Based in Lancing, the club now has over 300-members and will soon by moving to a larger venue to accommodate for them. Accredited both by Sport England and British Gymnastics they have been working to help young gymnasts flourish for the past 22-years.
Manager, Katy Hodgson, from Shoreham-by-Sea, opened the club when she was 16 years old. She said: “I started the club because I wanted put something back into the local community. I had been a gymnast since the age of three and there was not a local club in my area so along with a couple of friends who were also qualified coaches we decided to start the club.”
The venture was successful from the outset, as Hodgson explained: “Our first night we had three hour long sessions and 20 children attended!” Since then, expansion has been steady and Katy now employs nine qualified coaches.
The walls of the gym tell a story, with posters stating slogans such as ‘training is what we do while our opponent is sleeping’ and the buzz of enthusiasm and determination is unmistakable. However, the atmosphere remains one that promotes fun and enjoyment of physicality before pressure, and the slogans are accompanied by smiles and a cheerful team.
Lessons can begin as soon as children are able to walk. These preschool classes, which children attend with their parents, are designed to bring activity into their lives from an early age and help parents to bond with their little ones in an active environment.
“These sessions are an ideal opportunity to help children build strength, develop coordination, learn social skills and make new friends, learn valuable listening skills and follow verbal instruction, all whilst having great fun, and engaging with their parents and carers in a sporting activity.”
Giving children an opportunity to take part in classes such as these can give them a leg-up in development and a huge confidence boost. Katy said, “Gymnastics sessions will enhance co-operative play, and turn taking amongst young children who are still in their early years of social and physical development”
At around two years old children are encouraged to join independent classes. Sessions continue to push the children to develop their capabilities and the young athletes are given the chance to perform in competitions and take exams.
Fourteen year old Abigail said: “I love wickers because it is a fun place to be, I get to learn new skills, get British Gymnastics badges, and meet lots of new friends.”
Some children fall away from gymnastics as they grow and develop other interests. Others, however, stay, and these are then given the opportunity to take their learning to the next level and when they hit sixteen the Level 1 qualification allows them to become coaches, and turn their hobby into a livelihood.
The course involves three to four days practical training, and then the aspiring coaches have to complete a logbook which involves lots of practical tasks over a period of time. After a 3 month period they have a practical assessment.
With its new building and facilities, the Wickers team hope they will be able to upgrade the service they provide. With two coaches now trained in free style gymnastics, Katy is now hoping to reach a whole new audience.
Excited by the new discipline, she said: “We hope that by offering sessions in free style gymnastics the club will attract new members who are a little older and also it will encourage our older members to stay and try a new skill.”
Looking to the new year, Katy is planning to expand in 2011. Opening hours will be expanding and she plans to recruit another six members for the leadership programme and two new full-time coaches. All this, combined with the new venue means more classes, more variety and more opportunity.
“The last 22 years have been a pleasure” said Katy, “and I can only hope to continue to build the club and see more young athletes achieve their goals.”