GYMNASTS past and present waved a fond farewell to an ‘inspirational’ coach who has been teaching youngsters for almost 30 years.
Tony Cookson, 65, retired as senior coach at Gainsborough Gymnastics Club last week. Friends and family surprised him with a retirement bash, where cards, gifts and familiar faces wished him well for the future.
“It was such a fantastic night. I had no idea everyone was going to be there. I thought it was just going to be a normal class,” said Tony.
John Marwood has worked alongside Tony as a volunteer coach for 22 years.
“He’s inspirational to the kids. They look up to him,” said John.
“Because we teach recreational gymnastics, rather than competitive, every kid gets a chance.”
“That’s what Tony enjoys. He likes to see them achieve things they perhaps thought they couldn’t.”
Tony got into gymnastics when his daughter Joanne showed an interest from a young age, making it into the county squad.
He enjoyed the sport so much that he trained up, took his exams, and became a fully qualified coach.
Now aged 34, Joanne made the trip up from London, where she now lives, to surprise her dad.
“It was lovely to see her because I wasn’t expecting it,” said Tony.
“And it was through her that I first got started with coaching.”
“It has been brilliant over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially the kids - they have been exceptional.”
Tony was first involved with Gainsborough Gymnastics Club at Middlefield Lane when it was run by Sam and Pat Brailsford.
Then he began helping out at Brumby Gymnastics Club in Scunthorpe, where Joanne was attending for competitions.
Some of his former Brumby students and coaching colleagues came along to the retirement bash to see him.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was really nice to see them and I must thank them all for coming,” said Tony.
Tony took over at Middlefield Lane when the Brailsford’s retired. And finally the club moved into West Lindsey Leisure Centre when it opened.
Tony said: “I won’t know what to do with myself now I’ve finished, I’ll be twiddling my thumbs.”
“But I am looking forward to watching Beth Tweddle and the GB gymnastics team at the Olympics.”
Heather Sharpe will now run the club on Thursday evenings from 5pm - 8pm.