Tea with Jen

Grab a cuppa and find out more about our views on all things gymnastics with club founder, Jennifer Page.
Ow it hurts!

Ow, it hurts!​ 

Today, on Tea with Jen (I’ve got peppermint today btw) we’re looking at something that’s we’ve been managing with our athletes on their return to training – and that’s aches and pains.
Despite anyone’s best efforts, it’s safe to say that as a whole activity levels dropped during the lockdowns.
And it’s even more safe to say that pretty much no one was training the extent of sporting skills during lockdown, that we’re now all returning to. Unless you’ve a set of uneven bars in your kitchen? Full size tumble track in the back garden (with no rain over winter)? Nope, didn’t think so.
The loss of strength, flexibility and agility when we stop exercising can happen as early on as two weeks. And we’ve been affected for over a year now!
That’s a quick and easy recipe for PAIN. Of the physical variety (well, mental too but today we’re going to focus on our bodies).
And kids are entirely new to this.
Think about it – usually, kids do not go backwards in their physical development. Or learning. Or growth of any kind.
As adults, we get that at times we may be injured. Or our bodies change. Or we more naturally vary our activity levels and are aware we have to rebuild back.
We’re finding higher reports of physical pains or injuries from our child athletes on returning to activities.
Some pain is completely normal and to be expected.
Some pains are injuries that need treatment and time to heal.
So how do you know the difference?
Here’s the science bit – during exercise, muscle fibers pull against each other and create little micro tears. These tears repair themselves thicker and stronger, making denser muscle fibers. This is entirely normal and is how muscles get stronger. This process can hurt though – usually a dull ache or stiffness up to three days after exercise.
After a period of inactivity, our muscle fibers will have weakened. So on returning to activity we get these pains as we restore the strength we once had.
Usually this pain is mild and will resolve within a few days and some gentle exercise and moving will help ease it.
However! It is important we do not push our muscles excessively whilst they are in this state. Otherwise we create larger muscle fiber tears that hurt more and take longer to repair. Or worse – we can damage the connective tissue around our joints as they work harder to manage the strain. Connective tissue has less blood supply and takes even longer to heal that muscles, so we really want to avoid this. These kinds of pains can feel more intensely painful, or include sharp discomfort or a restriction of the joint in movement.
Now, it’s only really a medical professional who can determine the difference between what is a normal exercise related pain and what is more of an injury. So, if in any doubt – always seek medical advice.
But there is something we can do
We can start to build awareness of what’s normal for us. Our bodies are incredibly good at communicating with us, if we take the time to listen.
We’ve started in our classes to include a quick ‘body check’ at the end of class. We teach the children to scan through their body and tune in to how it’s feeling. Are there aches and pains? Is something saying ‘ouch!’ do we need further checking by a medical professional, or maybe just a nice warm bath after training?
By listening to what’s going on we can stay on the side of safe training easier.
(Plus also as you might have expected, as coaches we’ve already adapted training to manage this transition. We’ve gone back to the beginning where needed. We’re doing additional strength and conditioning. We’re taking new skill progress slowly and safely).
An extra note about growing pains!
Bones grow faster than the muscles and connective tissue holding them in place. This is why kids get ‘growing’ pains, it’s tightness in tissues being stretched by the bones growing. It takes a little while for the connective tissue to catch up. So – if your child is also growing or has had a growth spurt – sorry to say it – but they are at greater risk of muscle pain and injuries.
It’s best in these scenarios to go extra easy on our bodies. Allow the time it takes for connective tissue to grow. Extra stretching and longer warm ups and cool downs can help here. And keep building that awareness in that ‘body check’ scan.
Remember – we have our bodies for the whole of our life. Moving them is for life. There is no rush in being back at mega fitness instantly. Let’s look after ourselves as we do this 
The Power of Inspiration

We’re back!

As i write, we’re just finishing our first week of reopening from what turned out to be a rather lengthy third lockdown. 

It’s been quite a time. 
But, we’re BACK. (Back again…)
I’ve been inspired by the classes this week - the smiling kids faces as they see each other, their coaches and most of all - the activities they get to do.
You can see their eyes lighting up at the prospect of it all. They stand taller, their confidence and excitement grows. It’s a joy to see and a powerful one too.
It’s reminded me how important it is to be engaged by what you are doing. If something grabs your attention and makes you feel alive - well, you are going to keep doing it and get great benefit from it. 
In sport, this benefit can be in sporting performance. The more you do something, the more you get ‘good’ at it.
But I’d argue that actually, thats NOT the primary goal here but more so a side benefit. That eyes-lit-up, smile-on-face, feeling good about yourself feeling is really what it’s all about. 
THAT feeling
is and leads to so much more. 
Sometimes we're so focused on the 'achievements' we can forget the journey and that actually, the process of it all is where we spend most of our time. So - why do anything other than enjoy it?!
Successful people tend to be those that enjoy what they do the most.  That spring in their step means they can better learn from the journey along the way. That's going to be one of my key inspirations for this next phase as we build our new futures together.
I’m excited to see what the kids in our classes can 'do' and 'be' next too. 

- - - -
If you'd like to find out too, come join us for a class.  Pop an email to hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk or click to join us here

Whats the point of online classes


It's not the same as being in person.

No, it most certainly is not. I hear you! And I feel the pain too at not being able to be with you all in person. 
But, classes online are something different that is also of value. And not just because we can’t be in person right now.  I believe online learning is here to stay and for good reasons.
Here’s why online learning is supercharging our athletes:
  1. It actually works great over Zoom  

Seriously. Like, really well. This is where it’s actually more beneficial in places than what we would be doing in the gym.
  • We are spending a higher amount of time on physical fitness than we would at in-person classes where there’s big apparatus or team routines to learn.  
  • Technique coaching is really strong over video.  We’ve the time to explain why and to work on the details.  
  • Through online learning you’ve instantly got a whole class of suitable home-based exercises you can practise safely in your own time. The best athletes are those that keep practising.
Time spent on this style of training is worth it’s weight in gold for an athlete. It will not just keep things ticking over but super-charge progress for the future.
Don’t just take my word for it - go and check out the insta of an elite athlete you admire and look at how they have been training online or in isolation.
  1. Connections are made

Our world is still largely functioning, socially and in industry, over video call. We CAN still feel the energy of a group together on video. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that through the pandemic in various settings.  We may be a little zoom-fatigued at times, sure, but it is undeniable that we DO benefit from video calls.  It’s not just the connection – it’s the role models we encounter this way.
Coaches all over the world are passionate and motivated people. Add in the adaptation we’ve had to make and the strength we’ve been building as a result – these are the types of people you want to spend time with. It’s a glimmer of positivity in a challenging time. Teaching our kids to adapt and make the best of the situations we find ourselves in is a super useful life lesson – and coaches are showing the way.
  1. It’s time and money efficient

Back pre-pandemic, one of the biggest barriers we experienced within our members and prospective ones was time – finding a class at a suitable day/time and location. The juggle of families and kids and various activities is real! With online learning, less so. No rushed commute. No travel time. No dinners hurriedly consumed in the car on the way. Online – it fits into the day and family life easily. This might mean you get to do MORE classes. We’ve members attending ALL our online sessions in a week right now when previously they only attended one. That’s gotta lead to some serious progress, health and learning. And it doesn’t cost anymore than the one session. Win-win!
  1. It gives us access to global experts

We can ‘Zoom’ in the expertise of anyone in the world. Easily. No travel or logistics barriers or associated costs. We can pick the brains of, learn from and collaborate with all sorts of awesome people from our homes. We all learn more when we work together.
We’ve got an Olympian and Cirque du Soleil artist inspiring us in our online programme next month, plus a leading cheer coach guest teaching us skills. Our athletes and our own coaching team will gain so much from these experience that wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for online.

​Bonus item
  1. We NEED our very best physical, mental and emotional health.

Moving helps with literally everything we struggle with – pandemic or otherwise!
We can set ourselves and our kids up for an easier time and future success by being as physically active as we can. Now, you knew that. But it’s tough to do on your own at home. Live online classes help.


So… my invitation to you is to consider how online learning can work for you and your family.

We do of course have a fantastic online programme ourselves - if you want to have a look its here. Otherwise, consider what else you like doing or who you can connect with that may now be available online. Have fun with it!
Stay positive and strong this lockdown.

How DO you stay so positive

How DO you stay so positive?!

I've been asked recently, how do you stay positive? And the answer to that is actually partly not being positive all the time and partly... a lot of practice.  But, no worries!  I’ve some top tips to share with you and your athlete.
In sport, to learn a skill, say for example a backflip, requires you to learn certain things and to keep practicing and keep working at it. And it is the same with positivity. It is a habit that you can cultivate.
So if you feel, Oh, I'm not a very positive person, that isn’t always the whole truth - you can actually develop it.  It just takes a little bit of choice and time. And to develop these athletic skills and goals certainly takes a positive mindset so it all goes hand in hand.

Here’s my three point plan for positivity:


1)  Look for the good stuff

Now I don't really know why, but as humans we seem to be hardwired for negativity. Like how five great things go your way but then one bad thing happens and it’s all you can think about?  Yes, that!   It’s human nature. So, we have to work a little harder at amplifying the good stuff.
Fortunately, there is a part of our brain that helps us with this.  Have you ever been considering buying something and all of a sudden you see the item EVERWHERE?   Maybe it’s a certain type of car, or a particular coloured piece of clothing.  That’s because your brain is tuning into it.  And we can do this with looking for the really great stuff in life to help us feel more balanced.
We do this here with our team here at Affinity – we have a monthly ‘good stuff’ report, which everyone fills out the positives and the little wins they have had. And having this report to do, now means we’re training our brains to automatically see more of these things in future. Cool huh?
Another way to develop this is to reflect. At the end of a training session, think of at least 5 things that went well. If you can’t come up with any, look again, there is always something. Or use one of the negatives and see if you can reframe it. For example, ‘I couldn’t do my backflip today’ could be a negative thing you feel badly about. But if it’s reframed into ‘I couldn’t do my backflip today, but I learnt that I need to improve my core strength to be able to do it, so I’ll go and work on that,’ that’s a REALLY positive and constructive thought.

2) Be okay with knowing that you won’t be positive all the time

There are ups and downs. The game isn’t removing the downs, it’s how you respond to them that counts.
Big challenges happen. You don’t need to be mean to yourself about it on top of it all.  I mean, that's just nuts (yet totally happens to us all, another human nature thing!).
My advice is to first breathe.  Let it wash over you a little bit.  Take a minute to realise what you are in, as that realisation gives you a little bit of stability to stand on.  A little place to just pause and then think about how you want to react.
Then, know that all the best stuff comes from adversity.  It’s a surprising motivator.  It’s actually not a set back at all but is in fact a gift (even if that gift is really badly wrapped).

