Scarborough Gym Elites is in many ways rather ordinary, sitting tucked away amongst factories and industrial buildings on Coronation Drive.
The facility is filled with its share of parallel bars and sponge pits, and often, droves of children are learning to perfect their form on a balance beam.
What sets this gym apart, however, is a group of five young, talented women, ages 14-17, who are gearing up for their second provincial trampoline qualifier.
According to the gym’s head coach, Cameron Osborne, the team is special in a number of ways.
“Out of all the clubs in Ontario, we have the biggest national novice team,” he claims. “And that’s something I want them to take advantage of.”
Osborne says while most teams usually lose members as they rise through increasingly competitive levels, Scarborough Gym Elites has managed to preserve its team of five.
Amy Moote, Virginia Wright, Loni Maxwell, Taryn Eadie and Jenna Snetsinger all agree that having a larger team helps them get motivated at competitions.
“It’s definitely comforting at a competition when you see just one or two people with their coach and then you see us with the whole huge team together,” Maxwell says. “There’s a lot of cheering.”
The dynamics between the group and Osborne, they say, are also very different from the average team. Many of the girls say their previous coaches had not only been much older than themselves, but had also used ineffective teaching methods.
They believe Osborne’s approach of mentorship rather than coaching is part of what keeps the team strong.
“Cam’s special,” says Wright, who is 14. “What matters [in a coach] is how they treat you, how they respect you, and how they coach.”
Osborne, who started competing as an athlete in gymnastics at age 11, is now entering his ninth year coaching and is studying at Seneca College for his coaching degree. Now 22, he says that in some ways, being closer to the team in age also helps because more can be accomplished when the athletes are given encouragement rather than orders, especially when they are young.
“They can think for themselves,” he says. “They have to choose whether they want something or not.”
Each athlete seems to come away with different experiences and expectations. While some of the girls aspire to careers in gymnastics, either as athletes, coaches or judges, others participate for their own personal enjoyment.
But all five agree that the greatest reward is the sense of accomplishment that comes from performing well after training so hard.
They say training has not only given them more confidence, but it has taught them important skills such as discipline, dedication, and time management.
Though Osborne admits the first provincial qualifier in January was a little disappointing, with none of the girls placing at levels he had hoped for, he is confident the girls will fare much better in the next one. He says this time, the girls are much more aware of what kind of competition they are up against.
“This is a huge jump for them,” he says. “They really know what they want this time.”
The second provincial trampoline qualifier is Feb. 23-24 at Pope John Paul II Secondary School.