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Back to the gymnastics
Jessica Hval plans to restart program in Fort Smith after a two-year hiatus

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Jessica Hval is ready to revive a gymnastics program in Fort Smith after an absence of a couple of years.

NNSL photo/graphic

Jessica Hval is planning to revive a gymnastics program in Fort Smith after an absence of a couple of years. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

And she is happy to be restarting a sport in which she has been involved since she was five or six years old.

"I think it will be really good," she said. "A lot of kids really like it."

The gymnastics program was started in Fort Smith about 20 years ago by her mother, Cheryl Hval, after the family moved from Hay River, where they had been involved with the gymnastics club there.

Jessica Hval, her sister Ashley Marta and their mother have been the driving forces behind gymnastics in Fort Smith ever since.

Hval said there is no particular reason why the gymnastics group has been inactive for the last couple of years.

"We just get busy," she said, adding that she and her sister have both been in school in recent years studying for bachelor of education degrees. "When we were too busy, we wouldn't take it on. It's just something that we'll take on if we can."

Hval, who is a substitute teacher and a painter, now feels she has the time for gymnastics, and is hoping to get a six-week session going at the Rec Centre sometime later this month once the arrangements are made.

"It's for sure. I've already committed to my kids that I'm going to do it," said the mother of three girls aged 14, 12 and seven.

All three of her children have been involved in gymnastics before and will be now.

"My kids are hounding me about it," Hval said with a laugh.

In fact, other children and their parents have also been asking her when she plans to offer more gymnastics instruction.

"The kids are still very interested in doing it, even though we don't do a competitive program," she said. "We do it more for fun and for the kids to learn."

Hval also enjoys it.

"I kind of just have a passion for it. I always loved it when I was growing up," she said, adding that she particularly enjoyed the competitive aspect of gymnastics when she was younger in Hay River.

"I've instructed before because when I came here we just didn't have the same level of competition," she said. "We went from having full gymnastics gear to having to fundraise to buy our own gear for here. We still don't even have a full mat. We don't really focus on a competitive program. We just kind of do skills and that kind of thing just so that we can offer something."

The gymnastics program in Fort Smith does have equipment, much of it especially designed for younger children, such as a balance beam, rings and bars. Much of the equipment has been obtained over the years with funding from the GNWT.

Hval said the upcoming session will likely accept children as young as three, and there is no upper age limit for participants.

"We try to accommodate as many as we can," she noted. "We try to keep it inexpensive."

Depending on the number and ages of the participants, the session may be divided into a group of younger children and a group of older children.

"I didn't take an age limit for the older kids the last time I ran it," Hval said. "I even had a lot of teenagers involved."

She also noted that young boys often sign up for gymnastics, but not older boys.

Hval said gymnastics is a positive experience for children, explaining it builds self-esteem and body awareness, provides exercise and even teaches social skills like waiting in line and following instructions.

She has not yet begun signing up participants for the upcoming gymnastics session, but is confident there will be a lot of interest in the community, noting "I'm not too worried, because usually we fill up right away."

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