An aquafit legend has moved on and her Salmon Arm fans are up in arms.
Sheryl Hay, a longtime aquatic supervisor who created the aquasize program at the Salmon Arm pool 22 years ago, gave her last class on Friday.
It was an emotional event attended by close to 100 people, and choreographed by Hay to include many of the rec centre’s other instructors.
What followed was an outpouring of anger over Hay’s departure by many members of the 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday aqua fit classes.
Dave Hadley, who has been attending the classes for the past 12 years, said Hay’s classes often attracted as many as 42 people in the shallow end with another 20 to 25 in the deep end.
“It was essentially a conflict between her and her manager,” said Hadley, who suspects some of the issues involved a newly hired aquatic supervisor, who quit after six weeks in the position.
But Shuswap Recreation Society general manager Dale Berger says the choice to leave was Hay’s, not his.
“She decided to pursue her own business and that started a year ago when she asked if she could go part-time. We had to work with the union to create a position for a one-year trial.”
Berger says when the trial period ended in August, Hay said she was resigning.
“She was a model employee, well-liked by staff and patrons and management and we gave her pretty much a free hand to do what she wanted in her department,” says Berger.
“It was when we found a replacement that things took a turn for the worse. Quite honestly, I don’t know what happened.”
Berger said Hay’s replacement was on the job for about six weeks.
“It’s hard sitting here getting blame. I don’t know where I fit into the whole thing,” he says. “Things got out of our control and by the time we figured out what was going on, we were a month into somebody’s job and we were way too far down the road to solve it.”
Determined to put a positive spin on the situation, Hay says working in the aquatic department was not a job, but her passion.
“I took pride in my leadership role: of an amazing staff, as an aquatic fitness instructor and as a Red Cross instructor trainer,” she says. “Although I was not ready to leave the pool as an instructor and mentor, it was my decision to shift directions as to stay true to the ethics and goals that have taken me this far.”
Based on what they had heard, some 20 Hay fans from the 9 a.m. class showed up at the pool Monday to protest her departure and boycott the class.
They also expressed their love for Hay and their disappointment in her departure.
Herta Kolmel has been in the class for 18 years and described how Hay interacted with the class and made everyone feel included.
An eight-year-veteran of the class, David Didow described the class as alive and lively.
“She has a heart for the seniors and she had a tendency to motivate us,” he said.
Ardent aquacize fan Jeannette McEachern went to Hay’s classes five times a week.
“I am so upset, I don’t want to see her leave.”