Posted on 27/01/2021 in Rhythmic
We brought in the new year by welcoming Uist Gymnastics as the newest member club. The team developed their after-school club to become a thriving club with 70 members within two years, joining Scottish Gymnastics at the end of December 2020.
Head Coach Oni Fraser, who was involved as a teacher from the beginning, tells us the story of the Hebridean club.
There had never been a gymnastics club in the Uists or Benbecula even though there is a successful club up on the Isle of Lewis. Active Schools put a plea out for volunteers and an afterschool club was formed to begin the process and Uist Gymnastics started as an after-school club in early 2018
Securing funding was the first step along with setting up a committee and applying for charity status. The Uist Council of Voluntary Organisations was crucial in supporting our application and we received this in May 2019. This opened further doors for funding and we even secured a grant from The National Lottery to help us buy equipment.
We relied on the school’s equipment in the beginning but through support from local businesses and their community funds, we have built up a bank of specialised equipment such as portable asymmetrical bars, competition beam, 10m inflatable tumble track and gymnastic flooring.
Funding from sportscotland, the Uist and Barra Sports Council and our initial sponsor Voove allowed us to train two level 1 general gymnastics coaches with one going on to complete Level 2 women’s artistic the following year. We also have seven further level 1 coaches who are awaiting assessment. Due to our location, training has been tricky, but we have been lucky to have a gymnastics tutor who travelled to deliver the first ever course in the Southern Hebrides, as well as Scottish Gymnastics allowing our safeguarding training to be delivered online over the course of two years.
Before the lockdown we had around 70 gymnast members registered, ranging from P1 to P7. We hope to maintain this and be able to offer preschool gymnastics once training courses resume as there is a big demand for this already.
We have eight level 1 coaches and one level 2 delivering recreational gymnastics and we hope to continue to expand our coaching team to sustain the club and open more opportunities for gymnasts.
The club is of great importance to the community and this has been proven with the support we have received from our volunteers and sponsors. We are offering a new sport to the island so gives young people a sport that allows them to set individual goals and build confidence and resilience. We have enabled adults to pursue a coaching qualification and hope that we can support young people in their coaching journeys too.
The island has successful athletics clubs on the island as well as Football clubs, along with a newly formed Swimming club which fit in well with gymnastics and the training and conditioning. There is also competitive Irish dancing and Highland dancing and being a small community, it is easy to see how each sport feeds into one another.
We have so many businesses to thank for their support:
Voove, MacLennans Supermarket, Loch Duart Scottish Salmon, MOWI and Heb Co along with Lochdar and Benbecula Community Councils, Uist and Barra Sports Council, UCVO, Local Council Ward Funding and Co-op Community Fund. sportscotland and The National Lottery have also supported our journey.
We are also lucky to have a great relationship with our big sister club, Isle of Lewis Gymnastics who supported our initial coaches with their training and their head coach mentored them through their assessments even coming down to Benbecula too. We hope to continue this relationship in the future.
Photos courtesy of Uist Gymnastics: those inside the club were taken before lockdown in March 2020.