Sheffield gymnastics coach June up for national sporting award

Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams has been nominated for the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year community award.
Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams has been nominated for the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year community award.
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A Sheffield woman who started teaching gymnastics more than 40 years ago has been nominated for a national award.

June Adams, from Hillsborough, is one of four finalists in the public vote for the 2016 Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year community award.

She runs Ecco Gymnastics Club from Wisewood Sports Centre, and has taught hundreds - if not thousands - of young people during her long coaching career.

After training as a dancer in her youth, June went moved into coaching after leaving school. A couple of decades later she made the jump into gymnastics, setting up Ecco - which has now been running for more than four decades.

June insists age is 'just a number on a piece of paper', and she is 'the same age as anyone that comes in the gym' - and she has no plans to give up her passion.

"It's very rewarding. Most of the children can do nothing when they first come," she said.

Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams with some of her students at Ecco Gymnastics Club.

Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams with some of her students at Ecco Gymnastics Club.

And although her students do enter competitions - in teams, so no one child is left without a medal - June's classes are about more than pure sport.

"It's more about the enjoyment," she said. "If you see one of our classes, they enjoy it so much. It's such fun.

"But it's also obvious that they are doing it properly."

June still teaches dance, as she has done for three quarters of her life. But it was the stir caused by 17-year-old Russian gymnast Olga Korbut at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games that caused her to expand her classes.

Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams at work.

Hillsborough gymnastics coach June Adams at work.

Known as the 'sparrow from Minsk', the 4ft 11in Korbut captivated the world with her acrobatics, and influenced plenty of Sheffield children.

"She just stole the show, and the whole Olympics," said June. "All the girls wanted to be her.

"We did things like cartwheels in dance. But she did it without any hands. Our children wanted to be able to do that."

June took gymnastic coaching courses and began her own classes. The first few were fairly rudimentary.

"We started with a beam that was two parents sat on chairs with a piece of wood that someone had cut for me," said June.

Those early classes have now grown into a school, with seven coaches working alongside June to teach more than 80 children.

It was the mother of one of those children, Rachel MacQueen, who put June forward for the Sunday Times award. She praised June's inspirational qualities, creating not just the next generation of gymnasts, but also the next generation of coaches.

And although June admits she wasn't too pleased to have the spotlight thrust upon her, she was happy to highlight the good work going on in Hillsborough.

"It's all about the club as far as I'm concerned," she said. "It's recognition for the hard work everyone has been doing over the years, including the parents who help us clear all the apparatus.

"It's about everyone that comes into the gym."

Among the many plaudits given in June's nomination form, Mrs MacQueen wrote: "June has a real love for gymnastics and, in my opinion, the club reflects and promotes enjoyment of the sport. It is a small club that doesn’t offer the intense training offered by the bigger clubs in the area. But that is because June purely promotes gymnastics for enjoyment purposes."

She added: "June is what I would call proper ‘Yorkshire’. She doesn’t tolerate messing around. She doesn’t dish out praise easily. But she lets the girls know when they are doing well. And when that happens, well they know they really are doing well. All the girls respect her advice and knowledge."

To vote for June, visit swoty2016.co.uk/pages/june-adams. Voting closes at midnight on November 27.

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