Confidence, resilience and strength: wouldn’t every parent wish those attributes for their child? Isn’t that what every employer is looking for? Gymnastics has been growing in popularity in the last ten years, particularly since our UK gymnasts made history in the London 2012 Olympics. The benefits of starting gymnastics in early childhood are well-documented and it was these health benefits combined with the fun of the gym routines that led West Buckland School houseparent, maths teacher and gym enthusiast Katrina Venner to set up the gymnastics club at WBS.
Gymnastics club was started in 2017, primarily as an extra-curricular activity for years 7 to 9. During the Christmas holidays, a few siblings from the Prep School indicated their interest so they joined in with some of their young friends. The squad trained a few evenings during the termtime in order to compete, and they produced amazing results! In their first season, Year 9s won the SW U16 Milano and qualified for the Nationals; Year 7 and 8s were placed second while also qualifying for Nationals.
In the Autumn Term of 2018, our young gymnasts entered the Independent Schools’ National two-piece Competition. There was no pressure on the gymnasts, as the aim was to gain experience and hopefully aspire to podium finishes when came of age for their category. Not only did we celebrate Molly, Layla and Rumi’s birthdays with a great chocolate cake but the under 11 Girls Team were awarded a gold medal and qualified for the National Finals, with a team of gymnasts three years younger than their rivals!
2020 was the beginning of what became an amazing season for the under-9s, with them being crowned National Champions at the IAPS two-piece competition. Due to travel distance, we could not stay for the presentations but we received a most exciting message during the journey: Rumi was the individual winner. These girls: Molly, Layla, Abi, Freya and Rumi, went on to win the South West Milano Team and South West floor and vault Competitions both at the Under 11 age group and shared many individual impressive results. They earned the right to represent the region at the National Finals for each, but unfortunately were denied the opportunity owing to coronavirus.
The young team is extremely dedicated to the sport and each other, which develops their sense of commitment and consideration of their team-mates. They develop confidence to perform as an individual as well as learning to cooperate as part of a larger team. They learn to take success and failure in their stride but are genuinely happy for the success of others in the team who do well. The senior gymnasts have assisted the prep sessions which forms part of the mentoring and volunteering activities undertaken in the senior school. Their patience and kindness are very apparent, and this support also helps them to find a healthy balance with their academic studies.
The physical and mental benefits of competing in gymnastics are being felt across the school and we hope this continues to develop as we take part in more competitions and enjoy practising together in school.