Terrace Peaks Gymnastics Club branching into cross training, yoga

New coach equips club to train skiers, dancers, hockey players and more

Terrace Peaks Gymnastics Club is launching new programs this year, including cross training, yoga, parkour and acrobatics for dancers.

The club hired a new coach in September, equipped with ten years of gymnastics experience as well as a different skillset to tailor cross training programs for different sports and athletes.

That will include cross training for freestyle skiers during the month of November, and come January that might expand to provide training and stretching for hockey and soccer players, swimmers, dancers and acrobats.

Coach Megan Ratchford is 26 and has coached gymnastics and taught cross training and yoga classes in Kelowna for nearly ten years before moving to Kitimat last year to be head coach at the Kitimat Dynamics Gymnastics Club.

Now she’s 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 be able to spend with the inter-club athletes or the recreational athletes or the dancers that came in…. And 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 initially got into gymnastics at age two 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’t 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 said.

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 simply experiencing the 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 work.

She couldn’t move well enough to guide young gymnasts through their moves, she said, 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.

“I am looking forward to starting up the cross training classes here,” said Ratchford. “Gymnastics is an excellent foundation for all athletes looking to improve in their own sports, and I love being able to be a part of their journeys to success.”

The club starts up a freestyle skiers cross training class this month, as well as the dancers acrobatics.

Come January, there will be parkour, yoga, and more cross training for athletes of different sports.

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