White Rose Rhythmic Gymnastics Club is based at Northfield Hall in Huddersfield. For ‘us locals’, that’s usually referred to as ‘up by the big ASDA’; but for those further afield, Northfield Hall is a community centre in the North of Huddersfield, not far from Brighouse, with easy access to the M62.
It’s a small, (but fast growing) club, with a big heart and is run completely by dedicated and passionate volunteers.
I spent an entertaining half an hour chatting with Olga, the driving force behind the development of the club.
Tell me a bit about who you are and what you do.
I am Olga. I’m the Head Coach for White Rose Rhythmic Gymnastics club. Our club is based in Huddersfield and at the moment, we train in Northfield Hall. It’s in Huddersfield near Asda and we have children from age 5 to 14 years old. We have mostly girls but we are looking forward to involving more boys. Our type of gymnastics uses the ball, hoop, ribbon, clubs, lots of different types of apparatus. It’s really, really good for development of flexibility, conditioning, strength and coordination.
How old do they have to be to join the club?
Normally our youngest children are four or five years old. This is the minimum age that British gymnastics recommend.
You talk about it being ‘rhythmic gymnastics’. Is there a difference between rhythmic gymnastics, and a ‘gymnastics’ club?
Yes! There are other types of gymnastics including general, artistic and acrobatic. Rhythmic gymnastics is quite different as we use all the different types of apparatus.
Why did you start it and what keeps you going?
White Rose Rhythmic Gymnastics Club was established in September 2017. I started the club with a very small group in Woodland Glade Leisure Centre in the studio. We had maybe just five girls to start the club, and then we started slowly, slowly, building up different groups and involving more children
Before this I was involved in coaching rhythmic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics in several clubs throughout Leeds, Halifax, Trafford, and Manchester.
It’s been a difficult journey building everything up from scratch, but we have had help from Kirklees Council and a local social enterprise called Local Services 2 You. It’s really, really difficult because, we’ve been asking for a lot of help, but many people don’t know what rhythmic gymnastics is!
How did you cope with Lockdown?
We’re a totally volunteer led club and we have managed to cope during the lockdown. We’ve delivered a lot of classes on zoom, and we still try to advertise to involve more children and young people, but it’s been a really difficult time.
Was there ever any point when you thought “I can’t do this anymore I’m giving it all up”?
Yes, yes, things have been really hard. We tried really hard but it was really challenging for everyone – coaches, children and parents. It’s been a big frustration. But in this moment we’re back! We’re back!
When we started training again it was really positive. And we want to say a very big thank you to Northfield Hall and Local Services 2 You, for all the help in this very good facility. We now have more children coming to train with us in September!
You’ve recently been successful attracting grant funding for the club. What difference has that made to the club?
Oh, you can’t believe how much difference this has made! It is really, really good. It’s just amazing. It’s really, really – I just have no words!
It’s helped us because we can now prepare to host a competition in September. It’s our first competition for the White Rose Club and we have been able to involve more and more clubs to come in. The funding has helped us to buy new equipment, a sound system, mirrors for the gymnasts to use in training.
It’s helped us to invest in more technology, cameras for zoom, and TV’s to help demonstrate to children how to correctly perform. More parents can be involved, as even if they can’t get to every session, or the competition, they can still see their children perform. This makes so much difference.
We can also now train more volunteers. We are still waiting for some things to start again, but we have volunteers booked on British Gymnastics Coaching and Judging courses. This is giving an opportunity to our volunteers to get better qualified, and they are so happy about that.
Is there any further help that you need as a club? Could local businesses help at all?
We have had so much support from organisations like Kirklees Council and Local Services 2 You, and yourself, and this is really, really, good. And of course, we have some help from British Gymnastics, our Governing Body who give us lots of advice.
But of course, if somebody could help us to develop our future, because we’ll be building up our club and soon we will have senior gymnasts. At the moment we are a young club but we have gymnasts who will be growing up and I hope will be back to the club as coaches to help in future development.
We may need a bigger venue, especially for future competitions. The one problem with rhythmic gymnastics is that we need a high ceiling to throw apparatus and this is one thing because it’s very difficult to find a venue with this high ceiling – because higher ceilings usually mean a bigger, and more expensive venue.
If our competition will be successful on 26 September 2021 (it’s our first competition) we would like to organise this on a regular basis. We’re looking bigger venue to because in this moment we already have 80 gymnasts coming to this first competition!
Oh my gosh, we will try to include everybody, but we never expected so many gymnasts would want to come. We have one club coming from Blackpool, one club from Manchester, one club from Cornwall coming and one from Stockport. It has proved to be really popular!
Can you tell me about yourself? Can you tell me some of your memories of doing gymnastics as a child?
I started gymnastics from eight years old. I was living in Uzbekistan part of the USSR. I was selected to join gymnastics at school, and I started training regularly. After five years of training we moved to Belarus, a different country. I continued training there and performed at regional competitions, and national level.
It’s very different now of course, as it’s been many years ago. Now gymnastics is very different. Previously we performed on the floor; now it’s on carpets. Everything’s very, very different.. For example, we used wooden clubs and now they use plastic, but very, very professional apparatus.
I’ve performed group routines where you were allowed seven gymnasts, six gymnasts. Now you are only allowed just five gymnasts. It’s all the time changing the rules. But it’s interesting. Gymnastics is interesting because every few years new rules come in and this adds to the challenge.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about setting up a sports club?
It’s a big challenge! You need to think very seriously before you start, not just open a club based upon emotion. Yeah. You need to first do some business planning. Do some pretty big preparation before you start a club, because from my experience, I have known people to open a club and then they close because they just can’t carry on.
It’s very difficult. Especially if you open without support. When I first started, I had to put all the apparatus in my car and travel from one venue to another 3 or 4 times a week to get classes established.
If people want to contact you about the club, whether it’s to come as a child as a player, or as a volunteer, or maybe you want to get in touch to support the club, what’s the best way for them to contact you?
We have a new website now, or we have a Facebook page. We also have Twitter and Instagram – as well as our club telephone number, and email address. We are all over the place!
Facebook Page: @WhiteRoseRGC
Telephone: 07895 309376
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org