Coach: watching your gymnast achieve is the best thing

The best thing for me about being a gymnastics coach was seeing the look on my gymnasts' faces when they finally manage to complete and land a skill which you both have been working on, sometimes for months and even years.

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Seeing their faces, literally shining with pride in themselves and happiness is amazing. Often, us coaches do not get the chance to sit down and actually chat about why we coach and what we love about it = because when we are in the gym, we are there to work.

I recently chatted to two other coaches. Sophie is 16 and is also still a gymnast in the Falkirk Infinity Team Gym. She will represent Scotland at a non-professional level this summer at Eurogym. The other coach, Ailsa is 23, a former Scotland gymnast, Scotland's Young Coach of the Year for 2013 and currently coaching future talent towards national level.

I asked them why they coach and they both independently said the same thing as me about sharing in the delight of our gymnasts when they actually finally manage to perfect a particular skill. Ailsa says that she finds their happiness infectious and it's a privilege to be part of that. Sophie thinks that it is so rewarding to see the kids progress in their gymnastics and she can relate to them as she goes through the same emotions that they do when they finally get it right.

It's so exciting when they do a skill they just couldn't get before and everyone in the gym is keen to share in each others' achievements. We have a show and tell bell - if you don't have it in your gym, you need to install one...a legacy from a professional US Coach whom we coached under recently for a year. When the bell rings, everyone in the gym stops what they are doing as it means that someone can finally, perfectly do a skill which they have been working on so hard. So they get the spotlight on them and you keep your fingers crossed that they can do it with everyone watching. Mostly, they don't ring the bell until they have been doing it perfectly over and over so we usually have a successful move - it is then time for applause and high fives all around.

We all really do care that our gymnasts do as well as they possibly can and truly reach their potential. You never know, you may have a budding future Commonwealth gymnast on your hands. Ailsa currently has one of her squad, who we both have taught since she was four and was recently moved up in level, in the Scottish Regional Development squads so you never know, she may be a future Commonwealth competitor for Scotland.

Another thing that came out of conversations with Ailsa was that I didn't actually know much about her achievements as a gymnast. I've known her since she was 16 but that was when she moved into the Falkirk Infinity Team so I didn't realise that she'd been competing for Scotland prior to this.

I asked about her best moves that she was training, before she retired from professional. She'd been doing Tsukaharas* on vault and front somersaults on beam, these are high tariff moves which we will see performed this summer at the Commonwealth gymnastic events.

When you see these fancy moves, think about what has went into them. There is barely any room for mistakes, for example, if you take the front summie on beam. This is scary because the beam is only 10cm wide plus with any front somersault, you have a totally blind landing. So imagine yourself with both your feet on 10cm wide beam, blindfolded, 1.25metres up. I think you'd find that it would feel impossible to even do the tinyest jump far less somersault forward in the air to land on that 10cm without being able to even see where your feet with land?

I previously asked anyone involved at gymnastics at any level to get in touch. At Glasgow 2014, we will only see the artistic and rhythmic gymnastics disciplines. However, across Scotland, there are lots of gymnasts participating and achieving within their own discipline. Abbie Gray and her Mum got in touch.

Abbie is 10 and half and she's been doing acrobatic gymnastics and tumble at the East Kilbride Gymnastics Club for the last two and a half years and she has well and truly caught the bug.

She says that she got in to it because it looked exciting and fun, and she really wanted to learn how to backflip (she can now do a staggering 15 in a row).

Abbie said: "If I didn't go to gymnastics I wouldn't know about tumble and I love tumble. I went to the British Championships when I was only nine years old and came 5th.

"Although I didn't win I've got a place in the first ever Scottish Tumble Squad and that makes me really happy. I started tumble because it looked really cool and I think it's really exciting but sometimes scary because I go so fast!''

I asked Abbie about her thoughts about the upcoming Commonwealth Games. She is so excited because, like Ailsa and myself (sorry, Sophie!), she has tickets for the gymnastics at the Hydro. She is really looking forward to seeing Daniel Purvis and thinks that he's great. Abbie confided that she knows that Acro gymnastics and tumble are not part of Olympic or Commonwealth Gymnastic disciplines at the moment, but she hopes that one day this will change and she can compete at this level.

Please do get in touch with me at claire.moodie@heraldandtimes.co.uk with your gymnastic experiences. I'd love to know more about what's going on in the many clubs across Scotland.

*The Tsukahara is a vault, named after Japanese gymnast Mitsou Tsukahara. In a Tsuakahara, the gymnast jumps off the springboard and performs a quarter turn onto the horse, then pushes off his hands and does a back flip (often with multiple twists, or even more than one flip). It's often shortened to simply a "Tsuk".

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