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Sudbury GymZone more than happy to be home

Individually, members of the GymZone Sudbury Laurels have been trained to sprint down the runway, focused on the required manoeuvres that allows them to clear the vault with strength and elegance.

Collectively, management/coaches/athletes/parents of the GymZone also recently worked together, clearing a hurdle they likely never envisioned.

An electrical fire just three days after Christmas caused smoke damage throughout the Gemmell Street venue, serious enough to displace the group's competitive arm (Sudbury Laurels) and completely shut-down the recreational programming for the better part of six weeks.

Despite post-secondary studies that specifically targetted many issues for those entrusted with the direction of Sports Administration organizations, GymZone general manager Alex Larocque was venturing into new territory in dealing with the fallout of a fire.

"Honestly, our gymnastics club has always been kind of an "all hands on deck" approach," stated Larocque, roughly a week before the facility re-opened for business, earlier this month. "My husband and his parents were in here cleaning, the day of the fire, until we realized that this "stuff" (smoke damage) got everywhere."

"We realized then that this was a far bigger job than we would normally boot-strap."

While dealing with insurance concerns and equipment replacement was time consuming, the bigger immediate priorities involved the training of the competitive stream athletes, as well as the discussions about how to proceed with regards to recreational programs that were halted, mid-session.

A second GymZone facility, typically home to the smaller, more intimate setting that is the Valley East branch of the group off Martin Drive, could provide some make-shift help, though the lending hand that came courtesy of the likes of the North Bay Gymtrix and Rideau Gymnastics was more than welcomed.

"It's been really great to have that kind of support from the gymnastics community," said Larocque. "It's tough, because we recognize that clubs are already planned and scheduled, so to squeeze in another group is not easy."

Beyond the kinship of gymnastics clubs, the Laurels also relied heavily on the backing and flexibility of their competitive coaches and parents, inconvenienced for a stretch that would involve far more travel to a group that already takes to the road for more than three hours for virtually every competition they attend.

The reality, however, is that the numbers within the recreational sector will always dwarf the competitive bracket for every gymnastics club in the country, with those numbers also making it essentially impossible to continue to offer the training services that were purchased, until their traditional home was re-stocked with equipment.

"Our parents have been so patient and understanding, because unfortunately, it's been a week by week update - but that's all we know," said Larocque. Thankfully, with roughly 75% or so of the youngsters on temporary gymnastics hiatus being repeat visitors to the GymZone, families allowed the group a little latitude as they tried to deal, as best as possible, with a challenge that was completely unplanned.

"I think that these relationships that we enjoy with our member families has made this a whole lot easier, knowing that we have their support," said Larocque. And as one might expect, taking a more empathetic approach in offering solutions has proven to be a beneficial pathway to follow.

"We're going to take care of our members in a way that we would be happy with if we were in their shoes," suggested Larocque. "What we have been saying to our members is that they clearly will not be paying for a service that they did not receive."

"At the end of the day, these parents and athletes are top of mind given whatever solution that we do try and find."

Now back at their familiar setting, all of those involved are grateful that time will be spent on overcoming the obstacles that are anticipated, part of the day to day teachings that young gymnasts receive, with far less time spent on overcoming obstacles that simply could not have been foreseen.