Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper

‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

Sandra Long’s young gymnasts were practising their bounces, flips and spins when she found out her sport was being shut down.

Long allowed the class at Glacier Gymnastics on Nov. 24 to finish while she told families in an email the gym would close.

But it became clear not everyone got the memo, and when kids arrived for evening classes they wanted to know why gymnastics was on pause while other sports were allowed to continue.

“There were little girls crying outside and asking why their brothers [were playing] hockey and soccer,” said Long. “That was actually a real thing that happened.”

Long, Glacier’s head coach, is among local sports leaders frustrated by COVID-19 restrictions to several types of recreation that were imposed last week by the B.C. Ministry of Health.

On Nov. 19, hot yoga, spin cycle and high intensity interval training (HIIT) group classes were told to suspend activities. But then, on Nov. 24, group classes for gymnastics, dance, martial arts, yoga, pilates, strength and conditioning, and cheerleading were also ordered to shut down until new rules were made available.

One week later those rules are still not available. It has people like Long wondering why other sports like hockey and soccer are allowed to continue, albeit with their own restrictions in place such as bans on spectators or travel.

“It is bewildering why that would take place …,” she said. “It is looking a little bit like the small voice of the female-dominated sports, and activities like dance, that we just don’t have that voice. If it was gymnastics still running and hockey shutting down, there’d be a huge voice speaking out against that.”

Related: All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Gymnastics is one of Nelson’s most popular sports, and prior to the pandemic Glacier boasted 777 athletes as of last November.

But prior to the shut down, Glacier had already been restricted to 24 gymnasts divided up between four areas at a given time along with the now-mandatory mask and sanitization requirements. Glacier had to cancel its zone championships, refunded registration fees and has been operating at what Long says is 70 per cent of normal capacity.

Meanwhile, next to the gym in the Civic Centre, minor hockey continues.

“It is really hard because we’re in there and hockey is going,” she said. “We can hear all the kids playing hockey, and our gym is dead and empty.”

Stelio Calagias, owner of Front Street Dance, said he’s tried and failed to get more information on why dance was included in the new orders.

“The truth is, it’s so fluid and changing [every] week at a time and it’s frustrating, it’s infuriating to be honest with you, but our goal here is to just try to keep adapting as best we can,” he said.

Calagias said his studio’s membership dropped to 30-to-35 per cent capacity when dancers returned in June. But now he’s back to holding Zoom classes with no idea when it will end.

“It’s a rollercoaster ride that you don’t really want to be on.”

Power By You owner Ali Popoff-Grypma has had to scramble to make changes twice — first when HIIT classes were suspended, then when strength and conditioning was added to the list.

Popoff-Grypma said her membership has dropped this year from 400 to 200, but the people who have stuck by the gym have been patient with the changes.

“So far, so good. The outpour of support is unbelievable,” she said. “People being like, ‘Oh, my God, you’re not closing and are you closing, that can’t happen.’ And so it’s like, people don’t [mind], they will wear that mask, and they do not care.”

Until it can offer cardio and strength classes at its gym again, Power By You has shifted to online classes, free nutrition consultation and guided meditation. Popoff-Grypma said her biggest challenge has been changing her mindset from expansion and growth to a focus on quality.

“It’s been a new way for us to have to adapt to,” she said. “But in the long run, just because there’s more time, there’s less people. It’s completely changed the whole business.”

Nelson Boxing Club owner Jesse Pineiro meanwhile was forced to cancel an online-only card scheduled for Nov. 21.

Ahead of the event, Pineiro said he sought out guidance from viaSport, Boxing BC and Vancouver Coastal Health, the latter of which was because streamed boxing cards had already taken place within that health authority.

He only had fighters coming from within Interior Health, and when they arrived in Nelson the plan was for them to undergo temperature checks, be separated in different dressing rooms and only be within two metres of someone when they stepped into the ring.

But the event was scrapped by provincial restrictions announced in November that banned teams, including those from boxing gyms, from travelling outside their own communities for sports.

“It’s super frustrating on a personal level, it’s heartbreaking for [my athletes], and it’s really challenging from my end to find a way to motivate people when their hopes and their goals have been arbitrarily taken away from,” said Pineiro.

The boxing club has also been forced to cancel its group classes as well its yoga offerings.

Pineiro says his hands are tied, but that he hopes his athletes can compete publicly again soon.

“I’m having trouble being positive about it,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s super vital that we all stay positive about it because these kids are special and they deserve to have goals and and to be able to meet them with the hard work that they do. It’s fundamental to human development. I think we’re missing that part.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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