Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Beth Tweddle Gymnastics who kindly gifted a terms’ worth of FREE gymnastics lessons for my daughter(s).
Even pre-pandemic, I’d been on the lookout for extra-curricular activities to get my two girls, Abbie, 7, and Ava, 4, into for a few reasons. It’s good for them to have regular opportunities to do something and progress in what they enjoy, it gives them a social circle outside school and it builds confidence and self-esteem! However, finding clubs and such for them to participate in has always been challenging due to the fact we don’t drive (spoiler: soon to be a thing of the past…), and navigating public transport into unfamiliar areas that don’t have good bus routes/bus shelters means at times we’ve had to abort things we’ve signed them up for – which is just sad and frustrating for all of us. So when Beth Tweddle Gymnastics reached out to me last month for a partnership with my blog for their newly launched gymnastics centre in Bolton, I automatically did a quick Google to see how realistic it was for us to get there and back regularly rain or shine. I was pleasantly surprised to see the new Bolton based centre was in Burden Park, which is 2 short bus rides for us. One into town, then one from town to the retail park it’s located in. Perfect!
With shielding coming to an end on 1st August, and our family about to set foot back into a vastly different world, it couldn’t have come at a better time, as we’d literally been housebound on top of one another for nearly 6 months due to my life-limiting muscle wasting condition. After talking with the Beth Tweddle team, being open and honest about the extra challenges I’d face getting into a brand partnership in the current climate, I was reassured to learn about their heavily reinforced COVID social-distancing measures put in place to keep everybody safe. They were going above and beyond in comparison to many I’ve heard through the grapevine and after taking their word for it, we got to experience
how serious they were taking current government guidelines for ourselves in the girls’ first taster session!
But before we jump in – let me tell you all about Beth Tweddle and her gymnastic dreams!
Beth Tweddle MBE, born in South Africa and raised in Cheshire, England, began competing in gymnastics at just 7 years old in a local children’s gymnastics club in Crewe. She went on to be a multi-award winning gold medallist who represented Great Britain in gymnastics in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and again in the 2012 London Olympics. Prior to this in 2006 and 2010, Beth was crowned World Champion on the uneven bars, 2009 World Champion on floor exercise, four-times European Champion on the uneven bars, and twice European Champion on the floor exercise.
Following Beth’s retirement in 2013, her profile allowed her the opportunity to dip her toe into media and sporting work. If you’re not a big Olympics watcher, you may in fact recognise Beth and her partner Daniel Whiston as the winners of the eighth series of Dancing on Ice. She also took part in the ninth series of Dancing on Ice, the “All Stars” series, of which she made the final! She also went on to star in the Channel 4 reality contest “The Jump” in 2016.
Beth went on to follow her dream of opening her own gymnastics centre, formerly Total Gymnastics, providing gymnastics classes for children aged 2+ in partnership with local schools and leisure centres. Beth Tweddle Gymnastics are OFFICIAL partners of British
Gymnastics and grew to coach in venues across Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and Essex.
“There are tens of thousands of children in the UK who don’t have the opportunity to get involved in gymnastics, and don’t have have access to a high-quality programme with fully-qualified, passionate coaches. We’re here to change this!”– Beth Tweddle MBE
The girls were super excited to go to the introduction session. We set up appropriate clothing the night prior and I did their hair in piggies and plaits to keep it out of their faces ready to rough and tumble…
We easily located the new Bolton based Beth Tweddle Gymnastics centre thanks to optimal signage in Burden Retail Park. When upstairs we were met with straight-forward social-distancing signage across the walls and footprints on the floor that instruct parents and children to wait outside the double-doors to the centre, 2m apart from one another, until someone from the team called us through one-by-one. Already impressed with the wheelchair access as a disabled Mum, we were off to a great start!
We were greeted by bubbly and very friendly staff who took our details, got down to the girls’ level to ask them their names and ages, building trust from the get go which is extra important as they’d soon have to be led away from parents onto the mats. Ava was a little shy but soon came out of her shell simply because of how the staff naturally interact with the younger children. The girls were instructed to take off their socks and shoes, which were left with us and we were led to stand on a designated footprint in the viewing area a few feet away from the railings. It all felt very organised and safe with hand sanitiser stations dotted throughout the hall and their use was reinforced to both children and their parents several times in the session.
Watching the 1hr intro class was really rewarding as a parent because we got to see how interactive the coaches were with the kids, and how they accommodate less confident little ones and also those with disabilities! Now, I made the team aware that Abbie (7) is registered partially sighted and would need certain things in place to make the experience easier and more enjoyable. Sadly, her condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa is progressive. If you’d like to learn more about this condition feel free to read the blog ‘Abbie’s Diagnosis.’
The session was wrapped up with collecting various information leaflets, an awesome book where they collect achievement stickers related to the Beth Tweddle Gym Stars awards scheme (which the girls were VERY excited about), a signed photograph of Beth Tweddle herself and the icing on the cake which was being told Beth was actually in the building! She took time out to come meet the girls and have a photo taken with them. To say they were star-struck would be an understatement!
First Official Lesson
We made the decision at the taster session that we’d be signing Ava up for gymnastics too as she is very athletic and seemed to really enjoy the whole experience just as much as her sister. I was extra pleased that the team managed to get both girls lessons booked for the same time every Saturday despite being in different age groups and ability levels!
The girls began their official lessons on 15th August, which gave me time to order some leotards and leggings, not essential, in fact the team confirmed all they really needed to come in was leggings and a t-shirt, but I wanted to go all out as us Mum’s do! Beth Tweddle Gymnastics also have some official t-shirts which we were given at the end of the first official lesson.
In the first lesson, the girls were split up into age groups and then rotated around the room. Daddy and I were nervous how Ava in particular was going to react not having Abbie with her but at the same time we knew it would be good for her to not rely so much on her sister. The older group got to go on the air mats, practicing doing various balancing routines and flips on the slightly bouncy surface, while the younger group were warming up with all the essential stretches to loosen them up and began working on the ultimate roly-poly!
Then the groups swapped around. It worked really well and I was again impressed with how seriously they were taking social distancing.
The girls came away beaming and were instructed on what they needed to work on at home for the next lesson. Better still for us parents – they were exhausted and were out like a light by 7pm!
All in all we are so impressed with everything we’ve experienced with Beth Tweddle Gymnastics so far and are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with them. In just two sessions, Abbie is doing things that we thought were beyond her capabilities and we are utterly amazed. It has also done wonders to help burn off Ava’s endless energy reserves and is helping improve her attention-span ready for starting Reception come September!
That’s a wrap for now but be sure to look out for future blogs in this series if you want to keep up to speed with the progress the girls make with this amazing organisation.
If you are looking to get your little one(s) into a regular sport that they can excel in and build their agility and not to mention your child’s confidence, visit the Beth Tweddle Gymnastics website to find a class near you.