3) Have a great reason

Otherwise why bother? These tips so far take a fair bit of effort. But it’s totally worth it.
That Olympian who trained her whole life and missed out, but went back into the gym and made the team next time? How good must that feel?
The athlete who spent months or years developing a certain skill and then finally they do it – it’s a sweet moment. And so much more so when it’s been worked for. It means more.
Now sometimes having a big long term goal like the Olympics, or a young child looking at the older athletes performing and wanting to be like that, works great. It’s a big long term thing to be guided by, especially at times when it’s not going so great – like a map showing you the bigger picture.
Sometimes, that feels too far away, like it’s a bit of a pipe dream.  In this case, something smaller and shorter term can work better.
For me, whilst I have a bigger picture vision of where me, Affinity and Sapphire are going, I’m finding that especially in this current climate of extra challenge, fierce determination towards short term goals is helping me.
It might even be a ‘just for today’ type of mindset. Just for today I’m going to look for the good stuff.
Not easy…. But practice makes it possible 
What are you going to practice doing now?

Have any of these tips helped you feel more positive? Please let us know.

Leave a comment or drop an email to hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk, we’d love to hear from you.
Jens reflections on a weekend with our Sapphire cheerleaders


I spent the weekend back at cheer comp, the first one I’ve been to as owner of a cheer club and 8 years since being at my last one as a cheerleader.

It was a FAB weekend and I’ve been reminded of a few reasons why we’re doing this:

1) Cheerleading is AWESOME.

What it gives to those involved is immense - friendships, confidence, teamwork, performance, athleticism and fitness, and enjoyment of movement and what we can do (and that’s just for starters).

Our athletes were seriously impressive - I was blown away with their performances and sportsmanship. 

2) Our cheer coaches are AWESOME.

Their knowledge, passion, commitment, care and understanding of what they do and how they look after their athletes and each other. And how they will now progress the teams through the season. 

3) The events are AWESOME.

Perform in an Olympic arena? Check.
Full on performance lights and music? Check.
Great seating and experience for spectators? Check.
Dance party to round it all up? Check. 

4) It’s MEGA FUN.

Like EVERY bit of it. 

And bonus 5) that I DO have the vision, passion and ability to progress this (and bring some of this ethos to gymnastics and our other activities also). Sooooo many ideas.

More exciting times ahead 😊
Why the Affinvitational is my favourite weekend of the year
By Founder Jen

Seriously, I can’t wait. I’m not exaggerating. Not even a little bit. Our ‘Awesome Affinity Invitational’ (entertainingly shortened to ‘Affinvitational’ after I tripped over my words in a meeting about it once) is the absolute highlight of my year.


Well there’s some perhaps more obvious reasons.  Like that it’s a ton of fun. I mean, come on. Put gymnasts in a room doing something they love, supported by coaches who love what they do, welcome family members to cheer everyone on and be proud - its never going to be a dull experience. Everyone has worked hard, looked forward to it and is excited to have a great day.

We really have pushed the envelope on how gymnastic events run and what they do for those involved. The Affinvitational is unique and over the years has developed in a number of innovative ways to support our specialist area of grass roots sport. There’s our group, all club warm up/dance party to start (with music chosen by the audience). That competing categories are co-ed and equal. Our special Affinity Superstar awards recognizing extra efforts. That the structure of the gymnastics skills performed makes it easy for gymnasts to learn and follow in a short amount of time (and that the coach can help!) so those that attend even hour a week can take part. That there are no real splits between clubs – all the coaches work together with all the gymnasts. Medals are awarded by walking up red carpets VIP style.

That our event provides this experience for gymnasts to achieve, grow in confidence and enjoy movement – all skills that will set them up for their lifetimes. Pretty cool stuff huh.

Then there’s perhaps the less obvious reasons.

For me, as the founder, this is the total realization of a vision. From it once it just being an idea, to then stand in that room and be surrounded by it all happening is out of this world incredible.

Turning a thought into a thing. And a good thing too, that benefits lots of others!

It literally doesn’t get much better than that. And that motivates me to do more and become more. It’s like lighting the touch paper under all those other ideas…

Now yes you might say well that’s nice for you. But actually I’m NOT the only one feeling this way. I know for sure there are many gymnasts (and for that matter, likely coaches, spectators and adults) at this event feeling at least a bit like this after being involved. Thinking for themselves, ‘well if I managed to go and do that… What else could I do? Thoughts starting to become things. Considering that perhaps something else is possible.

THAT really excites me possibly even more than all the dance party warm ups and cartwheels put together. Planting the seeds with the young people we teach -to believe in themselves and to dream up what else might be possible.

So, what’s next then? Hit reply (or comment etc if on social media post) and let me know what thoughts you’d like to become things, big or small. Lets do it!

Oh and definitely see you at the Affinivitational on 14th and 15th March 2020!

See links below for members and external clubs (...closing date for entries is 14th February 2020, so don't delay!)

Where is your athlete in their learning
Hands up who is LOVING the ‘new year new you!’ stuff that’s around at the moment?!

Or perhaps, who is a little tired, maybe at capacity and kinda want to go slow for a while?

It’s totally ok, whichever way you are feeling right now. If you’ve the energy for a new start – brilliant. It is a new decade after all (and I am sure it will be an exciting, opportunity filled one for us all). But its also totally natural if you aren’t feeling that – we forget sometimes that it is still winter. What is nature surrounding us with right now? Short days, long nights, barren landscapes. It’s a PAUSE.

And we need that PAUSE too.

To rest, reflect and contemplate where we’ve been and where we’ll go in future. To bed in what we’ve learnt. To have a well rested place to be able move forwards from when the time is right. If we push push push all the time – its overwhelming! We ultimately can’t sustain it and it doesn’t really result in what we really want long term.

It’s the same with our athletes. Time must be spent bedding in new skills and physical abilities before moving on to the next. Recognising what has been achieved is essential before being able to see (and set goals) towards the next things. Everyone loves learning new things in the same way we love summer and being out and about socialising on those long days wearing our flip flops (oh how I miss my flip flops!). But wow could you imaginge doing that all the time? Nope.

We need the change of the seasons. It’s natural. Athletes have natural periods and phases of growth, learning and then bedding in and reflecting too.
The best plan? Go with it. Enjoy each season of the year and what it brings – and teach our athletes to recognize these seasons within their learning and progress too.

Where are you at the moment and where is your athlete? email us on hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk and let me know.

Dear Santa

Affinity's message to Santa

If you'd like to 'try us out' here at Affinity, to join in the AWESOME fun - why not have a look at our Holiday Classes, or our FANTASTIC gift experiences, the MasterClasses
Top tips to help your child when they get discouraged


From time to time, everyone gets a bit discouraged with what they do – in all areas of life!  Success and progress unfortunately isn’t linier. It’s much more like this:


And that messy part can be hard for anyone to deal with, let alone a child! Here’s my five-step process for you to help support your child through if they feel discouraged at class, or indeed with any activities:


  1. Communicate. Talk to and mainly listen to your child. Give them space to tell you what’s going on for them. How do they feel during class? What bits are difficult? What do they enjoy? How do they get on with their coach and peers? What else is on their plate right now? Listen without judgment, empathise with their challenges and reassure them its all ok.


  1. Look at the positives. Celebrate their achievements – there are always lots, big and small. In fact, the small stuff is often the most important and in a discouraged situation, it’s likely these little things have been missed. Our brains tend to forget them when faced with a challenge. Help your child see them. You might even write them all up on a big piece of paper and place it somewhere prominent for a daily reminder of how well they are doing.


  1. Look at the bigger picture. Imagine zooming up in a helicopter and looking down at everything. What’s really important in the bigger picture for you and your child? Are you working towards a specific goal or want a certain value for them from the activity? Is there anything you’ve been worrying about that actually isn’t important? Identify that and when you zoom back down, put that at the forefront of both your minds. Everyone is different and remember to NEVER compare yourself to anyone else – that’s a sure fire way back to discouragement.


  1. Communicate (yes again, it’s THAT important). But this time with those who can help. For gymnastics and related activities that’s us. We will listen to you in exactly the same way you did for your child in step one. It’s important we all know the truth of the situation, then we can work together to help. A lot of times, it is something we can help with – some extra info or understanding the coach needs to give, help making friends in class, or even a class swap – we’ve been here a lot of times and have a whole load of potential solutions in our tool kit.


  1. Support. In an ongoing way. Continue the 4 steps above – keep communicating openly with your child and those that can help support, keep celebrating the positives daily and keeping in mind what’s important.  In no time you’ll be back on track and stronger than ever to deal with future challenges.


I hope this helps. Let me know how you get on and of course, if we can help with anything we’ll be more than happy to listen. Drop us an email hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk.

Our AWESOME Trainee Coaches

You know we LOVE gymnastics and all related activities at Affinity but what we’re really doing here is coaching people to be the best they can be and enjoy what they do. From the gymnasts who overcome challenges and learn through gymnastics through to our staff. However, there’s a group in between these two that I’m not sure if you know much about but they are some of the MOST awesome people and one of the best things we do! (Best kept secret eh?)
I’m talking about our Coach in Training (CIT) Scheme.
We run our own in-house training scheme for young people aged 12yrs+ to help them develop leadership and coaching skills. We provide initial training in what leadership and coaching is all about - what it looks like, what's important and why. They are then buddy-ed up with one of our coaches and help assist them in running classes. 
These young people are developing some serious awesome. They are a real asset to the classes, coaches and gymnasts they assist and they are helping us shape the way Affinity develops. We love the input they bring. And in return of course they are getting excellent training and experiences - we love seeing them grow in confidence and discover the joy of coaching and sharing their knowledge with others. When they are 14, they can take their first external coaching qualification and start to lead small sections of classes, then progress to L1 when they are 16, then take on an apprenticeship in the sport and then who knows - take over the world! Cool huh? Yikes we had better get setting up more Affinity’s for these awesome ones to lead in future hey? But it doesn’t have to lead to working within gymnastics - the skills they are developing will stand them in good stead for whatever they want to achieve and we’re super proud to help be able to develop this.
We’re looking for our next CIT members to start in November 2019 - so if you are (or will be by December) 12yrs old I invite you to apply by emailing to hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk the following (or if you are an Affinity/Sapphire existing member please do this via your loveadmin account):
  1. What excites you about becoming a Coach in Training?
  2. What would be your greatest challenge being a Coach in Training?
  3. What class/es could you volunteer with weekly? (parents please help with this! This can be with gym, cheer or trampoline.  Have a look at the timetable on our website here).
The closing date for applications is Monday 30th September 2019, so don't delay!

