Kristen Kane was a mixture of overwhelmed, shocked and excited when she found out that she was nominated as the United States Tumbling and Trampoline Association Coach of the Year for Iowa.


Then, when she actually won the award, “I was very honored, very appreciative,” said Kane, who is the owner of Empire Tumbling Academy, which operates out of a new building near her home south of Maxwell.


“I found out at the state meet on Sunday morning (the final day of competition) that I was nominated,” she said, explaining that all coaches were given ballots at that time to vote on a few special awards. There was her name. To this day she’s not sure who nominated her, but Kane has a feeling of satisfaction knowing that she’s appreciated for doing something she loves.


“I have the opportunity to work alongside so many other amazing coaches, and their guidance has helped me to be who I am,” she said.


Her experiences with tumbling and trampoline started when she was growing up in Huxley. “I started at the age of 5 or 6 at Ankeny Gymnastics Club, which is no longer around,” she said. After a few years, I started competing and then transferred to Cardinal Gymnastics Academy in Ames. That’s where she completed her years in the sport, giving it up when she got into junior high and started to focus on a few school sports activities, mainly volleyball and cheerleading.


The 2000 graduate of Ballard High School said she loved the performing and competing aspects of gymnastics. “I loved the competition and being able to better myself.”


For her, being involved in gymnastics provided an opportunity for learning many life skills. “When I was going through it … I didn’t realize it was good for me,” she said.


Today, as a coach, she wants to have that same impact on her students. “I’m teaching because these are life skills,” she said, not just things to learn for the here and now. “I like my students to know that just your presence and how people see you is important … you always must be ready to go.” These go along with Empire Tumbling’s theme this year, which is, “Be patient and trust the process…keep working and know that things will come.”


Tumbling and trampolining also provide physical skills. There’s no doubt about it. “It gives you a lot of strength, works muscles you didn’t know you are using and helps with balance and flexibility. It makes you more agile,” she said.


She has a few boys in the program too, and for them, she said, “I emphasize the speed, agility and strength that they can bring to the sport and improve on with the sport.”


Kane said her business started in June of 2016 at the urging of a few friends, asking her to open it so local kids would have the sport offered nearby. She’d previously been coaching for 20 years in Ankeny, Ames and Huxley. With the help of Tawnia Leslie of Maxwell and Kane’s sister, Carla Kirkpatrick of Ankeny, who are both volunteer assistant coaches, and with great support from the Collins-Maxwell School District, which allowed her the use of their facilities for the first year, Empire Tumbling Academy got off the ground.


While the majority of students at the Academy are from the local Collins-Maxwell area, she has students from all around central Iowa coming to her facility.


Empire Tumbling Academy offers a variety of classes and levels of training. For those interested in the sport, but who have never tried it, Empire offers beginner classes for all ages, from as young as 2 up to teens.


With state competition now completed for the year, Kane said the next big event is nationals in June. She had over 25 kids who qualified for nationals, but because of the distance (it’s in Charleston, W. Va.) and other activities that start in the summer, only seven students will be going to the national level of competition. Among those seven will be her daughter, Adalie, 9, which makes it extra-exciting for Kane.


To check out what’s coming up, Kane encourages people to go to her website: http://www.empiretumbling.com/. For more information about classes and registration, you may email her at: empiretumbling@outlook.com.


“We have summer classes that were just posted, and our fall classes will be posted in another month or so,” she said.


Her goal for her business and for her as a coach, she said, is to provide a service. “My number-one goal has always been to provide an opportunity for kids that’s fun and gives me the opportunity to help unleash their talents… As their coach and leader, I feel that’s my job.”


A few more details about Kristen Kane:


• Her husband is Jeffrey Kane, who she said has been very supportive of her business and coaching endeavors. “He jumped into this rabbit hole with me. He’s very all hands in (about it).”


• Their children are: Elliott, 13; Stetson, 11; and Adalie, 9. All three kids have been involved in tumbling. Her boys are now tapering off, as they have other sports activities going on.


• Her full-time job is with Casey’s headquarters in Ankeny, where she is a training management coordinator in the Casey’s Training Development Department.