Gymnastics teaches fun, fitness and discipline

Jill McMillan has found a secret to keeping kids attention - keep them moving

Tyler McDonald works with the ribbon.

Tyler McDonald works with the ribbon.

Jill McMillan has found a secret to keeping kids attention – keep them moving. The theme of her gymnastics program is the 3 F’s – fun, fitness and fundamentals. At the same time, safety of self and of others is of paramount importance.  Misbehaving can lead to a “time out”.

Jill runs a recreational gymnastics program in the mini gym at Raft River Elementary School on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. The program operates under the direction of the Community Resources Center for the North Thompson.

There are currently 82 students registered in the program, starting at age four.  There are 13 separate classes with an average of six students per class. Each student gets one class per week.  Jill puts in about 16 – 20 hours per week on a program she describes as a place to learn basic gymnastics in a non-competitive atmosphere.

These young students are tumbling on the mats, jumping off the mini trampoline and developing some rhythmic skills with the ribbon. They gain confidence with heights and develop upper body strength by climbing ropes or rope ladder and getting up and down the Jungle (wall unit).  Activities are broken into groups of height, springing, tumbling, acrobatics, held positions and locomotions (to coordinate arms and legs).

Jill has been doing this for many years.  She started teaching gymnastics at Dutch Lake Elementary School in 1974.  At one point, she was instructing in seven different schools from Star Lake to Blue River. The family relocated to Vernon for many years, where she continued with her involvement. She recreated the program here after moving back to Clearwater in 2005.

Her initial attraction to this sport came about the age of 11, and she won a medal at her first competition. She competed through her high school years to age 17, all the while helping to coach. Other members of her family were involved at the same time. Of course her kids were always in tow as she ran classes. Her father ran a gymnastics program for many years, coaching into his 70s, while her older brother just recently retired from coaching. Some of the equipment Jill has for the program was built and used by her father.

– Grant Gale