Friday, April 9, 2021

Ignite cares, continues to help athletes grow

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Logan Hofmann trains in the off-season at Ignite Athletics.
The crew at Ignite Athletics have always taken a genuine interest in the lives of the athletes they train, and that characteristic has shown through in a more emphasized way over the past year.

Ignite Athletics was formed when Ignite Athletic Conditioning owned by Joel Lipinski and Jordan Harbidge and JB Performance Training owned by Josh Saulnier merged and located on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds when the Indoor Training Centre opened in March of 2019.

Ignite Athletics aims to be the best training facility in Canada located on the best sports complex grounds in Canada. The crew at Ignite want to help the athletes they train to improve every day, so they can meet their athletic goals.

As a result of the great work the Ignite staff does, they’ve attracted elite athletes from a wide variety of sports along people who just want to be in better physical shape.

The staff has created a welcoming atmosphere at Ignite helping make the phrase “Ignite Family” a reality.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has gripped the world since March of 2020, the family feeling at Ignite has come more to the forefront. Most of the clients that visit Ignite have seen their lives change in a sizable way.

Over the past year, many athletes have trained for seasons that started and ultimately got cancelled shortly after starting. Athletes have continued to train often not knowing for sure when their next season will start.

Despite those uncertainties, the day’s highlight will often include stopping in at Ignite for a training session. Lipinski said you can see athletes have an extra jump in their step, when they come to Ignite.

“To be able to provide a safe, fun and positive environment during this pandemic, it is something we are very grateful for,” said Lipinski, who is also a strength and conditioning coach at Ignite. “The feedback we have been given by our athletes has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lindsay Berglof is long time regular at Ignite.
“In a lot of circumstances, the trip to our facility is the only regular outing scheduled in their day. The fact that we can keep the athletes on track to reach their health and performance goals does a lot for them mentally as well.”

Lipinski said one of the more pronounced strengths that has shown through from the Ignite staff over the past year is the ability to care. The Ignite crew has always aimed to build friendships with the athletes they train.

Those friendships have given athletes trust that they can let staff know when they not having the best day.

Lipinski said the Ignite crew has had to show more heart and understanding over this past year than they’ve ever had to show before.

“We have seen and personally felt the toll this pandemic has had on mental health,” said Lipinski. “The relationships we have formed with our athletes over the years is a large reason for our success.

“People do not care what you know, unless they know that you care. We provide a space where athletes are allowed be vulnerable, and we can meet them where they are now. We have also teamed with Clint Moroz at The Shift - Counselling Services and are involved with the Matthew Baraniuk Legacy Foundation, so that when our athletes do need extra help, we have the resources in place to make sure they are able get the help they need.”

Besides creating a great training atmosphere for athletes in the high school, young adult and adult age groups, Ignite partnered with the Gordie Howe Sports Complex to create the Spark Park Summer Sport Camps for children.

These camps ran for the first time last summer with children split into age groups from 5 to 8 and 9 to 12. The week-long camps introduced children to a vast array of sporting experiences with a highlight of getting to run the “Ninja Warrior” course set up at the Spark Park located in the Indoor Training Centre.

The Spark Park Summer Sport Camps are returning this summer with weekly sessions running from July 5 to August 20.

“The Spark Park Summer Camps have been a fun addition,” said Lipinski. “The amenities we have available to us at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex make it easy to run an exciting summer camp.

Spark Park Summer Sports Camps return this summer.
“We had great coaches and Taylor McGregor was our Spark Park Manager leading a lot of the organizational requirements. She was instrumental in the success we had last year. It was fun imagining an environment that we would want to be part of ourselves and trying to create that environment.”

Lipinski believes the camps really helped the kids both physically and mentally as they seemed to energetically jump into activities.

“Last summer, kids had not participated in any structured physical education in schools,” said Lipinski. “Therefore, we think that being able to offer these camps was massive to get kids active and socializing after being deprived of those two things for so long.

“I am also sure the parents did not mind and entire week with the kids out of the house, knowing they were somewhere safe.”

Lipinski said the Ignite crew is looking forward to running the Spark Park Summer Sport Camps again, and he credits the community in Saskatchewan for allowing them to happen by doing their part to manage the pandemic.

“The fact we can run these camps again this year means that people across Saskatchewan are being diligent with the protocols set in place by the government,” said Lipinski. “It also means we can continue educating people that these camps exist and how positive they can be for their kids to get involved with.”

While the past year has provided some unique challenges to the Ignite crew, Lipinski said it has been special for Ignite Athletics to operation on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds.

“It sounds cliché, but it is a dream come true,” said Lipinski. “The facility is state-of-the-art while also being surrounded by one of the best sport infrastructures in Canada.

“We have had the privilege of being able to visit some of the top facilities in the world and I remember walking into each one with a sense of awe. I sincerely stop and look around with that same sense of awe everyday now. The merger with JB Performance and Josh has also been amazing.

Danielle Jasper has been a long time family member at Ignite.
“Josh and Jordan were good friends before the merger took place, which made things relatively easy. Josh has brought steadfast leadership, relentless work ethic, constant positivity and has become irreplaceable with everything he does on a day to day basis. I am grateful that somehow fate brought two of the best business partners I could ask for into my life.”

For more information about Ignite Athletics or to register for the Spark Park Summer Sport Camps, feel free to check out Ignite’s website at All photos for this post are courtesy of Ignite Athletics.