Looking forward to seeing you all spreading more awesome in the new term :-)
Why am I paying for August

Yes it’s a great question. We don’t run term time classes in August so why am I being charged for it?
Well, it’s to do with the way we’ve organised our monthly membership. We took all fees for the year (39 term time weeks), class fees, badge fees, club membership and rolled it all together into one simple monthly fee, by dividing this across 12 months.
Here’s what you are getting by paying in august:
  • Lower monthly payments as the annual fees are split over 12 months and not 11
  • Consistent billing all year round to aid household budgets
  • Your place in your class safe and secure and ready for September
  • All continued member benefits – including discounted holiday camp sessions. Eg. Our members price is £16.50 per session, non-members price is £22.50.  (You can find out more holiday class information here)

If you didn’t pay the August payment:
  • You’d have more classes than you’ve paid for across the year.
  • You would lose your class place.
  • We’d be out of pocket and we want to stay in business for you to be able to come to our classes!
We could have divided membership into 11 and not 12 payments. Maybe in future we might do this. But the reasons for going for 12 payments are:
  • We don’t charge more in the months where there are 5 classes rather than 4. Or less where there are 3. So by that logic lets keep all monthly payments the same all year round.
  • It means the monthly payment is lower than if we divide by 11.
  • You and us can budget better knowing that it’s the same amount every month.
I hope this sheds some light on how this works and why we’ve structured our membership the way we have.

p.s.  Don't forget that we have our 13th Birthday & Thank You party on Monday 26th August. Come along anytime between 10am and 1:00pm​ and have fun in the gym and eat some cake with us!  

Achievement - putting together the puzzle pieces
​Have you ever seen someone take an impressive ‘big leap’ in achieving something? Perhaps a gymnast performing an amazing routine and winning a competition. A teen getting into an amazing university. Someone getting a big new job or opportunity. You might look at it and think Wow! Aren’t they amazing! Or lucky! Maybe you might even be a little jealous that it’s all happening for them. You might even feel a little bad about your own ‘slower’ progress.
But in reality its never actually one big leap. All these big achievements are a collection of loads of teeny tiny pieces that built up over time to eventually create a bigger picture  - it’s a lot like a jigsaw puzzle.
Each little piece of the puzzle is vital. Yet each piece looks so insignificant by itself, makes little sense and you could easily overlook it by itself! To start with, you tip out all the puzzle pieces and don’t know what you are looking for. It feels like a mountain to climb – why did I get the 5000 piece puzzle!! This will take forever!
But you make a start. You might have a strategy – perhaps find the corners or edge pieces first. Or group by colour so you can start to put a few pieces together. Gradually piece by piece things start to take shape and the picture gets clearer.
Eventually you are onto the final pieces and the finished picture reveals itself! Hurrah! Now each piece makes sense and is contributing to the overall image.
Progress in gymnastics happens in the exact same way.


Those edge and corner pieces? They are the pre-requisites of every skill. Like being able to do a bridge before you can backflip. Needing to be able to take your weight on your arms before you can cartwheel.
The pieces that start grouping together into colours or parts of the picture – each represents a physical or mental area of learning the skill. Like having flexibility for bridges, arm strength for handstands, or the mental determination to learn what your body needs to be doing.
Then there’s the important final pieces that join everything together – those are the little ‘tweaks’ that make all the difference. A little bit more arm strength, that final improvement in flexibility that makes a skill possible.  A final ‘oh I get it!’ understand mentally of what you need to do, the determination to try that one final time or that one little piece of feedback from the coach that makes it all come together.  Small…. But massively important.
It would be easy to underestimate each piece.  To look at a half finished puzzle and not recognise the progress and success that is already there.  What we need instead is to trust the process and celebrate all these little parts, knowing that under the guidance of awesome coaches and our own perseverance, the picture WILL reveal itself at the right time.
As we reach the end of term and look to displays and award ceremonies, its time to celebrate all these puzzle-piece achievements with our gymnasts. No matter what the current state of the puzzle – maybe its finished, maybe it’s still a work in progress – every little aspect is worth a celebration. And remember that of course no two puzzles are ever completed in exactly the same way.

Like the idea of how we teach skills and celebrate ALL the little wins?  Register for a class below
...But I cant EVEN cartwheel
But I can’t even cartwheel!
Something we hear a lot is:

"My child isn’t good at gymnastics. They can’t cartwheel yet".


"Ha! I’m no good at gymnastics. I can’t even do a cartwheel!"

It’s true that a cartwheel is one of the most universally recognised gymnastics skills. So it is natural to base some kind of progress on this skill.
But cut your child (or yourself!) some slack. It may be one of our ‘basic’ gymnastics skills but have you ever stopped to think about what a gymnast has to do, in order to do a successful cartwheel?
Lets take a look:
  • Go completely upside down and come back up again.
  • Make a rotation – we start forwards, turn sideways, then turn back again to stand up.
  • Travel forwards and sideways across the floor AND in a straight line.
  • Coordinate their arms and legs, in the right order AND in the correct positioning. Not just once, but you’ve four separate hand and foot placements to get right.
  • Have the strength and flexibility to kick their legs up in the air and -
  • Balance on their hands….
  • ….but not for long as you’ve got to shift the weight from one hand to the other then to the feet.
  • Oh and lets think about form too – we don’t just want the legs in the air do we, we want straight legs, straight body, pointed toes.
  • Land in your best ‘I just won the Olympics’ gymnast stretch.

And all of this with speed, all at the same time!!!
Phew I’m a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it.
Compare all these aspects to ‘basics’ in other sports – kicking a football, hitting a forehand in tennis, throwing a rugby ball, shooting a basket in netball, just simply running in athletics. It’s far more complicated and demanding physically.  Plus add in that a gymnast at the cartwheel learning level will likely be learning many new skills each session. They aren’t spending all their time learning this one skill, or even a handful – it’s literally 15-20 skills at a time across all the various gymnastic apparatus. Now this is a great aspect of gymnastics – we’re a foundation sport that can literally teach you everything you need to be able to perform any movement in life or in any other sport.
So is it fair of us to measure all our progress or expectations on if our gymnasts can cartwheel?
No. I don’t think it is. To measure progress we need to look at ALL aspects of our training, across all apparatus, both physically and mentally. Which is kind of tough to do, especially when we’re all different. We find the best way to determine progress is to ask your gymnast how they are finding class, is there anything they can do now in the whole of their class (or perform better) they couldn’t before and also, are they enjoying it. If both of those are positives… from my point of view that’s a win and lets keep learning.

You know what, some gymnasts will never be able to cartwheel like the pros..... and that's ok. 
PS If those pesky cartwheels are really proving tricky, I recommend booking in a 30min 121 lesson with us. There are literally a zillion ways we can teach cartwheels and no one is the same! Often the break through point often comes with some focused coaching and we’d love to provide it.

If interested in a 121 lesson - pop us an email to hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk or have a look on our events page to see any upcoming 121 holiday class slots here.
YIKES...I did WHAT...Aka...Comfort zone uplevelling
Have you ever heard of people talking about comfort zones? That something is ‘out of their comfort zone?’ It often means something is really uncomfortable, or difficult, or maybe feeling impossible!
It would be really easy at times like these to run waaaay far away from the challenge and climb back into where we feel safe. No one would blame you! But then what? What happens next time something challenging comes up – do we run then too? Do we stay still our whole lives and not explore what might be possible? Hmm now that doesn’t sound too fun….
Sometimes, its worth us facing that challenge square in the face and having a go.  Like when our gymnasts find a skill or activity challenging, its easy to not want to try again.  But we as coaches KNOW its worth it for them to keep trying, that the gymnast IS capable of the skill and also that they will feel AWESOME when they realise they can achieve it. How do we know this? Well, we’ve been there ourselves.
I had quite an experience of this myself recently!!
At the weekend I was invited to speak to 400 women at the One Women Conference in London. It’s an event run by an organisation called One of Many, who are on a mission to ‘unleash the bold, grassroots leadership of 1 million women internationally.’
YIKES!! WHAT?! They want ME to do THAT?
I was utterly floored by this. I’ve completed coach and leadership training with One of Many, and the community round this have been a huge part of my life for the past couple of years.  But I’ve never stood on stage at a conference and spoken to 400 people.  Plus I was being asked to talk about my personal journey in leadership and to fit it all into 6 minutes. Definitely well out of my comfort zone.
I could have run back to safety and security and not done it.
But of course that’s not what I did.
So how did I manage? Well, I took inspiration from how I see comfort zones expanding in the gym every day.  That gymnast who is unsure of a skill what do we see? We see coaches (and fellow gymnasts) encouraging and supporting them. We see great explanations of how to technically do the skill from the coach so they know what to expect. We see new preps and progressions to build the correct movement in. Then ultimately we see the gymnast decide it’s worth it, look that challenge square in the face and give it a go.
So for me, I told the #TeamAffinity coaches what I’d been invited to do and they were supportive and encouraging. I had some great advice from some of my One of Many friends on what kinds of things to say and how to structure my presentation. I wrote and re-wrote it, practiced and got some great feedback.  Then on the day, despite the worlds most EPIC amount of nerves I stood up tall and walked confidently onto that stage to take on the challenge.
Now every day, we see the delight on the faces of gymnasts as they go through challenges and come out the other side. I’m pleased to report my challenge was much the same. I LOVED it and all went really well.  I told them all about the changes we’ve made at Affinity over the past year or so and more importantly, what we’re about and where we’re going next.


Having done this, I’m now open to more challenges.  Much like the gymnast who has now mastered that skill outside of their comfort zone, they can go onto learn the next one – which is likely more challenging but also waaay more exciting.
Now imagine if we all stayed safe – we’d never get to the REALLY good stuff.  It’s got to be worth a try, don’t you think?
Developing General Gymnastics in the East Region
This has been a large part of mine and Affinity’s life over the past 8 years so I thought the occasion of me stepping down was a good enough time to tell you about it!
Rewind to 2010… Affinity has been running for a couple of years and our gymnasts are now looking for some opportunities to compete. Couple this with the fast development of gymnastics in the UK and a gap is wide appearing – elite competition is more and more elite. We train in a school hall, we aren’t elite gymnasts (or even trying to be). But where we used to be just lower level of ‘artistic’ gymnastics, we’re increasingly edged out of competition suitability. The perfection level expected at competition is getting high.  It was starting to requires many many hours of training, fully kitted out gyms and professional full-time coaches.  We don’t have this (or want to). We’re just enjoying a few hours of training per week and want to have something to work towards. Oh and and for it to be a positive experience!
So we start entering the few events for ‘general’ gymnasts. These are good…. But poorly run – from organisation through to the confusing rulebooks. You know that thing where by you complain about something and get landed with the job? Yes that’s how I got my volunteer role with the east region ‘GGTC’ or General Gymnastics Technical Committee. But it was a cause I felt (and still feel) strongly about – there should be suitable competitive outlet for the gymnasts training a low number of hours in our region. They absolutely should not be treated as second class (which was happening at the time). The events should be well run (even if all run by volunteers, that’s no excuse for a poor experience) with clear rules and progression and it should be fun!
I started out on the committee, assisting with competition organisation. The following year I WAS the competition organiser (that will teach me).  Then 5 years ago I was asked to lead the committee and was voted in as chairperson.

