Hay River has something brand new at its pool – a synchronized swimming club.
“I just called it Synchro Club because it’s just kind of the start of something,” said Ashley Coombs, the supervisor of aquatics with the Town of Hay River. “So from here we’ll be able to assess and see how it grows and how it does, and how the interest stays. And while we have a coach in the community to facilitate it, it was time meets opportunity, and let’s put it in place and see where it goes.”
That coach is Amy Gagnon, a teacher at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.
Gagnon, who is originally from Ottawa, began synchronized swimming when she was nine and competed with clubs for 20 years up to 2012, including at competitions in the United States and Italy.
“I’ve been coaching synchronized swimming since I was 14 in Ontario,” she said. “I’ve been coaching kids aged five up to 17.”
Coombs is pleased that Gagnon is available in town to coach with the new club.
“Having somebody in the community who has a background in synchronized swimming is awesome,” she said.
Gagnon is coaching eight girls, aged from about seven to 10 years of age.
“The turnout is great,” she said. “The girls are so thrilled and really, really excited to be learning new skills, which is fun.”
The first session of Synchro Club began on May 7 and will run to June 27 – an hour every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
“Right now, we are working on basic skills because we need those in order to be able to do any kind of routine,” said Gagnon. “But these girls are learning so quickly and they’re really into learning a new sport.”
The Synchro Club was launched following a Try It Day for the sport held as part of the Making Waves event presented in late March by the Mackenzie Recreation Association.
“It was very well-attended,” said Coombs of the March activity. “We had upwards of 10 kids come down to try it out. And from there, there was loads of excitement and there was an interest in wanting to pursue synchronized swimming.”
Gagnon and a friend also with experience in synchronized swimming were involved in the March event.
“It just kind of reminded me of how much I love coaching synchro,” she said. “So I decided to collaborate with Ashley and get a program running.”
Gagnon said synchronized swimming offers a number of benefits.
“Swimming is one of the best workouts that anybody can do,” she said.
Plus, the coach added the teambuilding aspect is huge, noting she is still friends with girls she swam with as a child.
Gagnon said that eight girls is ideal for the new club, because that number forms the best patterns in a pool and that is as many swimmers as one coach can handle.
“But I would like to see the club grow, so I am looking at some different options for how we could make that happen,” she said.
One member of the new club is seven-year-old Annalee Monkman, who said she wanted to learn to do flips, handstands and other synchronized swimming moves.
“Because I thought it would be cool,” she said.
Annalee added her swimming has gotten better since she has been in the club, and she hopes to learn a routine and perform it.
Her mother, Niada Monkman, is very pleased there’s a Synchro Club for young people in town.
“It’s just something different for them to try out,” she said. “We don’t always have the opportunity or the people who have the skills to teach those things.”
Monkman said her daughter has been swimming since she was about two years old, and agreed her swimming ability has improved since she joined Synchro Club.
Gagnon noted the club will have a routine by the end of the first eight weeks.
“These girls definitely have some innate talent,” she said.
The plan is for Synchro Club to return in the fall.