“I only have good things to say about my own experiences under Nia, but it does make you think hard about the right way to speak to and treat children in the sport.
“It’s sad that some people feel they didn’t have the right experience in gymnastics, but all I want for the children I’m coaching is for them to feel they had fun.
“Some of them might drop out of the sport quite quickly and only a very few will go on to be among the best in the country, so the most important thing for me is that they look back and feel they enjoyed the experience.
“Gymnastics is different to so many sports, because the people in it can be reaching their peak when they are 16 years old. Coaches can be very passionate about talented kids, but by far the most important thing for any coach is not that they produce British champions, but that all the kids in their group had good fun along the way.”
Thankfully, none of the troubling headlines have put Laura off her chosen path and she is determined to carve out a role that makes her even more valuable to her sport in Wales than she was as a performer.
Her level two coaching course – delayed by the coronavirus pandemic – is due to be completed later this year and the Swindon-born athlete will then try to continue to climb the coaching ladder.
“One of the things that is guiding me is that when I was 18 I started being coached by Nia, but she wasn’t dictating the whole relationship.
“I was allowed a voice and given plenty of input. She was always really supportive and I’m really grateful to her for showing me that is how coaching should be.”
For elite gymnasts, the time commitment means the relationship between coach and performer has to be based on that kind of mutual trust and understanding.
At her peak, Laura used to get up at 6am most mornings, train between 7am and 9am, do a day’s study at university, and then train again between 4pm and 8pm.
“That was a big commitment and I understand that now as a coach because I did it as a gymnast.
“I still have so much else to learn, though – the best ways to communicate, the different personality types, as well as teaching all the skills to perform.
“I can tell the gymnasts things from my perspective – what worked and what didn’t work – and that feels useful.
“So, I’m really enjoying coaching, I would recommend it as a move for anyone in sport to consider, as a way of giving something back to the sport, but also for developing new skills and ambitions themselves.”
Story by Dai Sport (@Dai_Sport_)