Rhythmic gymnastics is one of the most spectacular and sophisticated Olympic sports that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance, and circus, using different apparatus such as rope, hoop, ball, clubs or ribbon, accompanied by music.
Rhythmic gymnastics as an Olympic sport began in 1984 when Lori Fung from Canada became the Olympic champion. This sport is more developed in Europe, where the leaders are Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria, Italy, Israel and other countries. Rhythmic gymnastics is gaining popularity in Canada thanks to coaches and professionals who immigrated mainly from Eastern European countries.
In Alberta, a leading rhythmic gymnastics club is undoubtedly the Edmonton Rhythmic Sportive Gymnastics Club (ERSGA). ERSGA, a not-for-profit organization that has offered a high calibre professional program since 1978, is the only club in the province whose gymnasts have represented Canada at three World Championships, Pan American Championships, Universiades, Four Continents Championships, and other prestigious tournaments. ERSGA is proud of the club's gymnasts, members of the Canadian national team, as well as champions of national, Western Canadian and provincial tournaments.
The ERSGA program was created and is led by a professional team of coaches that foster qualities such as flexibility, grace, coordination and precision of movements, beautiful posture, and a charming smile. Performing with music contributes to the development of the aesthetic component, good taste and artistry. Self-discipline, confidence, responsibility, and the ability to clearly plan and value your time last a lifetime. Even if a gymnast does not possess good flexibility and coordination, almost everything can be achieved through regular training under the coaches’ supervision. In addition to physical exercises, girls learn to develop leadership skills, make friends and maintain connections, and gain self-confidence.
The club has two main programs: recreational (health-improving) and competitive (sports). The recreational (basic or beginner) program offers fun activities for girls from 5 years old, combining creativity and musical expression with physical activity. The club usually offers recreational programs in different parts of the city, but due to COVID, classes are only held in Sejong Multicultural Center (south Edmonton), Kinsmen Sports Center (central Edmonton) and Sherwood Park. At the end of the recreational program, if the girls want to continue to practice more professionally and qualify, they can join the competition group at the Kinsmen Sports Center.
The philosophy of the ERSGA is to reveal the personal qualities of each gymnast and to contribute to her athletic and emotional growth. Success in the club has never been measured by medals, with the emphasis on the achievements of each gymnast. This Mission of the club was established by head coach Judit Berecz, who has been running the club for over 30 years. Judit has experienced a complete gymnastics career from gymnast to international brevet judge. As a gymnast, she twice represented Hungary at the World Championships. She is also considered the founder of rhythmic gymnastics in Edmonton. In 2014, she was inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame. ERSGA's second coach Judy Martens represented Canada at the 2003 World Cup, highlighting the strength of the club's coaching staff. She also served on the board of Gymnastics Canada as an athlete representative for several years. Currently, she coaches national and Western stream athletes, and is a national-level judge.
As part of its history and legacy, ERSGA has served a vital community function for Edmontonians in the development of the sport, promotion of healthy and active lifestyles for girls, the formation of strong leaders and role models among peers, and inspiration for girls to increase their self-esteem and self-confidence.
In 2020, ERSGA became member of the Edmonton Sport Council with the goal to popularize the sport and support its core values that physical activity should be accessible, participant-centred, equitable, and fair. Thus, from the summer of 2021, ERSGA is introducing a new initiative that makes the sport of rhythmic gymnastics accessible and inclusive for all Edmontonians. The generous sponsorship of Jumpstart Canadian Tire Foundation and the City of Edmonton, for the first time in the history of the club and Alberta, supports a free recreational summer camp and the 2021-2022 recreational program for newcomers and low-income families.
This initiative also supports the City of Edmonton’s Live Active: A Collaborative Strategy for Active Living, Active Recreation, and Sport in Edmonton (2019-2029), which is a city policy that empowers Edmontonians to value physical activity through engaging in recreational activities and sports. The board and the staff of ERSGA are looking forward to the implementation of this exciting initiative that will be removing barriers for girls from vulnerable populations to participate in sports and raise public awareness about rhythmic gymnastics.