East Hants: Gymnastics is making a return to the spotlight in the corridor. The almost-defunct East Hants Tumblers are planning a merger with the bustling Jump 2 It gymnastics program to combine resources and hopefully cater to a larger number of athletes than either club could do independently of each other.
“Gymnastics has been in the corridor community for around 20 years – possibly even more,” began David Brown, who co-ordinates and couches the Jump 2 It program. “It’s always functioned as a recreational program and for a period of time it was operating out of local schools, and it ended up operating out of the old Milford elementary school.
“The program really had a chance to grow,” he continued. “There were some coaches who’ve had experiences as highschool gymnasts, and even some competitive gymnastics. It was from that combination of parents, volunteers, and coaches, they were actually able to develop what was a pretty darn good program. It was mostly targeted towards girls, but certainly there was a percentage of boys who were involved in the program.”
From the beginning, however, the program has been plagued with the same issue. As coaches grow older and move through differing stages of schooling, they tend to leave the program to head towards post-secondary education, or career opportunities. This leaves the organization with a vacancy to fill, and a rotating staff of coaches on an almost yearly basis.
“What’s happened over time, is coaches grow up and move on to University, or as they get older they retire from the sport and move away,” explained Brown. “That’s really what happened here. We’ve had some very dedicated youth coaches, and some very dedicated adult coaches – but in one case they moved away, in another case they just retired from it. So the club that was there for a very long time found itself without coaches.”
Brown – who has experience in the sport from Amateur all the way up to professional levels – was looking into starting his own local gymnastics club when he was approached to work with the already established organization.
“As a result (of the Tumblers approaching Brown) my trampoline and tumbling vision merged with the gymnastics club vision,” said Brown. “I brought to the table a lot of my own equipment and my background, and I was able to help with a lot of things – such as enabling the coaches to learn to develop and grow.”
However, the program that Brown was running was located in one school – and the gymnastics program was in another school.
“When the time came that they found themselves without coaches, I was in a position where I was able to continue going with both of the clubs – turning the two into the Jump 2 It gymnastics club,” explained Brown. “The purpose of this club is to provide motor movement skills – physical literacy skills to children as young as 2 1/2 – 3, and that’s been very successful for us.”
There is a caveat to their success, though. The group can only provide the program for a certain number of children – despite exploding popularity – due to a limited number of coaching staff who would be able to instruct the fledgling students.
“We’ve trained a lot of young coaches,” continued Brown. “Each year one of my biggest challenges is coach development and sustainability, because we want this program to continue. It’s been a part of my life for 30 years, so it’s an important part of who I am, and I feel that it’s an important part of helping a kid develop who they will be as an athlete.
“The other club, which had an abundance of equipment, has been shut down for about three years,” he explained. “The parent volunteers tried hard to recruit coaches – but it’s a challenge. We live in a rural community, and gymnastics is one of those sports that require a high level of training to be able to coach. Gymnastics by itself is a dangerous sport, so it’s important to have a coach that knows what he or she is doing.”
In more urban areas it’s much easier to attract and retain coaches – as they are likely already in the area and a member of a much larger club. Since the corridor area doesn’t have the same population to draw from, some gymnastics programs are forced into hiatus to wait until coaches can be found who are willing to commandeer the programs.
“This spring, my club at its annual meeting decided to talk to the East Hants Tumblers to see if they would consider a merger,” said Brown. “We needed more equipment, but instead of going out to buy equipment that was already in the community, we wanted to see they had any interest in merging resources
“As a result, Jump 2 It and East Hants Tumblers met, and the East Hants Tumblers parents resigned from their positions, and the parents of Jump 2 It took over their positions in the Tumblers,” continued Brown. “So, the East Hants Tumblers is now made up of parents who were involved in the Jump 2 It club, and our intention is to grow the sport of Gymnastics back to a whole sport within the community.
“We would like to bring the sport back as a full offering for both girls and boys sport,” added Brown. “But that can’t happen without greater resources – which are just human.”
Brown is currently involved with training students and bringing them up to become certified coaches, however he tends to lose the coaches two-three years after they complete their certification – when the process will begin anew with another group of students.
“We’re forced to turn away two out of every three kids,” said Brown. “Our club capacity is about forty kids, and every year I respond to well over 100 people, and unfortunately I have to turn down the overwhelming majority of them.
“It’s very frustrating for us,” continued Brown. “We would like to be bigger – but we have been successful in offering a quality program because we don’t outrace our own abilities, and we don’t want to screw that up. We want to keep this core going.”
In short, Brown is on the hunt for anyone who has a background in gymnastics and who is willing to volunteer their time to help the club expand to match the demand for the club.
“We can grow this program,” said Brown. “Gymnastics gives kids those fundamental building blocks to do whatever sport they want to do. Just as we learn addition and subtraction and spelling – which are literacy skills, gymnastics gives us physical literacy skills that we must learn if we want to go on to do other sports. That’s a huge thing now.
“We teach those basic skills – how to run, how to throw, how to hop, how to skip, and how to jump,” continued Brown. “If kids have those skills they’ll be more inclined to want to participate in games on the school ground. What we’re trying to do as a club is to create a culture of physical activity. We want kids to have a high amount of confidence in their physical abilities.
“To put it bluntly,” concluded Brown. “Gymnastics does exist in the corridor, and for it to grow, we need more support. For it to be truly successful, it has to be adult support – specifically adults who are willing to give up some time to become trained, or to fully develop their training. Our fees are very, very low.”
Brown believes that the group could comfortably expand to at least 200 members if the right amount of support is received from the community.
Should anyone be interested in becoming involved with the as-of-yet unnamed merged gymnastics group, you can contact David Brown via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the telephone at (902) 758-2715