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November 1962: 19 of us on a mass blind date organised by Barry Donnelly who, courtesy of a road accident, had an overnight grey streak down the centre of his black mane. Poor Beryl got the last choice, (me).

"What has this to do with gymnastics?" you ask.

Well, the occasion was the Christmas dance at I M Marsh College - the ladies' equivalent of Loughborough for men - the foremost Sports Colleges in Britain. When our girls, Jo and Sue, were 7 and 5 respectively, Beryl took them along to West Kirby gym club where they commenced successful gymnastic careers lasting till their late teens. Beryl played a major role in the growth and success of the Club until her death over 30 years later, becoming a highly respected coach and judge and lifetime president of the club. West Kirby produced Britain's first female World Gymnastics gold medallist, Beth Tweddle, who inspired the next generation.

Thus gymnastics is close to my heart. My chest has swelled with pride as progressively higher medals were won; my heart has pounded with nerves as a risky move was attempted; I've suffered sympathy pains at times of injury. Above all, I watched the ability and life confidence of my girls grow with every new move they mastered, every level achieved, every medal won.

West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club
Image: West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club

So I vigorously recommend you consider gymnastics as a leisure activity for your child or grandchild. An ideal place to start (600 members can't be wrong!), would be Livingston-based West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club, where balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, endurance, self-confidence, persistence, social skills should all improve rapidly under the dedicated guidance of their outstanding coaching team.

There are many disciplines recognised by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique plus a few unrecognised. Artistic gymnastics is the best-known: six disciplines for men, (floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bars), and four for women (vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise).

Your West Lothian Club, (est.1985), offers classes starting from toddlers all the way through to adults, for recreational members or committed competitors. The club has produced many Scottish Internationals and even a competitor in the Commonwealth Games (Ellie Russell). The coaches are top-notch under head coaches John Campbell and Becki Campbell, so your "baby" would be in the ideal proven environment.

West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club
Image: West Lothian Artistic Gymnastics Club

An operation like WLAGC, is no fluke. It requires a vision, then a plan and crucially the people with the will, energy and ambition to make it all happen and keep it driving forward. It's impossible to remain unimpressed by the scale and efficiency of the WLAGC: the classes are merely the tip of a huge iceberg. Beneath the surface lie crucial fundraising schemes (donations or ideas gratefully welcomed!), coach development, summer camps, competition organisation, competition entries, competition/leisure trips abroad, plus the usual demands common to all businesses. Every day must be like a complicated tumble run! It's exhausting just to contemplate!

But what a job they do in providing a safe, efficient, consistent and aspirational environment for youngsters to grow! Respect!

Published in Konect March 2019

Author: David Levin


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