History of Chattooga

Chattooga School of Gymnastics & Dance is a family owned and operated business, founded in 1976, by Cindy Bickman and her parents, Tom and Brownie Beavers.  Initially, the gym was located in a warehouse complex on Barclay Cir. in Marietta, with a small satellite studio in an office building on Canton Rd.   In 1987, the present facility was constructed and Chattooga moved to its permanent home.

The gym is named after Camp Chattooga, a summer camp located in Tallulah Falls, Georgia.  The family owned the camp for many years, running summer recreational camps as well as gymnastics sessions.  Chattooga is an Indian word that means “stepping stones of growth.”

Chattooga students have performed at numerous events throughout Atlanta, the US, and abroad.  Locally, the group has participated in the Festival of Trees and Christmas Parade, the Yellow Daisy Festival, Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies, corporate functions, and many sporting events, including Hawks games (basketball), Braves games (baseball), SkateAmerica (figure skating), and the Federation Cup (tennis).  Chattooga students performed at the 1983 Worlds Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the 1984 Worlds Fair in New Orleans, Louisiana.  1996 provided many opportunities for the group to perform, including Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games, the Olympic gymnastics show, the dedication of the Flair statue at the World Congress Center, and the Closing Ceremonies of the Paralympics.  The exhibition team has traveled extensively to perform in Europe.  Chattooga has been selected by USAGymnastics as part of the US delegation to the World Gymnaestradas in 1999 (Gothenberg, Sweden), 2003 (Lisbon, Portugal), and 2007 (Dornbirn, Austria).

Chattooga has fielded competitive teams through the years in boys and girls artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, aesthetic group gymnastics, and cheerleading.  Gymnasts have won individual and team awards at local, state, regional and national competitions.  One Chattooga team member, Becky Turner Buckland, competed on the US Group Rhythmic team in the 1996 Olympics.  Additionally, Chattooga has hosted numerous state, regional and national events for USAGymnastics, including the Junior Olympic Group Championships, the USA National Gymfest and the US Group Gymnastics Championships.  In 2008, the Chattooga group became the first US team ever to compete in the Aesthetic Group World Championships.

Dance, especially ballet, is an important part of the training at Chattooga.  Students are trained classically, with an emphasis on skills for gymnastics.  Chattooga dancers have performed with ballet and modern dance companies throughout the Southeast and many have pursued dance as a career.  Students have performed locally in the Atlanta Ballet’s and Georgia Ballet’s Nutcrackers and with the Atlanta Opera in Turandot and The Magic Flute.

Chattooga has been the home of the Cobb County Special Olympics Gymnastics team since 1983.  Special Olympics athletes train, compete, and perform as an integral part of the Chattooga team.  Typical students at Chattooga compete as Unified Partners in Special Olympics competitions and eventually become certified coaches and judges.  The gym works closely with Special Olympics Georgia, Special Olympics Cobb County, and Special Olympics International on many projects, including competition opportunities, coaches workshops, training videos, and program development.

In 2007, Chattooga and Cobb County Special Olympics began a community outreach program called Athletes Making a Difference.

Throughout the years, Chattooga has taught gymnastics and dance to several generations of students.  Success is measured not by the awards won or recognition achieved, but by the personal development of each child as he/she progresses through the program and graduates into adulthood.