Longtime gymnastics coach Janice Cormier-Hay had been a fixture at the CLC YMCA in Damariscotta for 16 years.
Cormier-Hay was in her 17th season at the CLC Y. Over the years she has built a respected program, and coached individual gymnasts and teams to state and regional titles.
She said it came as a shock to her and her gymnastics family to learn last week her services were no longer welcome at the Y. “I was surprised, I was terminated,” Cormier-Hay said.
CLC YMCA Executive Director Meagan Hamblett would not comment on the specifics of Cormier-Hay’s termination, other than to say, “She is no longer with the Y.”
Cormier-Hay estimates she has coached “upwards of 100 state individual” champions, at least a dozen state championship teams, over 50 regional titlists, and two regional championship teams while associated with the Y.
She had lobbied the local Y for years for more space to operate her program, which is located in a cramped second story loft. “It is no secret it is a difficult thing working at the YMCA,” Cormier-Hay said. “I think we gave them good service, and a good program. The kids have been outstanding.”
Due to budgetary restrictions, Cormier-Hay personally purchased much of the gymnastics equipment used by the Y’s program. Cormier-Hay has been asked to remove her equipment, which has dramatically impacted the Y’s ability to operate a team program in the short term.
Hamblett said the Y is scrambling to seek alternatives for the two current Y teams, including nine gymnasts on the USA team, and a larger YMCA team. Hamblett said she is working with the North Atlantic Gymnastics Academy, or NAGA, which rents space at the PenBay Y in Rockport.
“We are working with parents,” Hamblett said.
In the short term, CLC YMCA team members can train and compete this season with NAGA in Rockport. In the long run, starting next year, the Y hopes to contract with NAGA to provide gymnastics team opportunities in Damariscotta.
“We are in the planning stages right now,” Hamblett said.
The Y will continue to offer their other gymnastics programs, which will be run by the current assistant coaches.
“It is a shock to everyone,” Cormier-Hay said. “Right now I am looking at my options. I am trying to find a really good solution for everyone. I would like to start my own place.”
“I would like to thank the Y for the opportunity. I think the kids benefited. Even though I am shocked right now, I have to look forward and see what I can do about it. Hopefully something really great will come out of it. It is going to be rough, not going to work and working with the girls, but I am trying to be optimistic and brave,” Cormier-Hay said.
Teaching and coaching at the CLC Y was Cormier-Hay’s sole income. “I worked such crazy hours” with pre-school classes during the day and team practice in the evenings,” Cormier-Hay said of not taking a second job.
According to parents LCN spoke to, they are upset and disappointed in the Y’s termination of the coach. They say it could not have come at a worse time, as the team is in the middle of the gymnastics meet season.
“I am disappointed by the Y leadership and how this was handled,” Angela Russ said. Russ’ daughter Maddy is a Level 7 gymnast who competed at the New England championships and was one of seven gymnasts to qualify for the USA Regional Super 7 competition.
“We all love her and respect her as a coach,” Russ said.
To many going to NAGA will be a struggle, especially since practice starts at 3:30 p.m., and the commute will be much longer.
According to some parents, Cormier-Hay has nurtured a true team spirit that sees all the girls cheering each other on, regardless of their age or skill level. The gymnasts have developed friendship from all across the county and beyond and are a family.
“By removing Coach Janice so abruptly the CLC Y broke up a family. They ripped someone of significant importance from these girls without thinking about how it would hurt them emotionally,” said one parent in a letter to LCN. “There are 24 little girls’ hearts breaking after hearing this news, but just as importantly there are 24 girls who, through the CLC’s actions, are being shown that their hard work and commitment are not worth respect or support. This is not a life lesson any child should learn through an organization that claims to “nurture the potential of every child and teen.”
“I want a smooth transition for everyone concerned, including for myself,” Cormier-Hay said. “It is most unfortunate. I feel I have done a very good job for the CLC YMCA. I am just going to look for other opportunities; hopefully it is in Midcoast Maine. I love this area.
“Sometimes it is better to sever relationships if you can’t work together. Certain things about my personality I guess some people don’t like. I am hopeful I will be OK and get the support I need. Hopefully moving on will be very good for all involved,” Cormier-Hay said.