Nailsea gymnastics coach leaves lasting legacy to town

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:32 07 September 2020

Children, Carolyn Devereux and Jill Pope from Gemini Gymnastics donating money to Bella Mildon for Bella's Hope appeal in 2018.

Children, Carolyn Devereux and Jill Pope from Gemini Gymnastics donating money to Bella Mildon for Bella's Hope appeal in 2018.

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A popular preschool gymnastics coach has retired after more than 30 years teaching young children in Nailsea.

Jill Pope was a co-founder of Gemini Gymnastics Club and, until the Covid-19 lockdown in March, continued to coach children aged up to five at the club’s Blackfriars Road facility.

Jill, aged 69, started her career as a preschool coach in 1986 when gymnastics sessions were run at the former MYCON building in Silver Street. She took over the running of the club a year later and it continued to be based at the MYCON until the need for bigger premises became apparent.

Jill, along with fellow coaches Carolyn Devereux and Sarah Houston, identified a suitable industrial unit in Blackfriars Road and Gemini Gymnastics Club was formed with the three women as co-directors.

With Jill’s husband Mike as project manager and also part of the build team, the industrial unit was transformed into a professional gymnastics club complete with the equipment needed to coach the sport at a high level.

In 2013, British Gymnastics recognised the organisation as a growing club and a grant from Sport England allowed the facilities to be extended into the industrial unit next door.

The newly-extended gym was officially opened by Great British gymnast Beth Tweddle in 2014.

As well as coaching hundreds of young children, Jill has also dedicated her efforts to enabling disabled children to enjoy the facilities and benefit both physically and emotionally from their time spent there.

Jill said: “Thank you to my fellow Tuesday coach and friend Liz Davies and cleaner/helper Jennie Howling for making the days so fantastic, enjoyable and often hilarious not only for us, but also for our lovely gymnasts.

“I would also want to thank the late Mike Hanley for his huge input into the gym and also the many parents, guardians, grandparents and children that it has been my privilege to coach through the years.

“Last but not least, thank you to my family and wonderful husband Mike Pope for helping me to realise my dream and helping us so much when we took on our premises. He acted as a project manager and bookkeeper for quite some time.

“This has enabled me to leave such a legacy to Nailsea, which I now leave in the hands of Carolyn and Sarah.”


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