Winchester Magazine Christmas Issue 2017 Winchester Magazine Christmas Issue 2017 - Page 59

E D U C AT I O N COORDINATED TEAM WORK GIVING CHILDREN A LIFT Gymnastics at Prince’s Mead offers much more than sporting competence, discovers Liz Kavanagh W hen I went to school, gymnastics lessons were something I dreaded, and mainly seemed to involve vaulting impossibly high boxes from an impossibly low springboard. Had I gone to Prince’s Mead in Kings Worthy I might have had an altogether different experience, as not only does the independent day school boast a former UK champion gymnast as its instructor, but its gymnastics squads are bursting at the seams with eager members. A former bronze medal British champion, with a sister who represented Great Britain in the European Championships, Amanda Wright is the sort of gym teacher that you’d want to be taught by. The gymnastics she teaches is Acrosport, which combines elements of the conventional sport with dance and tumbling skills. “That makes it really accessible to children,” she says. “It’s fun, with routines running to upbeat music, using the skills of team members who work together or in pairs. “Acrosport is also attractive to boys, who see the strength needed for lifts, the somersaults and jumps and flips as something they want to get involved with too.” While gymnastics is timetabled for children at Prince’s Mead, it’s also offered as an after-school club, where there’s a 50-strong development squad. “It got so popular that we started having trials,” Amanda says. “We’re about to compete in a gala show at the Guildhall in Southampton and also regularly perform in assemblies.” Children who want to train further are then coached as part of the school squad, which competes regionally and nationally. “We got to the national finals last year as a team and have also had some fantastic gymnasts get national recognition as individuals,” Amanda says. “Younger children see that success and really aspire to it.” Having a gymnast pro on the teaching staff also benefits Prince’s Mead in other ways. “We’ve been able to contribute a gymnastic element to school productions,” Amanda says. “Children who might not have come forward for acting roles did amazing things in The Lion King and Aladdin, which were staged at school. At competition level, marks are awarded for expression as well as physical ability, so the sport encourages creativity too.” This year a donation from a parent means that the squad now boasts its own tumble mat, a giant inflatable runner that gives children an extended soft landing as they practise their moves. “It’s brilliant for confidence,” Amanda says. “Gymnastics, like all sports, needs to be fun and engaging. It’s not only great physically but also teaches children how to be fantastic team members and believe in their own abilities.” 01962 888000 | 59