A coach at a Crumlin-based gymnastics academy has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.
Melissa Anderson, of Valleys Gymnastics Academy (VGA), has been nominated for the UK Coaching Hero Awards.
Ms Anderson is one of 75 coaches from across the UK to have been shortlisted for the awards, out of more than 500 nominees.
The awards recognise the hard work and achievements of sports coaches during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the gymnastics facilities were closed due to lockdown restrictions, Ms Anderson ran a range of Zoom sessions to keep gymnasts engaged.
She even arranged group and individual sessions with a sports psychologist to help protect her students’ mental health during the pandemic.
Ms Anderson said: “It means the absolute world to be nominated.”
“The last year has been particularly tumultuous for everyone and I felt that it was important that I lead the club and our gymnasts through the pandemic – showing that although things were difficult, we were in this together and that sports and connection is so important in difficult times.
“To be nominated is such an honour, and I hope it means that during the pandemic I was able to have a positive impact upon the children and young people I have been coaching.”
She added: “I believe in the power of sport to unite and to boost mental and physical wellbeing and the work we have done at VGA has really supported this.”
Ms Anderson said the pandemic has given her “even more appreciation for the social benefits of sport”, as well as the “huge importance of social interaction and friendship for our children and young people”.
Ms Anderson has also been working with local foodbanks and has helped set up a sports equipment library.
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Emma Atkins, Director of Coaching at UK Coaching, congratulated the finalists and said: “Each of your stories were incredibly inspiring and showed how invaluable you are to your communities.
“The work of great coaches changes lives. And that is what you’ve done over the past 12 difficult months. You have brought people together through sport and physical activity sessions, whether online or one-to-one, and provided connections and support.”
Voting for the award opened on Monday, June 7, which coincides with UK Coaching Week, which runs from June 7 to June 13.
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