Hoops are delighted to be sponsoring GoFest, as they bring their super inclusive events to Manchester and Surrey this summer. We now know that we’re going to be partnering with UK Flair at the Guildford venue, a fantastic company introducing children to gymnastics, trampolining and free-running. We spoke to founder Richard Dwyer to find out a little more about his company.
Beth Tweddle. Louis Smith. Max Whitlock.
Britain is in the midst of the most successful period of its gymnastics history, slugging it out with world superpowers China, Russia and the US on the Olympic stage.
That success reached its peak in Rio last year, with a sterling team effort capped by Whitlock becoming his nation’s first Olympic champion.
But it is not just on the biggest stage of them all that gymnastics is thriving.
Based in Surrey, UK Flair was set up in 1998 by 21-year-old gymnast Richard Dwyer and his mother. Just shy of two decades later, it has grown to encompass four sites and 3000 members.
The opening of a first franchise in April this year will signal a new phase of expansion from the company, with two more planned for September, and another five following in 2018.
— Flair Gymnastics (@ukflair) March 17, 2017
It’s hard not to be impressed by such success in what is far from a mainstream sport in the country. But to what extent are Olympic success and grassroots interest dependent on each other, in a sport described by Dwyer as “the foundation of all sports”?
“Every Olympic cycled there is a bit of a surge. We have waiting lists for most of our programmes, which is why we are franchising, to satisfy that demand,” he told Hoops.
“But it’s great because the kids are getting these fantastic role models.
“Once you get medals at not just one Olympics, but two or three in a row, then you tend to be seen as world experts in the sport.
“We’re looked at as a country as world experts in gymnastics now, which we never we were! We are the country that they are all looking up to now, which is brilliant.”
“Parents need to lead by example”
Despite the sport’s recent success, gymnastics still faces challenges – not least a growing antipathy towards exercise in general from a young generation increasingly likely to think of sport as something played on a computer rather than a playing field.
“Our attention is pulled all over the place these days, there’s so much stimuli focussed around screens and stuff that is thrown at us,” said Dwyer.
“We have to market ourselves showing the benefits for parents and kids. Because kids will only learn to focus on things if they are taught that by their parents, guardians and role models.
“It’s a case of leading by example. If you have a parent that is constantly on their phone or laptop, you’re going to have a child that is constantly on their phone or laptop.
“It is the parent’s duty, in my opinion, to maintain their children’s focus and commitment, once that kid has discovered a sport that they enjoy.”
“Outside your comfort zone – that’s where you learn”
It may seem easy to parents for those involved in sport to pass judgement on inactive children.
But that would be to ignore the benefits of sport on a child’s development, which Dwyer says are extensive.
“Ultimately, motion creates emotion – so if you’re getting active and taking part in sport, then you’re actually getting in touch with your emotional state,” he said.
“And that’s so important, because life skills like emotional intelligence aren’t taught to kids in the school system.
“Sport, and being active, is great for emotional intelligence, life skills, and builds confidence through progressive goal setting. Achieving goals gives children confidence from the knowledge that they can do something.
“We see that children in gymnastics are constantly pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, and once you step out of that comfort zone, that’s where you learn.”
We're going to be sponsoring @gofestuk this summer!
— Hoops Connect (@Hoops_App) March 10, 2017
“Aim to be the best person you can be”
Watching such athletes as Whitlock and Tweddle in action, it would be fair to be daunted for a beginner to the sport.
But while Dwyer admits that gymnastics is far from easy, he insists that it is completely accessible – and besides, since when did a challenge become something to be afraid of?
“Gymnastics is the foundation of all sports, so you’re getting strength, stamina, stability, speed, flexibility, creativeness, coordination – all the skills you need for every other sport,” he said.
“You only have to look at a gymnast’s physique to see that they are the ideal model for a sportsperson.
“It’s great to get kids involved in that. But gymnastics is really difficult – if it was easy it would have been called football!
“There is a level for everybody. We have a development syllabus that takes children from complete beginner all the way through to professional athlete.
“It’s important for kids to get over that fear of ‘am I good enough’, because ultimately the only person we’re competing against in life is ourselves. You just have to aim to be the best person that you can be.
“It’s important that kids have the Beth Tweddle and the Max Whitlock standing on the podium with the gold medal to aspire to, but every journey starts in the gym.
“And that’s why things like GoFest, that encourage people to try something new, are so important.”
“GoFest is absolutely fantastic”
UK Flair have been a permanent staple of GoFest, and will be returning for a third year to the Guildford festival in 2017 to run the GoTumble gymnastics zone, in association with Hoops.
With GoFest also expanding to Manchester for the first time this year – with further venues planned for the near future – it is exciting times for everybody involved in the festivals, created to introduce families to new sports and fitness activities.
“It’s absolutely fantastic that parents and families can come together and have a festival of sport, it’s brilliant,” said Dwyer.
“We’ve completely bought into it, we love what’s happening there.
“We’re in it for the long run.”
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