Earlier this year we created a group called the Inclusion Specialists to join us and share their expertise around disability gymnastics with our community.
Charlotte Canniford (C), and Jo Dicken (J) are two of our specialist coaches who are helping to support coaches to deliver gymnastics to disabled participants. Here’s a little bit more about them!
When did you first get involved in gymnastics and how did you get into coaching disability gymnastics?
C: “I began my journey by getting involved with a trampoline club in Harrow as a volunteer. As soon as I got my teeth into coaching, I loved it! As soon as I was old enough, I did my Level 1 course followed closely by my level 2.
“I then began working at a leisure centre as a lifeguard during the holidays as well as coaching. I was asked to work at a playscheme where there was a young lady with downs syndrome. I instantly clicked and was so excited to work with her. I left the day feeling fantastic!
“After I set up my club, I welcomed those with disabilities and realised that there are so many wonderful unique individuals that would love this sport. I have worked with so many different people so far; it’s the best part of my job!”
Can you recall an experience with a disabled gymnast that has inspired you?
J: “My inspiration for working with gymnasts with disabilities comes from Ellie, aged 17. I have coached her since she was 4 months-old. Ellie is an amazing young lady with Downs Syndrome and Learning Disabilities who has taught me such a lot. Her parents have encouraged Ellie to take part in any activity she wants to try, and she has been accepted into many mainstream sports clubs.
“I want everyone, irrespective of age or ability to enjoy our fantastic sport.”
What do you find most rewarding about coaching?
C: “I always tell everyone the same; I love using what I was given to help others succeed. Every day we wake up and get out of bed, brush our teeth and walk around, something we all take for granted. For lots of people out there this isn’t always possible for many different reasons and limitations. What I love about my job is being able to give them opportunities to make them feel special and included.”
What made you want to apply to be an Inclusion Specialist?
J: “I’ve been a tutor for disability awareness in gymnastics, preschool and core proficiency as well as an assessor and internal verifier for many years and have found that many coaches are unsure of how to integrate gymnasts with additional needs into their gymnastic setting. By becoming an Inclusion Specialist, I am able to offer further support to combat this, continuing on from my work, and advise them on how to gain further help.”
What initial advice could you give clubs interested in setting up a disability gymnastics programme?
J: “We can help clubs to recognise how they can adapt their sessions, so that more children can join in. This could be setting up smaller classes, specific to gymnasts with disabilities, or it may be changing the pace of the sessions so more assistance can be offered to all the gymnasts.”
C: “There is no set way to run a session and for clubs who want to set up a disability gymnastics programme there are number of ways we can help to do this – it’s all about being open minded and being willing to learn and adapt.
“I would initially advise coaches to speak to parents and carers, and the gymnasts themselves, to find out what works best, what they are capable of and most importantly, what they most enjoy doing!
If you would like to find out more about developing a disability gymnastics programme and would like some support from an Inclusion Specialist, please contact: [email protected]