Awesome invitational 2018 a Club Leaders view
It's been a few weeks since the invitational now and like many of you, my attention has shifted on to other things. But lets rewind a little and reflect on the awesomeness of March 4th this year.
As a club leader, it was absolutely AWESOME (never without its issues, more on that later) but lets appreciate what we created here. We ran an event that (we think) is like no other. We’ve baked in some real unique points - coaches being able to prompt the gymnast during their routine if they need it, a whole group fun warm up to music (which the spectators chose the music for!), clubs working together to help all the gymnasts compete well and extra superstar awards nominated by anyone.  These things aren't 'usual' at gymnastic competitions and I'm proud that the vision of creating something different is well received.
Also, that our event is accessible for gymnasts who maybe only attend one class a week.  With the elite progression of our sport, most events aren't accessible unless you train a lot of hours. We have gymnasts training one hour a week at our event - we know they LOVE gymnastics and deserve an opportunity to show that outside of their class time.
For me as founder of Affinity, it was incredible just to take it all in:

379 gymnasts enjoying their sport and smiling through the challenges and comfort zone stretching that is performance and competition.
800 spectators cheering on, enjoy the performances and supporting their family members.
60 staff shining at what they do well – coaches, scorers, judges, door staff, organisers, photographers.
8 clubs coming together to make the experience positive for the gymnasts.
But the best bit for me was the positive, fun and friendly vibe in the room. It’s got to be fun and we've got to enjoy it and appreciate each other.
Hey I know it's not perfect. Far from. But the intentions are good and we learn from it.
Each time we improve upon the main issues from the year before and I’m proud that we look to the challenges as something to benefit from in future and not a terrible 'problem'.  Last year the main two challenges were the amount of time it took to get the spectators in the room and the mic not working which impacted on our organisation of the gymnasts as well as the communication with the spectators.  So this year we sorted those by introducing ticket sales ahead of the event via a ticketing app.  We got nearly 300 of you out and almost 300 new spectators in within 20 minutes between rounds 1 and 2 so I’ll take that as a win.  As for the mic? We did extra sound checks a week before and also had back up equipment – which we needed(!) - so it meant it wasn’t a problem.
This time round, I'd say the biggest issues were not having the time to take over the awards ceremony (as we had a lot of gymnasts in during each round, ideally we'd have less at a time) and spectators blocking each others views. There's several other things too we’ve learnt but these are the biggest two. So we'll fix this for next time.
So what's next?
We already know the invitational in 2019 will involve more than one day and we're also scheming a display event….. watch this space!
Did you attend the invitational?  We'd honestly love your feedback - if you didn't like something or think we could improve on anything, please tell us - it may be something we're unaware of.  Or maybe you and your gymnast simply enjoyed the event, it's nice to hear when things have gone well too.  Just pop us an email to
How do I know if my gymnast is progressing

It's gotta be the number one thing you look for as a parent of a gymnast, right? You are paying the bills and want to know your child is progressing. But what does that mean, what does it look like and how do you know?

This again is a common question we're asked as coaches and as a club - how is my child progressing? We love being asked as we like to work together but we'll be honest that it's really tricky to answer. Everyone is different - children progress at different rates in different things but also what progress means to one parent (or coach!) may be completely different to what someone else sees or expects. 

So how do we see it?

We see our gymnasts week in, week out over a range of skills and activities. We see them grow as people, cope with challenges, interact with others, grow in confidence and self esteem, improve flexibility, strength, stamina etc etc. There is A LOT we see. We think ALL these areas are equally important and all add up to that thing we call 'progress.' 

Each gymnast will progress in all these different areas at different rates. They are all needed and we don't place importance on any one area. For example, perhaps a gymnast hasn't achieved a particular skill this term. They found the skill difficult but have been working hard, determined to try their best and not give up. By the end of the term they have overcome huge challenges and grown in confidence, knowing their persistence will pay off. Likely they have been building up the strength or flexibility or other pre-requisites to do the skill too. Does the fact that they can't currently do this skill mean they have failed or not made progress? Not in our eyes. We see the progress in other areas and value the efforts of the child and how they have grown. This will stand them in better stead in the long run (and likely that skill will follow soon maybe next term). 

It's tricky as a parent though as you don't go on this journey with your child, you likely don't see this unfolding. We appreciate that your side of it often is seeing what badge they come home with at the end of the term, what a friends child can do, or what tricks can be done round your living room (which is likely only a tiny amount of the things they can do in a fully kitted out gym).

