Whistler Gymnastics has been offering recreational programs to boys for several years, but gym time has been limited in the past and there was only one coach for the program.
That changed this year with the addition of Jeremy Souchotte, a gymnast who competed at the national level for 10 years before instructing alongside a former Olympic coach in Abbotsford.
Now, the boys' Saltos program has extended classes by half an hour with the goal of creating a pre-competitive program when Whistler Gymnastics moves into its permanent facility in the fall of 2010. Although his career as a physiotherapist already keeps him busy, Souchette is keen to build the boys' program to a competitive level, if that's what the gymnasts choose to do.
"I wanted to get back into coaching, and when I heard about the new gym facility and that the club was interested in starting a guy's program I contacted the club," he said.
He is leading a group of eight kids this year, taking over from Saltos coach Andre Doucette who is focusing more on the younger Aerials program that is a mix of boys and girls.
It hasn't taken Souchotte long to see the potential.
"The kids in Whistler are really athletic, and they're all into learning skills they can cross over to other sports," he said. "A lot of the skills are pretty applicable to the freestyle side of skiing and snowboarding, and biking too. It's a good way to build up to the basics and move on to harder tricks.
"The kids learn air awareness, flipping, twisting, and gain strength, flexibility, coordination. They can learn it in a progression instead of trying to pick up the skills themselves."
Souchotte competed for 10 years at the national level from age 13. He spent one year with the Saskatchewan team, then joined the B.C. Team when his family moved to Abbotsford. He stopped competing in 2002 after he tore his ACL, which is when he shifted over to the coaching side of the sport. He had the opportunity to assist a former Olympic coach in Abbotsford and to work with athletes competing at the international level. He also worked as a coach in New Zealand for two years while he was getting his degree in physiotherapy.
As a physiotherapist and snowboarder the move to Whistler three years ago was an obvious one, but he says he missed coaching right away.
Souchotte generally had his best results on the rings, but his favourite event was the high bar. "That was the highest and fastest event, and it was always a rush to spin over the ground," he said. "Usually my favourite event was always the one that I did best at, but I always liked to train and compete on the bar."