“Sometimes we get stuck in the things that trip us up, our stumbling blocks, and this was a great opportunity to hear that somebody else has experienced those issues too.” - Shawna Miller, Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce

Her Stumbling Blocks Became Building Blocks. How Toastmasters turned a terrified speaker into a huge success.

Toastmasters Alumni Newsletter, Friday, January 13, 2017

 

As the founder and owner of Stumbling Blocks Team Building Seminars, former Toastmaster Barbara May has a lot of experience and first-hand information to share about overcoming stumbling blocks at work and in life. Like many people, she was terrified of public speaking, and joining Toastmasters helped May to overcome her fears. When she was 46, a health crisis showed May what her unifying purpose was: helping others get past their stumbling blocks.


Portrait of Success


Her Stumbling Blocks Became Building Blocks


How Toastmasters turned a terrified speaker into a huge success


Barbara May has extensive experience and first-hand information to share about overcoming stumbling blocks at work and in life. She has interviewed business owners on Learning & Job News, hosted Access Television's May We Talk? and she has facilitated more than 500 career and employment workshops.

 

Like many people, she was terrified of public speaking; joining Toastmasters helped her overcome her fears. May says, “The experience also gave me the confidence and skill to stretch out into other areas, like television and stand-up comedy.” In fact, when she first started interviewing business owners on the Learning & Job News in 1996, Neil Wilkinson (1993-94 Toastmasters International President) was the first person she interviewed.

 

She has accomplished much, including acting in several television commercials and getting into the Guinness World Records by performing in the longest stand-up comedy show in history. “I always encourage people who attend my workshops to join Toastmasters because it is a great way to build their communication and leadership skills, and it looks impressive on a resume,” May says.

 

May has been presenting workshops and motivational talks about effective communication, coaching and career planning since 1995. When she was 46, she suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. She said, “Every moment felt like a hurdle, like a trial, as I experienced it, so every moment looked like a victory as I looked back at it.” This health crisis showed May what her unifying purpose was: helping people get past their stumbling blocks.

 

I am grateful for my Toastmasters experience because it helped me get past my public speaking stumbling blocks and started me on a journey doing what I love.”

Coping with business hurdles. Speaker Barbara May provides some interesting insight in overcoming workplace obstacles during the Women in Business Lunch.

Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribue, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

 

Coping with business hurdles

 

Speaker Barbara May provides some interesting insight in overcoming workplace obstacles during her presentation at the Elks Lodge on Tuesday, during the Women in Business Lunch, just one of the events held throughout Small Business Week.

 

May focused her presentation on helping local business women come up with new ways of solving problems in the work place such as dealing and communicating with co-workers, and bouncing back from mistakes with confidence.

 

By Joceyln Turner

 

Picking yourself up and dusting yourself off when it comes to a work-related mistake or problem can seem almost impossible. Sometimes, it may seem easier to just lie there, licking your wounds. But it turns out those problems may not be as world ending as we all thought.

 

To try and help women who are active in the business community have a better grasp on dealing with hurdles in the work place, the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce welcomed guest speaker Barbara May to the Women in Business lunch held at the Elks Lodge on Tuesday, Oct. 22, as part of Small Business Week festivities.

 

“This is a great opportunity for us to celebrate women’s involvement in business and… host an event that caters to their different needs and different information that they want to hear,” said Shawna Miller, chairwoman for the chamber. “Sometimes as women, we get stuck in the things that trip us up, our stumbling blocks, and this is a great opportunity to hear that somebody else has experienced those issues too.”

 

May said her presentation, ‘Stumbling Blocks’, was all about how to overcome them and learning how to get back up when you fall down.

 

“That happens often, we trip, we stumble and we fall down,” she said. “You have to recognize that it’s just part of life and be willing to get back up, I think that’s the key.”

 

May said sometimes, particularly in the work place, people feel that their mistakes are the 'be all, end all' of their careers. Instead of overcoming their mistakes, sometimes an employee will decide to move on to another career, which, for an employer, can become a real problem.

 

“We need them to stick around, develop the skills so if next time, something (similar) would happen, they could handle it differently,” she said.

 

Another issue that many employees face is learning to properly communicate with one another. Part of May’s presentation involved getting the guests to close their eyes and envision the scene she described; a warm beach with crashing waves and a cooler filled with your favourite drink. When guests opened their eyes, she asked a series of questions about each person’s scene, pointing out how not everyone saw, felt or even heard the same things.

