The club scooped two prestigious awards at the British Gymnastics National Awards night – coming first in the national club category (for those with a membership of over 250) and also winning the national award for equality and inclusion, given for working consistently in the community, providing additional opportunities for under-represented groups.
The club had been up for the “club of the year” title four times previously and managing director, head coach, and club co-founder Melissa Anderson admitted: “We just feel proud and overjoyed.
“We have won Welsh Gymnastics’ club of the year award twice in the past, but I don’t think any other Welsh club has ever been short-listed for the Great Britain award.
“To win that and the award for equality and inclusion means we’re the only club who have ever won two awards at the same event.
“I know how hard everyone works and how much they care about providing opportunities in the community. It’s lovely as a team of people to have that recognised and rewarded. A lot of other clubs had told us they were hoping we’d finally win. So, it was fantastic.”
With two awards in the bag, the club were also recently nominated for the community organisation award at the National Diversity Awards, held in conjunction with ITV News.
So, what does success for a club that is also a social enterprise, look like? What can other gymnastics clubs – and other sports – learn from VGA?
Boundless enthusiasm, hard work, determination, common sense and a few very transparent guiding principles that serve to inspire staff, volunteers and athletes would seem to be the order of the day.
VGA are self-funded. They are not maintained by regular cash injections from governing bodies, local authorities or even sponsors. And they have been that way since they were created 15 years ago out of a merger between a club in Abertillery and another in Ebbw Vale.
They plough their own furrow and they make their own calls. They have occasionally tapped into project grants for equipment and facilities – but for the most part the club’s operation is based on the same model as most parks’ football and rugby teams – members’ subs.
The secret appears to be in creating an experience so enjoyable - for those with elite gymnastics dreams as well as those looking for friendship and fun – that members (or more commonly their parents) are prepared to stump up.
Walk into the carefully configured gym at their main base at Unit 3H on the Croespenmaen Industrial Estate, and it’s possible to get an insight into why it works as well as how.
The gymnasts are busy. The coaches are plentiful. The groups are small.
In every corner, some supervised activity is being undertaken and there is a calm, brisk, business-like atmosphere, but also one that feels like fun for those involved.
This is being replicated in seven other regular locations, other units or rented sports centres in venues like Cwmbran, as well as school premises. The numbers are as impressive as the range – with 2,900 members paying fees of between£4.50 for a one-hour session, to over £100 for 20 hours a week of intense coaching.