It has been a privilege and an honor to be able to lead the area of my sport that I feel so passionately about into brighter futures.
So what has changed? Well that’s actually the reason I’ve now stepped down. I’ve made a reality of the vision I had for this area. Over the past 5 years as chair, I’ve lead the committee from a weak one of a few people to a thriving strong group of motivated awesome people. Together we’ve entirely re-written the rule books and there’s a really clear development programme in place for gymnasts. The rules are clear and straightforward so more clubs can understand and access competition. We run our own judging courses to train coaches and judges in our specific rules. Our very own Coach Denise came on board to oversee and develop judging across the discipline (she’s an international judge you know) and I’m so pleased and appreciative she’s been able to do this – its had a HUGE impact.
All these things led to the biggest problem, which actually allowed the best change - we got too popular! The events had too many gymnasts wanting to join to be able to fit into one day. So 3 years ago we changed to a regional final model. In the east region we have six counties – Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.  Regional finals mean each county holds its own championship with our rules, then the top three in each category come and compete at a regional final. It adds more credibility to our events, even more development for the gymnasts and most importantly – allows more gymnasts the opportunity to compete. Not just from capacity, but location – with each county running an event there is never far to travel. 
We now have well over 1000 gymnasts competing every year at the GGTC final events with at least another 1000 competing in their counties that weren’t before.  I’d say that’s pretty damn awesome, wouldn’t you?
It’s been an awesome journey with its challenges and progress. I’ve learnt an awful lot – how to lead a committee (no one teaches you how to chair meetings! Who knows even now if I’m doing it right) how to run events, how to stand up for a vision you believe in and manage change (when no one likes change right?).  I’m looking forward to taking these skills forward into a new volunteer role in future when the right one finds me.
It’s not over… there is and always will be more. That’s why I’ve chosen now as my time to step aside and allow someone else to develop general gymnastics into their own vision. The committee gave me the most AMAZING leaving gifts…. Check out the flowers and bespoke necklace. It’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen or worn. I must have done something right eh?

I can’t wait to see what’s next. Affinity will still continue to enter these events and of course support the running of them. You won’t see my name on the certificates anymore but you might just see me as the biggest supporter in the crowd.
Why we love the gift of saying THANK YOU...

We’re into the second half of the term now, badge testing is finished and who can believe Christmas is looming in the not so distant future! 

Regarding Christmas, I know some of you will be starting to think about gift buying and giving (and some of you, like me, will be putting this off till as late as possible laugh).

We’ve been reflecting on this in the Affinity office and we’d like to make a bit of a change this year. You see, each year we receive many gifts from our members and we are so grateful and appreciative of the time and money you spend to do this.  We love celebrating the year with you.  However, 95% of the gifts we receive are large boxes of chocolate. Now don’t get us wrong, we appreciate the gifts and we do like chocolate, but it means our office is kept knee deep in chocolate until Easter. We’re all eating large quantities everyday and it’s really not great for us.

We’re an organisation based on sport and as such, we’d love to receive gifts that will help us be the healthy and vibrant people you need in your classes. Plus, collectively the amount spent on these chocolates runs into hundreds of pounds and we feel it could be better spent elsewhere. 

So this year we would very much rather a small gift of your time - make us a Christmas card with a message, take the time to say thank you at our end of term displays. Or donate the £5 you would have spent on the chocolate to a charity of your choice.  If you really would like to get us a physical gift, we’d actually love to get more fruit into our office on a weekly basis. We’d gladly accept that £5 instead of chocolate and we’ll put it towards getting a fruit subscription service in our office all year round.  Imagine what our coaches energy levels will be like when they are snacking on fruit between classes instead of chocolate - wow!

Thank you.  What do you think about this?  We hope you support us...and look forward to a healthier start to the year for everyone!

Jennifer Page
Where does it go . . .

I’ve been asked this question a lot – where does this all go?  Where will my gymnast progress to within the sport or what does it all lead to?
There’s two answers to this – firstly the development route within gymnastics and how we do this at Affinity. Yes, we have squad gymnasts that enter competitions and do displays plus there’s plenty of progression within our class system. Here’s how it all works:
In each class area the gymnasts progress through different class levels as they age. They are assessed against our own Affinity Awards scheme each term and each area (pre-school, general, tumbling and freestyle) have their own schemes representing what they do in class. Then there’s the squad system. These classes run in parallel to the others and are accessed by invitation. We look for the gymnasts who have the physical potential to progress quicker or further in the sport and who also have the attitude, interest and work ethic to do so. We generally assess gymnasts in their usual classes. We’ve a set of access skills and capabilities for each squad that our coaches will look for and when they identify a gymnast has these, they will nominate them for a squad trial. Denise, our Department Leader of squad gymnastics will then arrange a trial to see if the gymnast is ready to move into a squad class. We’ve various squads now based on age and ability as follows:
Pre-development squad – 4-6yr olds, 60min class per week.
Development Squad – 6-9yr olds, 90min class per week.
Advanced + Squad – 9yrs +, 90min class per week with option to train twice.
Competition Squad – for those competing at Regional General Level 3 and upwards, 3.5 hours training a week.
Gymnasts in these squads work towards County and Regional General Gymnastics competitions – this means they train on floor and apparatus. We do offer competitions to other areas too when it suits – for example our Wednesday tumble class occasionally compete in local tumbling competitions as appropriate and of course everyone is invited to our own Affinity Invitational.  Gymnasts usually have to be 8yrs in the year of competition to compete – although at our invitational it's 7yrs old. However its worth knowing that at Affinity, our squad system is based on floor and apparatus skills so to gain access to these squads, gymnasts ideally need to be in general gymnastics classes where they are learning all of these skills.
As competitive gymnastics goes, at Affinity we focus on ‘general’ level competitions, which have restrictions on the amount of hours a gymnast can train to maintain a level playing field.  This suits our facility type and training time available.  We can take gymnasts to a really good level here but what happens if we have a potential Olympian appear?  Simple really – we’ll direct them to a club that can cater for that style of gymnastics. Training for higher levels of gymnastics – usually ‘artistic’ gymnastics, requires an average of 12-15 hours training time a week to succeed.  It’s fab, but it’s just not our focus area at Affinity.
The second answer to ‘where does it all go’ is a broader one but I feel much more important.  Whilst yes we’re coaching gymnastics (and we LOVE it!) really what we’re doing here is coaching people. The skills and experiences learnt through gymnastics really set you up for success in all areas of life – a love for physical movement, always improving self-esteem and belief in yourself, how to deal with and grow through challenges, being supported in a happy, positive environment. These things are really what it’s all about and these are gained whether your gymnast competes or not. Whether they are ‘good’ at gymnastics or not. (with a big set of air quotes around ‘good’ as it’s such a perception – I’d argue it matters not one bit but that’s one for another blog post…)
As long as our gymnasts are enjoying their sport and learning something, that’s all that matters.  Saying that, if you are interested in squad gymnastics please let us know – as mentioned we’ll be assessing in class anyways but knowing it’s something you and your gymnast are interested in always helps.

Jennifer Page
So it is now badge testing time
... what's that all about?

We operate our own badge scheme – the Affinity Awards.  We developed this ourselves after many many years experience in gymnastics with various badge schemes that we found lacking.

We’ve had our own scheme running for a year now and we have to say we love it!  It’s matched to our teaching syllabus and therefore represents all aspects of the things our gymnasts learn. We complete one badge per term, which are awarded at the end of term. The best bit? There are different schemes for all the different types of gymnastics we offer so EVERYONE can join in.
There’s a grading based on how many skills the gymnast is able to perform well, which is intended to give you a little more information on progress. This varies for each scheme as follows:
Pass = 8-10 skills for general scheme, 7-8 for tumble, 6-7 for freestyle.
Commended = 11-14 skills for general scheme, 9-11 for tumble, 8-11 for freestyle.
Highly Commended 15-16 skills for general scheme, 13-14 for tumble, 12-13 for freestyle.
The list of skills are now recorded on the certificate awarded to the gymnast.
Pre-school Gymnastics
Each badge contains 6 skills from floor and apparatus. We don’t do a formal ‘testing’ with this age group but instead cover all the skills within their usual class setting.
General Gymnastics
The gymnasts have 10 skills to complete on floor which have two each from the following areas: handstands (from preps through to handsprings), cartwheels (from preps through to aerials), backwards skills (from bridges through to back flips), shapes, strength and flexibility, and one skill each for jumping and rolling. Then there are two skills on each of the apparatus from bars, beam and vault.
Tumble Gymnastics
Our tumble gymnasts have 10 skills to complete on floor which have two each from the following areas: handstands (from preps through to handsprings), cartwheels (from preps through to aerials), backwards skills (from bridges through to back flips), shapes, strength and flexibility, and one skill each for jumping and rolling.  They also have skills performed in series – that’s connected together all in one go.
Freestyle Gymnastics:
Our freestyle gymnasts have 8 skills to complete on floor which have two each from the following areas: handstands (from preps through to handsprings), cartwheels (from preps through to aerials), shapes, strength and flexibility, and one skill each for jumping and rolling. Then there are five skills on the apparatus covering bars, wall and vault.
Competition Squad Gymnastics
Our competition squad gymnasts have their own scheme, which follows the skills they need to learn for the regional general gymnastics competitions.  There are four skills on each piece – bars, beam, floor, vault.  They need to pass two on each piece to pass, three on each piece for commended and only miss one skill in total to get highly commended.  This reflects the focus of this group to develop skills across all pieces.
Our other squad gymnasts – development and advanced + squads follow the general gymnastics badge scheme.

As coaches, we really look forward to celebrating the gymnasts achievements at the end of each term.
Top 10 Reasons why holiday classes are different

But we come to gymnastics week in week out! We aren't missing much in the holidays..... right?  .....Wrong. Check out our TOP TEN reasons why holiday camps are different, in a good way!

1. Be the first to try out new activities. As coaches, we use holiday class times to be creative and try out new ideas. Be the first to try our new ideas before everyone else.

2. Longer sessions allow us to do more than a term time class. We use all the apparatus in the gym each class, unlike term time where its on a rotation from week to week. No chance that your child’s favourite apparatus isn’t included this week!

3. It’s a reliable indoor activity the British weather can not spoil or cancel. Plus we’ve air conditioning for those summer days.

4. New skills. It’s a great chance to try new things and to see what other gymnasts are working on, to see whats possible.

5. We watch movies at lunch for those who stay all day. We’ve got colouring books and crayons and puzzles now too.

6. Everyone feels better after exercise. You know this is important for your child and hey, if they are feeling good from their day perhaps your evening is easier? These are coached sessions. It’s not soft play. We’re sharing our passion and coaching expertise all day.

7. Help with childcare. Well the kids need something to do and sending them to us means you’ll have some time to yourself.

8. Make friends - your gymnast will meet a wider range of children and make new friends (we’re a welcoming bunch).

9. Siblings and friends can attend together as the age range is wider and no one needs to be a member (this helps with item 7!)

