Remaining Connected During COVID-19

As Rhys Barden entered his 19th year of involvement at the Darwin Gymnastic Club, little did he know that his role to educate and prepare gymnasts and the next generation of coaches would soon be turned on its head as a result of COVID-19. Despite this, Rhys has taken advantage of the opportunity to upskill himself, and now has the pleasure of welcoming his gymnasts back into the club.

Rhys’ gymnastics journey began as a Men’s Artistic Gymnast where he marked his interstate debut at the 2008 National Clubs Carnival in Canberra.

It was at this same time though, his journey as a competitive MAG gymnast came to an end. His desire to help others saw a swift change in focus into a career in coaching, where he would impart his knowledge and expertise to the next generation.

The success of Rhys’ gymnastics coaching was evident, leading three NT MAG gymnasts to the 2018 Australian Gymnastics Championships, something that Rhys notes “does not happen too often”.

“I remember being very proud of Gymnastics in the NT, Darwin Gymnastic Club, the three gymnasts, and myself!”


Not soon after did the whirlwind of 2020 hit Australian shores, where, like all 618 clubs around the country, the Darwin Gymnastic Club shut its doors amid the Coronavirus pandemic with no clear end in sight.

Like many across Australia, the abrupt enforcement of restrictions on March 23 left the club in a world of hurt as they scrambled to find ways to keep members, parents and gymnasts engaged in their beloved sport.

After a short time and a lot of preparation, the club introduced a series of Zoom lessons and meetings as well as Google Classrooms, where recorded lessons and activities such as crosswords and colour-ins were shared along with an array of additional resources to keep their community feeling supported and motivated while in shutdown.

Despite the ever-changing environment that gymnastics clubs have faced over the past few months, Rhys has been able to reflect positively on the change, indicating that “gym closures worldwide have increased connection across communities”, ultimately making it more accessible for smaller clubs to keep up with larger clubs.

Rhys and the Darwin Gymnastic Club also recognised the tireless work Gymnastics Australia, Gymnastics NT and clubs around Darwin have put in to support each other and the entire gymnastics community.

“Gymnastics Australia connected clubs through weekly webinars and up-to-date resources, and for coaches, weekly Zooms with Michelle De Highden and her guests, Trello boards and more!”

As part of Education Month introduced by Gymnastics Australia, Rhys highlighted the importance of easily accessible resources that were “dramatically discounted, or often provided free”, as a way to help keep coaches and judges around the country involved in gymnastics.

As a gymnastics club so distant from the heavily populated states such as Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, Rhys noted that more than-ever, clubs in Darwin “have rarely felt more connected to the Australian gymnastics community”, and were ever-grateful for the abundance of resources made available.

Following the Northern Territory governments ease of restrictions, Rhys, the Darwin Gymnastic Club and their members have been given the green light to continue gymnastics, albeit in slightly different conditions to the norm.

Despite the heavily reduced face-to-face hours, Rhys is looking forward to having gymnasts back at the clubs and spending much-needed time in the gym, where he can continue to impart his knowledge, some new and some old on the sport he loves.

Education Month
To celebrate Education Month, Gymnastics Australia (GA) is offering discounted online courses to enable coaches to upskill.

Until 31 May, all intermediate coaching courses will be reduced by 30% and advanced courses by 40%.

As part of Education Month GA has released a series of new and free professional development resources on our website, designed to ensure that all our technical members have the tools and information they need to grow their knowledge of gymnastics and learn best practice methods from around the world. Click here to find out more.

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