Posted on 29/03/2021 in Club News
Shetland Gymnastics Club is the most northerly club in the UK. Co-founder and head coach Julie Grant tells us all about their club, its place in the community and the dedication of all those involved.
We started in September 2005 following the Nat West Island Games in July 2005 with 30 gymnasts as a class run through the Clickimin Leisure Centre in Lerwick. From there, we progressed to a club when our coaches achieved higher coaching levels and have had about 150 members training two to four times a week for the past 11 years. We currently have about 300 on our waiting list to join and we are beginning the process of hopefully building our own facility.
We have seven coaches from women’s level 1 to level 3 and seven young helpers aged 14 to 17 who are all former gymnasts. They will attend coaching courses when they are available again. Due to Covid-19, we also have four new coaches waiting to sit their Level 1 exam.
In the gym our disciplines are women’s artistic: we attend floor and vault competitions on mainland Scotland where we have won gold in the 10/11 age group, voluntary level 6 and hopefully level 5 in 2022. Since 2015 we have also competed in the Island Games Gymnastics Competition where gymnasts from island all over the world compete four-piece. So far, we have competed in Ynys Mon (Angelsey), Gotland and Isle of Man.
We also compete men’s artistic floor and vault and are building our men’s programme so we can compete in the Island Games one day. A new venture for us lately is TeamGym which our gymnasts love! We have attended a couple of competitions and medalled. We were training for our first Scottish Championships in 2020 when Covid cancelled them.
Our most popular discipline is probably display gymnastics and we have attended Gymfest since 2009. We all love Gymfest and look forward to it every year. We also showcase routines at home to friends and family by holding biennial displays.
Living so far away means it’s a huge task to attend one competition on the mainland, involving lots of fundraising to cover costs for travel and accommodation. We also have a 12-hour overnight ferry journey just to reach Aberdeen or we can book out a whole plane just for us!
Sport in general is a huge part of life up here as we have one small cinema and no shops so sport keeps everyone busy. It brings young people from all over the islands together, especially those from the smaller villages who might only have one or two friends at school. We have one gymnast who travels 20 minutes on a ferry and 30 minutes by car twice a week to attend classes. That's dedication!
It gives the young people the chance to meet others which helps them as they get older and have to transition to the main high school on the island for Secondary 1 or above. There are so many sports to choose from up here from horse riding, to swimming, athletics, football, hockey, netball, volleyball, karate, dancing, ballet and gymnastics. Shetland is a very fortunate place for sport due to the oil industry being here which helped fund lots of leisure facilities.
The club is important to the whole community of Shetland, not just on a local level as we cover the whole of the islands. Friendships have been made that would never have happened within the club as well as with other sports clubs as we try to help each other to strive to be better. Our coaches have helped footballers to be more flexible and learn to stretch as well as help swimmers and athletes. In turn, athletes have helped gymnasts run faster. We work together when we can as they all take great pride in being able to represent their island at events.
It is hard to get local sponsors, especially just now. We have in the past had sponsorship but due to the high costs of attending any competition on mainland Scotland or elsewhere, every sport is constantly asking for sponsorship so we have to be inventive with our ways to raise funds. The community of Shetland is very generous to the young athletes and support every bag pack at Tesco or every bake sale they hold.
Parents are very supportive and we have a great committee who do whatever we need them to do. For our 10th anniversary in 2015, we hired a sprung floor for the weekend and we had ever so many parents turn up to help set it up and remove it again after the hugely successful celebrations. They are so keen to see their children receive the same opportunities as those on the mainland get that they will do whatever they can to make that happen.
Thanks to Julie and Shetland Gymnastics for sharing photos from their library