Chartrand – a softball star on the rise

Jorde Chartrand perfects her throws at the Indoor Training Centre.
By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Jorde Chartrand defines love for the game of softball, meanwhile believing the game has loved her back.

Being a right-handed pitching ace, she is a recognized alumna within the regional 222’s Fastpitch program and the Saskatoon Phantoms Softball Zone. Joining the University of Central Arkansas Bears NCAA Division I program this fall, she has cemented her place as a role model for younger women who wish to pursue their dreams in the sport.

Within the many organizations Chartrand has been a part of, she has defined the terms; Dedication, Leadership, and Modesty. Appreciation is an “Understatement” of the opportunity she has of continuing her career with the UCA Bears.

Dreams have become a reality for this young lady, and she is definitely excited to set more goals within the sport.

She wants to win some championships with the Bears and would ultimately like to make the Canadian Women’s National Team one day and play at the Olympics.

She would love to play the sport professionally and to coach at the college level one day.

Chartrand knows she has already been able to pile up accomplishments in the sport, because her love of the game is grounded in basic things.

“I love the pressure and the rewarding feeling you get when you overcome an obstacle or win a big game,” said Chartrand, who will turn 18-years-old on April 22. “The people, the teammates and the coaches that have all become family over the years, all the connections that you make through the sport is just indescribable and amazing.”

Jorde Chartrand throws with the Phantoms in 2019.
Anyone who has seen Chartrand train with the 222’s travel team at the Indoor Training Centre on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds will see her dedication to the game. She has mastered throwing four pitches in the curveball, change-up, drop ball and her signature pitch - the rise ball.

Chartrand has been clocked at throwing 67 miles per hour and is also pretty strong at the plate as a batter too.

She was born and raised on an acreage outside of Weyburn, Sask., where she still resides.

Chartrand started out playing baseball first at age of three before shifting over to softball within a year’s time. She played minor softball in Weyburn until age 10, when she cracked the 222’s under-14 team.

From that point, Chartrand played for the 222’s in the fall and winter months and bounced around with various spring and summer clubs located around Saskatchewan looking to play at the highest level she could.

In 2019, Chartrand joined the Phantoms under-16 program and attended Saskatoon’s Tommy Douglas Collegiate, where she started working with Trevor Ethier.

“I was very thankful to have the opportunity to work with Trevor through the Tommy Douglas softball program,” said Chartrand. “He helped me so much not only with the skills of the game, but the mental aspect of it as well.”

She helped the Phantoms win a provincial title and qualify for the under-16 Canadian Championships, which were held that year in Calgary.

At nationals, Chartrand won the top pitcher award posting a 0.00 earned-run average and 37 strikeouts, while giving up only three hits in 19 innings of total work as the Phantoms finished eighth overall.

While pursuing her softball dreams, Chartrand is thankful for the sacrifices her father, Russ, and mother, Caroline, have made.

Both of my parents have been my biggest supporters,” said Chartrand, who stands 5-foot-9. “They are always encouraging me to keep getting better at the sport that I love.

“They are always there when you make a mistake and you need that comforting comment or that little push of encouragement. They always supported me, affording me the opportunity to travel to many places playing the sport that I love.”

Jorde Chartrand signs with the University of Central Arkansas Bears.
Chartrand credits all the coaches she had with the 222’s program for helping her maintain her love for the game. Between the 222’s under-14, under-16 and under-18 teams, Chartrand spent seven seasons with that program.

She credits 222’s coach and former Canadian national men’s team pitcher Dean Holoien for helping her develop into the pitcher she has become. His mentoring throughout her ball career has been invaluable.

Chartrand was nine-years-old when she first met Holoien and continued to work with him since then. Keith Mackintosh, coach and co-owner of the 222’s, also played a crucial role in the development of Chartrand’s softball career as well as former Olympian Dione (Meier) Blackwell, Ryan Ray and the rest of the coaching staff.

“I would not be the player or person I am without that program,” said Chartrand.I am going to miss it tremendously but knowing that I am not only close with the coaches, but friends with the coaches makes it a lot easier to move to the next chapter in my career.

“They aren’t just a building block in my softball career but my life.”

Chartrand has always enjoyed playing at the various softball diamonds on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds and is thankful she got to use the pitching tunnels, batting cages and turf field at the Indoor Training Centre.

This past fall and winter, Chartrand appreciated and cherished every chance she got to use the Indoor Training Centre as the COVID-19 pandemic put the clamps on Canada’s sports scene including national team tryout camps for the gifted thrower.

“It has really helped me keep up my game,” said Chartrand. “It was always a place that I could go to work on my sport.

“It is really helpful with the 222’s program that we have the facility, because it allows all of us to train together the best we can while following the guidelines. It has been really helpful even with COVID just to keep playing the sport that I love that a lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to do.

Chartrand is now back in Weyburn electing to finish off her Grade 12 studies at Weyburn Comprehensive High School. In June, she is going to go to Florida to play for the Tampa Mustangs-TJ under-18 to prepare for her upcoming University season.

Jorde Chartrand can hammer the ball at the plate.
The young hurler is looking forward to her future journeys in the sport.

“It is motivating,” said Chartrand. “It makes me want to be the best player that I can be and keep in shape to play the sport for as long as I can.

“It makes me excited for all the opportunities and people that will come into my life later throughout the sport.”

The photos of Chartrand pitching for the Phantoms and signing with the Bears are courtesy of Jorde Chartrands personal collection.