We spoke to club coach Debbie Couch about gymnastics in Berwick.
When was the club set up?
Berwick Gymnastic Club was set up in September 2000.
How many members are there?
There are currently approximately 60 gymnasts performing with the club.
Is the club looking for new members? Who can join?
Anybody can join: we take gymnasts from the age of four upwards. I also take some classes in Alnwick, for even younger athletes. One is for preschoolers, and the other is for infants, from six to eight weeks old. That’s a great way for parents and their children to bond, as mothers and fathers help to hold their kids and support them through their first moves. Everybody has a lot of fun. You can do gymnastics from a really early age, even before you’re able to walk! We have some kids still with us now who started out with us as preschoolers.
And how do people join?
People are invited to come along to two trial sessions, to see if they like what we do, and then they can sign up properly. We train in blocks of six to eight weeks, and we try to work them around the school holidays to suit everyone.
What can people expect from joining the club?
The club provides safe, effective and child friendly gymnastics experiences to all our members. This is thanks to the hard work of our dedicated team of volunteer coaches.
We are based in Berwick’s Swan Centre, where we provide classes in various disciplines. Our gymnasts perform on the beam (5m long but only 10cm wide), the bar, the vault and the floor.
We also do a lot of tumbling, on an air track: imagine an 18m long bouncy castle! We enter lots of competitions in this category, and we are proud to have one of the best British tumblers in our ranks. Sam Dronsfield represents Britain at several top level international events, and if tumbling were on at the Olympics this time, he’d be pushing for a place. In tumbling, there are five judges observing the moves and forms the gymnast makes, while one more judge gives them a score based on the difficulty of what they have attempted.
As well as all this, we offer sports acrobatics, which is mainly done in pairs or small groups, and artistic acrobatics.
This is performed to a musical soundtrack, which can be nearly anything, jazz, pop, classical, as long as it is instrumental.
What are the greatest benefits of gymnastics?
It’s a grass roots sport, so you can do gymnastics at any age, and then move easily into another sport, having picked up the required core strength and flexibility. Lots of our youngsters have gone into other sports like running and swimming having got a good start in gymnastics.
What are your first memories of seeing Olympic gymnasts? I remember seeing Olga Korbut in the Munich Olympics in 1972, but I didn’t really get into it until I saw Nadia Comaneci at the next games, in Montreal 1976, where she overshadowed Korbut. I saw Comaneci get her ‘perfect 10’ score, and I thought, ‘I fancy doing that.’
And did you ever manage it? No!
How is the club celebrating the Olympics coming to Britain?
We’ll all be watching the Olympics intently, and the club will be holding an Olympic Sports Day on Sunday July 22. This will involve plenty of games and a barbeque in East Ord Village Hall.
For more information, drop into the Swan Centre, Thursdays 4.30-6.30pm or Saturdays 1pm-4pm.