Since launching in January this year, gymnastic courses at Better leisure centres in West Denton and Walker have gone from strength to strength, with over 300 children every week developing their skills or experiencing gymnastics for the first time. West Denton Leisure Centre and Walker Activity Dome, both managed by GLL the UK’s largest leisure social enterprise on behalf of Newcastle City Council, under the ‘Better’ brand, already have a variety of course options for different disciplines and ability levels, but even more opportunities are soon to be launched so that new groups can take part in gymnastics in Newcastle.
Lesley Rutter, Gymnastics Project Manager for GLL in Newcastle was recruited at the start of the year to manage the progression of gymnastics in the city. A gymnast herself since the age of five and a community coach for over 10 years, Lesley has been working with local organisations and National Governing Bodies to expand the existing programme and also create educational and training opportunities so more people can be employed as coaches in the city.
A joint initiative between Better Gymnastics and Active Newcastle will form part of the city’s ‘This Girl Can’ programme, so women aged 16 and above can come along and have a go. A free launch night will run on Monday 5th June at Walker and Friday 9th June at West Denton. Both sessions will run from 8pm to 9pm and after the free launch week will cost £5.00 per session. These ‘This Girl Can’ sessions are drop in classes so you do not have to commit to a full course. If you are a complete beginner or want to develop existing skills then this is an ideal place to get started.
More variety is being added to the pre-school gymnastics courses already on offer, with new equipment including ribbons and tap sticks soon arriving. The course is delivered through imaginative sessions with stories and actions to introduce little ones to gymnastics disciplines in a fun and enjoyable way. There is still availability for pre-school sessions at Walker and West Denton and you can find out more or book a course at both centres or online at www.betterlessons.org.uk/lessons-and-courses.
The Better Gymnastics Team are also working closely with local schools to encourage more delivery both out in the community and getting more groups to use the new equipment which is available at the centres. Space is available for group bookings on Fridays and Saturdays at West Denton and Mondays and Tuesdays at Walker. As part of the school programme the Newcastle School Sports Partnership are using Walker Activity Dome for events and the centre will host a School’s Festival will take place on Tuesday 5th December. Pupils from different age groups across local schools will be invited to take part in gymnastics, cheerleading and trampolining throughout the day and the Better Gymnastics team will work with schools to develop their programmes in the lead up to the event.
Despite the successful achievements of our British male gymnasts in the 2016 Olympics, the number of boys taking part in gymnastics courses still remains quite low. Better Gymnastics now employ two male coaches in Newcastle to try and encourage more take up from boys, with lots of experience of coaching and competing in gymnastics between them.
Training and development of qualified staff and coaches has formed a large part of the success of current courses and will maintain the sustainability of the sessions in the future. Better Gymnastics have recently employed their first apprentice, Sam Smith, who having previously worked at Better, Newcastle Trampoline Park and Gym is now starting her new career as a gymnastics coach. During her 18 month apprenticeship Sam will complete training courses with British gymnastics and will be mentored by Lesley through on the job learning. The plan is to offer more apprenticeship places in the future with interest already received for the new intake in September.
There are opportunities for people as young as 14 years old to progress into coaching and three young leaders currently involved with Better Gymnastics are being funded to complete their training so they can teach the ‘Core Proficiency Awards Scheme’ from British gymnastics. This will enable them to coach primary school age children as they progress from pre-school courses.
Lesley is really pleased with the progress which has already happened in the development of gymnastics in the city, during the past five months. She said “I was employed to encourage more participation from the local community and the uptake has been great to see with our standard coaching courses full of happy children progressing each week. We don’t just want to stop there; everyone can get involved in gymnastics regardless of their age or ability and our This Girl Can sessions, school development, opportunities for young males and the creation of training and recruitment for coaches is hopefully just the next phase as we see much more positive expansion of gymnastics in Newcastle in the future.”