Whistler Gymnastics launches Active Start programs 

Nation-wide program based on skills, fitness, and long term athlete development

Last winter the federal Canadian Sports Centres created a new Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program for athletes, essentially creating a framework for skills development and fitness for toddlers through adults.

The goal is to create a system in Canadian sports where skills are introduced when children are old enough to grasp them, endurance and intensity is increased in stages, and athletes gradually specialize towards high performance athletics. The program is also designed to keep Canadians active through their entire lives, whether they pursue high performance sports or not, and for high performance athletes to remain involved as coaches and mentors when they step back from competition.

This winter Whistler Gymnastics will host classes for the first stage of the seven-stage LTAD process, called Active Start. The Active Start classes included a KinderTots class for parents and tots aged 18 months to three years old, and a KinderKids class for kids aged 3 to 5 years old. The classes will operate during the day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and on Saturday morning.

Active Start is based on the three F’s — Fun, Fitness and Fundamentals. The participants will learn different movements and basic skills through a series of co-operative games and activities, and will be challenged cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically. The equipment will be introduced progressively, including trampolines, mats, the mini-thumper and rainbow mats, and music will let participants get an introduction to rhythm and dance to develop coordination.

Gymnastics coaches Myriam Benn and Andre Doucet will lead the classes, along with former gymnasts Dakota DenDuyf and Natasha Quinn. Sheila Mozes, who played a role in developing the LTAD for Gymnastics Canada will also lend a hand, drawing on her 35 years of coaching experience.

“It will be different in a few ways,” said Mozes. “The number one thing is (Whistler Gymnastics) has taken back the preschool courses and is basing it all on the gymnastics Active Start program and the different skill criteria we identified. We had a soft launch of the program in the fall, and we’ll go into a more formal launch in January, at the same time it’s introduced by Gymnastics Canada.

“We’re really on the forefront in Canada, because a lot of the information came from the programs we developed in the first place.”

Active Start had over 50 participants in the fall, more than double last year’s numbers, and is hoping to expand the program in the future as the club transitions to a full time facility.

Gymnastics is recognized as one of the few early specialization sports identified by the LTAD, developing nearly all the skills that other sports require such as strength, balance, flexibility, mental preparation, and timing. It’s also not uncommon for gymnasts in their early teens to compete internationally.

To register for the winter Active Start programs, which get underway the week of Jan. 7-12 at Spring Creek Community Centre, visit www.whistlergymnastics.com or call Catou Crookshank, program director for Whistler Gymnastics at 604-902-FLIP (3547).

Whistler Gymnastics is itself evolving with the curriculum. This year the club moved to Spring Creek Community Centre to gain more time and space to train, and took over the preschool programs from the municipality after giving up the programs eight years ago because of the lack of space. The club is also preparing to move into a new gymnastics facility in the athletes’ village as early as the fall of 2009 that they will share with trampoline, dance, martial arts, freestyle skiing, alpine skiing, snowboarding and other user groups.

After Active Start, the other six stages of the Canadian Sports Centres’ LTAD program are FUNdamentals, Learning to Train, Training to Train, Training to Compete, Training to Win, and Active for Life. All national sports organizations are adopting the program to fit their own model, while communities will be offering pre-school programs for children not affiliated with organized sports. For more information visit www.ltad.ca.

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