10. It’s fun! (shouldn't everything be?)

Book via our holiday class page here or drop us an email.
How gymnastics helps your preschool child develop into a well rounded adult
We know gymnastics is great fun. But why should you look to bring your pre-school child as early as possible? Pre-School Department Leader Litsa shares with us the top ten reasons why gymnastics is of great benefit for the development of your pre-school child, with the help of some science and the feedback from our current Affinity preschool parents.

Gymnastics is not solely about creating gymnasts (for any age) but for the preschool child it is particularly beneficial. Here's our top ten areas where gymnastics can help your child grow into a well-rounded adult:

The UK is becoming increasingly full of obese children who risk their health and happiness by being overweight. Gymnastics teaches and encourages an active life and enjoyment of physical activity – we belive it’s got to be fun first! This love of movement translates into other sports as well as a lifetime positive relationship with activity - what better gift can you give your child. 
But will my child be an Olympian? Not all children who participate in gymnastics are Olympians. In fact very few are. That does not mean that gymnastics is not for everyone. By teaching young children they can be successful at physical skills from an early age encourages them to be active and aware of what their bodies are doing and we feel that’s waaay more important.
Here’s the science bit: Movement promotes good health in many ways. Consciously controlled and coordinated movements stimulates production of neutrophils (nerve growth), increasing the number of connections in the brain. The more precise the movements the more developed the network will become. So it’s essential our young children start this work as soon as possible.
Preschool fun fact! By the age of three, your child will have developed around 1000 trillion connections around the cells in their brain…. Which is around twice as many as the average adult!

Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “She says that she really enjoys it, she loves using the equipment (Beam, bars, trampette) and when she talks about it with friends they are amazed that at such a young age she is using them”
Pre-school gymnastics coaching helps develop better coordination and body awareness. For young children, interacting with their surroundings is mostly physical in their early years. Gymnastics provides them with the skills to interact with their environment in ways that other children cannot utilising all their body from top to toe.  Something we all wish we had more of as we age! Flexibility is important in injury prevention and helping prevent the every-day aches and pains. No sport gives an athlete the flexibility that gymnastics does. Not only is flexibility great for gymnastics, but it aids in the development for other sports as well. Next time you watch a professional sporting event keep an eye out for how flexible the men and women participating are. Gymnastics produces, pound-for-pound, the best athletes in the world. Gymnastics uses almost exclusively body weight exercises to build upper body, lower body, and core strength. Kids who do gymnastics show off this strength at a young age. It is also great fun for them to be a demonstrator in PE classes at school and in a lot of cases way ahead of their peers.
Here’s the science bit: Research has found that children who do not spend time crawling can typically have more difficulty with reading and writing later. The reason is that when crawling, they are tracking their hands with eyes in a pattern of movement (reading). Their hands slap the ground and develop strength and flexibility in the hand and wrist (writing and holding a pencil). Hanging on bars is great for handwriting skills. (Not to mention upper body strength). When children hang from the bars, they are building strength and dexterity in the muscles found in their hands. Building strength in their upper body leads to more refined fine motor skills like handwriting. 
Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “She has learnt so many skills that perhaps would have developed later – skipping, galloping, jumping, hopping etc. She has become braver in terms of having a go in other situations such as soft play, The simple structure of the class will help no end once she starts school”.
At all ages, gymnastics provides an opportunity to develop social skills. Pre-school children learn how to stand in line, look, listen, be quiet when others are talking, work and think independently, and be respectful. The older pre-school children in the gym learn to inquire about why something works the way it does. They also learn how to set a good example for the newbies who look up to them and become role models at a young age. All of these skills are stressed by our coaches because they are so important for a good learning environment.  Here at Affinity, skills are learned through progressions. By teaching in this manner children gain confidence as they progress through these skills. With each step, they become more confident in themselves and that carries over into all aspects of their lives.
Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “The classes have really helped with her confidence. It has developed her listening skills and taking direction from the teacher. The classes have also really helped to support her development in other classes she attends. Her overall strength and coordination have improved too”.
At Affinity, manners and kindness are a two-way street. Our coaches pride themselves on conducting classes in a way that is kind and caring to all of the students and in turn we expect that the children are well mannered and kind to their coaches, along with the other children in the class. Through these two key important areas from our staff, gymnastics classes led by example, we strive to help in your efforts as parents to raising a respectful child.
Preschool fun fact: The average two year old manages to add around five new worlds to their vocabulary each day…. Whilst we may have to rely on word of the day apps!

Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “I enjoy watching him and seeing how he is challenged and how much he behaves and engages in the activity”.

Gymnastics is a challenging sport. Every skill you learn is earned through hard work and repetition. A great thing about pre school gymnastics is being able to see the direct relationship between hard work, practice and results. The harder children work and the more they practice the more quickly they progress. There are few better ways for a child to see how hard work and determination pay off.
Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “I know she gets 45 minutes of quality physical exercise which is great fun”.

This is a very important aspect of gymnastics and it comes in two parts. In the gym there are rules for the children's safety. These rules must be followed and this takes discipline. The other part is self-discipline. Each child must have the self-control to make corrections when a coach asks them to. Children must also have the self-discipline to stay on task when a coach is working with another gymnast. Working hard, even when you think no one is watching, is a great asset to any individual's character and cannot be overlooked. Pre school children find this particularly challenging but by the end of their second term with us they start to be more self aware of their roles within the gym.
Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “She is gaining strength and coordination and learning the discipline of listening, following instruction and respect for her instructor and fellow gymnasts. They sometimes need to show patience to wait their turn and share equipment”

Gymnastics breeds determination. Most skills in gymnastics take a number of tries to get them right. This is true with a number of things in life. Gymnastics encourages children to get up and try again even if they messed up because they know if they continue to work hard that they will achieve their goals. 
Here’s the science bit: Movement reinforces the learning capacity, to store something mentally, with some type of movement. By putting it into ‘muscular memory’ it is more likely to be remembered than simply something thought about and not ‘acted out’. 

The Vestibular system is located in the inner ear and provides information about gravity, balance and movement. It regulates our sense of movement and gives our nervous system information about our movement as to whether we are moving fast/slow and in what direction. It responds to the position of the head. It influences muscle tone, visual tracking, special awareness and behaviour through complex interactions of the nervous system.
80% of nerve endings to muscles in the body are directly linked via proprioception and the vestibular system with motor nerves running to and from the eyes. 70% of sensory input for humans is visual so vision plays a large part in the process of learning.

Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “I’ve seen a big increase in my child’s confidence levels. Both in taking on physical tasks and in speaking and communicating with people.”

There are things in gymnastics that are scary. A lot of this has to do with the fear of trying something that you have never done before. We encourage our gymnasts to express their fears to us, and we set attainable goals to work through their fears - together. This goes hand-in-hand with building confidence. Our gymnasts are often challenged to try new things and our coaches lay out a path that allows them to achieve those challenges in a step-by-step manner. This approach allows children to develop strategies to overcome things that they see as impossible and encourages them to try new things both in the gym and in life. In a preschool childs’ world it’s black and white, there are no grey areas!
The science bit: Proprioceptive system provides information about muscle tension, body position and the position and movement of our joints in relation to each other (spatial awareness). It responds to movement by stretching and bending muscles. Sensory information regarding movement, muscle tension, pressure, joint movement and body position in space is sent to the central nervous system. This then influences motor planning, spatial awareness and behaviour.

Motor planning – how a child learns through play. i.e walks along a floor beam and falls off, has another go and falls off and wonders why, has another go and uses arms, improves technique of walking along the beam

Our Affinity pre-school parents say (in this case it’s the gymnast!): “I love it! I like being a penguin. I get scared on the bar but then I can do it”
One thing that is often overlooked by our population is the ability to perform in front of people in a pressure situation. In gymnastics, it becomes second nature. At Affinity we encourage all of our gymnasts to volunteer as well as watch their teammates because they can learn by watching as well as doing. This creates confidence in our children to step up and do their best when people are watching. Gymnasts are often first to volunteer in schools to demonstrate or raise their hand to answer a question they are unsure of. They gain the confidence in themselves to be right, and the understanding that even if they are wrong, that they gave their best effort. 
Preschool fun fact: Why you should never say ‘don’t’ before a sentence…. If I say to you ‘don’t think of a blue tree’ what immediately do you think of? We only ever hear the action after the word ‘don’t’. Instead say what you want to do instead i.e walk slowly, then theres no confusion.

Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “Seeing her so happy and being very proud of herself when learning new skills. Gymnastics is her favorite thing to do” 

All of our gymnasts learn compassion through the example set by our staff. At Affinity we know that every child, regardless of ability, can benefit from gymnastics. Our staff are committed to making sure that every class and child gets all of the great things that gymnastics has to offer.  It’s great to see each preschool class becoming a team that work together to support each other.
Our Affinity pre-school parents say: “Seems more adventurous and active with different things”

Yikes I had better get to a class myself!! We'd love to welcome you and your child to a class for you to experience all these benefits for yourself - take a look at whats on offer for pre-schoolers at Affinity here and register for a class here
Cooking up a storm
by Jennifer Page, Affinity Founder


It’s safe to say I’m agreeing with that famous quote: ‘Change is the only constant.’
Now you can either be scared by this concept or excited.
For me, the recent challenge has been that we’ve hit a certain point in our development that I can’t really hide from anymore.

Opening Affinity HQ in 2014 was a HUGE long-term goal and dream achieved and that alone took me a good year to recover from! Add in the subsequent tripling of the club over the next 24 months or so and all the associated changes in creating an organisation of this type and size was quite a baptism of fire. An exciting, amazing journey I wouldn’t change for anything.
A journey that (fortunately) is a great distraction from the next steps and longer term plans. So I’ve been easily, and perhaps rightly, ignoring that little nagging question of: ‘so Jen, what’s next?’

However we’ve now gone further down this path and I’m running out of valid excuses to ignore it.  My only remaining one is that it scares me (like REALLY scares me). However the amazing #TeamAffinity and all our awesome gymnasts and families are showing me that this isn’t a valid excuse anymore either.
So there’s no option now but to turn that fear into excitement (they are actually one and the same anyway, did you know? It’s the same chemical response in the body. Interesting fact of the day huh!).
Which brings me to the work we’ve been doing behind the scenes on Affinity as an organisation with some pretty exciting 10-year goals of what and where and who we want to be.
Me, Brenda, Emma and Lucy spent two days with the fabulous Marianne Page at her ‘systems4scale bootcamp’ back in February to iron-out what we’re about, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. We’re working on implementing her ‘McFreedom system’ to make us into the organisation we need to be to hit our NEW 10 year goals.
I feel there should be a drum roll here……

The goals for the next 10 years are for Affinity to operate a large multi-discipline gymnastics facility. Think gymnastics, tumbling, aerial arts, freeG/parkour, special pre-school areas, dance, cheer, you name it.  If it’s related to gymnastics we’ve a space for that.  Also to franchise or open further satellite centers.  Maybe all of the above.  Maybe actually none of it – hey you never know what the future has in store.  But there has to be a dream and a bigger vision that’s motivating, to grow into and move towards.