 

“I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the workplace is people getting along with each other and some of that stems from communication but a big part of it is we’re not all the same and we don’t all think the same,” she explained. “If I have an issue, I need to be able and willing to go and talk to you about it. That doesn’t mean attacking you or avoiding (it), but sometimes, we need to go, ‘hey, this is my working style. I didn’t mean to upset you, I didn’t mean to offend you,’ so we can resolve the issue.”

 

A lot of people, May said, immediately react as opposed to thinking about how to handle their emotions and the situation constructively. Because many people in those kinds of situations have an instant ‘flight or fight’ response, they don’t always just take a minute to think about what they are going to say before saying it.

 

“Once you’ve processed your emotions...then you can deal with it and go and talk to the person,” she said. “Or you may chose not to. Maybe you’ll say I just reacted badly, I was having a bad day and in this case, I’ll move on.”

 

The key, she said, is understanding that everyone makes mistakes and learning to get passed it.

 

May is a former national level gymnast, coach and Guinness World Record holder for the longest stand-up comedy show in history. May has also facilitated over 400 employment and career workshops and even hosted Access Television’s ‘May We Talk?’.

 

For a list of more events taking place throughout Small Business Week, visit www.grandeprairiechamber.com.

Moving on and learning from your mistakes was the main message heard at the women in business luncheon this afternoon.

HQ Grande Prairie, October 22, 2013

 

Grande Prairie women gathered for luncheon today as part of Small Business Week

 

By Sara Warr

 

Moving on and learning from your mistakes was the main message heard at the women in business luncheon this afternoon.

 

The event was put on as part of Small Business Week through the Chamber of Commerce. Former Gymnast turned comedienne and career councillor, Barbara May addressed the room full of business women.

 

She says everyone comes across stumbling blocks, but the key is to learn from them, rather than give up.

 

"We feel bad because we want to get better, but if we're losing employees over it becuase they're like 'Geez, I screwed up and I'm going to quit my job' that becomes a real problem, right, because we need people to stick around, develop those skills so that next time, if somethig like that was to happen, they would handle it differently."

 

Small business week activities continue tomorrow with a succession planning event, and a business showcase on Thursday, followed by the Small Business Awards gala Friday.

In a hectic world of all work and no play, life coaches are helping some clients live their dreams.

St. Albert Gazette, Saturday, February 7, 2004

 

Time is Running Out

 

In a hectic world of all work and no play, life coaches are helping some clients live their dreams

 

By Peter Boer

 

Life begins when the alarm clock says so. It's another day of monotony, another day of chores, another day of work, work, work and don't stop until everyone else has had their way with you.

 

The idea of bliss is something you only dream about. Kids, relationships, bosses and co-workers demand you attention for the bulk of the day but, from time to time, you slip into a fantasy where life is gentle, where love means tenderness, work means fulfillment and family means warmth. In your fantasy there is a purpose to everything, there is a balance between all different points in your life. There is extra time in the day, there is meaning in work, there is happiness in life.

 

A phone call snaps you back to the real world. There is no time for the fantastic, there is no money for change. Any resolution to the contrary yields to the reality of time and circumstance.

 

You want change, but where do you start? If you've been asking that question, maybe you need to get yourself a coach. A life coach.

 

"When people are looking for change in their lives, they'll often start off with great motivation and great intentions, but after a while it gets hard and they lose their focus," said Bev Baker-Hoffman, a life coach with "Coach Potatoes," a St.Albert-based coaching business. "A coach's job centres around holding that focus when you're having problems doing that."

 

The rise of the "life coach" as a profession is a sharp one, reminiscent of the invention of the ubiquitous "counsellor" of the 1980s or self-help guru of the 1990s. While the focus of life coaching centres around the idea of helping people, the differences in practice and philosophy are slowly lending credence to the viability of life coaching as a distinct therapeutic alternative.

 

Where counsellors or psychologists are more focused on the notion of healing deep-rooted emotional and mental trauma, life coaches are devoted to helping people deal with and get the most of of life's current circumstances.

 

"Coaching doesn't necessarily deal with healing. It deals with life as it happens," explained Laurel Vespi, also a life coach with Coach Potatoes. "Coaching is very much where we are right now and where we are moving towards."

 

The services offered by most life coaches are directed at an all-too common clientele, indicative of the fractured work-and-play mentality of the 21st century. Mostly female, mostly in their 40s and 50s, the most common client is one who is spiritually and emotionally "stuck" in a place they no longer wish to be. They may find themselves in loveless relationships or in jobs that have long since lost their appeal. They are people looking for balance in life, a harmony between self-fulfilment and social demands.

