Developing an athlete centred competitive gymnastics programme

28 Oct

In recent years the widespread cultural norms that have existed within gymnastics for decades have been called into question. Through the brave actions of affected athletes, a platform has been built for more voices to be heard, and a revolution of change to begin. 

Many of the unhealthy attitudes and practices that exist in gymnastics (and indeed other sporting environments) are deeply entrenched, and it is complicated and challenging to make meaningful change. The culture and training techniques that cause physical and emotional harm to gymnasts are intricately entwined with ideas of dedication and commitment to success. 

Tri Star has a history of representation at an international level. We want to be competitive on the world stage but not at any cost, and are adopting learnings from at home and abroad to help create the best training environment for our athletes. The leadership team at Tri Star are committed to further developing a training environment that encourages our gymnasts to grow as people as well as athletes. 

Led by David Philips, Tri Star General Manager, and supported by the club’s Board of Trustees, the club has invested time and resources into the following key initiatives:

Athlete Wellbeing Coordinator

A new role of Athlete Wellbeing Coordinator (AWC) was created to directly support our athletes in the training environment. In this role, the AWC considers the holistic wellbeing of the gymnasts and provides a touchpoint for them to communicate any concerns or issues. As a mental skills coach, the AWC also trains the gymnasts (and coaches) with psychological strategies to help them manage the stresses of the competitive environment, and improve performance. 

Athlete Wellbeing Advisory Group

Our Athlete Wellbeing Advisory Group is a multidisciplinary team drawing together expertise and lived experience from physiotherapy, psychology, strength and conditioning, parents, coaches and former athletes. This group frequently review the work that is happening nationally in response to the GNZ Independent Review and make recommendations on areas such as injury prevention, age and stage appropriate training, nutrition, coach development and more. The first piece of work this group undertook was an ‘age and stage’ resource that provides practical information on the cognitive, social/emotional, physical and environmental considerations facing our athletes as they grow.

Athlete Leaders

A key piece of the wellbeing puzzle includes finding ways to give voice to our athletes. Tri Star has appointed Athlete Leaders for each of our competitive programmes (Mens & Womens Artistic, Trampolining and Tumbling). These athletes are current participants in our programmes who embody our club values and provide a safe, familiar contact for their peers. Training is provided to support them in their role, and they are well positioned to give feedback to the club on how effective our training activity is. Additionally two of our Athlete Leaders also report directly to Tri Stars Board of Directors quarterly, creating a direct link from gym floor to governance.

Keeping Gymnasts In the Sport

Our programme is continually evolving and improving as we learn more, and have the opportunity to try different approaches. Our ultimate aim is to keep gymnasts in the sport for longer allowing them to achieve their full potential as adults. We have created multiple competitive pathways at Tri Star to cater for aspiring international athletes, and also those wanting to participate in other sports and activities. Evidence points to multiple sporting experiences at a young age as a key indicator for retention so we have intentionally delayed the age when training hours increase. This means we develop higher level gymnastics a little later than many other clubs. This is again a cultural shift and one that affords our athletes the time to enjoy a ‘kiwi childhood’ while still having a clear pathway to performance.

If our values, culture and aspirations align with your own, and you are looking for a career in gymnastics, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our employment opportunities here