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Online gymnastics classes in demand after COVID-19 shuts businesses

Last Updated Mar 26, 2020 at 6:27 pm EST

At a time when many businesses are forced to close their doors, one Mississauga-based business is finding a new way to ensure their clients continue to reach for their dreams.

Futures Gymnastics Centres has four gyms in the Greater Toronto Area, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been forced to close their doors.

During this period their 4,000 students, some of which are future Olympians, have not been able to train.

Jenna Sartoretto, a national gymnast who was the CityNews Athlete of the Year in 2015, has been training for the 2024 Olympics for more than half of her life. Since the gym closed its doors more than a week ago, she and many others have had to put their dreams on hold.

“As the weeks go on, I feel like I have to control the amount of stress that I get, not going to the gym,” Sartoretto said. “You just want to go back to the gym and do skills.”

The closure of the business means athletes can’t train for any future competitions, many of which, including the National Championships, have recently been postponed.

Lorraine Currie, the owner of Futures Gymnastics, tells CityNews like many other businesses struggling during the pandemic, they have not been exempt from layoffs.

“Clearly the income stops at that point, and we’ve had to layoff staff which is very saddening,” Currie said, adding that they’ve been now closed for 10 days. “We saw that we were going to have to find some way to keep our kids connected and busy, so we wanted to create a day camp for them where they would be able to do classes at home.”

Currie says she saw a greater need among the community, working alongside the trainers to develop an online program that delivers live and recorded classes to the students at home.

“So that to the best of our ability, we can keep them working out, keep them in shape, and keep them mentally healthy because that’s another area that can be difficult when you train at that level to just suddenly stop,” said Currie. “They’re used to being very busy all day long, and when they don’t have that we want to keep them mentally healthy as well. How do they stay in shape, so that they can go back to those competitions and be successful.”

Thousands are now able to access a range wide of classes for athletes, including gymnastics, cheerleading and martial arts. There’s also content outside of sports for students, including mental health resources, cooking classes, crafts and games.

On one occasion, one of the classes garnered 750 participants. Within days, Gymnastics Ontario reached out to Currie asking if their 45,000 students can also access the program. Then gyms across Canada and the world started calling, including 17 states in the U.S., South Africa, Wales and Australia.  All of a sudden, Currie saw an opportunity to serve a global community that is experiencing similar pains.

“We were lucky enough to create all that content before we actually had to close, now that everyone has closed it’s really hard to create your own content,” Currie said. “It’s really been quite satisfying that something we started to just help our own organizations, has blossomed in this global thing where we’re working together to keep our industry from collapsing.”

It’s given students, like Jenna, an opportunity to have a stable routine at a time when there’s much uncertainty. The ninth grader, who on Thursday participated in a 9 a.m. class, is looking at this as a new opportunity to grow, adding that she feels this new program will get her back on track.

“We have time off, it is also a gift and it shouldn’t be taken as something that’s turned bad,” she said.

Currie tells CityNews she’s also looking into providing this program to francophones in the near future, and there’s also been requests to provide the content for those training in other sports and activities.

During these times, there is sense that we must all come together to unite, and Currie says that’s at the heart of her program.

“There’s a big community feeling here that we’ll get through this if we do it together,” she said. “Separately we may not survive, but together as a sport we will, because we’re no longer just competitors.”