 

"People's lives slip away from them very slowly and gradually," said Steven Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta who studies social trends. "At some point, they realize they're doing things for everybody else but themselves. It helps to have someone on the outside to give authority to something someone already knows."

 

Hoffman described the coaching process as a client-oriented process. Coach and client work together to establish a goal for the client - whether in work, love or play - and assign smaller goals meant to assist the client in reaching the ultimate objective. The coach's role is to keep the client on track.

 

"We always pull it back to where your big picture is," she said. "It's about keeping focused on what your agenda is."

 

But while the goal of all life coaches may be similar, there are different ways to get there. As psychology can differ in its approaches to therapy so to do life coaches differ in their tactics. Barbara May is a St. Albert-based personal coach and public speaker who believes current belief systems are often influenced by a past trauma. May works to clear whatever may be blocking a client from her success with a focus on healing of the physical, emotional and spiritual selves.

 

"I'm a big believer in a holistic approach and you may need a number of practitioners to help you towards your goals," said May. "If you want to make your life better, you can. And you may need a coach to help you.

 

May uses a combination of techniques to help clients identify whatever may be blocking them from future success. Voice dialogue is a method that allows the client to interact with whatever belief or behaviour is blocking their performance. May also relies on GeoTran, a language of energy fields and muscle testing that allows May to identify areas of weakness.

 

"Your body is a dense field. Trauma can be stored at a cellular level." May explained. "We would clear whatever trauma there is or belief system around that person, then test them again."

 

May refers to herself as a tough coach. She believes in working with clients on a deep emotional level, so much so she will turn away clients who she doesn't feel are prepared to do the work.

 

"If someone needs 55 minutes of hearing how wonderful they are, that's not the right person," said May. "I'll spend 55 minutes hitting the issues and five minutes telling them they're wonderful."

 

Those who are ready usually commit to a six to nine-month course of three to four sessions a month. The results can vary between that of a minor life tweak and a major overhaul, such as beginning a new career or ending a long-term relationship.

 

"Sometimes it is a 'rock your world' kind of thing, the realization that this life I'm living is no longer the life I choose," said Vespi. "When that happens, it's about being there to provide support and structure for your clients to make the changes they need."

 

The ultimate watershed of progress is not the changes you make to your life, but how you come to feel as a result of those changes.

 

"When you start to feel joy in yourself, joy in the world, you know that you have made the change for the better," said May. "We were put on this planet to feel good about ourselves and that's how you know your changes are for the better."

Barbara May has spent a life time knowing how to get up after a fall. But she figures doing that and getting a laugh at the same time is a lot more fun.

St. Albert Gazette, Saturday, August 31, 2002

 

Woman hopes for a laugh a minute, for 28 straight hours

 

By Ileiren Byles

 

A St. Albert woman is preparing to joke her way into the World Guinness Book of Records.

 

Barbara May has spent a lifetime knowing how to get up after a fall, but she figures doing that and getting a laugh at the same time is a lot more fun.

 

May, a motivational speaker and mother of two, has drawn a lot on her experience as a national-level gymnast and coach to help her through the difficult times of her new passion - comedy. "When I started to do stand-up comedy, I was really, really, really bad. I didn't get a laugh for the first six months," said May. "But in gymnastics you get up, you fall, you get up, you fall, you get up, you fall and eventually you get it right."

 

She must be getting something right lately, because she's part of a lineup of performers gearing up to break a world record next weekend. Starting at 8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 6, May and 29 other acts will take part in the Comedy Factory's Longest Stand-up Show in History.

 

May said she feels pretty good about joining her fellow comics on stage and is even going to try out some new material. But she almost didn't follow her dream after she was "cremated" by a talent scout a few years ago.

 

"She ripped into me so bad, I was crying," recalled May with a certain amount of amusement. "The thing is, she was right. I did suck. She could have been a bit nicer about it, but she was right."

 

The experience drove May off the stage for a couple of years. But she couldn't resist the lure of The Comedy Store on a visit to Los Angeles in 2001. Since then, she's discovered how to make comedy work for her. "My 'a ha' moment came when I realized I could move on stage," chuckled May. "I didn't just have to stand there and try to make my words funny."

 

Now, her act incorporates dance in a routine about the wedding dance and that drunken uncle everyone has, as well as a bit about a male stripper. "The audience just goes nuts - well, the women do."

 

May admits she's received some criticism from people who think comedy should be "pure words." But it's the laughs that count, she said. "I've done flips on a balance beam with no hands, and comedy is harder," she laughed. "My inner critic was saying no way, get off the stage."

