South Essex Gymnastics Club - COTM February 2024 | Every Body Moves

South Essex Gymnastics Club - COTM February 2024

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February's COTM award saw the team heading South East to Basildon Sporting Village, to see how Essex Gymnastics Club are 'tumbling' down the barriers to participation and setting a 'high bar' in the world of inclusive sport.

For most of us, gymnastics doesn't instantly conjure up images of accessibility, as coach (and former athlete) Katie O'Connor, told us:

"When you look on TV and see gymnastics, you think ‘Wow! That's impossible.’ But there's so many pathways."

From disability and SEN specific sessions, through to all of their public sessions being adaptive to the individual, the Club are truly flying the inclusive flag. Dave Rapley, Head Disabilities Coach, explained the growth the club has seen in the space. "We started off with one (SEN class) and we now have probably about ten. And I think for people to know
that is out there, it's a welcoming experience to know it's not just an elitist sport... it is for everyone!"

We spoke to Yvonne whose daughter Ruby, was taking part in the disability rhythmic session. Both have a hearing impairment and loved adaptive the club has been to their needs. She said:

"From the first day we felt included. The staff were so welcoming... and wanted to learn sign."

Young female adaptive gymnast performing a splits jump on the beam.

"Just the basics, so that the (her) children feel included... and the hearing children are... realising afterwards that they can sign and they can communicate and other children can interact with the (her) children as well."

That welcoming and supportive community vibe could be felt throughout the whole club during our visit. Gemma Wright, Assistant Head of Events and Community, explained:

"So gymnastics – it's a community in itself. You've got such a support network with the coaches and we work really strongly with parents to be able to make it the best possible opportunities for children and adults. We want to include everybody as much as possible. It's always been that way. It's what can we do as a group to make your experience better."

A huge congratulations to the whole team at South Essex Gymnastics Club for creating such a range of inclusive opportunities and ways to be involved with gymnastics to suit every body.