Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy taking things up a notch

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Last week Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy (RLGA) announced that tryouts would begin this week for their elite program.

Head coach Stephanie Mann says with the club operating for a few years now they believe there is a good base to start training a more advanced group of athletes.

“I know a lot of the athletes are feeling like they want to be challenged and have more time in the gym,” Mann said. We are still operating our other recreational clubs but we are going to have this elite program for those athletes that have shown promise and want a little more structure in their program.”

One of the biggest differences will be that the elite program gymnasts will get five hours of gym time per week which is much more than the other recreational programs.

“They will have our highest trained coaches coaching them and they’re going to spend more time on flexibility, strength, and coordination,” Mann said. “While they aren’t necessarily going to be deemed a competitive team, the goal in the future is to move towards sort of a competitive group.”

Tryouts are running over two nights in two sessions. The first session was July 25-26 and there will be an additional session Aug. 1-2. There are 15 spots in the elite program.

The elite program is for athletes 7-18 years old as of Dec. 31, 2023.

Mann says starting at seven years old helps young athletes to maintain their flexibility.

“I think there’s a lot of young talent in our club,” Mann said. “Their bodies are already really flexible and if we keep them moving with those key components of flexibility and strength then they really will develop into good gymnasts.”

That’s not to say older children can’t also try out but as children age they lose some of their flexibility.

Athletes will know by the end of the first week in August if they have made the team and Mann says she’s hoping to give anyone who tries out advice on things they can work on as the team will require tryouts each year.

“I’m hoping that we can give them some feedback if they didn’t make it on what they can work on to hopefully try out again next year,” Mann said. “The program will be a tryout every year, it’s not going to be ‘just because you made it this year you make it next year.’’ I want to make sure that we include all of our young up and coming athletes as well.”

The evaluation will be on three primary apparatuses, floor, balance beam and bars.

“We’ll be testing them on sort of the elemental skills on each of those apparatus, so for example, handstands, cartwheels, bridges, back walkovers… It’s going to be broken down on their form, their strength, and the overall impression of the athlete for each skill.”

Mann says the program should allow a lot of athletes the opportunity to develop their skills at a faster rate than they might otherwise.

“So I think the athletes will see their development come a bit quicker than they would through that recreational program,” Mann said. “I’m looking forward to it. I think that this has been coming for a few years, I was with the club the first few years. And then last year, I wasn’t a part of the club, this year, I’m back. So I’ve kind of seen some of these athletes since our first year, and I think this is going to really help us retain athletes and take on those kids that really do want to have that little more competitive edge, similar to hockey and kids who are on AA teams, this would be that sort of equivalent.”

The team won’t likely jump into serious competition this year though.

“I definitely think this first year will be a ‘see how it goes’ year,” Mann said. Then within the next two or three years, I would say we would have a team that could be competitive. There are meets all across northwestern Ontario. I really think our athletes have what it takes to compete at that level. I’m really looking forward to seeing where we’re at even at Christmas time.”

There is a link to register for tryouts on the RLGA Facebook page. The page says: “Previous recreational gymnastics experience is highly recommended, as we are looking for gymnasts that demonstrate a natural capability in the areas of flexibility, strength, coordination, and listening.”