Saturday 17 November 2012

The Problem with Irish Gymnastics

I like the way my enjoyment of gymnastics is not tainted, influenced or biased by nationality. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see Irish WAG on the rise, even with success at Europeans, if nothing else. Why haven't we managed this? So. Many. Reasons.

1. Lack of Population

An obvious one, but important. The entire population of Ireland including the North is about 5 million. That is just tiny in the scheme of things. This is also a factor in some of the below problems, but first and foremost having a shallow talent pool to begin with is quite the obstacle.

2. Lack of Interest

Gymnastics is practically end of the line as regards national interest. With such a small population, public interest can only go so far. Top of the list are our national games, Gaelic Football and Hurling. Rugby and Soccer are big too. As regards Olympic sports, we are good at boxing and canoeing and have been good in the past at athletics and briefly at swimming. There is precious little funding devoted to Olympic sports, and those that get it tend to be in the spotlight in the first place. Lack of interest also means there isn't a huge amount of people putting their children into gymnastics. In fact, Irish dancing which is a BIG export and carries a lot of expense with training and costumes and competitions I feel takes quite a lot of children etc. who might otherwise have fallen into gymnastics.

3. Lack of Funding

As I mentioned, funding is a big problem with Olympic sports here, and it will go first and foremost to those we stand a chance in.

4. Lack of world-class Gyms

The whole island contains the princely sum of 3 gyms of world standard. Two of which are in Northern Ireland, only one in the Republic- and it isn't near the biggest centre of population.

5. Lack of Quality Coaching

Not that the coaches are crap or anything, it's moreso there is no incentive- which funding contributes to- to attract an international calibre coach. Consequently, the elites that we do have are more of a Level 8 standard and lack precision of form and flexibility.

6. Lack of Motivation to Continue to Elite

There is no fallback of NCAA, no guaranteed endorsements- especially as gymnastics is very much so under the radar here, no chance of the government providing funds, a house, a car. In short, why continue devoting so much time to a sport where success is out of reach and gains are pretty much non-existent.

7. Lack of Difficulty

Sadly, for those that ARE elite, difficulty is very underwhelming. Understandably so, but it still sucks to see a routine with a double pike, double tuck and 1.5 twist all with landing deductions at Europeans.

Countries like Australia, the UK and Canada have done wonders to their programmes even in the last decade. But there is I think too much of a turnaround needed here for any international success in at leats the next few quads.


  1. Hmm your situation is similar to us here in New Zealand. I think another factor is the real lack of internal competition. Countries like the US, Russia and Chine don't have that problem. Even Australia, Canada etc have more internal competition than what Ireland and New Zealand has. I suspect Europeans is the highlight for Ireland whereas New Zealand can look forward to Pacific Rims and Commonwealth games.

    1. Internal competition really needs a good amount of elites in the first place to be worth doing. We do have one or two, it's just that winning isn't much of an accolade. Yes, Euros is pretty much it. Ireland is not part of the Commonwealth despite being part of the Union for a good while, so can't participate there either. The New Zealand juniors impressed at Pac Rims this year, though I'm not sure how much of that was down to cuteness and admiration over the girls whose area was affected by the earthquake, and how much was down to what they showed.