Lacombe is home to a club of performance athletes known as the Acronaires, a team that combines gymnastics, tumbling, cheer stunts and circus into a fun way to be active.
The Acronaires are technically a part of Burman University (formerly Canadian University College) but are open to anyone who is in high school or older. The team trains together several times a week, with different skill training for the juniors and adult teams.
“We do tons of things: gymnastics, tumbling, cheer stunting and circus performances. We like to draw a unique message of being fit, being active and to always try your best. We’re also a Christian team, so we kind of try to witness to people without preaching to them,” explained Communications Representative Ashtynn Shipowick.
“We do that through our lifestyle and actions, hoping that people can see us as something different and that we carry a positive message.”
The team travels to schools with their performances, and have even brought their talents as far as Kenya and Jamaica.
This year, their tour will take them to Vancouver.
Shipowick said that her team has become very close, and that they are very much like a family. The Acronaires do require a fair time commitment as they meet multiple times through the week and work on a wide variety of skills.
“To give an idea of what we do, I’ll explain our Home Show – our big, year-end show, where we do seven to 10 routines. We do a cheer routine, where we show stunting and cheer skills. We do an acrobatic routine, which contains some more power moves like pyramids and stacking people,” explained Shipowick.
“There is always a tumbling routine, where we show things like back-flips, and front-flips and all of that kind of stuff. We also have a few circus routines, where between two to four girls perform with the lyras, or hoops. We also do trampoline skills and some more creative things like our ladies’ trio.”
Each year, the team works toward developing a show around a theme. For the 2015 Home Show, the theme is love and so the Acronaires are busy preparing to display their skills. Years past have had shows designed around themes such as colonization, an ‘Around the World’ event, a circus theme and even a theme based on the movie The Lion King.
There are two levels of Acronaires – the juniors and the more experienced team.
“We split the juniors into level groups and work on the skills they need to advance to the next level. It’s completely different from the advanced Acronaires. The juniors work on skill building, coaching and learning individual tasks. We do more trampoline and tumbling with the juniors, and less of the acrobatic elements,” said Shipowick.
By contrast, the advanced team focuses much more on working together to create routines. The advanced team are the ones who do most of the major performances.
“It’s really like a family. We do everything together. All of my friends from school are on this team. We have a big commitment because we practice four nights a week for two hours each night. We spend a lot of time working together and trying to create team routines.”
Coaches help develop most of the routines, but some Acronaires such as Shipowick are able to take a little creative control.
She and two other women are busy working on their debut Ladies’ Trio, as well as working on her specialty of hoop performance.
“I enjoy the challenge of being an Acronaire. I’m one of the lady bases, so I find great accomplishment in being able to put three girls on my shoulders. We do some cool stuff. I like being able to accomplish different flips, and I’ve been working on my tumbling,” she said. “There is always something you can work on, and accomplish a lot of different things. You challenge yourself to learn new things but there is a huge team focus. It’s pretty much my main social group, and we get close.”
In previous years, members of the community had to have ties to either the University or Lacombe Composite High School. Now, any interested member of the community who is within high-school age or older is welcome to audition.
Auditions are typically held in September and January, although this year the team will forego a January audition.
“Almost anybody can join our team. You have to be high school level or older. We have one gentleman on our team who is in his fifties – he joined last year, and is learning from scratch but he’s very fit and willing to learn new things so he made the team easily,” Shipowick said.
“I think people should definitely try and check it out. You don’t really know what it is or what it’s like until you try it. This year, we made a few more cuts than usual because we wanted a smaller team. However, if you are trying your absolute hardest and have a bit of fitness knowledge, you’ll likely make the team. Everybody has their specialties – mine is the hoop and ladies’ trio – but everyone finds something they love.”
As the team tours, they promote a healthy and active lifestyle as well as the benefits of being part of a team. According to their web site, the team is also committed to excellence, spirituality, integrity and community.