As a rhythmic gymnastics coach, Lynne Hutchison is part of the iSTAR Academy team in Shoreham-by-Sea, with her gymnasts representing Team England and Team GB at national and international level, and iSTAR are also featured on CBBC’s Gym Stars. Lynne started training as a coach in 2010, whilst competing as a rhythmic gymnast, and she made her Olympic debut at the London 2012 Olympic Games representing Team GB. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Lynne was part of the England team receiving Bronze, and she also made individual finals, and as a junior gymnast, she achieved the best ever result for Great Britain when she competed at the Junior European Championships, with the record still standing. Talking with us, Lynne told us about being a coach at iSTAR Academy, competing as a rhythmic gymnast at the London 2012 Olympic Games and winning Team Bronze for England at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
You are a rhythmic gymnastics coach at iSTAR Academy in Shoreham-by-Sea, what do you enjoy most about coaching the gymnasts?
My feelings as a coach usually reflect what the gymnasts are feeling. It’s an emotionally connected job so when the gymnasts are enjoying what they are doing, that’s when I enjoy coaching the most.
Can you tell us about a typical training day for an elite gymnast?
A typical day for a rhythmic gymnast in term time would be to go to school in the morning and finish a little early to start training at around 3pm. We then train for around five hours. The girls then go home, eat, sleep, and get ready to do it again the next day. In the school holidays we train all day most days. It’s an intense schedule!
How is it seeing the success of your gymnasts and being part of their journey?
It’s quite unbelievable when you stop and look back at how far the current GBR rhythmic group have come from when we first started working together. They are an inspiration for many as they achieved everything that they have with no example to follow. The last time Britain had a rhythmic group was ten years ago! The group discipline in the UK is really under supported, but lots of young girls are eager to do it. I’m proud that the current GBR girls can show younger gymnasts that there’s now something to work towards!
Do you have any upcoming competitions you are preparing your gymnasts for and how is it choreographing routines?
We are in our off season right now. That means the focus turns to training behind the scenes, working on building, and improving new things. It’s important to have a period each year without competitions to allow the gymnasts time and space to develop.
Choreographing new routines is exciting and fun but it’s also really difficult! I always say that it’s like completing a very hard sudoku puzzle but there are infinite possible answers. The endless possibilities for what you could create can be overwhelming. It also takes a long time to work everything out logistically, especially when a routine has mixed apparatus, things get really complicated and it can take hours just to create a few seconds of choreography.
The iSTAR Academy features on CBBC’s Gym Stars, can you say about this?
I think it’s great that rhythmic is featured on Gym Stars. Our sport is beautiful, and people love to watch it, yet it’s still not very well-known in the UK. I hope that people will see the programme and consider giving rhythmic a go. You will see more of us on the show next season!
What are some of your stand-out highlights of being a coach and working with Team England and Team GB?
There is a feeling that you get when everything is going well during a routine. The crowd is behind the gymnasts and the tension is really high because no mistakes have been made. At the same time, you can see that the gymnasts are fully immersed in the routine and really giving it their everything. That energy completely transmits off the carpet and it’s a unique feeling that not everybody can understand. When the gymnasts get to the end of the routine and everything goes right, it’s really emotional! This feeling is actually so hard to achieve but it has happened a few times in competition and even in training for my gymnasts. I’m happiest for them in those moments and I feel like everything is worth it, because that rare feeling is something that I know gymnasts strive to feel.
When did your coaching career start and how was it transitioning from a competitive gymnast to a coach?
I started coaching alongside my training back in 2010 so I have gained a lot of experience since then. Once I made the shift to coaching full time after being a competitive athlete, I discovered and realised a lot of things. On the one hand, I could relate to the athletes I was coaching because I had just been there and that gave me a valuable connection with the gymnasts. On the other hand, I was constantly becoming more and more aware and understanding of everything that my coaches have been through and experienced. It is not an easy job! It is extremely demanding, emotional, and intense. It’s like my awareness just kept multiplying as time went on and that has been quite a lot to handle!