We’ll do this with our vision in mind a
nd with our now much clearer and so important set of values:
Cool huh? We’ve implemented LOADS of changes over the past few months and there’s more to come over the next months and years. It’s not always easy. But that excitement is definitely baked-in.
What do you think of our plans? What would you like to see Affinity become? Wear your best dreaming hat please and we’ll add your ideas to our list – please comment on this post or email us at hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk . Along with your excitement I hope!
Awesome invitational 2018 a Club Leaders view
It's been a few weeks since the invitational now and like many of you, my attention has shifted on to other things. But lets rewind a little and reflect on the awesomeness of March 4th this year.
As a club leader, it was absolutely AWESOME (never without its issues, more on that later) but lets appreciate what we created here. We ran an event that (we think) is like no other. We’ve baked in some real unique points - coaches being able to prompt the gymnast during their routine if they need it, a whole group fun warm up to music (which the spectators chose the music for!), clubs working together to help all the gymnasts compete well and extra superstar awards nominated by anyone.  These things aren't 'usual' at gymnastic competitions and I'm proud that the vision of creating something different is well received.
Also, that our event is accessible for gymnasts who maybe only attend one class a week.  With the elite progression of our sport, most events aren't accessible unless you train a lot of hours. We have gymnasts training one hour a week at our event - we know they LOVE gymnastics and deserve an opportunity to show that outside of their class time.
For me as founder of Affinity, it was incredible just to take it all in:

379 gymnasts enjoying their sport and smiling through the challenges and comfort zone stretching that is performance and competition.
800 spectators cheering on, enjoy the performances and supporting their family members.
60 staff shining at what they do well – coaches, scorers, judges, door staff, organisers, photographers.
8 clubs coming together to make the experience positive for the gymnasts.
But the best bit for me was the positive, fun and friendly vibe in the room. It’s got to be fun and we've got to enjoy it and appreciate each other.
Hey I know it's not perfect. Far from. But the intentions are good and we learn from it.
Each time we improve upon the main issues from the year before and I’m proud that we look to the challenges as something to benefit from in future and not a terrible 'problem'.  Last year the main two challenges were the amount of time it took to get the spectators in the room and the mic not working which impacted on our organisation of the gymnasts as well as the communication with the spectators.  So this year we sorted those by introducing ticket sales ahead of the event via a ticketing app.  We got nearly 300 of you out and almost 300 new spectators in within 20 minutes between rounds 1 and 2 so I’ll take that as a win.  As for the mic? We did extra sound checks a week before and also had back up equipment – which we needed(!) - so it meant it wasn’t a problem.
This time round, I'd say the biggest issues were not having the time to take over the awards ceremony (as we had a lot of gymnasts in during each round, ideally we'd have less at a time) and spectators blocking each others views. There's several other things too we’ve learnt but these are the biggest two. So we'll fix this for next time.
So what's next?
We already know the invitational in 2019 will involve more than one day and we're also scheming a display event….. watch this space!
Did you attend the invitational?  We'd honestly love your feedback - if you didn't like something or think we could improve on anything, please tell us - it may be something we're unaware of.  Or maybe you and your gymnast simply enjoyed the event, it's nice to hear when things have gone well too.  Just pop us an email to hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk
How do I know if my gymnast is progressing

It's gotta be the number one thing you look for as a parent of a gymnast, right? You are paying the bills and want to know your child is progressing. But what does that mean, what does it look like and how do you know?

This again is a common question we're asked as coaches and as a club - how is my child progressing? We love being asked as we like to work together but we'll be honest that it's really tricky to answer. Everyone is different - children progress at different rates in different things but also what progress means to one parent (or coach!) may be completely different to what someone else sees or expects. 

So how do we see it?

We see our gymnasts week in, week out over a range of skills and activities. We see them grow as people, cope with challenges, interact with others, grow in confidence and self esteem, improve flexibility, strength, stamina etc etc. There is A LOT we see. We think ALL these areas are equally important and all add up to that thing we call 'progress.' 

Each gymnast will progress in all these different areas at different rates. They are all needed and we don't place importance on any one area. For example, perhaps a gymnast hasn't achieved a particular skill this term. They found the skill difficult but have been working hard, determined to try their best and not give up. By the end of the term they have overcome huge challenges and grown in confidence, knowing their persistence will pay off. Likely they have been building up the strength or flexibility or other pre-requisites to do the skill too. Does the fact that they can't currently do this skill mean they have failed or not made progress? Not in our eyes. We see the progress in other areas and value the efforts of the child and how they have grown. This will stand them in better stead in the long run (and likely that skill will follow soon maybe next term). 

It's tricky as a parent though as you don't go on this journey with your child, you likely don't see this unfolding. We appreciate that your side of it often is seeing what badge they come home with at the end of the term, what a friends child can do, or what tricks can be done round your living room (which is likely only a tiny amount of the things they can do in a fully kitted out gym).

We can't fully represent this journey and the progress of an individual through a badge scheme or even a written report. You can't fully represent a person on a piece of paper. We can try, but really, the best way to know if your child is progressing is to ask them some quality questions regularly. Why not try these as a start point and let us know how you get on:

What was challenging at gymnastics this week? How did you and the coaches cope with that? 

What was the most fun? Did you have a favourite thing this week and why?

Did you work with a particular gymnast or group today? Did you work well together?

What do you think you need help with now? What would you like to learn next?

Also consider what progress looks like to you, as the fee-paying parent! What is important to you and what are you looking for as a result of classes? You know your child best so do communicate what you and your child need and as a club, we'll be over the moon to know how we can help and can keep you updated with the right sorts of information. 

Why I am not telling you to point your toes

Wait, but isn’t pointing your toes the whole point of gymnastics? Don’t you have to do that all the time to be a good gymnast?


Well, yes it does make everything look nicer. But when it comes to effective learning, it’s actually the last thing on my mind as a coach. I’ll explain why.


Gymnastic skills aren’t easy.  Every skill is complex - yes even the so called ‘easy’ ones. Add into the mix a child who is also still learning how to manage and move their body at the same time and it’s no mean feat. 


As a coach, i’m looking at what each gymnast needs to do well at each stage of learning a skill in order for them to master it, feel confident and move to the next step. 


To give feedback, a coach will go through the following process each time a gymnast performs a skill:


  1. Observe: look at what is being performed by the gymnast.
  2. Compare: consider what we ultimately want to skill to look like and see what bits fit with this and what bits don’t.
  3. Analyse: why are we seeing what we are.
  4. Action plan: work out what we can do to help the gymnast progress.


Yup, we go through this whole process, in our heads, every time (we actually can’t help it). Then we get to the most important step:


  1. Do the most important thing. What is the one thing the gymnast can know or hear now from me as their coach in order to progress. 


I tell you, extremely rarely is this to point toes. From a technical perspective, if toes aren’t pointed then usually theres something else to focus on to achieve it - such as keeping the legs tight, or arms strong in a skill. To run fast into vault skills or press down on the bar when swinging.


But then there’s secret step no 6:


  1. What does this person need from me in order to progress. 


I may not need to give them anything technical to work on at all. And I don’t mean that the skill was perfect -  gymnastics is as mental a sport as it is physical. Often, its most important to acknowledge the effort and journey the gymnast is going through learning that skill. Giving a technical correction at a time when the gymnast needs encouragement or celebration of their efforts is totally counter productive


Confidence is key. The pointed toes? Thats just the icing on the cake :-)

Interview about Freestyle Gymnastics

An area of Affinity is growing and has made it onto our holiday class schedule with two weekly classes, Wednesday mornings 9:30am-12pm and Thursday afternoons 1-3:30pm. I caught up with our Freestyle Gymnastics (FreeG) lead coach and Ambitious Apprentice, Dan, to understand more about this area of the club: 


Hi Dan!

Q: Tell me, whats FreeG? Whats different about it to regular gymnastics?


A: For me, FreeG is less rules more cool. Its about movement and getting from point A to point B in the fastest and coolest way possible. Spicing it up a little. It’s creative and fun and at Affinity we fuse this with our gymnastics knowledge and skill too.


Q: What makes FreeG special?


A: Well, ninja’s do it. That kinda sums it up! Not many gym clubs do it in the way we do, we’re unique in our way of fusing the fun adventurous movements with gymnastics in the same package .


Q: What do you like about it?

A: It looks cool. I saw my friend do a backflip and just wanted to do it.

it’s inspirational. We love watching and sharing videos of new tricks and movements. 


Q: What do you see the kids getting out of it?

A: It really builds confidence in what they are doing with their body. I can see them getting a lot from exploring what they can do. It’s a great relaxed yet focused approach. 


Q: I hear you are a bit of a ninja in training. What brought you to gymnastics and what sort of things do you train yourself?


A: I just love sports. Pole vault, swimming, free running, javelin. skating. I’m always incorporating free running into skating and other sports. You’ll find me down the skate park or on the trampoline at home. (Editors note: since joining us in September 2016 Dan has been getting SERIOUSLY good at gymnastics. He’s winning most of our handstand competitions now, much to the dismay of our squad gymnasts!).


Q: What would you most like to share with the gymnasts through your FreeG classes?


A: I think mainly the ability to try stuff, to be confident in what they do and to know the right progressions to get to where they want to be.


Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about joining a class?


A: Erm, have you seen ninja warrior? Just join.

Wow looks like I may sign up for a class myself. Come and join Dan for the FreeG fun here.


Affinity Sizzling Summer Camps Why Is it so Special

Yikes it's the end of another academic year already, this means our summer holiday classes are nearly here! I caught up with lead coach, Lucy, to pick her brains about why the Affinity Summer Holiday classes are so special:

Q: Hi Lucy, I understand you have been at the majority of our holiday classes over the past couple of years. What makes them different to usual classes?


A: In the holidays we get to try such a wide variety of types of gymnastics. We also get to tailor the sessions to the gymnast’s desires as they can bring us their ‘wish list’ of skills and activities and I love hearing what is on these lists then accommodating it! This is the best opportunity to take away as much knowledge away from the coaches as possible.


Q: Whats your favourite things about the holiday classes, compared to term time ones?


A: We get to see lots of new faces and love seeing their faces light up learning a new skill for the first time. Also seeing current members coming and showing their love for gymnastics and achieving skills started in term time classes - they all want to practice and learn more. and we love supporting that. I love the freedom of being able to do what you want, as the classes are longer, - both for coach and gymnast. We’ve more time to set up bigger preps that we wouldn’t normally have time or space to do so within a term time lesson. This is when we often come up with our best stuff and most creative ideas!

We also get to know the gymnasts better as people as they are here for longer sessions.


Q: Sounds like the Affinity fairies spread their magic during these classes!


A: Yes it’s certainly when we as coaches are most creative. Plus we have the most new skills learnt or progressed, theres definitely some magic in the air!


Q: What have you seen gymnasts achieve or progress in?


A: I’ve seen beginners achieve their first skills in gymnastics and getting a real buzz from it, to more experienced gymnasts transferring skills from floor onto apparatus. For example, we’ve been working on front somersaults from trampette in term time class, over holiday classes we’re now doing these from the beam.


