The power of gymnastics clubs is inspiring
Mary Louise Wright is a perfect example of just what can be achieved by our gymnastics clubs given space and time. Recently recognised in the Queens New Year’s Honours List and awarded a British Empire Medal, she’s now been nominated for an Education Award through British Gymnastics for her work in helping develop preschool gymnastics education.
In more than 30 years of coaching this highly regarded figure in the sport has helped many dreams come true and offered lots of young people the chance to become fit, healthy and have fun along the way. In fact, she runs the Tooting Gymnastics Club in South London which is now so popular with parents and youngsters alike its waiting list is seemingly endless!
The sport’s governing body were keen to celebrate her achievements, and at the same time demonstrate they are there for all aspiring clubs.
“What I enjoyed most about the National Awards was the recognition from British Gymnastics in being nominated,” said Mary. “They have done a great job in communicating the National Awards to the gymnastics community and it has hopefully increased the profile of preschool gymnastics and what it’s about.”
Preschool gymnastics is a vital tool in getting young people involved in the sport at a very early age. It can open doors to a happy and healthy childhood and may even pave the way to future glory.
More importantly, it’s about being part of something special – just like the club at Tooting.
A Tooting Success
Tooting marks 30 years of success in April, but it’s not just about finding potential medal winners. The ethos of the club centres around teaching gymnastics to the highest standards and enabling youngsters to make new friends and encourage social interaction in a child friendly and safe environment. After all, when done correctly, gymnastics can be a character forming and recreational sport.
Mary and her hard-working team have continued to offer gymnastics sessions for more than 500 boys and girls. All of their coaches hold British Gymnastics qualifications, are DBS checked and have Safeguarding qualifications. This popular head coach has also ensured her charismatic club adheres to the principles of equality of opportunity, with equal access to all the facilities for everyone. She is in every sense a role model for how a gymnastics club should be run.
Mary added: “30 years is a long time, yet it sometimes doesn’t feel that long ago. I feel immensely proud of the club and what we have achieved over the years. It’s not just been me, but many, many people have been involved and there are some who are still involved with the club who have shared the journey with me. I didn’t set out to start a club, it has just grown organically, and I am forever grateful to all those that have been involved and those who will continue to be involved.”
The Queens Honour
The Empire Medal will be presented for her services to gymnastics and engaging children from her local community into the sport. In essence, this is what club gymnastics is all about. This is why clubs are always on the lookout for volunteers and staff who are passionate about helping their local community.
Mary explained: “I was surprised and a bit shocked! I really didn’t know anything about it until a letter arrived a few weeks before Christmas. When I then heard how the nomination had come about and all the people who were involved it was very emotional and obviously a huge honour. To have been nominated in the first place was amazing, but to have been given the BEM was something else! I am very aware that there are so many other people out there doing the same as me and more, so it’s been very humbling, and I am very grateful.”
It should also be pointed out Mary was joined in the New Year’s Honours list by John Wills, the founder of Banchory Trampoline and Double-Mini Trampoline Club in Aberdeenshire.
Back in 2018, two of his members were chosen to represent Great Britain in Double-Mini Trampoline. John, who also gets a BEM, is the Trampoline Judging Convenor on the Scottish Gymnastics Technical Panel.
Both Mary and John will receive their medals later this year, no doubt in their own likeably modest fashion leaving inspiration behind them for others to follow.
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