When Manning Aquatic Centre Sales and Guest Experience Manager Mel Proust began following the Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE) Centre and GAGE founder and renowned Olympic gymnastics coach Al Fong on social media, she never imagined that she would one day be offered a scholarship to be a part of Al Fong’s coach mentoring program.
The scholarship and GAGE Centre
“The placement was advertised through Al Fong’s social media platforms and I thought, ‘This would be an amazing experience,’” said Mel. She began talking to the GAGE team in May/June 2019 as she was unsure whether the placement was available for international coaches and knew the planning would be quite in-depth.
Mel is looking forward to making the most of the scholarship experience. “Al Fong is very well known for his coach mentoring program. Not only do I want to be a part of this program so I can personally build upon my knowledge, but I would also like to gain an understanding of why this program is so successful and how we can implement stronger mentoring programs back home,” she explained.
Mel also wants to learn the secrets behind GAGE Centre’s success as a gymnastics facility that has branched out into many facets of gymnastics from local birthday parties to international gymnastics competitions. She is keen to see how she can apply her learnings to Belgravia facilities across Australia.
Gymnastics in Australia versus the rest of the world
While acknowledging that gymnastics training is a few steps behind in Australia compared to the rest of the world, Mel is appreciative of Gymnastics New South Wales and Gymnastics Australia’s efforts to bring local programs in line with international programs and ensure that what gymnasts are learning at a young age will support further skill development and difficulty requirements as they progress through the levels.
Funding is a challenge for gymnastics in Australia in comparison to the US, but Mel is optimistic that the sport is heading in the right direction and will eventually achieve similar status as our counterparts in other countries. “We have amazing people and coaches leading our national elite programs and strong international coordinators in each state driving development locally,” Mel explained.
While international travel plans are currently on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, the offer remains open and Mel is hopeful that she will be able to take up the opportunity in 2021, which is the postponed Olympic year.
“I have been involved in gymnastics my whole life and love everything this sport has to offer. Although located in Bathurst, I am committed to helping Belgravia develop and expand their gymnastics programs and hope that one day, each leisure facility will have a gymnastics program running alongside it!” Mel concludes.