The Polarettes Gymnastic Club’s doors are locked due to mounting concern over the COVID-19 pandemic. However, just because the gym is closed until further notice, it does not mean training has ceased.
Spearheaded by Stephanie Caron, the developmental coordinator, the Polarettes coaches have been delivering live training videos using Zoom.
There have been four sessions done at the time of writing and Caron said they’ve had around 25 kids login.
“It’s definitely motivating,” said Caron over Zoom. We really weren’t sure what was going to happen on the first one. The first one we did we had 16 kids plus a few siblings. The feedback we got from parents and kids was great.
“The more that they want it the more it makes us want to make it better and make it more worth their while.”
Caron, who has plenty of content on the slate, said they will be working on as much as they can.
“A little bit of everything really,” said Caron. “We’ve gone back to our basics which is conditioning, strength and flexibility. Flexibility is a big one. It’s one of the first things to go when the kids aren’t in the gym. It’s one of the hardest things to get them to do on their own.
“Every day is a little bit different. The first day we focused on flexibility and getting them back into a mindset that we can still do this even if we don’t have access to the gym.”
Although the athletes are unable to train with their usual equipment, beam, bars or vault, Caron said they can work on their form.
“A lot of our skills come down to basic shapes,” said Caron. “We can work on those shapes without working on the skills. That is something that will allow us to get back into the grove of it a bit easier if we weren’t doing any of that.
“We work on things like handstand shape and shape we use on bars and those kinds of things to keep their bodies working on those same patterns.”
Polarettes head coach Kimberly Jones said the training sessions are a way to keep the team mentality together.
“These kids are used to spending 20 hours a week together,” said Jones. “Now they have essentially, without school or gym, 50-60 hours where they can longer see themselves together.
“We are a really close connected team. To not do anything would be really detrimental to our program and we don’t want that.
“It’s more than the workout. It’s a time to laugh with your friends and just hang out and vent about how we are feeling about this. It’s a time to get silly and let some of that cooped up energy out.”
Caron said it also a time for her to be social.
“It’s also a bit of a social thing for me,” said Caron. “I was saying to Kim the other day that I felt like I hadn’t talked to anybody. I hadn’t done anything, I’ve just been sitting here.
“Getting to spend time with the kids, kids that we also spend 25 hours a week with, they become part of your routine and your life. It was nice to see the kids and be able to be part of a conversation with them - even if it’s silly and pointless, it adds value.”
Although the training sessions have focused on physical fitness, Jones said she thinks it is helping the gymnasts mentally.
“A lot of the reason we are doing it really is for the mental training,” said Jones. “Even though we are doing physical workouts I think just giving the kids a schedule and a routine and ourselves a routine, it’d be easy to stay in your pyjamas all day – we don’t want that for our athletes and our coaches. We don’t’ want them to derail.”
Jones said when the season can restart she expects there to be some regression, but in the interim, the workouts will keep the team from completely falling back.
“They’ve put a lot of training into their gymnastics and we can keep on that and take a little back peddle from this when the season restarts or we can completely derail from that,” said Jones.
“There will be some of that because it’s going to be hard to replicate 20 hours of training even if we are doing seven to 10 Zoom sessions a week. But, it’s still not going to amount to the same level of fitness that they used to be doing.
“If they can keep up on the shaping, like Steph said, and we can keep them working on posture and they can keep positive then next season everyone will be in the same boat.
“Everyone we competed against will be in the same boat and I think it will be OK for everybody.”
The workouts right now are open to the competitive team members but Jones said they are working on a model to be more community involved.
“We are working on a more public system to reach all of our members,” said Jones. “Some of the content we do for our competitive members would probably be pretty challenging for our general rec membership.
“We are trying to figure out what content is appropriate for the rest of the population.”
The workouts are free for members of the gym.
“We understand a lot of people have been laid off,” said Jones. “We get it. We are not-for-profit, we are here for the community and that’s why we are putting this out there.”