The Parkette program has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 1960's. Bill and Donna Strauss formed the group that was to become one of the most famous and recognized gymnastics programs in the USA Gymnastics history.
It was with great pride that the Strausses selected the name Parkettes when identifying their new team. It was to honor the man that inspired them to pursue their dreams of building a gymnastics program in the Lehigh Valley.
Less than two decades later, the Parkettes achieved a ranking of #1 Team in the United States as voted on by their peers, as well as achieving the Coach of the Year Award in 1983, 1994 and 1998.
The road to success was not an easy one. The sport of gymnastics has increased dramatically in popularity since the founding of the Parkettes. As gymnastics grew, so did the Strausses means to provide a quality program to their students. In their formative years, the Parkettes practiced in places such as a barn with no heat, a dimly lit basement of a church, the Strauss's own backyard (during the summer), and the second and third floors of Symphony Hall in Allentown's downtown area!
In 1976, a Parkette gymnast was the first to qualify as a member of the USA Olympic Team.
In 1979, Parkettes competed for the United States in the Pan American Games and brought recognition to the USA and the Lehigh Valley.
In 1981, a Parkette gymnast competed in Moscow on the USA World Gymnastics Championships Team.
However successful, the Strausses knew that if the true potential of the gymnasts were to be tapped, they would need a modern training facility. Of equal importance to them was their interest in providing local children with the opportunity to gain the physical and psychological benefits associated with the sport of gymnastics.
In 1981, Alfred W. Pelletier, then Chairman of the Board of Mack Trucks, Inc., heard of the plight of the Parkettes and realized that Allentown and this country had a "diamond in the rough." Through the efforts of Mr. Pelletier, the Parkettes Parents Organization, and many other local businesses and private citizens, enough money was raised to begin construction of a new Olympic sized and equipped training center on land donated by the City of Allentown.
In this same year, the Parkettes competed in the First International Team championships held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They placed second behind the powerful Chinese team and finished as the top United States team.
In 1983, a Parkette was on the World Championship Team. In 1986, Parkettes finished 1st, 2nd and 4th in Championships of the USA and traveled to Moscow to compete in the Goodwill Games.
In 1988, Hope Spivey became a member of the United States Olympic Team. Coach's Bill and Donna Strauss also obtained Olympic positions, with Bill being named Administrator for the Women's Gymnastic program and Donna being named Co-Coach of the Olympic team.
In 1995, the Parkettes hired Joe Stallone as the Men's program Director. Stallone's had 17 years coaching experience, was an NCAA Competitor at Penn State, was a member of the USA Men's Program Committee 1997-2000. Kristen Maloney, a Parkette since age 10, was crowned the 1998 USA National Gymnastics Champion in August of 1998. She defended this title again in 1999, proving herself to be the most accomplished American gymnast since the '96 Olympics. Kristen won the Gold Medal on the Beam at the 1998 Goodwill Games, 1st place All-around at the International Team Championships and 1st Place All-around at the Pacific Alliance Championships. Kristen attended UCLA on a full gymnastics scholarship in the fall of 2000.
In 1999, the Parkettes were honored to hold the First Annual Brian Babcock Memorial Invitational in honor of the late Brian Babcock. Babcock was the former Men's Program Director, as well as 1985 USA National Men's Champion. The invitational will be held every year to honor three traits closely associated with Brian and his impact on the sport of gymnastics: Desire, Dedication, and Determination.
The Parkettes organization provides the finest in gymnastics training to over 1200 local children that participate to have fun while developing physical fitness, coordination, strength and flexibility. For the gymnast who is interested in competing, the opportunity exists on one of the many different teams, and is handled on an individual basis.
In addition, several specialty classes have been developed to meet the specific needs of a variety of groups. These include Cheerleading, "Special Needs" classes, addressing the needs of children with emotional, mental or physical handicaps, as well as Adult classes.