History of Bicester & District Gymnastics Club

The club was founded in 1976 by a group of parents who saw there was a need for some sort of club for their children to pursue the sport of gymnastics outside of school times.

Some of the other founding members were, Chairman: Mr. R. Barber, Secretary: Mrs. L. Abbs, Treasurer: Mrs. P. McArthur & Mrs. J. Upton. The coaching staff was: Club Coaches: Mr. W. James and Mr. Carter. Assistant Coaches: Miss Iris Conley, Miss Yvette Watts, Mr. R. Barber. Miss Watts one of the main coaches of the club, head coach, until she married Mr. Berry and had her first child.

The club started out in the sport hall of Bicester School, now Bicester Community College. They soon made arrangements to hire the main and activity halls of the new "State of the Art" Bicester & Ploughley Sports Centre. In the earlier days of the club the sports centre helped with the purchase of some of the club's equipment. It was a 50/50 type of agreement where the club and sports centre would split the cost of most of the equipment such as the training floor (6 strips of 2 metre wide 20mm thick carpeted foam), Balance Beam, Vaulting Horse and Asymmetric Bars. The club has trained in various halls in Bicester including the sports hall at Brookside Primary School and Longfields School. The main training venue is still at Bicester & Ploughley Sports Centre.

We have had grants and donations from Cherwell District Council, The Foundation for Sports and private companies such as Nestle Foods and Cooper Callas. In 1994 we received 6,000 from The Foundation for Sports which bought a lot of equipment. In 1995 we received 500 from Cherwell District Council and 400 in 2000. In 1995 Phil Watts, who was the club's head coach, received a sports bursary of 75 and Vicky Clayton was given a 100 bursary to help cover her training cost as our top gymnast who was aiming for National qualification.

April 2006 was the 30th Anniversary of the club, which is British Gymnastics affiliated, and now has between 80 and 85 members and a waiting list. It now has equipment that includes a 12 x 12 metre training floor (carpeted foam mats 45 mm thick), 2 competition balance beams, 1 full size floor training beam, A-Bars, Single High Bar, Mini A-Bars (double as training parallel bars), vaulting horse, new vaulting table, 2 trampettes, and a 12 metre inflatable tumbling track.

The club celebrated it's 35th Anniversary on May 8th 2011 with an "Open Day".  The Bicester & Ploughley Leisure Centre took part by letting us use their large inflatable obstacle course, shich was a big favourite with not only the children but also some of the bigger children who claim to be adults. There was a memory area with DVDs of some of the club's ex-gymnast's routines and loads of old photos collected over the years. Ex-gymnasts and their families came to help celebrate and Karen Kofen, who was one of the club's coaches back in the 80's and now an international judge paid a suprise visit.  There were several brave parents who "had a go" on the balance beam and tumble track and several ex-gymnasts, Debi Simpson, Amy Dodwell, Louise Brooks an Juliet Brooks who came, doing some spontanious tumbling on the floor.

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