What do you remember most from competing for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games and how was the experience?
London 2012 was a dream and the best week I ever had in that part of my life. Feeling like the entire country was behind you is something that I have never and will never experience again. It was special. The atmosphere in London during the Games was something else. I think that’s why I still love London so much. I have a special connection with the city. When I go there, I still feel the magic and the energy from ten years ago.
There was also one moment in the middle of our Ball routine where the crowd got really loud. It wasn’t even a particularly impressive part, but the crowd loved it. It was electrifying. If I really think about it, I can remember the madness of what that felt like.
How was it making your Olympic debut in front of a home crowd?
I understand how lucky I was to experience a home Games. Of course, I worked hard across my whole career but to be the right age at the right time is super fortunate. It was also the first time that my grandparents from Japan ever saw me compete. That was so special for me and really motivated me to push that extra bit in the last few weeks of intense training leading up to the Games.
In 2010, at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, you became the Bronze medallist with the England team, what was this like and how did you stay focused during the finals you made?
This Games was a blur for me. I was the youngest in the whole competition and being at a multi-sport games is so much to take in! I know I didn’t do my best in the competition but still managed to pick up a medal and make some finals! I tried my best, but I was so disappointed with my routines in the finals which gave me motivation to push to make sure I got to the next Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
It was quite crazy how much attention we got from this event from people all around the world! It’s not something that rhythmic gymnasts are used to, and it was a really good learning experience to have, especially just before the big boom of social media.
Do you have any favourite memories from competing as a rhythmic gymnast over the years?
I have many but my three best competitions were:
- The Olympics, which is probably the obvious answer!
- The Junior European Championships where I achieved a best ever result for Great Britain, which still stands today. We were so united as a team preparing for that Championships. It meant everything to us, and we showed that sometimes you can achieve things that everyone thought would be impossible.
- The World University Games because of how I personally felt at that competition, I had reached a place of stability and found the ability to enjoy pretty much every moment rather than being stressed! It’s a shame that sometimes it takes so long for athletes to learn this mindset, but if you manage to get there, it’s the best place that you can be!
Where does your love of gymnastics come from and was it something you always wanted to do at competition level?
I think my love is for performing. There are home videos of me dancing since I was one year old. I think I was born to do it. Weirdly, I was super shy as a young child and when I first started competing, I was so embarrassed to be on the floor. But the performance quality was inside of me somewhere and gymnastics brought it out and gave me self-confidence and I’m grateful for that.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
With my friends, family, and my dog. I also love to go to Japan which is where I was born. I feel happiest when I am there.
Have you been given any advice over the years that has stuck with you and what advice would you give an upcoming rhythmic gymnast?
This is a hard question because being involved with gymnastics has taught me so much. I got endless advice from so many different people and a lot of that will have impacted the way I am today.
I would want upcoming rhythmic gymnasts to see themselves primarily as a human being, and then gymnastics is secondary to that. It’s so easy to make gymnastics your entire personality and that can be unhealthy. Gymnastics seems like the most important thing in the world when you’re in it but there’s so much more in life and it’s important to believe in that from a young age. I think this mindset will give gymnasts more longevity in the sport as well as a healthier mentality in life after competitive gymnastics.
Do you have a favourite aspect of being involved with sports?
I think sport can make you a stronger person. It helps you to understand the true meaning of hard work. I also feel like I have a good understanding of my own body which is so important because I have this body for the rest of my life, and I want to keep it healthy for as long as possible.
There also tends to be a feeling of mutual respect and understanding between people involved in sport. We understand each other in a way that a lot of people never will and that’s comforting. I think that’s one reason why it’s so special to be involved in multi-sport events like the Olympics. Bringing so many people together, you see so much diversity, yet everyone shares that something in common. It feels amazing to be a part of.
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