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.