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Helen Reddy (centre, 2nd back) with all the other winners at the Devon Sports Awards

Performing Arts Head wins two top sporting awards

Helen Reddy is celebrating a double win after being awarded Devon Sports Coach of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Devon

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 12, 2017 | Sports & leisure

Ivybridge Community College Head of Performing Arts Helen Reddy has won two top accolades at the Devon Sports Awards.

The teacher, who was rewarded thanks to her tireless work in the field of gymnastics, won Devon Sports Coach of the Year, before taking the ceremony’s top honour – the Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Devon award.

The honours came as a complete shock to Helen – who not only runs Ivybridge Gymnastics Academy, but is also a high-performance coach at Honiton Gymnastics Club.

Held at Sandy Park, home of the Exeter Chiefs, on Friday 30th June, the awards celebrate the very best examples of community sport in Devon. This year they featured Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell as the guest speaker.

Helen Reddy with the Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Devon Award

“I honestly didn’t think I was in with a chance, so I was stunned when they read out my name,” said Helen, who is a Level 5 gymnastics coach and has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years. “It’s a real honour to be welcomed to collect an award in front of so many of your peers, so when they announced the second award I was even more astounded.

"This is about much more than me though; I’m surrounded by a team of dedicated coaches, helpers and supporters. who make it possible for me to put successful procedures in place. I couldn’t do any of this without their continued support.” 

The Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Devon – the final award of the night – was chosen by judges from those shortlisted in all categories. The award is designed to appreciate an individual or organisation that has gone ‘above and beyond’ to develop sport in the county.

Helen is an inspiration to thousands of athletes and students, setting them on a path to sporting excellence, while teaching them tremendous life skills in the process - Liz Slater, Leisure Partnership Manager at Plymouth City Council

Liz Slater, Leisure Partnership Manager at Plymouth City Council and parent of a gymnast who nominated Helen for the award, said: “Helen is an inspiration to thousands of athletes and students, setting them on a path to sporting excellence, while teaching them tremendous life skills in the process.

"In my 25 years of involvement in Devon sport, rarely have I witnessed a teacher and coach who has such a high level of passion, enthusiasm and a will to make a difference to young people. When Helen’s name was announced at the awards ceremony they referred to her as Super Woman – a moniker she truly deserves.”

After a sporting career as a national-level gymnast, Helen completed her first degree and PGCE at Exeter University, while taking over the reins at Honiton Gymnastics Club in 2001, growing the club from less than 50 gymnasts in 2007 to now almost 400 young people, with 30+ coaches being guided by Helen.

Helen Reddy picks up her Outstanding Contribution to Sport in Devon Award from Tony Rowe and BBC Spotlight's Jenny Walrond

In 2002 Helen started her first PE teaching role at Ivybridge Community College and since then she has held roles at the college including Head of Year, Director of Sport, and Head of Performing Arts. Starting with a small boys’ gymnastics team in 2002, Helen gradually built up the provision for gymnastics, before founding the college’s Gymnastics Academy. She now runs the most successful school gymnastics team in the UK.

Training at lunch times and after-school, her team won more national titles than any other school in the UK at the past two year’s BSGA floor and vault and acrobatic gymnastics championships. Helen not only oversees the development of 300+ students at primary and secondary level but also she creates and directs the college’s Performing Arts Show, which includes performances by more than 500 children.

National titles are never my primary goal – mass participation is – and our success it’s less about pushing elite performers and more about encouraging mass participation in gymnastics - Helen Reddy, Ivybridge Community College Head of Performing Arts Helen Reddy 

Helen added: “National titles are never my primary goal – mass participation is – and our success it’s less about pushing elite performers and more about encouraging mass participation in gymnastics. I believe strongly in the benefits that gymnastics delivers to students of all ages and abilities, so I encourage as many students – whatever their level of ability – to come along and have a go in our extra-curricular clubs, even if it’s only for 40 minutes per week. This broad base and focus on everyone performing fundamental skills correctly enables me to identify those that have a stronger natural ability for gymnastics and give them the opportunity to train more hours a week in our gymnastics academy.”  

To meet the growing demand for the sport by young people, Helen has created a sustainable coaching structure which sees students taking their first steps as young gymnastic leaders. The programme has been recently endorsed by governing body British Gymnastics, which has selected Ivybridge Community College as one of only a handful of apprentice hubs in the UK.

In addition to her school achievements, Helen organises the UK’s biggest annual acrobatic development competition in Honiton each year. Her recent successes have also included coaching and choreographing routines for the senior British Trio champions and Junior (13-19) Men's 4 Champions.

The Devon Sports Awards are organised by Active Devon, in association with The Exeter Foundation and Exeter College. This year was the awards’ 20th anniversary ceremony.

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