The Affinity Story
Affinity was founded in September 2006 by Jennifer Page, at Sheredes Primary School in Hoddesdon, Herts UK. The school had been awarded a lottery grant of £5k to buy gymnastics equipment and advertised for a coach to run the classes. Jen became this coach and the first year of classes started as the school's after school club - but it was no ordinary club, starting with 9 after school sessions. Across that first year the club became more popular and the school asked Jen to take over the running of the club as well as the coaching.
So in September 2007, the club (then named Sheredes Gymnastics) became registered with British Gymnastics, continued the school after school sessions and started adding pre-school classes on Saturdays and competitive squad classes later in the evenings.
Our first gymnasts competed within Hertfordshire in early 2008 and the club continued to develop adding more days and classes and coaches.
To represent this development over time and the club's need for its own identity that represented all the various new areas we were providing opportunities in, we rebranded the club to its current name, Affinity Gymnastics in 2012.
In 2013 we started using a second space at the school for classes, running in both halls at the same time to cope with our development and demand. There was also a satellite club started at the local John Warner Secondary School in Hoddesdon. The vision (as is for many gymnastics clubs) was always to have our own premises. A permanent place to continue the Affinity development and expand what we do for the local community.
After much searching (and visualisation!) we found a local space, renovated it, and Affinity HQ was opened in August 2014. Classes continued at Sheredes Primary School as well, and still do to this day. From 2014, the club pretty much tripled in membership over the next 18 months, culminating in winning the National Club of the Year award from British Gymnastics. A busy yet awesome time!
The next step then was to open another satellite site and the opportunity came when Affinity coach Sophie Lavery relocated to Crawley and wanted to continue coaching. Affinity Gymnastics Crawley was born in the summer of 2017, at a local school, in very similar ways to our background at Sheredes Primary!
This club ran very successfully for two years and is currently now run by another local provider - SpringFit Gymnastics. There's lots of reasons why we our Crawley adventure came to an end but one of them came in the form of our biggest development to date. Affinity was approached by Sapphire Elite Cheerleaders in early 2019 with a view to working together. Affinity and Sapphire have had a long relationship and the story goes that back in 2009, Affinity Founder Jennifer Page was approached by a Sapphire athlete (an athlete who would then go onto run the Sapphires later on) for gymnastics classes to help her learn a back handspring. Out of these classes, Jen ended up joining the Sapphires as an athlete and competed with them for 3 years. This paved the way for many other collaborations over the years with other Affinity coaches and athletes discovering cheerleading with Sapphire and vice versa with Affinity welcoming Sapphire coaches and athletes over for gymnastics. So when in early 2019, the opportunity for Affinity, Sapphire and Goffs Academy trust to collaborate together we jumped at the chance (or should that be toe-touched!). As of September 2019, Affinity took over the running of Sapphire and the use of their gym (with its massive sprung floor) at Goffs Churchgate, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. We've been able to develop both offerings, with tumbling classes merging between the clubs, our freestyle gymnastics department relocating to the new space and also the addition of trampoline classes. Also at this time (not ones to do things by halfs) we left British Gymnastics and registered the club with UK Gymnastics instead. This has allowed us to run a more effective organisation and a unified one where all our gymnastics and related activities and staff can work together under the one organisation. We're all aligned in what we do and why and committed to developing gymnastics and cheerleading moving forwards in our combined future as a larger, united club.