Following the return of indoor gymnastics last week, one young gymnast from North Yorkshire is particularly excited to get into the gym and experience her first session in real life after enjoying a full year of sessions through Zoom.
5 year-old Mary-Jane joined Redcar Gymnastics Club last year after being inspired by her cousin who is also at the club.
Mary-Jane was due to start with Redcar soon after her birthday but the impact of Covid-19 meant that she was unable to go into the gym.
In response to the pandemic, like many clubs in the gymnastics community, Redcar set up weekly Zoom sessions for their gymnasts and this allowed Mary-Jane to take part in her first gymnastics classes remotely.
"At first she didn’t know what to make of it and she didn’t participate a lot," said Louis, her mum. "But as time went on, and she became more aware that she couldn’t go to the gym and she couldn’t go to school, she got more involved.
"From that point on, she started doing more on Zoom and started doing bits in the garden by herself.
"The biggest buzz for Mary-Jane was when the coaches started to learn who she was. She would hear her name getting called out in the session and she would start shouting for me to come and see - she thrived off that!
"She would then get some skills to practice outside the sessions and when she came back on the calls she was eager to show the coaches what she’d been learning."
Diane Richardson, Head Coach at Redcar Gymnastics was one of the coaches who taught Mary Jane and was impressed with how she applied herself to the sessions.
"The lockdown and Zoom sessions has been a very different experience," Diane began. "The absolute resilience of our gymnasts has been overwhelming. The coaches have smashed it, delivering so many Zooms, competitions, fun games and even a Valentine’s day party."
"We have achieved so much; however, we don’t want to do it again!
"Gymnasts have improved their basic shapes and their understanding of why the basics are important has grown. We have even invited four gymnasts to trial with our competition squads as they improved so much over lockdown. Mary-Jane is one of those."
As well as taking part in her weekly sessions, Mary-Jane also enjoyed taking part in virtual competitions.
Louise added: "She took part in a couple with the other kids from the club and she got first and second place. She was so chuffed with herself and I think the Zoom sessions have definitely helped her confidence.
"Her whole teaching experience has come from Zoom sessions and I’m so impressed. I don’t have a clue – I could never do a cartwheel!"
As well as being able to do cartwheels in the gym and start working on equipment, Mary-Jane is excited to see her new friends.
"She’s learnt some of the other girls’ names now and she recognises their faces - she’s only ever seen them through Zoom. Now she can’t wait to meet them in the gym!"
Thousands of children enjoy recreational gymnastics classes every week. These classes are often the first steps for all gymnasts as they learn the variety of basic movement patterns that can be transferred across all of the gymnastics disciplines. These classes also offer children the opportunity to develop social skills with other like-minded children who share their love for gymnastics.