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Gymnastics for All helps achieve the organization’s objective of promoting the value and diversity of gymnastics to a wider public while bringing together our members to celebrate the joy of physical activity, innovation, and inclusion.

Meredith Warner

Program Manager of Sport Development

Gymnastics Canada

× The interview with Meredith Warner was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Program Manager of Sport Development for Gymnastics Canada. What does a typical day look like for you?

As the Program Manager of Sport Development for GymCan, I am responsible for the planning and oversight of the organization’s developing disciplines: Acrobatic Gymnastics, Aerobic Gymnastics and Gymnastics for All.

While each discipline is at a different stage of development domestically, all stakeholders involved in these disciplines share the same passion and dedication to moving the programs forward and sharing their sport with a wider audience across Canada.

My typical day varies depending on the time of year/quadrennial and can range from developing national team selection criteria, managing event registrations and schedules, chairing committee meetings, organizing judge courses, collecting team agreements and risk management requirements, outfitting team members in the GymCan uniform, and supporting our travelling teams on-site at various international and world events as GymCan’s “Head of Delegation” for Acro and Gym for All.

In July of 2019, I had the privilege of leading 786 Team Canada members as the “Head of Delegation” at the World Gymnaestrada in Dornbirn, Austria. The World Gymnaestrada is a week-long “Gymnastics for All” festival sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) and hosted every 4 years.

Regardless of age, ability, culture, gender, etc., this inclusive event provides all gymnasts with the opportunity to perform on an international stage in a non-competitive celebration of gymnastics and movement.

In 2019, Canada sent our largest delegation in history!

Being apart of the delegation in Austria is one of my favourite experiences as a staff member with GymCan. We have already started preparing for the next World event in Amsterdam, Netherlands 2023! 

2Previous to your current role with GymCan, you worked for Skate Canada. During that time, you were instrumental in relaunching the CanSkate Program. Can you explain a little more about the goals of this program and how it was created? Are there any programs similar to this at GymCan and do you think similar programs would work for other organizations in Canada?

Being apart of the revision and relaunch of the CanSkate program with Skate Canada was such a great introduction to working for an NSO.

It was one of my very first projects as a brand-new, just-out-of-university sports administrator and it taught me so much about project management, member services, sports governance and LTD (at the time it was called “LTAD). 

Most importantly I learned an incredible lesson about the importance of building trusting relationships within the sports community.

The success of the program relied heavily on every partner, at every level, not only believing in the value of the project but also engaging and contributing to the ideas and concepts we were exploring.

The goal of the project was to create a technically sound and developmentally appropriate program that all Canadians could access and experience the joy of ice skating! 

3How much do you focus on growing gymnastics on a wider scale in your role as Program Manager of Sport Development? What is GymCan doing to grow the sport in Canada?

The focus of my role is to help develop the non-Olympic gymnastics disciplines in Canada.  These disciplines are not as well-known as the traditional Olympic disciplines (artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline gymnastics) since they do not have a longstanding history within the Canadian sport system (yet).

The “Gymnastics for All” (GfA) discipline is wide-reaching as there are no limits to participation and encompasses all forms of movement and gymnastics. GfA activities can be easily incorporated into an individual’s daily fitness routines but can also be showcased through group demonstrations and performances.

GymCan hosts a national GfA festival every 4 years, called “The Canadian Gymnaestrada”. The event provides a national stage for groups of 10 or more gymnasts to come together and share their love of gymnastics.

Participation is open to everyone (as long as they are members in good standing and the group registers with an NCCP certified coach) and the event features group performances in both indoor and outdoor stages. 

With this format, the event does not just draw local spectators into the gymnastics venue, but it also brings the performances and the excitement of the gym festival to the local community.

Gymnastics for All helps achieve the organization’s objective of promoting the value and diversity of gymnastics to a wider public while bringing together our members to celebrate the joy of physical activity, innovation, and inclusion.

Additionally, in 2019, GymCan hosted the very first Canadian Championships in Acrobatic Gymnastics. It was a huge accomplishment for the organization and an exciting time for our acro community.

When I first took on the portfolio in 2015, GymCan did not have any type of technical structure for acro established. At the time, we had a number of clubs offering acro classes across the country and some Canadian athletes were already competing internationally in World Age Group Competitions.

After taking on the portfolio, I dedicated the first few years to building our network of experts. Three Canadian acro judges were trained and certified at the international level and they have become valued leaders of the program in Canada.

Next, we formed a national Program Committee with acro experts from across the country, and with the help of numerous partners from the provincial members and clubs, we were able to come together to develop a program framework, technical regulations, competition guidelines, and national judge training. 

The sport has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time and we are really hoping we can host the next Canadian Championships in Acrobatic Gymnastics in 2021. The event serves as an excellent platform to showcase the acro talent we have in our country and celebrate how far we have come in developing this new sport in Canada!

4You have many responsibilities within GymCan, including planning, program development, events, etc. Tell us about your approach in enhancing and putting such programs/domestic events into practice.

I think my approach is like many people working in this field. The majority of the year (and quadrennial) is determined by the domestic and international event schedule. Using these milestone dates, we can work backwards to determine the detailed planning process. 

A lot of the work that is done by the organization relies on collaborative efforts with volunteer committees, working groups, provincial/territorial organization partners, and other stakeholders so time must be allotted to ensure everyone has adequate opportunity to review, advise, assist, etc.

We are really lucky to have so many talented and knowledgeable individuals from across the country invested in helping our organization succeed.

5If someone wants to be successful in the non-profit side of sport, what do you think are the three most important skills or attributes they need to have and why?

  1. Effective communication skills – working in a member-oriented, athlete-centred environment requires a strong ability to effectively communicate in a variety of ways. Having the confidence to bring forward new ideas, express an alternate point of view while making space for other voices to be heard are all integral to establishing and maintaining positive working relationships in sport.
  2. Resiliency – It would be so much easier if everything could work out according to plan but just like in sport, we are not always going to “win”. Having the resiliency to keep moving forward, even after a failure is important. Discovering new ways to grow and develop can be the greatest gift if you are open to learning from a mistake.
  3. Critical Thinking – Having the ability to remain curious along with the capacity to take in new information, research, analyze, synthesize and make sound decisions is helpful when trying to keep up with the rapidly changing and evolving sports ecosystem. 

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