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Jennifer Nesbitt

Jennifer Nesbitt

The future looks very bright for young gymnasts in the Vale of Glamorgan after the merger of two of our affiliated clubs.

YMCA Barry have now officially taken over the running of Silver Stars, which will become Barry’s first satellite club.

Silver Stars, led by the tireless – and at times single-handed dedication – of Jenny Hignett, has been running since 2009 and has gone from strength to strength in that time. A recreational club primarily for children new to gymnastics, Silver Stars began with a class of 11 children and now caters for around 100 with classes at Penarth Leisure Centre.

The club will retain its own identity as Silver Stars of YMCA.

The move came after Jenny approached YMCA Barry back in February.

“We started in a school with 11 children because we only had 11 mats and we’ve just expanded from that,” says Jenny, who also runs a physiotherapy business.

“I’ve roped my son in; he was coaching and was a Level 2 but I think particularly since Covid has happened there have been so many changes and he’s actually left, he’s joined the Met in London, so I’ve been the only Level 2.

“We’ve had more than 100 children and just under 100 children at the moment, and it’s just very difficult with the number of emails and constant requests that you receive and I can’t do that when I’m running a physio business at the same time.

“All the coaching has really been left to me and, although I’ve brought other coaches into the club, it takes at least six months to train a coach; I’ve trained them on my own, whilst trying to run the gym club, whilst trying to teach the children and not having the support of another Level 2 or even another Level 1.

“It’s just got too much for me and looking around Barry to me is the best fit for our children.”

Sophie Erickson, Gymnastics Manager at YMCA Barry, said: “When Jenny approached us, we bit her hand off. It’s quite nice that we’re able to hopefully help and expand Silver Stars as well and cater for more children. It’s worked out brilliantly, we’re really pleased.

“I went down to speak to Jenny in one of the lessons and the set up on her own was just huge; I don’t know how Jenny has been managing on her own for so long and so well. It’s a hell of a job with lots of staff let alone trying to do it on her own.

“I think as well just making what was two clubs into one is making it so that we’re going to be able to sustain ourselves a lot easier.

“If Jenny was to ever move away in the future and if no one was able to take over Silver Stars, there’s a lot of people round the Cogan area who I don’t think would necessarily be able to drive to Barry or Cardiff, because it just isn’t feasible – particularly at the moment.

“So you’d have a whole host of gymnasts with nowhere to do gymnastics so I think without this, we might have been at risk of losing a lot of gymnasts on the way.”

YMCA Barry’s Gareth Slocombe, pictured top left, will work with Jenny Hignett, top right, after the merger with Silver Stars.

Jenny says she has already seen a huge benefit with her gymnasts able to access to gym at Barry and adds that, while she has no plans to retire, she hopes to now also be able to take some time out to visit and spend some time with her children and grandchildren in the United States and Norway.

She added: “The children I’ve been teaching become like your own family, you see them so often through the week that you know how they think, they how they work, you know their moods.

“So it would be a big responsibility to just walk away from something that you’ve been a part of for so long and I don’t want to just walk away.

“I can’t let the children down, I don’t want to let them down.

“So this move has been the best thing for me because I know that Barry has the resources but they also have coaches that will also be able to continue what we’ve been doing.”

YMCA Barry’s Gareth Slocombe, who recently won Community Coach of the Year at the Welsh Gymnastics National Awards, will now head up the coaching and work alongside Jenny at Silver Stars.

“Gareth is the perfect fit with Jenny,” added Sophie.

“He is just the pinnacle of a Gym For All coach, like Jenny, and I think that ethos is going to be very similar at whatever level that child is, he is going to get the most out of them and get everyone to reach their full potential.”

Established in 1917, the YMCA Barry gymnastics club is a real pillar of the community and caters for more than 800 members as well as an additional 200 drop-in pre-school children. The club’s overriding aim is to provide a programme for all ages and abilities.

For more information about getting your child started please email

Don’t forget you can also follow Silver Stars of YMCA on social media. Facebook: Silver Stars of YMCA and Insta: silverstars_ymca.

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