New Mentor Nikhita tells us about her passion for gymnastics…
I come from a very sporty family and during my childhood I trained twice a week for six years as a gymnast. My speciality was acrobatics. This involved creating routines working with a partner in a pair, or with two other people as a trio. It was all about working as a team; you need a strong base to flip a top through the air and catch them! I was part of a big gymnastic club with over 100 members, girls and boys, from 5 to 25 years old. It was a great opportunity to make friends with others outside of my school.
Doing gymnastics as a person with a hearing impairment was tough. I wasn’t allowed to wear my hearing aids in case they broke or got caught in my hair. So I had to learn to listen and watch my coaches and fellow gymnasts to pick up cues. Gymnastics is one of the most dangerous and difficult sports to do, which is why it was so important to make sure I understood and followed instructions. Over time I gained confidence in asking coaches to repeat instructions to make sure I fully understood what they wanted me to do.
A crucial part of my sport was dancing to music, which for someone with a hearing impairment was difficult at times. My coaches and I devised ways of helping me to keep on beat with the music. Some of the techniques we devised involved changing the choreography so that it was easier for me to know when it was time to demonstrate a skill. They also gave me a recording of the music so I could practise the dance at home with my earphones on so I could hear the music better. These small changes allowed me to perform the routine to the best of my ability, even if the music was quiet or off beat during competitions and showcases. It was tricky to start with, but after a while my body created muscle memory which made it easier to perform without the need of music to guide me.
When I was 14, I decided I wanted to become a coach at my gymnastics club, because I had enough knowledge and experience to help others. I volunteered as an assistant coach supporting different coaches and age groups within the club. This gave me lots of experience of working with a variety of children who had different skill levels of gymnastics. I wore my hearing aids when coaching so I could communicate better when I was teaching. I also attended a one-day training course and achieved a certificate in coaching.
I loved gymnastics. It was a great way to meet new people and make new friends. I gained valuable volunteer experience that has helped me stand out when applying for jobs. I can still do handstands and the splits! My top tip would be get involved in any sport, as it’s great fun!