Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

BACK TO TRAINING – The Polarettes Gymnastics Club may be quiet now, but next Tuesday, the gym will reopening by applying a three-phase plan that ensures proper safety measures are taken. Inset Kimberly Jones

Polarettes get all-clear to reopen doors

The Polarettes Gymnastics Club, under strict COVID-19 measures, will be the first gym in Canada to unlock their doors to athletes beginning next Tuesday.

By John Tonin on May 14, 2020

The Polarettes Gymnastics Club, under strict COVID-19 measures, will be the first gym in Canada to unlock their doors to athletes beginning next Tuesday.

Polarettes head coach Kimberly Jones said there is excitement around the club about reopening the gym.

“We are pretty stoked,” said Jones. “We were really talking about being closed all summer. I don’t really know what changed but we realized if we got our ducks in a row, we could open.

“Originally, we had closed not because the Yukon mandated us to close but because our insurance company told us that we had to close.”

Being insured by Gymnastics BC, Jones had to show that the Yukon could operate as its own entity.

“I worked really hard on this plan to prove to the insurance company that we would be able to open,” said Jones. “Yukon is doing quite well with COVID and we got approval. Later that day, Yukon Health called me to confirm we got the go-ahead.”

To date, the Yukon has had 11 confirmed cases but all are recovered. A total of 1,112 people have been tested with 25 pending results, according to yukon.ca.

Jones said the club is using a three-phased approach to reopen the facility. It will start with competitive team gymnastics, over the age of 10. The gym will only allow in six athletes plus two coaches.

To maintain physical distancing, the athletes will be training in basic gymnastics and fitness only, so the coaches do not need to spot.

“We have 30 really intense competitive kids and about 60 competitive kids in total. They train about 20 hours a week so the gym is really a part of their home,” said Jones.

“We are opening to them first because they have such a broad gymnastics background that we can give them huge programs to do without needing to spot them. With beginners, you need to take a more hands-on as a coach, which of course would break physical distancing.”

Phase two will tentatively see competitive athletes over age eight return on June 1, with six athletes and basic training and fitness.

Phase three is slated for June 15 for recreational gymnasts over age eight and all competitive gymnasts.

Before an athlete is allowed in the gym, they will be required to do a pre-screening assessment with their parents.

“It’s a questionnaire and it’s the same one Yukon Health put out for childcare facilities,” said Jones. “We decided that was really relevant to our facilities. There is a checklist that parents have to follow. They have to check in and make sure their child isn’t feeling any symptoms and doesn’t answer yes to those questions or anyone in their family.”

The Polarettes currently have one other coach on staff. Jones said they will also be taking the assessment before going to work each day.

When athletes enter the gym, they will be met by one of the coaches to ensure they follow the proper protocol.

“As soon as someone enters the gym, they will be greeted by one of our coaches and asked to sanitize their hands,” said Jones. “They will then be directed upstairs where there are cubbies to put their things and a sink to wash their hands before entering the gym.”

To ensure the gym doesn’t reach the occupancy limit, Jones said, athletes will have to wait outside before they can enter.

“We are going to ask them to show up five minutes before practice and when possible dressed and ready to go with the least amount of belongings possible,” said Jones. “It’s going to have to be pretty much a clockwork system of people coming and leaving.”

Between sessions, Jones said, the coaches will be cleaning and sanitizing the equipment.

“Our coaches are going to be cleaning high-contact surfaces after each round of kids. The equipment will be cleaned and sanitized before the next wave of kids come in,” said Jones. “Some areas of the gym will be closed. The foam pit will be closed and the rope swing, just things that are really porous and hard to sanitize on a large scale.”

Before COVID-19, the club employed cleaners to come in after training was done for the day. Jones said they will be rehired.

“After each day that we practise, that will be happening,” said Jones.

“It’s a big job to do the gym. It was always cleaned every night before COVID.”

The Polarettes’ opening policy can be found on the website. Jones said it has been reviewed by Yukon Health, Gymnastics Canada and the club’s board of directors.

Even though the club wasn’t required to be shuttered by Yukon Health, Jones said it was important to their reopening efforts to have their backing.

“We really wanted Yukon Health’s support and they told us they thought our plan was excellent and will let us know if anything changes along the line,” said Jones.

“We will continue to watch the COVID-19 Yukon website. We are always checking that to make sure we are staying within the rules and keeping our community safe. If we have to, we will revert our plan back.”

From a gymnastics perspective, Jones said, the athletes are getting excited to get back to training - away from their ZOOMworkouts.

“We’ve still been doing the online workouts, but I think everyone is getting a little ZOOMed out,” said Jones.

Now, because the club will have to stagger sessions, the athletes will be getting about six hours of training a week.

Jones said working with six athletes is a great opportunity for the athletes; however, it isn’t feasible for the club long term.

“Groups of six from a training perspective is fantastic,” said Jones.

“It’s kind of a gymnastics coach’s dream to have groups of six because we can give them so much attention.

“In terms of feasibility, it’s not great for the club. Financially, we’ve taken a huge hit having to cancel our spring session. It’s going to be a struggle to only have six kids per group, but six kids in that facility per hour is really low numbers. We usually have 30-70 kids in the gym per hour. It’s going to be way different.”

Jones said the gymnasts have been out of the gym for 60 days, and it will take double that to get them back where they need to be.

“That’s why we are planning a phased approach,” said Jones.

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