36-year-old Ralph Thompkins is the owner of S.W.A.G Kids Gym, which was founded in August 2019 and located at 7306 Haggerty Road in West Bloomfield. Every day, he and his staff work hard to not only build good health and self-confidence in youth ages 10 months through 13 years but simultaneously foster a passion for physical activity within them, as well.
For more information, visit swagkidsgym.com.
MR. RALPH, WHAT FUELED YOUR DECISION TO STUDY EDUCATION IN COLLEGE?
I always had great teachers and coaches growing up, especially at Harrison High School [in Farmington Hills], and wanted to have the opportunity to give back what I received from them.
YOU USED TO WORK AT THE LITTLE GYM BEFORE YOU OPENED S.W.A.G. WHAT MADE YOU VEER AWAY FROM TEACHING IN THE TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM SETTING?
I actually started teaching in a middle school in Detroit, but it closed down. My plan and purpose was to stay in the traditional realm of education, but at the time, it was really hard to get a job. I looked everywhere for something in the physical education world, and that’s when I found The Little Gym, which led me to what I’m doing now.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN S.W.A.G?
I loved a lot of what The Little Gym offered, but I felt like they fell short on how to keep older kids coming in. They did not really have the space and programming to offer what the older kids would want and be interested in. So, since I really wanted to create opportunities for kids older than the age of five, I decided to open S.W.A.G, which is a bigger space where I have the ability to offer more creative programming. I still have little ones coming in, but I also have 13-year-olds enjoying it, too.
WHY WEST BLOOMFIELD, SPECIFICALLY?
First of all, I love the community. Plus, it was super important to me to have an opportunity to potentially work with the families I did in the past, and it was just a matter of finding the right space. It’s truly been everything I envisioned it to be.
WHAT DOES S.W.A.G OFFER YOUTH?
It offers kids of all ages an opportunity to fall in love with the concept of exercise. A love, a guide and a great understanding for exercise through movement. Of course we do gymnastics, but the biggest thing we do here is create new opportunities for play through the use of obstacle courses. Every time they come in, kids can expect a new experience and also new challenges. We offer a ton of versatility for kids to move in different ways, no matter their age.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL S.W.A.G OFFERS PARENTS?
We actually do host adult events here, which was the sector I wasn’t able to test out before but wanted to get into. So far, we’ve had five wine tastings, two dance parties and a karaoke night. We even have a few adult clients who do exercise training here.
WHY THE NAME “S.W.A.G”?
I wanted something super catchy but also futuristic. It’s a name that describes what we can do: Sports, Workouts and Gymnastics. Little kids can remember it, but it’s still something an older kid feels good about saying.
YOU RECENTLY MADE UPDATES TO YOUR MEMBERSHIP PLANS. WHAT MEMBERSHIP PLANS DO YOU CURRENTLY OFFER?
We have two membership types: our Classic Membership for $50, which includes unlimited classes and a free T-Shirt, and for $70, you can get the Gold Membership, which includes unlimited classes and shirts but also other perks like a sibling discount, birthday package discount, open gym perks and more. Class sign-up is on a first-come, first-served basis, but it’s nice because you are able to come as much as you want within the six days a week we offer classes. Open gyms take place at varied times on weekends when we don’t have birthday parties.
HOW DO YOU ENVISION S.W.A.G IN THE FUTURE?
After the pandemic, all I want is to be uninterrupted! But really we just want to be as expansive as we can in our offerings and continue being more than just gym classes. We wish to be known as an entertainment center that can host any kind of event for kids or adults alike. And of course, like every business owner, I am thinking about franchising one day, too.