Gymnastics is a sport that is exciting, engaging and can further athletes in more than just the sport itself.
Here in Lacombe, a local gymnastics club of 180 members is making those benefits available to the community.
Coach Darlene Boyko, who heads the Lacombe Gymnastics club, said that gymnastics is a great sport as it works all of the body and touches on so many different aspects of athleticism.
Strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and spatial awareness, just to name a few, are all aspects of gymnastics that are transferable to a number of different sports, she said.
“It’s the basis for all sports,” said Boyko.
She added that the benefits of gymnastics are obvious when gymnasts participate in a number of other sports as well.
For example, ball players hit harder and have better coordination than those without that experience.
Other skills, like concentration, can be honed through gymnastics as well, said Boyko. Of course, it is also a great way to stay fit.
Boyko has been coaching Lacombe Gymnastics for nine years.
Before that, she had a year and a half of previous experience coaching a club in Red Deer.
She had an interest in gymnastics from when she was quite young and started practicing the sport early in her college career, she said.
A bit of a thrill seeker, the excitement and adrenaline rush of gymnastics is what led Boyko to her involvement in gymnastics.
But, Boyko took a break from the sport and hadn’t had any involvement with gymnastics for about 25 years prior to coaching.
She said it was coaching young students and seeing them develop as gymnasts that re-invigorated her love of the sport and is the reason she continues her involvement today.
“The girls who are coaching now, I was coaching eight years ago when they were eight and nine years old and now they are 16, 17 and coaching themselves,” said Boyko.
“So it’s kind of nice to see it come full-circle.”
Lacombe Gymnastics Club starts teaching skills to gymnasts almost as soon as they can walk.
At as young as 18 months, children can enter the Lacombe Gymnastics Ladybugs parent tot program. At this young age, parents help guide their children and help teach them the very basics of gymnastics including body awareness, spatial awareness and how to line up.
From there, Boyko coaches right up to the provincial level of gymnastics. Everything from fl oor routines, to uneven bars, to tumbling, to trampoline is included at Lacombe Gymnastics.
While Boyko is not certified to coach men’s gymnastics, she does run a park-hour (free-running) program for older boys and has a drop-in teen program as well.
Lacombe Gymnastics boasts an impressive roster of coaches.
In addition to Boyko, there is a former member of the Acronaires and a Perfect Storm Athletics cheerleader that coach as well, said Boyko.
The different specialties of each of the coaches help break up monotony of the classes and keep things fun and interesting, she added.
“We try to keep it as engaging as possible,” said Boyko.
She added that the club also hosts workshops and seminars to this effect as well.
Students who wish to expand their gymnastics experience are welcome to coach too.
Boyko said a Coach In Training (CIT) program from Alberta Gymnastics is also run through the club and many of her students are now coaching classes of their own.
As a bonus, these students even get work experience credit in high school for their coaching.
While Lacombe’s club is classified as a recreational one, students do get the opportunity to compete, but it’s not necessary to do so in order to excel in the sport.
Boyko said that students and their families decide how many competitions, if any, to participate in on their own.
For students who are a little more competitive, but at the same time don’t want the full stress of traveling and competing in front of judges, there is also a performance program.
Boyko said this group is for gymnasts who have or want to showcase their skills like the competitors do, but in a more informal setting.