 

May's had plenty of on-stage experience as a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, as a motivational speaker, presenting talks about everything from learning, living and laughing, connecting with inner healing power, healthy relationships and trusting your intuition. But comedy has a whole new set of rules.

 

"With motivational speaking there's no expectation of laughter, but you go on a stand-up stage and everyone sits back and says, 'OK, make me laugh,'" said May. "With public speaking, if you get one laugh every five minutes or so, you've got a really funny talk. In stand-up, you need four laughs per minute."

 

May discovered her life's mission after wrist surgery ended her athletic career and she traveled overseas looking for her purpose. She received an inkling of it in Greece, but it took some almost crippling back pain to finally make the message clear. She became a GeoTran practitioner, which involves aligning and clearing a client's personal energy fields and auras. "Laughter is healing, too. My dream would be to fly to be a keynote speaker at any conference and be funny and motivate people to take action and then, that night, show up at a club and say let me do a set and help people heal through laughter."

 

May will have plenty of opportunity to heal next weekend. A timer from the World Guinness Book of Records will be on hand at the Edmonton comedy club to verify the full 28-hour performance. Switching between two stages will ensure there are no gaps in the laughs. "This is clean comedy," said May. "You can take your grandfather to this show."

Talk coach kills jitters. Business folk trust May to make them make sense.

The Edmonton Sun, Monday, September 22, 1997

 

Talk coach kills jitters

 

By Kim Bradley

Business Watch

 

Business folk trust May to make them make sense

 

She's got more - a lot more - than just the gift of gab. Barbara May, of Barbara May Productions of St. Albert, has developed a way of teaching even the shyest of speakers to talk in public with entertaining confidence and effortless style.

 

And she honed that skill while raising two young daughters on her own - Amanda, 8 and Deanna, 5 - and performing an amateur stand-up comedy routine Thursdays at Yuk Yuks.

 

"One of the main reasons I went into business for myself was to have time for my daughters," she said of her company that she has been slowly developing over the last 2 1/2 years. "I think that's why a lot of women are starting up their own businesses. I can design my schedule around my daughters." May, 32, says she uses a combination of 15 years of gymnastics coaching experience, a natural ability to connect with people and an imaginary "Rolodex" of funny stories and jokes to mould business personnel, politicians, coaches and even teachers into stutterless speakers.

 

No nudes, please

 

And the lessons don't involve imaginary naked audiences, she joked. "Politicians have a problem. It's hard for them to let their true personalities come through when they're speaking," she said. "Except for (Premier Ralph Klein). He's all natural and some people won't like him for that, but most will," said May, who has not had the pleasure of coaching the premier.

 

"With business groups, quite often the issues are more complex and involved. I try to work with the meeting planners in those situations to customize my presentation to their needs."

 

Her clients include the Royal Bank, West Edmonton Business Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Edmonton Sun, to name a few. She has also coached a number of high-profile politicians but she wouldn't say who.

 

May can be hired by almost anyone or any company for motivational workshops, one-on-one training sessions and, her personal favorite, keynote speeches. She says she uses bold body language, creative theories and entertaining anecdotes to pass on the arts of communicating and problem solving.

 

Handshake tips handed out

 

May can even teach the secrets of a good handshake. But how the sessions and presentations are designed depends on how May feels her pupils learn best. For example, she says her coaching experience taught her how to distinguish between those who learn from sight, sound or touch.

 

That skill is what sets this one-woman-show apart from the rest, she says. "Most of it's trial and error. I offer as much feedback as possible and if I feel, in a workshop, that someone needs more work, I'll make them stand up and do it over." But her skill and talent don't come cheap. "I usually won't leave the house for less than $300.00," she said, adding that her company doesn't make her "gobs" of money, "just a living." Those who want to learn how to chat up a storm without shelling out a fortune may want to check out May's video entitled May We Talk? available at Audreys Books for $19.99.

 

It contains several short, but hilarious, clips on public speaking which are also aired every day on Access television. May is currently creating a CD-ROM of her lessons which will be available early next year. Scott Clements, president and CEO of the Edmonton Regional Airports Authority, knows the importance of being a good public speaker.

 

The retired air force lieutenant-general knows what it's like to gets butterflies in his stomach and knots in his tongue before addressing an audience - something he's done hundreds of times in his years with the military. "It's not guaranteed that you will have a stellar performance and that can lead to some nervousness," he said. "But if you know your subject well and you introduce as much of your own personality as you can, the audience will sense that." Although he isn't familiar with May's course, Clements recommends taking some kind of instruction before addressing an audience because winging in can lead to embarrassing slip-ups.

