YOUNGSTERS from as young as 18 months are being introduced to gymnastics, a sport which has been surprisingly popular in Tameside for more than 30 years.
Active Ken Ward Hattersley, the borough’s gymnastics hub, puts on mini tumbler sessions for children up to four years of age.
They are taken along by parents, carers and guardians and, with a different theme each week, they are 45 minutes of fun-packed activity.
The daytime mini tumbler sessions are a springboard to joining the main gymnastics programme which runs for children aged between fur and 16 years.
Louise McBain, Active Tameside’s gymnastics development officer, said: “We have run pre-school sessions for a long time and launched mini tumblers about six years ago.
“They are really popular, and we have a different theme each week as it is all about having fun at that age.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic there were almost 1,400 youngsters participating in Active Tameside’s gymnastics programme.
They were at Hattersley and two other Active satellite centres at Copley, Stalybridge, and Oxford Park, Ashton.
Copley and Oxford Park are no longer operating with the gymnastics solely operating from Active Ken Ward where there are currently 842 youngsters aged between four and 16 years enrolled.
It has been a case of rebuilding after the programme had to be mothballed because of the pandemic.
Louise leads a team of 12 coaches with the gymnastic sessions running seven days a week.
And the sessions form part of a gymnastics pyramid as talented children are directed to Tameside School of Gymnastics (TSOG), a competitive stage.
Louise, who once competed up to regional level and who has been in her current role for five years, explained: “If we see a child with potential, we send them for a trial at the TSOG.
“Likewise, if there is somebody at TSOG who is not up to their standards, they will direct them to us where they can have more fun.
“It is a partnership which works both ways and benefits each of us.”
Louise invited The Correspondent to one of the mini tumbler sessions to see how the youngsters are being introduced to gymnastics.
And speaking to many of the parents, it was a case of their children following in the footsteps of elder sibling who had attended the sessions, some of whom had gone to join the TSOG.