recruited to the US because of my expertise and excellence coaching men’s group. Since I have been here, I am a consultant to gyms in the states that are training men’s group.

Another highlight was when I came to Louisiana to work with NOLA Gymnastics. At the 2019 US National Championships, my trio performed a Bulgarian routine I choreographed. They not only won the GOLD but were also awarded the Glenn Sunby Award for Outstanding Performance.

Also, I was proud of myself when I was awarded USA Gymnastics Region 3 Coach of the Year Award in 2018.

Q: What brought you to Louisiana?
A: I was offered a job in New Orleans as Head Coach of NOLA Gymnastics LLC, located on the campus of a prestigious private school in Uptown New Orleans. Prior to this, NOLA only had young developmental pairs and trios. In only 5 years, my athletes have won many medals in the US Gymnastics Championships and have attended 2 international meets in Cesenatico, Italy and the Vegas Acro Cup, winning a silver and 2 bronze medals. NOLA is now more well-known and recognized as a successful acro program with athletes in much higher levels.

I also was drawn to the culture of the city. The Mardi Gras, the music and the food are very European and familiar to me. I also love fishing in the waters of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

Q: When and where did you begin coaching?
A: I began coaching in 2001 in Sofia while I was a third-year student of the National Sports Academy. The Bulgarian Federation gave me the chance to coach in one of the best clubs in Bulgaria CSKA.

Q: Tell us about the NOLA Sparkle Program?
A: As we all became aware of abuse in the gymnastics arena, I realized that positive coaching was a priority. I created a mentorship program to train young gymnasts on leadership giving the girls confidence in all aspects of their lives. I mentored my athlete Lillian Powers to assist me with teaching this program. Each week we celebrate and discuss each letter of SPARKLE (sportsmanship, practice, attitude, respect, kindness, leadership, and emotion).

Q: You have been an international judge for many years. What are some highlights of your judging experience?
A: For the last 13 years, I have had the pleasure to judge the Pan American Games, World Championships, European Championships and World Cups. I have served as a Chair of the Panel, Difficulty Judge, and Reference Execution Judge in these competitions.

Q: You currently serve Region 3 as Judging Coordinator. What does that job involve?
A: It is an honor to be elected a second term in this position. It involves efforts to coordinate judges from the whole Region in their assignments and be aware of their future accomplishment.