THINGS are being done differently but Warrington Gymnastics Club at Howley Wharf are fighting back against Covid-19. And this is how, as those involved with the club open up about their lockdown experiences and tell the story themselves...

Mandi Mellor, Warrington Gymnastics Club operations manager:

IT has been a tough year for everyone.

As a club we have suffered losses, like many in the leisure sectors.

We have seen memberships drop by over 30 percent, but we are positive that with the support of our members we will come through this.

Warrington Guardian:

The gym would usually be a hive of activity, as this file picture shows

Our main priority is keeping as many of our gymnasts motivated, fit and healthy during what we hope will be our last lockdown.

These children and their families have been fantastic, they have been so supportive towards the club and we are really indebted to these families.

We have such a wide membership with gymnasts training from 45 minutes to 24+ hours per week. This has meant that to support all our members and keep them engaged and motivated at all levels we must deliver a good variety of sessions.

We are currently offering over 125 Zooms sessions per week to our members, with some sessions available to non-members.

Warrington Guardian:

A coaching session on camera straight into the homes of gymnasts thanks to Zoom on the internet

We have offered to every gymnast activity packs that run alongside our gymnastics programmes, with fun challenges, and for our recreational gymnasts the opportunity to achieve their British Gymnastics proficiency awards while at home.

We have tried to continue building our gymnastics family by putting in place parent forum groups to allow parents/carers to support each other, share their thoughts or their children’s experiences and achievements.

On top of that we are delighted that our assistant head coach, Hannah Whelan, who is a double Olympian, Commonwealth medallist, European medallist and British Champion is delivering free weekly sessions to all primary school children.

Warrington Guardian:

Our coaches have worked extremely hard during these lockdowns always maintaining a professional approach and providing fantastic sessions for their gymnasts.

We also took advantage of our gyms being closed, particularly during the November lockdown, to run coach education courses for all our coaches.

It really has been a great team effort and I am very proud of how the coaches, staff, volunteers and especially our gymnasts have got through this very difficult time.

As the vaccine is rolled out, we are positive that we will soon be back in the gym with our gymnasts bouncing around.

Sophie Whelan, head coach:

LOCKDOWN has been an extremely challenging time for all our gymnasts and their families.

We are amazed at the strength and determination they have continued to demonstrate during all three occasions we have had to close.

It’s certainly been challenging to keep our athletes motivated during such a difficult time, but we have found a few ways of keeping them engaged and focused on their training.

> Olympian's top tips for youngsters during lockdown

Keeping their home training programmes varied with exercises that are challenging and rewarding, as well as exercises that are good for their overall health ready for when they are back in the gym, has been a crucial part of our coaches’ programming and planning.

We have created an effective Zoom timetable for all our members to ensure personal coaches are able to interact and work with their squads.

Warrington Guardian:

Assistant head coach and double Olympian Hannah Whelan coaching on Zoom to gymnasts at home as a colleague demonstrates what is required

Warrington Guardian:


This has helped keep the relationships strong between the coach and athlete and kept things as close to normality as possible.

We have been able to allocate one to two hours per day on our athletes’ normal training days for Zoom sessions, where coaches can watch, feedback and motivate their squad through their individualised programmes.

Warrington Guardian:

As part of our lockdown plan, we have continued our reward scheme where gymnasts are split into four different ‘houses’ and earn points for their teams.

Warrington Guardian:

We have sent certificates home for gymnasts who have shown fantastic work ethic and commitment to their Zoom sessions as well as for improvement on specific areas.

Each squad gymnast was sent home with a folder that included a range of games and puzzles, to individual goal setting sheets and programmes.

Parents have had access to our private Facebook groups which has allowed them to interact with other members and share pictures of their lockdown experiences. This has been monumental in keeping our gymnastics community united and helping our families get through this time together.

As a club, we have also been able to offer extra Zoom sessions with a qualified strength and conditioning coach, sports psychologists and injury prevention sessions with a sports therapist.

We have also been doing one-to-one catch ups via Zoom with our older squad gymnasts for a more personal understanding of how each individual is doing. It gives the athletes the opportunity to share their feelings so we can help them, as well as set them small targets to focus on which helps with their dedication to their home programmes.

Gaining the athletes’ feedback on what they have enjoyed, what has helped them and motivated them during this pandemic has been vital for coaches and staff when planning their sessions and timetables.

It’s important to consider that the majority of our athletes are still at school, with most accessing their education online, so we are acutely aware of the impact this will have on their day-to-day mentality and well-being.

Warrington Guardian:

Sport has always been a great outlet for children and young adults, and this hasn’t changed since we haven’t been in the gym.

Our athletes know how important their programmes are and we remind them every day of the benefits and how much better they will feel when we return.

This past year has hopefully taught our athletes that it is possible to turn negatives into positives, weaknesses into strengths, and adversity into opportunity.

Charlie Berry, 11, Warrington Gymnastics Club member:

GOING through three lockdowns and not being able to go to gymnastics has been really hard.

I have stayed motivated by keeping to a regular routine and setting myself goals both for during lockdown and for the long term.

Being able to train with and seeing my friends online has been brilliant.

The coaches are so positive and they have developed programmes that we are able to do at home.

This has really helped me to keep going and to stay positive with both my school work and my gymnastics.

I can’t wait to get back in the gym and see everyone in real life but for now I will keep working hard and hitting my goals.

Chris Berry, Charlie's mum:

I CAN'T thank Warrington Gymnastics Club enough.

My daughter was upset and worried when the club had to close the doors for the lockdowns.

However, they have put together such an amazing programme and worked so hard for the kids, ensuring they can train and keep them mentally strong, providing additional support when needed.

She will come through this a stronger person and Warrington Gymnastics Club is the reason why.

Jess Adamson, 18, Warrington Gymnastics Club and England Squad Gymnast:

There has been highs and lows to this last year.

Carrying an injury into the first lockdown gave me the time to recover and with the help of my coaches to build on my strength.

I was motivated and confident on returning to the gym.

I had decided that I would defer my place at university due to Covid and concentrate on my training and was hopeful that I would attend a national-level competition towards the end of 2020.

It was great being back in the gym with my teammates and finally being able to train properly.

November and more recently the national lockdown have been much more difficult.

With competitions cancelled and no date to return to the gym, on occasions it has been difficult to be fully motivated. Fortunately the coaches have been there to pick us up and work through our goals with us.

> VIDEO FEATURE: Behind the scenes at Warrington Gymnastics Club in 2018

The timetable of our weekly Zoom sessions being on the same days as we would normally train has helped to keep the days structured.

Having additional sessions from specialist coaches has also been great and a boost.

As gymnasts we couldn’t have asked more of the club and coaches, they have been a huge support throughout this pandemic.

Myself and teammates are very grateful and cannot wait to get back into the gym.