Just how exactly I found myself mid-way through a front flip completely upside down, suspended above a mat, reassured only by a tenuous grasp of physics, still remains a complete mystery to me. It had all started innocuously enough. The warm up had begun straightforwardly: jogging, sidesteps, stretching. Then it ramped up a level. I could manage forward rolls. My backwards rolls were clumsy and awkward, I still haven’t quite worked out what space my head should occupy that doesn’t make the entire thing slightly uncomfortable.
My handstands were more than a little rusty though, and club president, Ben McCarthy, had to step in to keep me upright and moving forwards. I’ve never had the co-ordination nor the need to attempt to get my legs above my head while balancing on my hands. These handstands were no ordinary handstands as well; optimistically I was forced to tumble over my head in a hazardous forward roll once I had achieved the handstand positioning. Inhibition levels gone I tried the earlier mentioned front flip and at about halfway through, when my head was rapidly returning to the right way up, I got it. There is something exhilarating about a front flip. Maybe the first time it was sheer relief that I was going to land on my arse and not my neck. The feeling persisted with each revolution though, and it was almost deflating when my time with the University of YorkGymnastics Club came to an end. Thankfully there was no time to try a backflip or three! I had a brief chat with Ben before I left: “It can look scary and intimidating from the outside, but you just need to have a go, once you’ve had a go, you actually feel quite safe, there’s always someone here to help you and guide you through it.”
The session itself had been informal. After the group warm up, the members were free to move between the club’s apparatus and practice in smaller groups or alone. I’ve always played more team oriented sports and so it was quite refreshing not to be put through drill after drill after drill. With the club currently not competing in BUCS due to an equipment storage restriction imposed by the York Sport Centre,training was quite a social affair with a proper Friday night feel. The club still trains quite regularly though; twice a week at the York Sport Centre, and also runs club sessions, mostly with transport, to a gymnastics centre in Leeds all for £3. I’ve paid more to train in York! Vice-President, Tori Tucker, was keen to point out that without a fixture list to meet the majority of members have a genuine love for gymnastics. Members also varied wildly in terms of experience. Some had been practicing for years, while others had only decided to take up the sport at university. I found it hard to spot the difference between the veterans and novices. Everybody seemed capable of a decent tumble or a fairly aggressive box split.
I was also told that the club currently shares training with York’s recently established free running society, though there were none of its members in attendance that night. Despite their inability to compete, President Ben McC
arthy was keen for people to know that this is a “Really good, well-rounded sport. It feeds nicely into other sports. A lot of sports focus on one area but gymnastics is full body. It really helps to develop strength all over the body. It’s good for balance and there are skills that can be exported into other sports.” If you’re interested in joining York’s gymnastic team, you should probably know that the morning after taking part in it, I ached all over. I clearly didn’t stretch very well and hunkering down to write in Nouse Central probably didn’t help the issue. So keep that in mind, but I’m sure that the majority will come into gymnastics with better balance and core strength. While I was unable to experience the full extent of gymnastics – I did not manage to vault or pommel-horse – I had an intersting experience taking part. I thoroughly enjoyed myself but did push myself to the full extent of my flexibility. I’ll probably stick to football… and being upright. If you would to know more or if you are interested in gymnastics, contact [email protected]