We can't fully represent this journey and the progress of an individual through a badge scheme or even a written report. You can't fully represent a person on a piece of paper. We can try, but really, the best way to know if your child is progressing is to ask them some quality questions regularly. Why not try these as a start point and let us know how you get on:

What was challenging at gymnastics this week? How did you and the coaches cope with that? 

What was the most fun? Did you have a favourite thing this week and why?

Did you work with a particular gymnast or group today? Did you work well together?

What do you think you need help with now? What would you like to learn next?

Also consider what progress looks like to you, as the fee-paying parent! What is important to you and what are you looking for as a result of classes? You know your child best so do communicate what you and your child need and as a club, we'll be over the moon to know how we can help and can keep you updated with the right sorts of information. 

Why I am not telling you to point your toes

Wait, but isn’t pointing your toes the whole point of gymnastics? Don’t you have to do that all the time to be a good gymnast?


Well, yes it does make everything look nicer. But when it comes to effective learning, it’s actually the last thing on my mind as a coach. I’ll explain why.


Gymnastic skills aren’t easy.  Every skill is complex - yes even the so called ‘easy’ ones. Add into the mix a child who is also still learning how to manage and move their body at the same time and it’s no mean feat. 


As a coach, i’m looking at what each gymnast needs to do well at each stage of learning a skill in order for them to master it, feel confident and move to the next step. 


To give feedback, a coach will go through the following process each time a gymnast performs a skill:


  1. Observe: look at what is being performed by the gymnast.
  2. Compare: consider what we ultimately want to skill to look like and see what bits fit with this and what bits don’t.
  3. Analyse: why are we seeing what we are.
  4. Action plan: work out what we can do to help the gymnast progress.


Yup, we go through this whole process, in our heads, every time (we actually can’t help it). Then we get to the most important step:


  1. Do the most important thing. What is the one thing the gymnast can know or hear now from me as their coach in order to progress. 


I tell you, extremely rarely is this to point toes. From a technical perspective, if toes aren’t pointed then usually theres something else to focus on to achieve it - such as keeping the legs tight, or arms strong in a skill. To run fast into vault skills or press down on the bar when swinging.


But then there’s secret step no 6:


  1. What does this person need from me in order to progress. 


I may not need to give them anything technical to work on at all. And I don’t mean that the skill was perfect -  gymnastics is as mental a sport as it is physical. Often, its most important to acknowledge the effort and journey the gymnast is going through learning that skill. Giving a technical correction at a time when the gymnast needs encouragement or celebration of their efforts is totally counter productive


Confidence is key. The pointed toes? Thats just the icing on the cake :-)

Interview about Freestyle Gymnastics

An area of Affinity is growing and has made it onto our holiday class schedule with two weekly classes, Wednesday mornings 9:30am-12pm and Thursday afternoons 1-3:30pm. I caught up with our Freestyle Gymnastics (FreeG) lead coach and Ambitious Apprentice, Dan, to understand more about this area of the club: 


Hi Dan!

Q: Tell me, whats FreeG? Whats different about it to regular gymnastics?


A: For me, FreeG is less rules more cool. Its about movement and getting from point A to point B in the fastest and coolest way possible. Spicing it up a little. It’s creative and fun and at Affinity we fuse this with our gymnastics knowledge and skill too.


Q: What makes FreeG special?


A: Well, ninja’s do it. That kinda sums it up! Not many gym clubs do it in the way we do, we’re unique in our way of fusing the fun adventurous movements with gymnastics in the same package .


Q: What do you like about it?

A: It looks cool. I saw my friend do a backflip and just wanted to do it.

it’s inspirational. We love watching and sharing videos of new tricks and movements. 


Q: What do you see the kids getting out of it?

A: It really builds confidence in what they are doing with their body. I can see them getting a lot from exploring what they can do. It’s a great relaxed yet focused approach. 


Q: I hear you are a bit of a ninja in training. What brought you to gymnastics and what sort of things do you train yourself?


A: I just love sports. Pole vault, swimming, free running, javelin. skating. I’m always incorporating free running into skating and other sports. You’ll find me down the skate park or on the trampoline at home. (Editors note: since joining us in September 2016 Dan has been getting SERIOUSLY good at gymnastics. He’s winning most of our handstand competitions now, much to the dismay of our squad gymnasts!).


Q: What would you most like to share with the gymnasts through your FreeG classes?


A: I think mainly the ability to try stuff, to be confident in what they do and to know the right progressions to get to where they want to be.


Q: What would you say to someone who is on the fence about joining a class?


A: Erm, have you seen ninja warrior? Just join.

Wow looks like I may sign up for a class myself. Come and join Dan for the FreeG fun here.