Q: This year, we've a lot more classes than previous years. What are you most looking forward to?


I think I’m looking forward most to the family fit. More people are booked on than we usually have and I look forward to the challenge to get the parents involved. Plus lots of you are doing all the weeks so I’m looking forward to finding a way of each class progressing and building on the next - its like a special course. Families being active together is really important to us.


Q: Who usually comes to the holiday classes?


A: A large range - and that is what makes it so interesting. From complete newbies to club members keeping up training over the summer - we make everyone welcome. We also often see dancers who want to work on acro skills in tumbling or 121 classes as well as cheerleaders, martial artists and those from almost any other sport.


Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about signing up?


A: Come and try one and see if you like it! We bet you’ll leave signing up for more but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.


Q: What do you do if a child is unsure of coming to a new class?


It’s important for them to know that its usual for kids to come by themselves and not know anyone - they are often all in the same boat. We play lots of games to help them get to know each other and we pride ourselves on being as welcoming as we can. Also lots of children do return - so if you come back in oct half term you may see your new friends.


Thanks Lucy, sounds like it’s going to be a great summer! You can book our classes here.

How we organise moving up a class

Class movements: When will my child move up?

As a parent, you love to hear your child is doing well and want them to progress.  We absolutely want that too.

So how do we determine when your child moves up a group, and what if they don't move this term?


I'll be honest, it's not an exact science. 

There's many reasons for this but the best way I can explain it is that we work with people and we're each not an exact science either. As much as we can set curriculums, definitions and skill requirements for each class level sometimes good old people skills and common sense are needed to place a child in the correct group.

Everyone is different and we love that. It's something we're passionate about recognising and developing at Affinity. Plus administratively, we're a fast growing and developing organisation which creates some extra factors to consider when moving gymnasts to different classes.


So, here's an insight into what we do:


  1. We ALWAYS want to progress and provide every gymnast with what they need. This is number one, numero uno. This is in our minds first and foremost as it likely is in yours. So you can trust us to either get this right, or if we feel we don't or could be doing something else, we'll 100% be listening and wanting to hear from you so we can work together to achieve this. We feel we know our industry and classes well, but we see your child only once or twice a week - you live with them and know them the best!  We've got to work together here.  Do get in touch with us if you don't feel we've got something right or if your child needs something else from us.
  2. We have criteria for each class level in terms of age, skills, ability and maturity. This ensures each group are in the right place to all work together and progress. So we'll only move gymnasts up when they match the profile for that next class up.
  3. As a growing organisation, we are becoming limited in some areas by availability of class places. So we may have to prioritise those who really need to move up (usually by age) and keep some gymnasts more on the 'borderline' of the next class up in their current class and move them when a place becomes available - sometimes this is after re-enrolment is over, sometimes this is mid term.
  4. To counteract no.3, we are great at tailoring our coaching. This isn't always visible when viewing a class through the window where you can't hear the coaches. For example, for an older child in the beginners class we will be giving them more detailed or technical feedback than a younger child. As they are able to take on more information about their gymnastics we can provide it. The detail is in how we're coaching and developing that gymnast to be aware of their movements so they can progress. We also give extra challenges by changing activities where suitable. So don't be worried if your child isn't moving up right now, item 1 is always in our minds and we will be doing everything we can to provide for your child's needs.


I hope this helps provide an insight into how we manage class progression at Affinity.

As always, we're very welcoming for feedback so please do get in touch with your thoughts and ideas.

The Affinity Team Update

We're so lucky to have such an amazing Affinity Team.  But we're always looking for great new people to join our team, so we can continue to offer you as many choices of classes as we can. 

So what's been happening with TeamAffinity this month?




Thank you to all the applicants for our recent positions, particularly the overwhelming response to our part-time administrator role.  We were completely blown away by the amazing people that applied to work with us.

We hope we'll be able to announce soon, who'll be joining our team!

We're still recruiting for the following positions....

The Affinity story part two 2007-8
#AffinityTurns10 10 events for 10 years: 
The Affinity Story part 2 - Year 2 2007-2008.

This week it’s our official 10 year anniversary of classes starting (our first classes were held on 18th September 2006) so our 2nd #AffinityTurns10 ‘event’ is a week long birthday party at our classes so everyone can celebrate with us. We’ll be playing party games in class, decorating the gym and we have some special ‘party favours’ for our gymnasts. Plus we’d love it if you’d bring us a birthday card!
This brings us to part two of the Affinity Story - our second year in 2007-2008.
So it’s fair to say that gymnastics at Sheredes Primary was a success in the first year. In fact in some ways a victim of it’s own success, in that the administration and organisation of the club had become too much for the school to manage. The decision was made for the club to become it’s own organisation and manage the membership, take payments etc itself. This meant becoming a British Gymnastics registered club under the name of ‘Sheredes Gymnastics.’ We took the name of our venue as many sports club do. (Plus have you ever tried to name an organisation? It’s incredibly difficult! We’ll tell you the challenging story of our name change in 2012 in due course).

With this came opportunity for more areas of gymnastics than just primary age classes. Gymnasts could now attend our classes from other schools. We added weekend pre-school classes and started our first competition squad who trained twice a week. We took on a second coach - Vicki, who helped one night a week. We had around 50 members during this year.

Our first competition squad team picture - on the day they got their club leotards!

We entered our first competition early in 2008 - the Hertfordshire Grades. Again we performed at the Sheredes Primary open evening and also the school fete. Always wanting to do things well from the outset, both and out of the gym, we were one of the first 400 clubs to gain the ‘gymmark’ gold standard accreditation from British Gymnastics. We were honoured  to have the regional coordinator visit us for a display and to award a plaque - and we were featured in the local paper!

Our first competition in 2008. We all passed our grades!                          Our GymMark plaque being awarded in July 2008

So all in all, a year of great change and excitement. Now onto year three in 2008-9……
The Affinity Story part 1 Where it all started in 2006 to 2007

10 events for 10 years #AffinityTurns10


To celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we decided it should be big. So big in fact, it won’t fit in one event, so we’ll be holding 10 events to celebrate our 10 years of gymnastics. This brings us to telling the Affinity story, again in 10 parts! (Can you see a theme here?). In this post, club leader Jennifer Page shares the start of the Affinity story and what happened during our first year in the 2006/7 academic year.

The start of the Affinity story starts with my own gymnastics story.
I started gymnastics when I was 7 years old. I'd moved up to junior school and this meant I could attend a lunchtime gymnastics club at primary school. All my friends went, it was the activity to do.
Well, as it turned out, I was pretty good at it and the teachers at my school advised I found a local club to go to. I went to some recreational sessions at the then named Barnwell Gymnastics club in Stevenage (later to change to their current name of Marriotts when they moved to purpose built premises in 2002). After a term or so of classes they asked me to join their squad sessions and train more hours, so here my competitive gymnastics story began. 
To cut a long story short, I went on to compete at club, county and regional level at women's artistic gymnastics. I trained 2-3 times a week, total training time of between 6-9 hours a week across my career. I'd compete 3-4 times a year for the next 10 years. It became me, or maybe I became it. I'm not sure. What I do know is that gymnastics became a huge  passion and part of my identity.
Fast forward to 2006 and I had completed university and was considering what to do next. I wanted to be involved in gymnastics but it found it was becoming a different sport. 
Gymnastics had moved on a great deal since I trained as a child and teen in the 90's. My 6-9 hours of let's face it, fairly relaxed, training with part time, volunteer coaches (albeit skilled and extremely dedicated) on a few bits of mats put out in a school or sports hall just wouldn't cut it now. The sport had broadened dramatically (which is great news) and developed and the elite competitive end of the sport was way out of reach for the majority. Even for the super talented, it's a tough job. The same medals and trophies I won back then now go to gymnasts training 12-15 hours a week at least, often much more, in a very planned and pressured environment, with full time super trained coaches, in purpose built fantastic facilities. Oh and they likely started at age 3. It's a world away. I’m not saying that any of this is bad, I’m saying this is radically different to how it was.
What I became brutally aware of in 2006 was that my level of talent just wouldn’t cut it these days. If my 7 yr old self walked into an artistic gymnastic club at that point, I'd very likely be shown the door. I wouldn’t have been offered the opportunities I had within our sport. 
That got me thinking. What if I'd never been a gymnast?
I'd have missed out on the training and ability to improve and develop my skills, as a gymnast and as a person. I'd never had gotten good. In fact I'd never had known I could be good at something. To aspire to a goal, plan and work towards it. To achieve and be recognised for it. To believe in myself and grow as a person as I did through gymnastics.
There was a gap in 2006 for providing these experiences to gymnasts who weren’t up for the hard core training to go elite. Looking around at clubs and classes, I could see excellent elite programmes and (what I felt were) poor recreational programmes. These gymnasts were being seen as second class and I felt fiercely passionate that this was wrong. 
I wanted to stand up for and provide for these gymnasts. I believe that everyone deserves excellent coaching and opportunities, no matter their ability or level. So when an email landed in my inbox for a school in Hoddesdon looking for a gymnastics coach to start a club, I went for it.
Sheredes Primary School had a huge interest to start after school gymnastics and had been successful in getting a £5000 lottery grant. I was involved in choosing all the new equipment (that was so much fun) and started coaching classes in September 2006. Even at the start it wasn’t your average club - we started with 3 days and 9 classes with children from years 1 to 6.
Over this first academic year, the club grew and we added classes for the reception year children after Christmas. A fair few of this year group are still with the club now! (Not sure if this makes me feel proud or old…..). We performed our first display at the Sheredes Primary open evening in July 2007. Now our first year was done, there were some big changes and exciting times ahead for our second year, more about that next time……

In the meantime, our first 10 year event to go with our 2006 story is our Birthday Open Day and Join In event, see you there!

Channelling her inner Beyonce An interview with Coach Lauren about our new Zumba class
Coach Lauren joined our coaching team in late 2015 with a background in the fitness industry. When the opportunity to run a special class for 'Herts Girls Can' week came up she suggested Zumba. And WOW! We LOVED it!! We had fun doing the class but even more special was seeing Lauren's talents at leading the Zumba class - shes amazing! So naturally we decided we needed more of this fun and posiitivity at Affinity and will be running Zumba as a regular class from September on Monday mornings, 9:30-10:15am. I caught up with Lauren to chat all things Zumba:

Q: What attracted you to zumba and how did you get involved?
Lauren: My cousin and I tried a Zumba class in our local area and was addicted straight away!  Having a background in both gymnastics and dance it seemed like the perfect workout to allow me to both dance and burn calories in one.  The thing that attracted me to Zumba was the music and the party feeling it created when everyone is moving, enjoying themselves and not having a care in the world if they got the steps wrong!  

