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Islington after-school gymnastics club is coming on leaps and bounds

PUBLISHED: 12:18 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:18 05 February 2016

Calypso Gymnastics Club, based at Mount Carmel Catholic College for Girls

Calypso Gymnastics Club, based at Mount Carmel Catholic College for Girls

Dieter Perry

It's one of the greatest challenges facing sports enthusiasts around the country - how to persuade young people, particularly girls, to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Within schools, there are specific obstacles – ranging from peer pressure and a lack of sports facilities to deeply-held negative perceptions about traditional PE.

However, one Archway school are doing their best to push against that unwelcome trend, with the help of level 3 qualified gymnastics coach Rochelle Smith.

Smith, who lives nearby, approached Mount Carmel Catholic for Girls last year with a view to running one or two taster sessions for the students.

Since then, she has succeeded in establishing Calypso Gymnastics Club, which meets after school once a week and includes a community session which is also open to non-Mount Carmel students, both male and female.

As proof of the club’s growing popularity, the Duncombe Road school are holding an inter-form competition next week and plan to enter a team in the Islington borough tournament in March – with the London Youth Games in the summer also a possibility.

“In line with the rest of the country, we did notice a drop-off in girls’ participation in sport and physical activity for many reasons,” said Tracy Quirke, head of PE at Mount Carmel.

“We felt it was important to get specialised coaches in if we wanted our pupils to excel. A PE teacher can do the basics but we needed to develop it at a higher level.

“Rochelle approached us, said she wanted to get more girls involved and her coaching was fantastic. A girl said after one session: ‘you’ve made me like PE again’.

“It can have a real impact on their lives – if you take part in sport you can focus better and succeed. I’m passionate about improving the lives of the kids through PE and hoping they don’t notice!

“The facilities here are not amazing, but we’ve got two gyms and loads of equipment. It’s a real success story, now we’ve got the whole school taking part and it doesn’t feel like we’re fighting fires all the time.

“We’ve got a really good pathway now – we’ve never done an inter-form gymnastics competition before and then they might have the opportunity to go on and represent the school.”

The Calypso club, which is funded by British Gymnastics and also the London 2012 legacy project Sportivate, runs every Wednesday with two consecutive sessions.

There is a floor and tumble period for all age groups at Mount Carmel between 3.30pm and 4pm, followed by an open session for all five to 16 year-olds until 4.50pm.

Each group in the second session has the chance to achieve their badges by completing six out of 10 moves on the floor.

Smith, who also plays rugby for Saracens’ women’s team, said: “After speaking to the national governing body, I was made aware that Islington had only one other affiliated club, which meant a lack of opportunities available for young people.

“So I contacted Mount Carmel and asked if they were interested in having a gymnastics club in the school. Luckily they were and we’ve been moving from strength to strength since then.”

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