Melvin Edwards, president of Western Cape Gymnastics, says the gymnastics family is extremely excited to be back in business after the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture gave them the go-ahead for a reopening of clubs and gymnasiums.
His federation represents 164 registered clubs and is a member of the Western Cape Provincial Sport Confederation (WCPSC).
Melvin said they were extremely excited to be back in business, adding that gymnastics is the only source of income for many club owners and coaches, so during the Lockdown they were forced to sit at home without any income because of the closing of clubs and gymnasiums.
He continued: When we received the message and the go-ahead, we were obviously very excited. But you must remember that opening the clubs was not just an announcement and then the clubs were opened… we were busy with a process long into the lockdown already.
We engaged with several departments, we engaged with the war room of SASCOC, we engaged with the Minister of Arts, Sport and Culture’s office, so we presented all our policies to these various departments. Being pro-active the national federation also set up what is called an e-learning portal and all our club owners and all our coaches had to undergo health and safety training with regard to how to train during a pandemic and how to train after a pandemic.
The owners could only open their clubs – this was one of the compliance issues – once coaches had undergone that training before the clubs could reopen. Clubs had to undergo what is called a risk assessment. The risk assessment looked at various things – such as the age of the coaches, do you have any coaches with co-morbidities, how do gymnasts travel to the gym, how do you travel to gym, how do your coaches come to the gym, what is the size of your gym?
From there that risk assessment was sent out to the risk assessment coordinator of the province and the risk assessment coordinator and his or her committee would look at it and then they would rate each of the clubs. A low-risk club can open up immediately, a medium risk clubs still needs some work and a high-risk club is one that cannot open.
Each of these clubs have to have certain things in place – things like sanitising stations, the ability to keep social distancing, the ability to ensure gymnast safety with regard to how they are going to sanitise, how they are going to sanitise apparatus and equipment, etc. Coaches had to think out of the box on how to split the groups, make training sessions shorter, leave space in-between sessions for gyms and equipment to be sanitised, so each gym had to have certain protocols in place for them to be compliant.
Melvin said the they have just under 4 500 members and they are glad to say that most of their members have returned to gym. He said most of their members have also stayed on in gymnastics, even though they have had clubs that lost some members. But most clubs have retained more than 80% of membership for which they are very grateful.
Unfortunately, a few clubs had to close down and in the Western Cape they have lost five clubs due to financial constraints. They had to pay rent and had other running costs and without an income they could not cover those expenses. He said they feel for the clubs that had to close and for the people who have lost their jobs.