 

Grant MacEwan Community College offers a one-day course on presentations and public speaking. For $129, students can learn how to prepare for, organize and present ideas in front of large groups without fear of failure. The next course runs Oct. 21. May's next public workshops run Oct. 27 and Nov. 24 for $89 plus GST per person.

Barbara May, a local communications coach, recently completed shooting a series of vignettes on interpersonal communication for ACCESS television.

St. Albert & Sturgeon Gazette, Wednesday, September 11, 1996

 

Say what you mean!

By Richard Cairney

 

It is so very rare we manage to say what we mean. Those of us capable of accomplishing the feat are quoted in those snappy answer books.

 

But one St. Albert resident believes just a little practice can turn a tongue-tied person into a well-spoken individual.

 

Barbara May, a local communications coach, sounds as though she's reciting the plot line from Educating Rita. Give her people who consistently trip over their tongues of talk in circles for a half-hour before getting to the point and she'll whip them into pretty decent orators. These days, May said, people just don't have time to listen to someone drone on and on. "In the past, people may have been able to put up with rambling.

 

People were so much in touch with the spoke word. But today we're just too swamped with images. We only see the 30 second clip." May said. "So people need to communicate their ideas very quickly." That doesn't mean we should all be reduced to jabbering fools who spout off fashionable buzzwords to cover for meaningful conversation.

 

A Changing art

 

May said the art of conversation hasn't died, it's just changed. She cites the classroom as a good laboratory to show how messages are sent and received. "If teachers want their students to listen to them, they have to realize they are not only educating students but also entertaining them," she said. "They may not like that but they are competing with the likes of Nintendo and the video world."

 

Children learn to parrot phrases they hear on television before they learn to read. Teachers and anyone making a presentation to a group of people need to be aware of this fact. "A lot of people who are making a presentation of a sales pitch or who are going to emcee a wedding write down their ideas. It all sounds very canned and staged and unnatural," she said.

 

In too many cases, people don't get to the point quickly enough. If you're talking about coffee, for example, May advises against talking about sugar, creamers and stir sticks. Getting your point across starts with the organization of thoughts.

 

May uses the example of someone who has a lot of complaints about their job. Rather than storming into the boss's office and ranting about a dozen different things, May suggests taking some time to map out what you intend to say. Get organized "If you write down the main problem and then list all of the other issues, you can start to organize them with common threads.

 

Now, instead of going into the boss's office with 50 million things that are bugging you, you can see the problem and you can break it down into some orderly fashion." This is where things can get complicated. Just because you're organized doesn't mean people agree with you. May said it's important to remember communication involves more than one person.

 

If the boss looks at you as though you're nuts, you can't simply carry on with you well-organized beef. "If you go into the office and present the boss with A,B,C and D and the boss is thinking I still don't agree with A, when you get to D he hasn't heard the rest of what you've said. As you present your ideas, you need to look for feedback and respond to it," she said. Most of the time, we say things pretty straightforwardly.

 

But when stress comes into play, we end up sounding foolish. Job interviews are notorious settings for foot-in-mouth disease. May said preparation helps us because we can get our messages across in entertaining ways. May suggest we all become good storytellers. "In a job interview, you can let people know you strengths by telling them stories that show off your skills," May said. "People remember stories." But many people make the mistake of including irrelevant facts in their stories, May said.

 

That problem can be remedied by telling a story over and over again, dropping more excess elements from it each time it is retold, rather than adding elaborate embellishments. "If someone is going in for a job interview, that's the way to prepare.

 

Think of your successes from the past and tell the stories of them to anyone who will listen. You need to work and rework and rework those stories; you tell them over and over and each time, you can weed out something that's irrelevant." It's important to be colorful too, May observes. "The monotone drone will kill you. You have to have some vocal variation.

 

If you've ever listened to a conversation, not the words, but the sounds of the people talking, you can tell a good conversation from a bad one." May claims 55 percent of information remembered by people comes from what they see; 38 percent is from vocal variations, and listeners recall a scant seven percent of information from the words themselves.

 

The pitfalls of poor communication, of course, are you don't get your message across or you have a credibility problem. If a person stiffens up and is overly nervous, an audience becomes distracted and tunes out. The same is true when the opposite happens, when you have someone is a super presenter. Salesmen sometimes make this mistake, They are all talk and no content and what do people think of them then? That they are fakes," she said. May knows what she's talking about.

