HIDDEN away in Carlton, Barnsley Gymnastics Club is ‘Barnsley’s best kept secret’.
A club run by the community to benefit the community, the club has been in existence for more than a decade, but has struggled to push forward amid a lack of funding and not having enough qualified coaches.
Nick Appleyard, of Orchard Close, Staincross, is one of the most active staff members at the club.
He believes the club is a good example of what Barnsley’s young people can achieve, and it has more to offer but is limited by how much funding it can gather.
“We are a community club and a non-profit organisation, if people can give up their time we’re here for them to get involved,” said Nick.
“They could learn quite a bit about what young people in Barnsley are really like.
“If you give kids an outlet, they will try their hardest at it. You just need to get them out there, away from the televisions and computers, which is what we try to do.
“We fly under the radar, and we used to be quite happy with that. But it would be good for Barnsley to take an interest.
“These kids work nearly 20 hours a week. They have to given up part of their life, and their parents do as well.”
The club is a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) taking advantage of a government scheme to support grassroots sport that involves various forms of tax relief, allowing organisations like Barnsley Gymnastics Club to operate as sports clubs rather than as businesses in the traditional sense.
This allows the club to pay a coaching staff of elite gymnasts, and maintain a room full of apparatus that Nick estimates cost around £180,000 to put together.
Nick, formerly of Appleyard’s Craft Bakers, became involved with the club six years ago when his daughter Ella-Narisse, now 16, began training there.
He ‘started off making the teas and coffees,’ which progressed to taking phone calls, and he is now a qualified gymnastics coach and judge working ‘70 hour weeks’.
He works alongside wife Donna, who has taken over supplying the tea and coffee.
Nick said the club was originally started by a local woman, whose son wanted to practise gymnastics but had nowhere to do so.
It ‘became a bit of a monster that needed looking after’ as more people became interested, and is now affiliated with British Gymnastics, with 13 coaches training around 600 young gymnasts.
However, funding is harder to come by in gymnastics than in other sports.
Nick said: “We have to do all this with our own fundraising.
“We had a broken heater that cost £2,000 to repair, so we had a fundraiser for it. We did it, but at times we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“As long as we can pay the bills and pay the coaches we’re all right, we don’t have to worry about pleasing shareholders.
“But all our funding comes from the fundraisers we do and membership fees, and then teas and coffees, and that’s it.
“We are looking for sponsorship. But it’s not like football, you can’t wear a shirt with a name on the front.
“Even though so many people do gymnastics, it’s still considered a niche sport.
“If we are going to keep going, we need a change. We need to put the onus on getting more kids to compete at a high level.”
Coach Kim Waterhouse, 28, has been with the club for two-and-a-half years, and has coached gymnastics for 17 years - starting as a schoolgirl.
“I started doing gymnastics at around seven or eight and haven’t stopped since then, but I always wanted to coach, I stopped competing at 20 to focus on coaching,” Kim, of Chapel Road, Tankersley said.
“We didn’t have the facilities we have here back then, it was a different time for the sport.
“But it’s still hard to get hold of funding and we do most of it ourselves.
“Anything we make has to go straight back into maintaining the equipment. We would like to get more qualified coaches in.
“I do 30 hours a week in the gym, and then probably another 20 at home choreographing routines and competition prep.
“I see kids learn new skills that you can’t imagine, the strength and flexibility of a seven-year-old is something else.
“And they work hard to achieve those skills.”