Manx Gymnastics Centre of Excellence was born out of the dedication and enthusiasm of many people. It has grown to what is now, one of the most respected gymnastic clubs not only on the Isle of Man and England but also within the nations that compete in the Island Games.
Back in 1986 I was approached by the then Headmaster of St. Ninian’s Lower School to assist with the schools gymnastic club. Chris, my wife, and I decided that we would give it a year to see if a). We were capable of running a club and b). If we could achieve something positive for the children. By the end of the first year we had a nucleus of nine girls who were showing enthusiasm for the sport together with a number of Special Needs gymnasts who I had also been coaching. In September of 1987 we decided that the only way forward was to join the British Amateur Gymnastics Assoc. under the name of St. Ninian’s Gymnastic Club.
Competition was always at the forefront of our minds and in the next few years we started to show some success. Our Special Olympic gymnasts competed in the British Championships winning medals at every outing and on two occasions we had British Champions within our ranks. Our able bodied gymnasts started entering the British Schools competitions and became North West regional champions as well as acquitting themselves exceptionally well on the National scene. In the Isle of Man we started to dominate the Isle of Man Gymnastic Association National Championships, a situation that has continued to this date.
As the standard of our gymnasts rose we were finding it more and more difficult to train in what was a very small gym, so small in fact that in order to vault we had to run from inside a cupboard and even then we only had half a vault run up. With 23 gymnasts now in the club an improvement in facilities was required. The 1991 A.G.M. had a 100% turnout of parents, and at that meeting I was given permission to look into the possibility of building our own premises. I have to say there was a lot of scepticism as we knew 23 gymnasts could not sustain such a project. However after many months of hard work by a number of people I was able to return to the 1992 A.G.M. and inform the meeting that not only was it possible but that building would be starting in the New Year. During this time our training was continuing at great pace and more and more competition success was coming our way. With the building on the horizon we started to increase the number of gymnasts which necessitated increasing our coaching hours to accommodate them. Luckily a number of parents over the years had offered their services as coaches, administrators, treasurer and helpers in various roles and the club was on a sound footing.
A separate company was formed to run the building project for if something went drastically wrong with the financing of the building we did not want it to impact on the gym club or on Special Olympics who were involved through our Special Needs gymnasts. The next twelve months saw the midnight oil being burnt in order to raise the funding for what was the most ambitious project the Isle of Man had seen by what was a very small sporting organisation. By mid September 1993 the builders had left the site, what did we have? An empty shell with no doors, no windows, no toilets, no electrics and a bare concrete floor. Once again an army of parents rallied round, working by the light of a generator borrowed from Civil Defence the building was transformed, electricity was put in, the steelwork was painted, yes all of it right to the ridge, toilets were taken out of the old Villiers Hotel and fitted. A massive effort by all concerned. On the 26th. November 1993 we had our first training session in our new home, just two years from being given the go ahead to see if it was feasible. On the 11th. December the building was officially opened by a great supporter of the club Mr. William Scholl. William and his wife Susan were later to become the clubs first Patrons.
1994 saw the then Chairman and myself travel to Liverpool to the A.G.M. of the British Gymnastics Association. The reason! To be presented with the “Club of the Year Award” for outstanding achievement, for not only had we achieved our goal with the completion of the building we had continued with our training and competition success. At this time the B.G.A. had over a 1000 clubs affiliated to it.
The new building brought new impetus, Island Games were getting bigger and bigger from a gymnastic point of view and at last we were getting on the medal table. Gibraltar 1995 saw one of our gymnasts win our first games gold medal. The club was getting more popular, and we were catering for pre-school, recreational, special needs and elite gymnastics. From the 50 pence a week the gymnasts paid in the early days the club was now having to be run more as a business, especially with all the extra equipment we needed to buy.
During the next few years the club went from strength to strength, at every A.G.M. we were reporting increase in numbers, increase in coaches and success at a higher level. In 1999 it was agreed that in order to progress our gymnasts to greater success we would for the first time in our history employ a coach. We were joined by Gennady Tsyganov an International High Performance Coach. It was also getting to the stage where the club was too big to be run by myself and three others. I stepped down as Head Coach, a new constitution was put in place and the committee charged with running the club increased.
2001 saw the Isle of Man host the Nat West Island Games and our building was chosen for the gymnastics competition. It was a fantastic weeks sport made all the sweeter due to our Men’s and Women’s teams winning gold medals in both team events. This success has continued over the last two Island Games in Guernsey and Shetland with the island team being made up solely of gymnasts from our club.
Competition success has continued with our gymnasts winning medals in regional and national competitions. In 2004 a three of our gymnasts qualified for the Junior Commonwealth Games in Bendigo, Australia and this year 2006 one of our male gymnasts is representing the Isle of Man in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. The first time ever that a Manx gymnast has qualified.
You will have noticed that I have not named any of our committee, coaches or helpers who have volunteered their services over the years. I could fill a book with the names of people that have helped make this club the outstanding success that it is. I would however like to take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of my heart for the hard work and dedication they have shown to the club and the gymnasts in their care. One person I do intend to mention however is Chris, my wife. Had it not been for her support, especially during the early years and through the building project none of us would be talking about how successful Manx Gymnastics Centre of Excellence is today.
We now come to the future. We are looking into the possibility of extending the gym. This obviously has great financial implications but we feel that it is the next step in giving our members the best possible chance in their chosen sport.
Ian Bradshaw, President.