There’s usually no talking allowed in the library.
There’s also no running allowed, no floor exercises, no pommel horse usage or vaulting.
But for over a year the Elk Valley Gymnastics Club (EVGC) has been violating this unspoken code of conduct by holding classes in what was once the Max Turyk Elementary School library.
The growing organization has become a victim of its own success as doing gymnastics in a tiny low-ceilinged library has become a problem.
“It’s getting to the point where we have to turn kids away because they’re too tall,” said the club’s coach Erin Hipkiss. “I have kids learning how to flip and I’ve got to hold them back a little bit because I don’t want them to hit the roof.”
“If you’re 5’9” and up, we probably can’t take you.”
Formed last year, the EVGC is run by parent volunteers and boasts about 180 athletes aged toddler to teen.
Hipkiss noted that most gymnastics programs are taught in gymnasiums where high ceilings allow for the use of trampolines and high bars. The club’s more competitive athletes drive out to Cranbrook once a week for more advanced training, she noted.
“It really feels like there’s nowhere for us to go,” she said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking.”
Hipkiss has taught gymnastics in communities across the province, including Quesnel, Vancouver and Fort St. John, and recently moved to Fernie.
“My colleague and I drove out and as soon as I opened the door, I knew I wanted to live here,” she said. “Whatever state the gymnastics club was in, I knew we could make it better.”
Hipkiss said she wants to dispel the traditional leotard-dominated image of the gymnast and emphasize the sport’s usefulness for anyone looking to increase their strength, power, flexibility, agility, endurance and hand-eye coordination.
“Gymnastics is for everyone,” she said. “It develops all the fundamental movement patterns that you need for life. It can cross train every single sport under the sun. We’re looking to make gymnastics a real foundational go-to-sport for people in the valley. We want to attract the skiers, the snowboarders, mountain bikers and hockey players.”
Despite challenges, the Elk Valley’s first non-profit gymnastics club is growing by leaps and bounds, said Ronan Mac Con, president of EVGC.
“We’re rivaling minor hockey,” he said.
The club offers three sessions a year as well as a weeklong summer camp. Sessions run from September to December, January to March and April to June.
Mac Con emphasized that the club is doing well but its long term future depends on finding a more permanent home.
“We’ve got a very outdoorsy and athletic community,” he said. “It’s the perfect match and we’re having a lot of success with it. Parents want their kids to know how to tumble and fall and to increase their balance, flexibility and strength in a professional environment.”