Terrace Peaks Gymnastics Club is branching into cross training this year, with plans to offer pre-season soccer programs come spring.
The move follows the hiring last fall of a second competitive coach, equipped with ten years of gymnastics experience and a skillset to tailor cross training for different athletes and sports.
In November the club ran yoga and cross training for freestyle skiers, hockey players, and other winter athletes and come April it hopes to train soccer players, swimmers and other summer-sport athletes.
Coach Megan Ratchford is 26 and has coached gymnastics, cross training and yoga classes in Kelowna for nearly ten years before moving to Kitimat to be head coach last year for the Kitimat Dynamics Gymnastics Club.
In September she moved north to Terrace, looking for less administrative work and a larger variety of athletes to train, as well as opportunity to expand her already diverse skillset.
“I suppose I was looking for the opportunity to work with more athletes, when it all comes down to it. The opportunity I had in Kitimat was phenomenal… but I had a lot less time to spend in other areas of gymnastics, in things that keep me passionate and creative,” she said.
“I didn’t have the time to spend with the inter-club athletes or the recreational athletes or the dancers that came in…. I’m not only passionate about coaching high-level competitive gymnastics,” she said. “I’m passionate about coaching gymnastics to all athletes in whatever capacity is their highest level.”
For some that means a cartwheel on a beam, for others it’s back tuck or a cartwheel with no hands on the beam.
Ratchford got into gymnastics at a young age in Ontario, where her family is originally from. When her family moved to Kelowna, she continued as a gymnast at the Okanagan Gymnastics Centre, reaching level three provincial gymnastics (the equivalent of Junior Olympics level six) by age 15.
But an ongoing knee injury and a love for snowboarding caused Ratchford to quit gymnastics and start coaching the sport instead.
“My physiotherapist basically said, ‘you can not keep doing gymnastics 20 hours a week and snowboard, because it’s not working out for your body,'” said Ratchford.
But still loving the sport, Ratchford started coaching and has been coaching ever since, at all levels, from top competitive gymnasts to recreational athletes.
She also branched into judging, earning her level 8 certification, and judging in invitational meets across B.C. and Alberta including B.C. provincials.
She also spent a year coaching in Calgary and got a two-year diploma in human kinetics from the Okanagan College.
But in February 2013, everything changed.
Snowboarding on the slopes of the Big White in Kelowna, Ratchford smashed into a tree, fracturing and dislocating eight ribs, separating her shoulder and tearing several muscles as well as damaging her sternum.
“I didn’t think it was that bad initially,” she said. “I went to work the evening after my crash, tied scarves around my ribs and got through the shift.”
But after going to the hospital, and experiencing ongoing pain and trouble breathing, Ratchford knew it was an extensive injury. However she pushed through, easing her work slightly and transitioning into less hands-on training at the gym.
She couldn’t move well enough to guide young gymnasts through their moves, so she started working with older athletes, and instructing cross training for skiers, swimmers, soccer and hockey players, dancers and acrobats.
Her injury also steered her into yoga, since it was one of the only types of exercise she could do for a while. Less than a year after her injury, she and a friend took 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training so that could instruct yoga and incorporate that into her work at the gymnastics centre.
She cross trained the Ignite program for various types of athletes in school sports, and trained a lot of downhill skiers and snowboarders, working with the Big White Freestyle team in Kelowna, the Silverstar Ski team and the BC developmental snowboard team.
“Gymnastics is an excellent foundation for all athletes looking to improve in their own sports,” said Ratchford, “and I love being able to be a part of their journeys to success.”
For now the club is full-on with its competitive gymnastics programs, and parkour, yoga, and summer-sport cross training should start up in April.