Acro Spotlight of the Month - Ronda Carson-Francis
posted on 04/20/2020

This month’s Spotlight of the Month is Ronda Francis. Ronda is the Head Coach of Acro Explosion in Blue Springs, Missouri. Ronda is also a FIG International Judge. Ronda is the Committee Chair of the Elite Committee, a member of the Selection Committee, and serves as the Chair of the Region 4 Junior Olympic Committee. Ronda was also honored at the 2019 National Championships with the Star Service Award.

How do you first hear about Acrobatic Gymnastics?
The very first time that I saw Acrobatic Gymnastics was at a Dance Competition. I was in awe of the amazing strength and talent of these young athletes. Being a dance studio owner of 12 years that also included tumbling in the curriculum, this just seemed like a great fit and new sport for the students to try. We were lucky enough to have Marcia DeGuire in Region 4. She brought blocks, athletes and small assignments to our studio (which was 4 hrs away) to get us started. We trained on those skills for about 6 weeks and she would return with a new assignment. So month after month and with a lot of encouragement from others in the Region we started an Acro team. Our 1st National Championship was in Houston, Texas.

Did you ever have an “aha moment” when it came to Acrobatic Gymnastics?
There have actually been a few along the journey. The first one was seeing a National Championships for the first time. Watching the Elites and observing my team watching and their amazement of the talent over the entire competition. I knew after that, we were in this for the long term. The next one was having our L8 WP Mallory Henthorn & Savannah Shields named to the JO team and that is where the International piece came into play. I also don't think any coach ever forgets getting your first group on TEAM USA National team. So many people have played a role in this journey and I thank each and every one of them. This is what we call our ACRO family at its best.

What is the best part of coaching?
Helping athletes set goals, reach for their goals and accomplish those goals! That is what coaching has always been about to me. Making a difference in the life of a child. That is the most rewarding experience I can wish for anyone.

What is your current role with Acrobatic Gymnastics besides coaching your own team?
I am currently on the Program Committee as the Elite Committee Chair. I am also the JO rep for Region 4. I get to work alongside many great coaches & judges who LOVE ACRO and always work towards the future of our sport.

Coaching Elite athletes as well as being an Internationally rated judge, has given you the opportunity to travel. What is one of your favorite trips or places you have been to?
Being a FIG judge for the past 16 yrs and having International athletes for the past 14 yrs. has enabled me to travel to many places. Having athletes competing in both Belgium for TEAM USA and Switzerland for ICT team at the same time and meeting up in Paris prior to traveling home is absolutely a very memorable time. Going to Russia and China was such a different & unique experience too. I have had the privilege of traveling to so many more countries than I could have ever imagined but honestly it is the people in the delegations and the friendships that I've made abroad that have the most lasting impressions on me.

Who is one person in Acro that has been the most influential?
That is an IMPOSSIBLE question on my coaching career as there have been so many clinicians that continue to give of their knowledge and help year after year. Without ALL of them, we would not be the team that we are today. In both coaching & judging I had a great influence from Tonya Case. From the very first Acro Boot Camp to the mentoring through the years with athletes. She gave me that push to pursue FIG Brevet in judging and I thank her so much for that. Also, in my judging career I believe all of us would agree we owe so much to the one & only Ms. Jola Jones. Jola was inducted to the USAG Hall of Fame and so well deserved. The teaching, encouragement, introductions to everyone she knows Nationally and Internationally are just a few of the things that are so special about this lady. I wish everyone is lucky enough to meet her in their Acro careers. Her friendship is priceless.

What is your coaching philosophy?
TEAM WORK makes the DREAM WORK! Be fair always. Work hard & take pride in being a good teammate. I often use a quote in our gym: "I never said it would be easy..........I said it would be worth it!" Enjoy your journey~

What is one word or phrase that you would want people to associate with your name?
Integrity and Fairness. I strive for that. I take it very seriously to heart in being one of the voices that represents our Acro Community and I can only hope it shines through.

What do you hold special throughout your career?
There are SO many “special moments” along the way but presenting Marcia DeGuire with the Star Service award knowing that without her being the person she is to help & share no matter the distance, we (AE) would not know ACRO today.

Seeing fellow coaches, judges and athletes receiving awards, reaching their goals, and achieving more than they ever thought possible. Just getting to be a part of their special moment.......I hold that near in my heart always.