‘We have a passion for the sport and the kids’

corona-gymThe Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics, which opened in Ottawa more than 40 years ago as a one-coach club with 40 gymnasts, has grown to become one of Canada’s largest, writes Samantha Ball.

At The Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics, it’s all about the kids.

“The people that work for us are friendly and care about the kids … which creates a special atmosphere,” says Penny Fyfe, a former gymnast and the school’s assistant executive director.

Established in 1972 by Agnes Laing, the school was the first facility of its kind in Ottawa and operated out of several high school gymnasiums before moving to its permanent location on Colonnade Road in 1979.

What began as a one-coach club with 40 gymnasts has now grown to be one of Canada’s largest schools, with up to 1,300 students in the recreational program every week, and up to 100 students training in the competitive programs annually.

Running the school with Laing is business partner Fyfe. Their longtime partnership is solid. “We have tremendous respect for the strengths of the other,” says Laing. “We balance each other.”

Laing describes their school as family-oriented, noting much of their staff is long-term.

And it’s not only the employees who remain loyal; she’s also noticing an influx of “second-generation students” — the children of former students.

“We have a passion for the sport and the kids,” says Fyfe.

Part of the school’s commitment to learning includes providing students with opportunities to travel to national and international competitions.

And continual learning and improvement is emphasized, not just for gymnasts, but also coaches, who are all nationally certified.

“The program is only as good as the coaches we are providing,” says Fyfe.

Senior staff includes the men’s head coach, who has been with the school for 30 years, and Fyfe and Laing say they are “deeply indebted to their loyalty as well as their understanding of the sport and business.”

Programs are available for children as young as six months, and Laing says more parents view gymnastics as essential.

In addition to year-round recreational and competitive classes, the school offers March Break, summer, PD Day and Christmas break camps.

And parents can take advantage of the spacious viewing room, which looks out onto the 15,000-square-foot gym.

They offer year-round, action-packed birthday party packages that make the child “feel like a celebrity.”

The school (www.coronagym.ca) is committed to giving back to the Ottawa community by supporting causes such as CHEO and breast cancer research, and to upholding their philosophy — “the pursuit of excellence” — for many years to come.

Students have won national and provincial championships and NCAA scholarships, but Laing says that watching gymnasts grow and develop is most rewarding.

“Here, it’s not about winning, but about creating a centre of learning.”