Te Puke Gymsport and Parkour has reached the incredible milestone of being 65 years old. A celebration was held at the club near the end of May.
“Our story starts back in the 1950s when the club, originally called Te Puke Gymnasium Club, first started in McDowell’s hall in Te Puke,” says Jane McKay, joint president of the club.
“All equipment was basic and mats hard. Everything had to be manually set up and packed down before and after each use.”
When McDowell’s hall burned down the club moved to the Te Puke Memorial Hall where sessions were held on Friday nights, providing a great babysitting service for late night shopping parents. In the 70s the club contributed equipment for the new gymnasium built at the Te Puke High School and classes were held there.
“In 2009 the club made a huge move to our current home,” says Jane. “This building made a huge difference to the club as for the first time ever, equipment could be set up permanently and not dragged out and put away every session.”
The club soon outgrew the main gym and had to rent next door, now known as the Parkour Room.
As Parkour grew and other gymsport-based classes were introduced, the club changed its name to Te Puke Gymsport and Parkour, in about 2012.
“Between 2017 and 2018, the club doubled in size as the committee, coaches and staff members focused on growth.
“We also won the Trustpower Community Award and the Westpac Business Award for Social Enterprise, in recognition of the previous 12 months’ hard work.”
The club added more classes to provide what the community wanted, including Parkour.
The club now runs an impressive list of classes including preschool gym, Gymfun, trampoline, adult fitness and gym classes, teenage gym sessions, Parkour, and women and men’s artistic gymnastics and tumbling.
“In 2019, we are also running two primary school and one intermediate/secondary competitions, two Parkour jams, one Springfest and one regional TeamGym competition for Gymnastics New Zealand, plus four big holiday programmes.”
At the 65th celebration, there were displays to show the audience ‘how we roll’. Unfortunately the trampoline and tumblers couldn’t perform due to room restrictions.
“Our athletes work extremely hard and train up to 14 hours a week, often with late nights. It is not just a sport but often becomes a family environment with life friendships made for the children and adults alike.”
It’s clear, on visiting the gym premises, that none of this would be possible without all the hard work of past and present coaches, office staff and committee volunteers. There are also the sponsors, parents and of course, the children.
One special lady, Jocelyn Boyle, has seen it all from the start.
“We are honoured that she is still involved with the club,” says Jane. “She is a lifetime member but a whole lot more than that to all of us who know and love her.”
Due to more growth and development, the club is now pushing into the future and has secured land from Western Bay of Plenty District Council in Te Puke on which to construct a purpose-built gym and Parkour facility.
“Stage One has been completed with a Geotech and topography report on the state of the land and we are all good to go to our next stage,” says Jane. “This will begin with a meeting with the council about planning. Then lots of fundraising will be happening.”
“The club has wanted its own building for about 13 years,” says the club’s joint president Sarah Elliott. “It’s moved around the town at different times, and ended up in a commercial building in Station Rd, unfortunately with quite a high rent, and quite small for its needs.
“We moved here thinking it was going to be too big for the club, but the club membership has grown so much since then. It’s an unusual club in that if someone wants an activity the committee has tried to find a coach that can make that happen.
“Many things that have grown naturally through the club, one of them being Parkour. Some of the really creative people here decided to give it a go and start it. At the time the Police who have their station across the road were having trouble with boys tagging buildings. They asked if we could provide something that would keep the boys off the streets. We invited them to join Parkour. Now a third of our membership is doing the Parkour programmes.”
For a town of Te Puke’s size, it’s incredible how quickly the membership has doubled in the last two years, although not surprising with its reputation, and catchment area extending to Rotorua and Waihi.
“We’re over 450 members now per week,” says Sarah. “The size of the building is only 700 square metres. Usage is very high and the children don’t have much space to do their activity.”
For this robust and very active club, 65 years is a stunning achievement. With a lot of community support backing them, let’s see it continue to grow.