Q: What are you most looking forward to about leading zumba at affinity?
Lauren: I'm looking forward to having the chance to show the other tricks up my sleeve other than coaching gymnastics.  Also I think it's showing what else the club has to offer and gives the adults something.  The kids loved it when we introduced it to the warm ups so I hope the adults will love it just as much!
Q: Whats your favourite thing about zumba?
Lauren: My favourite thing about Zumba has to be I can channel my inner Beyonce! x-D I also love the music and the selection of dance you cover (I.E. Salsa, Hip hop, Cumbia, Reggae) 

Zumba at Affinity? How does it fit with the rest of the club?
Lauren: Zumba is a perfect fit for Affinity. We always pride ourselves on having fun, being supportive and encouraging and we can do exactly that with Zumba. It doesn't matter if you get the steps wrong, as long as you are having a good time thats what is important! We will repeat each track for a couple of weeks so over time you'll build your knowledge of the steps and routines - exactly the same way we would teach gymnastic skills. 

Who is ready to have fun with us - the AffinityFit Zumba way? Class starts 5th September, 9:30-10:15am. Two payment options - commit to a half term of FUN and fitness for a discounted £52.50 (7 classes) or pay £10 per class PAYG.
Interview with Coach Lucy - Disney, dancing and acro gymnastics
Coach Lucy is leading our summer holiday classes, including special 'Acro and Display Gymnastics Masterclasses' on Thursday 4th, Wednesday 24th August and Thursday 1st Sept. But what is acro and what is her experience in gymnastics? I had a chat with her to find out more:

Q: So, I hear you have quite a background in dance and performance and in acro. I'm confused though, what is acro gymnastics? 
Lucy: Acro is where
 you work in pairs and trios to combine balance and dynamic acrobatic moves, dance and tumbling into a routine and is set to music. For example I used to do handstands on my partner's shoulders and pitch tuck back somersault where my gym partner would boost me in the air and I'd perform a back somersault in the air before landing back on the floor in front of her.
Q: What attracted you to acro and what's your favourite thing about it? 
Lucy: When I heard about Acrobatic Gymnastics I wanted nothing more than to combine my love for dancing and gymnastics all in one routine. There are never ending possibilities to create new moves within Acro once you've learned the foundations and bio-mechanics of it all. My favourite thing is finally getting a new move after lots of preparation and hard work.
Q: I hear you worked at Disney? That must have been amazing! What did you do there? Did you have to have a lot of training/experience?  
Lucy: Yes! I worked at Disneyland Paris as a Character and parade performer. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life being able to perform as a dancer in and out of character costume in the parades and shows in front of tens of thousands of people everyday. Whilst working there I had 6 weeks of intensive training in ice skating where we were on the ice for 5 hours a day (it was extra hard as I was taught in French! *Quickly picks up the key phrases or just watches everyone else*). Before working at Disney I trained in many different genres of dance such as Ballet, Tap, Jazz, contemporary and street dance alongside my gymnastics training.
Q: What do you like most about dance and performing? 
Lucy:I love the training, the rehearsing, the music, the costumes, the variety, the adrenaline before and after a performance........ sorry I know you asked what I like most but I can't choose I love everything about it.
Q: What are you working on now? 
Lucy: After working alongside the stunt team on a film in 2015 it gave me the confidence and push I needed to start training to become a stunt performer myself. I had played with the idea before however there is an overwhelming amount of training that is involved. To get on to the stunt register you must be highly qualified in 6 areas of sport whether it's performing a list of skills to pass a test or being assessed to qualify as an instructor. My 6 areas are Gymnastics (of course), Judo, rock climbing, trampolining, scuba diving and horse riding.

Q: What will we be doing in the MasterClass?
We'll be learning some balance and dynamic moves in pairs and or trios. We will then combine them with some individual floor skills with dance to create a routine all together and perform it to music.

I'm looking forward to it! If you'd like to join us please email hello@affinitygymnastics.co.uk to book.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Freestyle Gymnastics

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Freestyle Gymnastics

1. It’s fun! Sooooo much fun. I can not stress this enough. Time to play!

2. Free flowing and allows us to move more. There’s more learning by doing and less sitting around thinking about it - you just go for it!

3. Creativity. Combinations of skills. Inventing new tricks and combinations. The skills aren’t rigid, they are owned by the performers and new ways of performing them are encouraged. We love the technical side of gymnastics but here the performers are in charge and not a judging system. Want to do that skill onto one leg, with a different shape, into something else? You got it.

4. Challenge - right, so who can jump the furthest between two blocks? Who now wants to have a go? EVERYONE. Are you motivated to push the block a little bit further, stretch yourself a little more? Totally.

5. Adventure - run risk taking in a safe environment. Yes you see freestyle type movements done outside. But come into the gym and learn first, new innovative types of gymnastics equipment replicate the outside (often hard, concrete) environment with soft, safe foam matting. That risk is safe but still exhilarating.

6. Doesn’t matter what it looks like. Actually, sometimes the movement is more effective if it’s really ‘gone for’ and isn’t all pretty and perfect. The freestyle boys can do these skills waaaaay better than we can with our traditional gymnastics training. (Not that us female coaches can’t do the freestyle skills, we just look a little too perfect where the freestyle performers look cool).

7. Strength. the boys in freestyle are doing chin-ups and muscle ups with ease. Put your hand up if you are an artistic gymnast and jealous of that. (…..put your hand up if you are in any sport and jealous of that!).

8. Social. The freestyle gymnasts relate to and support each other in a different way to those in traditional classes. The environment just works for them. They are comfortable and confident and the sky is the limit with that attitude.

9. No limits. This has always been a part of our club philosophy - anything is possible. Freestyle really fits with this and removes even more limits and barriers to our sport. A child who may not progress well at ‘traditional’ gymnastics can really excel at freestyle. The sport is getting wider and more accessible.

10. Opportunity. What it does for our club and spreading our message. We’ve lots many members (mainly boys) in freestyle who wouldn’t be enjoying gymnastics (or possibly even other sports) otherwise. It’s a new way for us to grow and meet the needs of our community.

Oh and It’s fun. Did I say that already?!
We are the Champions! Reflections on being Club of the Year
It’s been two weeks since Affinity won the British Gymnastics Club of the Year award. In my last blog post we chatted about how mad the idea of us potentially winning this was.

Well we only went and won it, didn’t we!!

It’s an incredible achievement, to win the award but also to have got our club to this position. Those of you who were with us in spring 2014 may remember me sending out a letter outlining our vision and intention for the club as we looked for premises. In that I wrote: ‘My vision is to create the leading Gymnastics For All club in the county.’

A lofty dream some might say? Pretty mad? (barking mad maybe). At that point we were training 4 nights a week, about 16 hours in total at local Sheredes Primary School. 

I’d say winning Club of the Year can put a ‘tick’ next to that goal, wouldn’t you?

Wow. It’s still honestly not sunk in yet. Possibly as it’s really REALLY easy just to keep on going and *almost* forget about it. We won the award the weekend before term started. We literally came home from the ceremony and started the busiest time of the year for us. Autumn term brings new classes, new gymnasts, many gymnasts having moved classes and all the associated admin for a growing club. It’s an exciting time but it’s full on. It’s very easy to get caught up in what needs doing each day and not have time to appreciate what we’ve achieved. To be honest, the whole of the past year has been a little like that!

It’s all too easy to overlook achievements in the busy-ness of day to day life isn’t it? But thats not really fair on anyone. So I have taken a few moments over the past couple of weeks to take in whats around me and thats an incredible club and achievement. From my position as club leader i’ve really enjoyed seeing our enthusiastic, dedicated coaches (the dream team!) having fun with their classes and sharing their passion for gymnastics. Seeing new classes start; freestyle gymnastics classes for younger gymnasts - fab for boys, who might not otherwise be engaged by our core classes. New tumbling and acro classes. The return of GymFit and skills classes for adults. Welcoming new gymnasts and parents to the Affinity world. Along with all of our returning classes and gymnasts, all working together with fun and passion. Then there’s the planning of new exciting things to come (it doesn’t stop here!). All of this in a gym that looks a-ma-zing right now, following our mini refurb over the summer (new heating and air con and painting, oh yes). A gym that looks and feels unlike no other.

And it is like no other - we do things differently here and I’m proud of that. The club started nearly ten years ago now out of a need for not just gymnastics classes in East Herts but more so the need for better, higher quality experience for grass roots level gymnasts. We believe gymnastics is truly a ‘for all’ sport - there is something for everyone and more often than not its the individual we’re coaching first, then the gymnastics. It’s been ten years of breaking down boundaries to the sport for all levels and ages. Yes, you CAN. It is FOR YOU! Oh and the most important bit? it’s FUN!!!!

Now we’re not the only ones sharing this ethos. It’s spread far and wide and the BG award shows us this. It’s been an honour leading this change and really, to be honest, we’re only just getting started :-)
British Gymnastics Awards 2015
Something a little crazy is happening this weekend! For me as club leader of Affinity, it feels slightly mad that this opportunity has opened up yet also reassuringly real.

Affinity is on the shortlist for a national industry award - the British Gymnastics Club of the Year Award. We’re off to the glitzy ceremony tonight in Manchester. Frocks and heels at the ready!

On one hand, it feels a little crazy to think that our ‘little’ club could be on the shortlist for such a huge award. That our work has reached so far to be visible and recognised on a national stage. That our club could win that award?! Definitely feels a little crazy.

But then on the other hand, why is it so hard to believe? Isn’t this what we teach to our members everyday? Affinity was my dream, a dream that then became shared by many. Theres a lot of seemingly ‘impossible’ milestones that we have now achieved along the way, simply because we believed it was possible and set to work to achieve them. For me, this is the greatest learning we can share as a club with our members. To lead the way and show the young people we work with that they can believe in themselves and that anything is possible

I’m off to Manchester not by myself but with a group of the most amazing team (call them a dream team really) members I could wish for. Yup, it sounds cheesy. But they really are! You could not make this stuff up. Along with many many other skills and achievements; Denise is an international judge. Emma works with British Gymnastics on the National Gymnastics Advisory Panel. Sophie balances being a Mum with coaching and has always believed in me more than I believe in myself. Vicki has been coaching with us the longest and is a gifted school teacher as well as organiser and looks after us all (like bringing us all cold drinks in the heatwave, how thoughtful is that?).  And Litsa? She’s simply the best pre school coach in the county and well, she got me into coaching in the first place. Then there’s those members *on the bench* who can’t make it this weekend but are key members of our team - Lucy, whose range of skills and commitment to each and every class never ceases to impress me, Rachel, who has been improving her coaching skills on the other side of the pond all summer and Brenda who, lets face it, is THE BEST administrator IN THE WORLD. Yup, I’ll rave about them all but i’m not just saying it for us to sound good - they truly are amazing and they make Affinity what it is - along with all our gymnasts and ‘supporting cast’ of  parents/guardians, friends, family, local organisations etc etc.

I know the positive impact our club has on our community and the value of being involved. I know we have something special here and I’m honoured that the club we’ve created can keep moving forwards and lead the way for our members.

It’s not sounding quite so crazy now, is it? Wonder what else is possible…..
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