Hi there – I’m Ali Stoffels, the founder of Rec Gym Pros!
I’ve been involved with gymnastics my whole life — as a competitive gymnast and then I began as a Coach-in-Training when I was 14 years old. Despite my experience as an athlete, I very quickly learned that preschool and rec were my forte – I much preferred helping kids fall in love with the sport and have fun, rather than teach them anything harder than a walkover!
When I wasn’t coaching, I was a camp counsellor. Years of summer camps left me with a passion for creative programming (why bother doing things the “normal” way?) and an overflowing binder of resources full of games and tips for working with kids.
In university, my degrees hooked me up with a super specific understanding of leadership, group development, risk management and experiential education. This ended up being very useful when I unexpectedly ended up back in the world of gymnastics as a Rec Director. I never would have predicted my return to gymnastics, but thanks to some serendiptous timing (and an empty bank account), there I was! That’s where I’ve been ever since!
Currently, I’m the Recreational Program Director at Milton Springers Gymnastics Club in Ontario Canada. It’s the same gym I grew up at, although it’s much larger now. I oversee 1200-1300 kids a week who are taken care of by my 70 amazing coaches and CITs. Couldn’t do it without them — I love being part of their journey to become the best leaders they can be.
When I’m not obsessing over gymnastics, you can find me up at my trailer, reading a book, playing baseball or zoning out playing Candy Crush. Or I might be inventing a new project or planning an adventure of some kind — I’m happiest when I have lots of projects on the go 🙂
Why I started RGP!
The honest truth? When my coaches would come to me asking for pullover drills (or for whatever skill) – I would tell them my go-tos then send them 3 or 4 links to youtube videos I had found. This started happening more and more, so I wondered how I could make things more efficient and put these links in one place for them – like a nice little resource bank at their disposal!
Then the more I thought about it, and the more searching/resouce gathering I did, one thing became abundantly clear to me:
Recreational & preschool staff are hands-down the most creative coaches in the gym. Collectively, our industry is brilliant and busting with innovation! The internet is buzzing with amazing ideas from gyms, coaches and programs around the world.
But, unfortunately the recreational gymnastics community is also pretty isolated. We don’t get to go to competitions or training camps. Even coaching conferences are generally geared towards competitive staff, so rec coaches don’t typically attend. We don’t often have a reason (or time) to visit another gym. We rarely get the chance to share our best ideas and inspire each other!
So, it was high time that recreational gymnastics resources & inspiration could be found in one place 😉
And not just for my own staff, but for anyone who was looking for it.
I wanted RGP to be a vehicle for connecting our community — coaches, supervisors, program directors, managers, owners — all in the rec & preschool stream. We’ve grown larger than I ever thought – with more and more ideas being shared in different ways via our website, our email rountables, facebook and instagram. And more recently, we met up in real life at the Rec Director Summit to connect, share and learn from one another. It was an incredible experience and I was so humbled to share such a meaningful experience with other passionate people in our field.
I love sharing what I’ve learned with other people. As an extension to the online community, I am passionate about delivering staff training in real life too! I present regular in-house clinics to my own staff and I have visited other clubs to present workshops as well. I have had the pleasure of being a clinician at the Gymnastics Ontario Congress in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Read more below for how I could help at your gym!
I am so excited for the future of Rec Gym Pros – and I’m so glad you are here too! Thanks for being part of this community!
Work with Me!
I am passionate about helping preschool and recreational coaches step outside their comfort zones to get creative with programming and tap into their potential for leadership. If you are interested in working with me, I would love to discuss opportunities for me to work with your staff and/or support your recreational programming. I have perpetually itchy feet, so I’m happy to travel to you! Let’s chat — you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