The Polarettes are getting back into the swing of things after the summer and are gearing up for their upcoming gymnastics season. The competitive team saw lots of success last year, medalling and having good placings at several meets.
With the new season approaching head coach Kimberly Jones spoke about how the Polarettes are looking to carry the momentum forward.
The success of the competitive team, which had 63 gymnasts training in it last year came as a pleasant surprise for Jones.
“Last year surprised me in a lot of ways. I thought it was going to be a mellow year with the exception of Canada Games. Everyone was switching levels and I didn’t really expect a ton. I expected us to be in a growth phase then we had our most successful year ever which was exciting.
“As a coach, because we are so segregated, I didn’t really know where we were at compared to the other contingents and we did quite well.”
In the transition into the new season, more of the gymnasts are doing split training in the mornings and the evenings in the hopes that even more will be able to compete at Outside meets.
“We want to get as many of them out as we can because they are taking their gym seriously. We changed our program this year to the next level because I am all about growth.
“Our youngest athletes are now doing morning training and then there is a whole separate group in the evening. That’s helping drive the mindset that we are going to do a lot of training.”
Many of the gymnasts who competed last year were new to their level. That will not be the case, as much, this season.
“This year the girls aren’t at that stage of transitioning into new levels. I mean, some of them are, but not to the same degree. We should have a really strong season, we’ll see, you never know,” said Jones.
“It depends on how hard everyone else is working. Maybe the rest of the country has caught up to us.”
At a competition, gymnasts will compete in four events: beam, floor, vault, and bars. Jones said floor was the Polarettes’ weakest event and now they are addressing it.
“We have dance training now because floor, last year, was our worst event,” said Jones. “It was starting to get better by the end of the season. We started to see some medals but we were really showing that it was time to address floor.
“I think artistry is a huge part of that. We hired dance teachers to come in and work with the girls twice a week. We are already seeing progress on that six-weeks in.
“It’s like a constant cycle of taking your worst event and making it your best event. We are always in a battle because we can’t train these kids 80 hours a week, so there are constraints in how much time we have.”
As well as focusing on floor, Jones said the other emphasis is on honing the skills they learned from last year.
“We went through a phase of relearning basics and then it was learning new skills to get our skill-level up and now it’s about refining those levels,” said Jones.
“Hopefully we see a year of strong refining of those skills.”
To be able to perform at the highest level of your sport it is important to have a strong mental game. The Polarettes have brought in a coach to help with the mental side of things.
“We started to do more mental training to address the fear side of things so they are working with Tracey Bilsky,” said Jones.
“Last year, as a coach reflecting this summer I went ‘OK floor needs to be addressed desperately.’ As well, some of the girls who could have competed very well weren’t able to showcase their best gymnastics because of nerves. Mental training needs to be addressed.
“That’s really our focus this season. Take our weaknesses and just grow. We have to be honest with ourselves. We didn’t do well at those two things so it’s time to get better at them.”
Jones responded, “yes and no” when asked if her expectations for the athletes was higher this year.
“My expectation is always for them to put forward their best,” said Jones. “I try not to worry too much about placement because I can’t control what other teams are doing. I do want them to go out and show some incredible gymnastics.
“No one wants to go out and be like ‘I had way more cards that I could have played and didn’t.’ We are just trying to create athletes that put out their best whenever they get the opportunity.”
The gymnastics competition schedule gets rolling in December and runs until June. The Polarettes already have the calendar full for Outside meets. As well they have the Arctic Winter Games in March to prepare for.
The AWG gymnastics will be a JO 6 event and any gymnast who has competed at a higher level will not be able to participate, which Jones finds unfortunate.
“This is the first year the Arctics are a JO 6 event,” said Jones. “It’s disappointing because the Arctic Winter Games are important in the North and our top athletes can’t participate in their main sport at the AWG. They end up having to do different games if they want to participate.
“You can not compete the moment you’ve competed JO 7 and you can only send four kids.”
Jones said 11 kids are looking to try out for the four available spots which is a first for the club.
“It’s the first time it’s happened that we’ll have had real trials. It’s the first time we have so many kids competing and the kids are going to be getting true trials,” said Jones.
To make it an unbiased choice, Jones said they are going to bring up impartial judges.
Once the team is chosen, Jones said they will work to have the athletes peaking for the Games.
“We are working to peak for Arctics. It would really be nice to get a win on home turf. I don’t know if it’s going to happen. We are historically third. Last Arctics we got two medals which was big.
“We have Alberta and Alaska which are two very large contingents to compete against and N.W.T actually has been really pushing and improving their program so I’m interested to see what they send.”