CORNER BROOK Erin Brady has watched several gymnasts from Corner Brook make their mark in Atlantic Canada, but she wonders how many more could follow suit if they only had a facility that could meet the needs of the expanding Saltos Gymnastics Club.
Brady, head coach of Saltos, believes gymnasts registered with the club, both competitive and recreational, can only achieve bigger things if the club can find a new place to call home.
Born in Ohio but calling Fermont home, Brady said Saltos is lacking the appropriate space required to run the most-effective program so it has forced the club to get as many people as possible to utilize the facility and that means having the competitive and recreational athletes in the gym at the same time.
That’s not something she feels is in the best interest of the athlete, especially when gymnasts on the east coast of the province have so much space that they can separate each level of gymnast because they have the proper space and ceiling heights in place.
“Sometimes they hold back a little because they’re nervous of who is going to run in front of them,” Brady said of the club’s competitive gymnasts. “If you have a little parent and tot kid there and somebody trying to tumble clearly the competitive kid doesn’t want to injure a child.”
The ceilings being too low to effectively carry out certain skills and a lack of floor space is also a detriment to teaching the proper techniques, according to Brady.
“Clearly you don’t want to cast a handstand if the ceiling comes to where your knees are,” she said.
Most of the gymnastics facilities on the island are equipped with a landing pit that provides a safe environment, but that is another item that local gymnasts continue to do without even though they continue to show improvement.
“They also have the inground landing pit which allows them to learn the more difficult skills without worrying about landing on a hard floor,” she said of the St. John’s clubs she has been in since taking over the head coaching job 14 months ago.
Of course, there is also the needs of the recreational gymnasts that the club must consider, especially given the fact the large pecentage of Saltos 350 gymnasts are registered more for the fun and health benefits than they are about winning gold medals.
“It’s a struggle because we do have wait lists going, which is fantastic (because) we want all the kids in, but it’s just trying to tell people that your experience won’t be as good if we try to cram in more and more kids because we still want to have a quality program,” she said.
The Saltos Gymnastics Club, under the leadership of club president Denise May, has submitted a proposal to the City of Corner Brook outlining their desire to have a new home for gymnasts in the city. The proposal includes three solutions to the club’s need for space. A brand new facility is high on the wish list, while entertaining putting a retractable wall in place at the Pepsi Studio space is also something the club is OK with doing. The third option, which is less desirable one in May’s opinion, would be to renovate and add square footage to the current facility.
While the executive is clearly frustrated with trying to keep a growing program intact, coach Brady has also had to deal with her own challenges. She said it’s no easy feat to try and keep athletes interested when they’re getting discouraged by the fact they may never be able to really excel at the sport because the proper facility isn’t in place and they consider quitting the sport an option. She said it is sometimes tough to get athletes to understand that they can still have success despite being met with so many challenges.
“Trying to convince them that even though we do have limitations, that we are creative and still producing champions,” she said.