SOUTH Essex Gymnastics Club chairman Roy Short looks back on another terrific year for the club in 2013 and talks about his hopes for the future.
Q: It’s been another year of progression for South Essex Gymnastics Club (SEGC). Can you tell us how many members the club has now, how much membership has increased over the past two years, and what you put that down to?
A: The gymnasts who are part of our Gymschool sessions, recreational artistic and rhythmic classes, and our artistic and rhythmic squads are obliged to join British Gymnastics, and currently we have 1,998 of those members registered. That is an increase of 27 per cent over the past two years. We also have parent & Toddler groups, adult gymnastics groups, and adult and junior freestyle groups. These are all ‘pay and play’ visitors and open groups, and do not require membership of British Gymnastics. Many are regulars. There has been an average of 408 per week over the past year, and that represents a 33 per cent increase over the past two years. So our membership has increased significantly over the past two years and much of that is undoubtedly down to the rise in the club’s profile following the successes of our elite gymnasts, especially Max Whitlock at London 2012, who is also one of Team GB’s athletes of 2013.
Q. The club’s head coach Scott Hann has spoken about the great crop of young gymnasts you have coming through, and that was in evidence in December when Hayden Skinner and Douglas Turnball became British age-group champions on the floor. How important is it for the club to keep producing the next generation of elite performers?
Having this stream is absolutely essential to maintain success and raise the club’s profile, which in turn attracts new members and helps keep us a sustainable operation. It is important for our youngsters personal development that our high profile gymnasts act as ambassadors for the club and role models.
Q. Thirteen-year-old Josephine Tang acquitted herself well in the recent Espoir British Championships and is one of a number of promising young girls at the club. What is the club doing to encourage more young girls to take up the sport?
A: This year we have appointed a new head coach for our women’s artistic section and I am excited by some of the plans she has. But firstly we need to ensure the foundations are sound and our class structures allow each and every one of the girls to develop to their potential. We will then continue to broaden the programme and hopefully start to produce some great results. We already have some amazing young girls following in Josephine’s footsteps.
Q. The club’s 2013 annual Gymnanza drew a crowd of hundreds to Basildon to see some of the great youngsters show off their skills on the big stage. How important is it to make the sport inclusive as possible and what is the club doing to keep improving links with the local community?
A: We realize that events like the Gymnanza give a chance for every single one of our members to take part in a display, and help promote the club’s activities. This year we therefore appointed an events organiser who has introduced a range of showcase events throughout the year for each of the disciplines. One of the most appreciated displays at this year’s Gymnanza was by members of our special needs groups. It demonstrated that gymnastics can be enjoyed by everyone. We have always taken great pride in having sessions for young people with special needs, and this year we were absolutely delighted with Elizabeth Packman becoming the British Special Needs Rhythmic Champion. This is the second year our club has been able to encourage local special needs groups to use our facilities and specially trained staff through reduced fees.
Q. It has been another brilliant year for the club’s leading gymnast, Max Whitlock, which has seen him crowned British all-around champion, pick up a medal of every colour at the European Championships, and a silver on his specialist piece the pommel horse at the World Championships. What are your hopes for Max and his club-mates and fellow Great Britain stars Reiss Beckford, Anthony Wise, Jay Thompson and Brinn Bevan in 2014?
A: Obviously we have great hopes for all of them and our sights are on the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. But this year we have the European Games in Bulgaria, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Youth Olympics in China, and the World Championships in China. These are all team events, except for the Youth Olympics, so they cannot afford to sit back and relax, as there will be stiff competition nationally for these places!
Q. Finally, the club has come such a long way since the move from its old base in Cranes Farm Road to the Basildon Sporting Village three years ago. What are your hopes for the future and where do you think the club will be five years from now?
A: The club has always been a dynamic organization which is looking to expand the range of gymnastic opportunities for people in the South Essex area. We are therefore always reviewing our programmes, looking at ways we can reach out further into the community, and make our activities more accessible, perhaps through outreach activities and, possibly, additional premises. In particular we are one of the few clubs offering Rhythmic gymnastics in the area and I would like to see our recent successes developed at both the regional and higher competitive levels. Similarly, I would like to see the recent successes of our young girl gymnasts developed to ensure that the women’s artistic squads match the performances of our men’s squads one day.