Year 5 pupil Lilly-Ella has had some fantastic news. After only taking up rhythmic gymnastics at Ribble Valley Acrobatics Academy coached by our Prep Head Boys Mum, Toni Connolly, two and a half years ago she has achieved her dream. Lilly-Ella has competed in the National Espoir competitions with her quartet of girls over the last two years.
The girls have had an amazing experience travelling up and down the country, where they have learned lots both on and off the carpet. Last weekend Lilly-Ella and her newly formed team went down to Stoke to take part in the National seeding’s competition, this year it was massive with 38 teams entered! The girls performed exceptionally well and achieved 6th place out of the 38 teams, meaning that they not only qualified for the National Espoir league but also they would be competing in the British Championships! This is the highlight of the clubs career and a dream come true for Lilly-Ella.
Lilly-Ella has also won a sporting excellence grant from Ribble Valley county council to contribute towards her training for the coming year. Please read the speech she wrote below, which she will read out at the presentation evening to the local counsellors about her love and experiences of gymnastics since she began in September 2015. We wish Lilly-Ella and her team lots of luck in their British Championship competition! Congratulations!
‘I started rhythmic gymnastics 2 and half years ago, after changing my mind about artistic gymnastics and finding the dismounts too scary when I was only 7 years old. I really wanted to take up lyrical dance but this was only done down south so rhythmic gymnastics was the local option.
After a few weeks I found I really struggled as I didn’t really know anyone at the club and didn’t feel involved so I begged my Mummy to let me leave. After discussion with the head coach who stated they had seen potential in me, I was asked to try for the elite squad and trial for a team. This was scary as many of the other girls had been training since they were 3 years old! But I took the chance and this is when my life changed. I went from training for 3 hours each week to anything between 12 and 20 hours! And I loved it. I made new friends who are more like family. Gymnastics is tough and tiring so we all have to support each other through the difficult times when all we want to do is cry and melt down!
In my first year I achieved a place in the National Espoir hoop team and I felt so proud to represent Ribble Valley after being at the club for less than 6 months, we qualified at nationals and learned so much that year. I was the youngest in the team at only 8 years old with my team mates being 12! This only made me want to work harder and get better. We travelled as a group with our parents to many locations and it was a special time. Learning just as much in the hotel and backstage about a sporting life and team work as we did stepping out onto the carpet in front of 24 judges! Throughout my first year I also entered various individual competitions both with the hoop and free routines.
Our coach hosted trials for my second year and our club entered two teams into Nationals this year. I was really pleased that our quartet all won a place and remained the same, to build on the skills, performance and team work we had already achieved. We entered 3 teams into the seeding’s competition and the Ribble Valley Raindrops as we are now known were the only ones to qualify. This added extra pressure as we felt we had to do it not only for ourselves but also for the other girls at the gym. We had another great year, but it ended sadly as our two eldest gymnasts had reached 13 years old so we knew they would have to move up to junior level.
This year we trialled for a 3rd time both myself and my best friend Olivia made our team with two new girls joining us. We are now known as the ‘sassy’ group because people say that we really turn it on when we walk onto the carpet to perform. Our aim was to make nationals for the 3rd year running but with the new apparatus of a ball and two newcomers who had not competed at national level we had to work hard, focus, remain positive. This Sunday we attended the National seeding’s, not only did we make Nationals but we qualified in 6th place out of 38 teams from around the British Isles including Gibraltar! Meaning that we have achieved a place in the British championships! This is a dream come true for our club and the highlight of my experiences so far. This year I cannot wait to travel further afield to represent the Ribble Valley and I look forward to every bit of hard work to make our team the best that we can be! It will be tough, tiring and I am sure there will be tantrums but I know that every bit of hard work will pay off and be worth it.’