They are the poor under dogs in the competitive gymnastics world. They don’t have world class facilities, funding to purchase up-to-date equipment or a huge coaching team on the payroll, but Tees Valley Gymnastics Club are currently British Champions in group display gymnastics.
And gymnasts who attend the Middlesbrough-based club have been given an extra bounce in their steps after their beloved club was given a £5,000 boost towards a new sprung floor.
They topped a public poll ahead of 14 other local sports clubs to win the bumper cash windfall from charitable movement Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
More than 250 gymnasts of all abilities, aged from 8 to 18, visit the club every week at their home on Whitestone Business Park at Longlands – and several are among the very best in Britain in the gymnastic specialisms of sports acrobatics and tumbling.
But the equipment they train on is almost entirely self-built – including the floor they practice on which was put together using wood purchased from B&Q.
Now their £5,000 boost has got them rolling towards their £20,000 target for a high-quality, purpose-built sprung floor similar to those their gymnasts compete on in regional and national competitions.
After attending an event at Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium to discover they had topped the poll in the Philanthropic Foundation’s first ever £20,000 Sporting Golden Giveaway, head coach Allison Thain said: “This is huge for us. We went to the presentation expecting to receive £500, so we were ecstatic to win £5,000.
“Hearing the names of Tees Valley Gymnastics Club for the top prize just felt fantastic. It means we can start planning for the future because we’re already a quarter of the way towards our fundraising goal, so it gives us a massive platform.
“£20,000 felt like a huge, almost unattainable figure but this has given us a massive platform. It’s motivational for everyone.”
Allison, who runs the club on a voluntary basis with fellow coaches Robert Davies and Melissa White, added: “Many of our gymnasts are from low income families but they do all they can to contribute to our running costs. Now we’re planning more fundraising including sleepovers, bag packs, a show at Middlesbrough Theatre and hosting a competition against other gymnastic clubs.
“Everything we have on site, in terms of equipment, we have fundraised tirelessly for or we have built ourselves, but there is only so much people can give.
“The fact that our children train on a floor that we have built ourselves puts them at a disadvantage when competing regionally, nationally and internationally.
“We are striving to put Teesside on the map for sporting achievements and a sprung floor that absorbs shocks to give a softer feel will help them reach their full potential as young athletes. Sprung floors enhance performance and reduce the number of injuries gymnasts suffer.”
Along with being British champions in group display gymnastics, The Tees Valley club also boasts several high-achieving members including sports acrobats Betty Ellis, 10, and Joshua Egan, 12, who finished second in this year’s British Championships, a men’s fours team that finished third in the same championships, and Oliver Livingstone, whose tumbling has been recognised by the Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG).
All of the coaches are volunteers. “We just love the sport, we love the kids and have a passion for teaching gymnastics,” added Allison, who received the £5,000 prize from David Nicholson of Philanthropic Foundation patrons, Nicholson Transport. “We understand the value of sport in the local community, how it can help the community grow and keep children safe while improving their confidence and academic capabilities.”
Second place in the Golden Giveaway poll – and winners of £2,500, presented by Taraha Johnson of RMB Auto – was Guisborough Rugby Club for new equipment and fencing for their juniors and mini club.
Winning £2,000, presented by Keith Miller of Ecco Finishing Supplies, was Loftus Dolphins Swimming Club, who are now swimming towards the £5,000 cost of new starting blocks.
Other winners were:
- Submit 2 Success – £1,500 presented by Chantal Taylor of Castlegate Shopping Centre, for free health and fitness sessions in deprived areas
- Soccability – £1,500, presented by Yvonne Ferguson of Middlesbrough FC, for an activity trip for youngsters with various disabilities
- Tees Valley Sound Tennis – £1,000 presented by Keith Miller of Ecco Finishing Supplies for specialist balls and kit for blind and visually impaired
- Hartlepool Headland Boxing Gym – £1,000 presented by Shaun Hughes of Erimus Insurance Brokers to help running costs of gym that charges just £1 per session
- Boro Rangers Disability – £1,000 presented by Yvonne Ferguson of Middlesbrough FC for equipment for adults with range of disabilities
- Tees Valley Wheelchair Sports Club – £750 presented by Alisdair Beveridge of The Build Directory towards women’s basketball and wheelchair tennis
- Billingham Juniors Football Club – £750 for a container and compound to store equipment
- Middlesbrough Sportability Club – £750 presented by Alisdair Beveridge of The Build Directory for events and equipment for those with disabilities
- Thornaby Youth Zone – £750 presented by Foundation supporter Doug Moody for river-based activities for those with disabilities and autism
- Golden Zumba at Hand in Hand Activities – £500 presented by David Nicholson of The Nicholson Group towards over-50s fitness and social sessions
- Thornaby Amateur Swimming Club – £500 presented by Shaun Hughes of Erimus Insurance Brokers towards training for volunteer coaches
- Stockton West End FC – £500 presented by Chantal Taylor of Castlegate Shopping Centre for kit and equipment for young players from Portrack and Tilery