Our latest blog in our Community Sport series comes from Tamsin Jones. Tamsin was awarded Welsh Gymnastics’ Participation Coach of the Year in 2011, and her Ruthin and Denbigh Gymnastics was nominated for Club of the Year. The 37-year-old, from Ruthin, somersaulted into gymnastics coaching eight years ago whilst studying a sport degree at Glyndwr University.
With an enormous waiting list of keen potential gymnasts, meaning that she was having to turn children away, Tamsin needed an expansion and so opened a new club in Llangollen last year. She soon realised however that to keep her clubs sustainable, and meeting the needs of budding young gymnasts in Denbighshire, she needed help. Support from Sport Wales helped springboard Tamsin’s idea of developing young gymnasts into coaches through a structured mentoring programme.
|Ruthin and Denbigh Gymnastics Club engages 500 youngsters|
Basically we’ve always had volunteers that have come up through being a gymnast and want to continue their commitment to the sport by coaching. But it was a bit fragmented because I myself am teaching 30 gymnasts in a session and trying to train the coaches and the volunteers in-house. Whilst you’re trying to teach yourself and also talk to parents I felt that I wasn’t giving them what they needed. They’ve given up their time, they’re very capable, and potentially have very good qualities in them to become coaches.
So as we’ve expanded over the last eight years I just felt the need to develop a programme for them. One of my coaches qualified as a Level 2 and to support her development I offered her a class as a head coach in Llangollen. That allowed me to back off a little, and not have to teach, and become more of a mentor.
Having that time gave me the opportunity to offer that mentorship to up and coming leaders. After going to a British Gymnastics conference, and seeing something similar that I could model, it evolved from there. Very quickly within a few months of becoming a Leadership Academy I approached Welsh Gymnastics and they were fully supportive of it as a pilot and saw it as a model that go out across Wales if it was successful.
The first year has been fantastic, in many different ways, for the development of the club. The feedback from our leaders themselves has been very good and we’ve been monitoring it through self-assessment all the way through.
It’s currently being rolled out at Deeside Gym Club and it’ll be an ongoing roll-out programme learning from the pilot. Currently in Llangollen we’ve got 15 academy leaders. Some of them have been volunteering with me for three years already. Although they were able to access gymnastics courses I wanted them to be involved in actually the management of the club and events, and judging, and not just going on a course to coach gymnasts but more like an overall coach development programme.
So they can actually support the club as well. They enjoy that because it’s linked to their club and they’re not going off site early on in their career to have a three day course and then trying to come back and apply it. I feel like this has given them pathways to develop areas they want to concentrate on.
Within a very short space of time I now have 15 competent leaders who are confident and of use to me. A lot of the feedback was that they didn’t realise that there was that much to coaching. Rather than just turn up to an event they now realise that it takes six weeks to arrange an event. They get involved in all the admin that has to go out to all the parents and the promotion of it and standing on the desk on the day collecting entries. Basically involved in everything and they’re more appreciative of everything because of it.
One of them, who is very quiet but fully committed, has found that the academy has completely given her the confidence to know that she’s making the right decisions. So much so that she’s now mentoring other leaders in the academy and that’s within a six month turnaround. All in all it’s been a pleasant experience for myself to see the development of these youngsters. Some of them are thinking about a career in teaching now.
The Sport Wales funding basically enabled us to do it, we couldn’t have done it without it simple as that.
We have really proactively developed a programme to keep them involved. They only train two hours a week, which in the world of gymnastics is nothing. If you want to compete at the highest level you do 20 hours in the gym. So these are children that we give a wider programme of competitions and badge work.
Early on when I came to the club I changed things with the support of everyone. I myself had come from a display team and knew the enjoyment that I’d had as a child being able to go to your school event and show off what you can do. It’s great for the community because they see the gym club and then new children want to join. We do displays in communities that don’t know gymnastics goes on in the area but it’s also word of mouth because trying to get children to start something new can be quite scary for some.
Our after school clubs give children the confidence that if they know the coaches are coaching the club sessions they can overcome their fears of starting something new.
We’ve been going for ten years now in the area and each year we’re growing. We have about 300 members in Ruthin and Denbigh and 50 in Llangollen after only opening in September. Then I reach another 200 in schools through after school clubs and PE. I did a 5x60 after school session at the high school for a year and trampolining. We have a 5x60 Officer, Bethan Griffiths, who’s actually one of our coaches and she delivers sessions in Llangollen.
I couldn’t have expanded or done any of this without the commitment of what previously had been five coaches and now upwards of 20. It’s a team effort. I’d like to see local after school clubs have young leaders delivering those clubs and perhaps that’s another 100 kids that join our club.
I’m very lucky because I’m in a job that never stops evolving and I make the most of it. I love my job and I love teaching and watching the kids’ development.
I did it as a child and got great enjoyment from it. It was something I was able to achieve in and I just have great memories, so I know therefore what the children are getting from it. It’s an avenue of enjoyment and achievement. I was part of a display team and we literally do part of the same warm up now! So that display that I did as a nine-year-old child my daughter is doing now! I was inspired as a child and I’ve just recreated that for others.