Irricana gymnastics club faces possible closure

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After more than 15 years of operation, the Irricana Beiseker Gymnastics Association (IBGA) is at risk of dissolving and losing its facility unless a new coach can be found soon.

According to Jen Porter, president with IBGA, the club has been advertising for a new National Coaching Certified Program (NCCP) Level 1-certified gymnastics coach since its previous coach moved back to Ontario last November.

“There comes a point where, if we can’t find someone, we’ll have to dissolve because we can’t afford to keep [our]equipment stored there for that long,” she said. “And given it’s already been nine months, it’s a little hard to see the light.”

Porter said the struggle to find a new coach has likely been due to the remoteness of the community.

“The last two coaches we had didn’t live in Irricana,” she said. “The last one we had commuted from Airdrie, and the one before that commuted from Calgary.”

The club had more than 30 kids registered last season, according to Porter. It caters to gymnasts aged 18 months all the way to 18 years.

Four years ago, Porter said, the IBGA only had a dozen or so kids registered, but said the club has recently started to gain traction within the community.

“The kids are coming in more and we’re getting out into the community more, using social media more to advertise for it,” she said. “It would be a shame to see it go now, just as it’s starting to benefit everyone a little bit more.”

The position is part-time and paid, (negotiated wages) with the coach expected to work with gymnasts Mondays to Wednesdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m. The season runs from September to April, Porter added.

Other than regular weekly commitments, the coach would also be required to travel to nearby competitions with the IBGA’s more competitive gymnasts in February, March and April. The club is invited to competitions in Sundre, Hanna, Ponoka, Rimbey and Lacombe each spring.

Porter said she believes dissolving the IBGA would have a negative impact on the community.

“Especially on the younger kids, because it helps them get out, get some exercise and social skills,” she said, adding having to join a gymnastics club farther away puts more of a strain on local families.

“Those kids miss out on the opportunity to have something close. It’s hard to be in a remote town like that and have to travel, driving 45 minutes just to put your kid in some kind of activity.”

According to Porter, the IBGA’s deadline to find a new coach is by 2019, though she admitted that would mean postponing the 2018-19 season while continuing to pay the club’s lease on its facility. The club is hoping to fill the coaching position as soon as possible.

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