If you have children who are keen on doing gymnastics in Singapore, there are great opportunities here. Former competitive gymnast and long-term resident ROSANNA TRIGG answers some questions on what was behind setting up high-performance gymnastics centre, The Yard. We get to hear from a few of the gymnasts too. It’s great to see their passion and what it’s giving these girls – in some cases, even college scholarships.
What’s the latest news from The Yard?
Only six years has passed between the launch of our first gymnastics centre in Jurong, and our third, which opened in Bukit Timah in October. It has been a whirlwind! We’re full of excitement for the new opening, but also because we’re celebrating our first generation of Collegiate Scholarship athletes!
Tell us a bit more about these scholarships.
When setting up The Yard’s high-performance facility, I had a vision of what athletes in Singapore could achieve in gymnastics while maintaining their school and social lives; the idea was to marry the parental desire for academic success with students’ ability to excel in a sport via the NCAA Collegiate Scholarships.
Singapore is a unique ecosystem for athletic talent in the international community. Without citizenship, the opportunities for national representation don’t exist. It’s a tough environment for expats to navigate, as they forge their own careers and grapple with the small window of opportunity for their children to compete on the world stage. While some families opt to send their children abroad for training, many athletes drop out of the sport because they can’t see their end goal.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is made up of over 1,100 universities and colleges across the US and Canada. It supports over 500,000 athletes who study and compete through a variety of sponsored programmes.
Do you have gymnasts in Singapore who have started on this scholarship pathway?
Yes, this year, The Yard is celebrating with three of its athletes, Lucy, Keira and Danielle, who have overcome challenges to reach the final stages of their Collegiate Scholarship bids. The pioneering trio have been a force in the Singapore gymnastics scene, with multiple National Championships victories, paving the way for future generations while excelling academically.
They have also busted the common misconception that you can’t achieve sporting and academic success simultaneously, with each athlete achieving 10 GCSEs with an average A/A* grade, while maintaining a 25-hour weekly training schedule.
What level of gymnastics skill and commitment do these overseas colleges look for?
Early identification of talented athletes is key, with a commitment to 20 to 25 hours of weekly squad training – which is necessary to build and maintain a level 10 skill set – and frequent privately coached, individualised sessions.
Colleges can show interest in athletes as young as 10 to 12 years old and will follow their progress over the next three to five years looking for consistency in growth, skill development and competitive results. At any point in time, there are athletes on a two-to-five-year development runway leading up to their graduating year, with the view to earning a scholarship to NCAA College/University. This is meticulously planned and requires not just the commitment of the athlete but also parents and their schools.
Athletes need to be committed to the rigorous training programme, with a strong presence on the competitive circuit, both locally and internationally, making sure that their achievements are in the sights of key university coaches, athletic scouts and stakeholders.
Tell us about your coaching team.
Our international coaching team is world renowned, with established relationships across the collegiate gymnastics community. Our college pathway is currently headed by Darren Webster. She’s a former national team coach in both Australia and Canada, Head Coach at Cirque du Soleil, and someone with a solid track record of producing scholarship-level candidates. We are the only club in the country that can deliver this extensive network and put our gymnasts in the best possible position for success.
Do athletes at The Yard travel to compete?
Yes, our teams travel extensively for continued exposure to high-performance levels of competitions and also training camps. Athletes need to consistently see and experience what the global standard is and what Colleges are looking for in quality and skill level. We are lucky to be based in Singapore where we have access to so many different places with strong structures for gymnastics. We travel with our athletes around Southeast Asia, Australia, the US and Canada. This summer, The Yard was the first Singapore-based club in history to showcase in the US National College Bound Showcase (WOGA), held in Texas.
What academic level is required for the Collegiate pathway?
Athletes need to be presenting a minimum of a 4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA), and most colleges identify the International Baccalaureate (IB Diploma) as the preferred examining board for overseas students.
What kind of support is available for your athletes and their families?
Support is crucial! For specialist support we have a number of strong relationships with trusted physiotherapists, sports doctors, sport psychologists and nutritionists who provide sport-specific support to individual athletes, and a direct line to our team to quickly implement recommendations into training.
For academic support, we work with career counsellors and athletic directors to ensure training phases are catered for – for example, it may be more valuable for an elite athlete to do a one-hour session with their gymnastics coach, rather than a double period of PE.
We also offer support around the complexity of emotions that athletes experience and how parents can be as supportive as possible.
Where can kids start with competitive gymnastics in Singapore?
With three locations on the island, children can participate in a variety of programmes – and our development squads are a great place to start. These squads introduce children to a faster pace of training with emphasis on technique and physical preparation. Getting this stage right is key. It’s why we produce more senior level athletes than any other club on the island.
A Word from The Yard’s Gymnasts
Keira Hunt (17)
I train to compete in all apparatus as an artistic gymnast. I’ve been training at The Yard since it opened in 2016, but Rosanna has coached and known me since I was around six. In 2016, I made the move from another club to The Yard for two key reasons. First, the facilities are by far the best – the multiples of equipment make training super-efficient. Second, the experience and vision of the coaching team – not only what they’ve contributed to my development but also the extensive network they have around the world.
As a student, the training programme has taught me how to balance my time between my school and gym life. It has given me the skills of balancing hard work and a challenging schedule to ensure I’m pushing myself to the best of my abilities. Most importantly, as a person, the gym has shaped me into who I am today.
Danielle Huisamen (16)
I’ve been training as an artistic gymnast at The Yard since 2016. As an athlete, I have been taught how to make the most out of my time in the gym. Perseverance, determination and grit are all qualities that come to mind when I think about training at The Yard. These attributes correspond directly to me as a student and have given me the tools to balance my school work well with my intense weekly training schedule.
Every day I walk through the doors, I feel loved and supported by each and every person that works and trains there. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to have extensive surgery to get it removed. Every morning while lying in hospital, my lovely teammates called me, making sure I was okay. Now with the all-clear from my doctors, I’m excited to get back on track for my college scholarship aspirations.
To anyone considering joining The Yard, I would say definitely do it. If you’re willing to work hard and want to be a part of something great, this place is for you.
Lucy Warburton (17)
The Yard has helped me develop as an athlete in many aspects. These include gaining confidence while learning new skills, and putting myself out there to perform proudly in competitions. I never thought that working towards a college scholarship would be an option, until Rosanna and the team laid out the pathway for it. It’s an ambitious goal, especially with the setbacks that COVID created for us. However, The Yard has always taught us to aim high and work hard, and not let the status quo in Singapore sport put a ceiling on what we can achieve.
Being a gymnast and training lots of hours has definitely helped me as a student. I have to manage my time and keep very organised, especially being in my last year at school and a gymnast who trains 25 hours a week. It has allowed me to excel in both gymnastics and school as it has required me to be very focused and disciplined around my studies.
I’m really lucky. The Yard works very closely with my school ensuring they know the unique position I’m in with my sport and academics. This relationship has given me recognition for all my achievements in gymnastics outside of school life while also keeping key stakeholders in the school aware of the training challenges I’ll be facing.
I would definitely recommend The Yard as it allows you to excel in all aspects of your life. During the pandemic, the team were relentless at ensuring we could continue our training however the rules would allow. The Yard is such a big part of my life and I wouldn’t want to be without it!
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This article first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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