–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club
For teammates Natalie Kritpiphat, Eva McCharles and Michelle Hong, the first day of summer camp with the Kanata Rhythmic Gymnastics Club marked the first step in their journey into a sport that’s become a passion and a major part of their lives.
“A lot of people in this club have been introduced to the sport by the summer camps,” highlights McCharles. “Once they start with the summer camps, they realize, ‘I love this!’ and then they keep going.”
The trio of Grade 8 students all advanced through the club’s programs and now spend 6 hours each weekend together training.
“Your teammates really become like a second family to you,” underlines McCharles, who got her start in rhythmic gymnastics because her parents were sick of her doing handstands on their couch. “I have some friends who I met on the first day, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
It’s a story repeated countless times over the club’s 25+-year history. Kanata Rhythmic is recognized for its welcoming atmosphere, and experienced, quality coaching. Older athletes serve as role models for the younger ones, many becoming coaches themselves.
Though they are sometimes competitors, Hong likes having teammates who are also friends, and who help each other grow as they progress and learn more challenging skills.
“It’s also really fun,” Hong notes. “You’re expressing yourself when you get to do your routine and show who you are, and the dedication you’ve put in.”
Each of the three gymnasts took part in dance before trying out rhythmic gymnastics, then discovered how much they enjoyed working on the technique, spacial awareness, distance perception and flexibility required to work with the sport’s equipment, including ribbon, ball, hoops, rope and clubs. It also trained their abilities to concentrate and focus – skills that prove valuable outside of gym as well, they indicate.
At camp, the first day is a gentle introduction to start, then skills are learned and practiced each day, culminating in a Friday performance.
“It really makes you feel a sense of accomplishment, and to show your parents what you’ve done for the whole week,” recounts McCharles, noting a week of summer camps mirrors the girls’ journey of the past few years, on a smaller scale. “For us, it’s been a lot of hard work and dedication, and it’s just a lot of fun. It really pays off at the end.”
Kritpiphat has been to summer camp every year she’s been part of the club, and encourages others to experience it themselves.
“Try it out and see what it’s like,” she urges. “And then if you like it, move on and try your best.”