Since returning from lockdown, we’ve heard from several gymnasts who kept busy during their time away from the gym. Elite women’s artistic gymnast Kelly Simm was no different.
As well as putting in hours of training from home, Kelly decided to take on the Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support qualification.
We caught up with Kelly to find out how the opportunity came about and what it’s been like returning to the gym.
Kelly, what made you decide to take on the 'Talented Athlete Lifestyle Support’ (TALS) qualification?
“During lockdown I was keeping up as much training as I could from home, but I also thought it would be a good time to try something that I normally wouldn’t have the time to do. I was still in regular contact with my university lifestyle advisor who pointed out the course to me as it had moved online, so I thought it was a good opportunity to start exploring something new.
“We’re really fortunate to have in place a Personal Development Award (PDA) funded by UK Sport that meant I could enrol on the course. The PDA has been of huge benefit to me in developing outside of the sport, to take advantage of opportunities like the TALS qualification.”
What did it involve?
“The course involved two weekends of working virtually with a course leader and others on the course. We covered different areas such as how to help an athlete manage their support network, anti-doping responsibilities, future transitions and managing their career. After this I was able to work 1-1 with an athlete to help support them in these areas.
“It’s different for me to have to think as a practitioner but it’s very interesting and I’m able to obviously relate so much which I think helps a lot. It was also good to put myself in an environment where I got to interact with people on the course from all different backgrounds who were already in many different sporting job roles.”
How much does it help you to have things to work on outside of training and how much did that help, particularly during lockdown?
“I really enjoy having things to work on outside of training. I’ve always had something outside of training with college and university so I’m very used to being busy and having to manage my time carefully. I graduated last summer and so this last year has been the first time I’ve only had gymnastics.
You’re also starting your Masters? What are you working on there?
“I decided to start a Masters this year in Sports Science and Performance Coaching which includes looking at things like psycho-social development, marginal gains, physical preparation and technical development, as well as more in depth research methods and individual projects.
“I’ve been lucky to be given a sponsorship to fund my Masters degree at my former university (Solent) and so during this very uncertain time it felt like such a good opportunity for me. I have good relationships with the lecturers and the sports performance team and they understand my training commitments so hopefully it will work well this year.”
How important has the gymnastics/life balance been for you in your career?
“It has been very important to try and maintain a balance. Gymnastics is quite an intense sport so it is sometimes challenging but it’s always been important to me to try and maintain a good education alongside training. I hope I can show that you can still pursue higher education alongside gymnastics and still have success in both.”
How has it been generally for you this year? What’s it like finally being back in training?
“This year has been difficult but it’s good to be back in the gym again. Obviously, it’s been a big adjustment with the postponement of the Games but it was definitely the right thing to have happened.
How important has it been for you to look at options for after gymnastic and what would you like to do longer term?
“It’s so important especially as you get older. I think it’s quite a wake-up call when you have these injuries to start thinking about your options. When you’re so into training and competition you just put it to the back of your mind. I’m still not sure exactly what I want to do longer term yet however I’m starting to try to open myself up to new experiences where I can.”