 

The motivational speaker recently completed shooting a series of vignettes on interpersonal communication for ACCESS television. Made in the style of the Body Break commercials seen on CTV, May's spots - entitled May We Talk - give important tips on communication.

 

The series brings viewers through different topics in different settings, dealing with everything from gestures and visual aids to distracting habits. Through her company called Barbara May Productions, she coached politicians and business leaders to help them learn to organize their thoughts and present their ideas.

 

And in conjunction with her ACCESS spots, May will host two workshops on communications: Speak Up and Get Ahead on Oct. 2 and Controversy without Conflict on September 17. People sometimes ask May about the necessity of her courses, if she isn't trying to teach long-distance runners how to walk. Her answer is, typically, brief and to the point. Is this rocket science? No. It's all very simple. But people think that just because they've been speaking since they were two that they can communicate. In fact, like so many other skills, it's one you need someone to teach you."

On the Way Up! Coach Barbara May, a national level gymnast in her own right, says these young athletes have the potential to be the best in St. Albert in a few short years.

St. Albert Gazette, Wednesday December 4, 1985

 

On the way up

 

By Cheryl Hesse

 

Heading for the top. That's the aim of a dynamic group of young gymnasts called the Aerials.

 

The four girls made a debut performance in the world of gymnastics Friday, in a demonstration at Chateau Mission Court. Coach Barbara May, a national level gymnast in her own right, says these young athletes have the potential to be the best in St. Albert in a few short years.

 

Kristel Busby, five; Aidan Burgess, seven; Erin Johnson, eight; and Nicole Alain, nine, form the Aerials,a pre-competitive group designed especially to develop top-level gymnasts. The girls all started out in gymnastics at the recreational level last year, and May has taken them under her wing for a more intensive program that calls for training six hours a week.

 

The emphasis is on physical conditioning and flexibility.

 

"It's really the most important part of training,"

 

May says. Learning different skills and moves comes later, once strength and endurance are acquired. May, age 20, is no stranger to hard work and training herself. She competed for two years with the University of Alberta Pandas women's gymnastics team, before a recent wrist injury put an end to her competitive days. May began her gymnastics career with the St. Albert Gymnastics Club when she was 12. By age 15, she won a provincial title, taking three gold and two bronze medals. The following year, she was classified as an A level competitor, one of just two gymnasts in St. Albert to gain this distinction.

 

May says she may have been able to return to university competition but last year, her priorities turned to coaching. She has coached athletes at various levels in gymnastics for the past seven years, but prefers working with younger kids. Last year she was the gymnastics co-ordinator for the St. Albert club, now 250 members strong. This year she is concentrating on coaching the Aerials.

 

"These little girls work harder than even the top gymnasts," May says. They are dedicated, rarely miss a practice, and handle routine conditioning tasks with enthusiasm.

 

May trys to make conditioning fun, and with these four girls, it seems to work. Doing 50 push-ups or working on chin-ups might draw a few groans from older athletes, but these girls just take it as part of the fun of gym - and they work hard without even realizing it, May says.

 

"It's really fun working with them. They've all got such different personalities," May says.

 

One thing the girls have in common is admiration for their coach. And she has come to know them so well, she also keeps in touch with their parents on a regular basis.

 

"Kids sometimes look at you like an idol," May says, and that means a coach has a lot of responsibility. So she likes to stay in contact with parents and talk over what their children are thinking and feeling.

 

May has a five-year plan for her gymnasts. This year the Aerials will concentrate on demonstrations, gaining experience in performing in front of a crowd before they enter competitions.

 

"Demonstrations are very important," May says, and they can ease the pressure of the entry into competition.

 

"In my first competition, I fell off the beam five times," she said, illustrating the stress such first time events can bring.

 

Following last Friday's demonstration, another will be held Thursday, Dec. 5 at the St. Albert Centre, 7:15 and 7:45 p.m. The Aerials will perform a third demonstration for parents and relatives sometime before Christmas.

 

May is confident the girls will do well this year. They are starting to master such moves as press handstands and will be starting pre-elite tests after Christmas. The tests are a series of requirements, especially needed if a gymnast does reach national competition.

 

And it wouldn't surprise May if her girls reached that goal someday. They have what May says is necessary for all good gymnasts - "incredible physical ability, and good body awareness."

 

Next season she hopes the Aerials will go on to a few meets and then straight to "B" level competition.

 

"I think within a few years, these girls will be the top gymnasts in St. Albert. I have big plans for them," she says.