In the Spotlight - Michelle De Highden

In an unprecedented and unpredictable environment, Gymnastics Australia’s (GA) Elite Coach Manager, Michelle De Highden has taken the evolving nature of online gymnastics in her stride, keeping coaches and gymnasts around Australia engaged in the sport they love.

Like many in the gymnastics community, phrases such as Zoom, Trello boards and webinars were merely foreign words that had little relevance to our sport. Although since the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the closure of over 618 gymnastics clubs around Australia, online training session have become the new norm.

As clubs, coaches and administration staff attempted to navigate their way through the volatile situation, Michelle got on the front-foot, putting together an array of useful and important resources for any coach to utilise.

Working closely alongside GA’s Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Manager, Kim Gray, Michelle has assisted with the weekly gymsport catch-ups, ensuring all athletes and coaches alike are updated with developments and announcements from the governing bodies.

Whilst a number of the webinars were introduced to educate and provide useful resources to individuals within the gymnastics community, Michelle and Kim have also set up regular face-to-face catch-ups with athletes to maintain relationships and continue strong communication channels.

Some of the other initiatives Michelle and Kim have implemented included, a webinar with Olympic gold medallist, Lydia Lassila. Lydia spoke of her experiences and indicated various ways to cope with issues that may arise from being away from sport for a matter of time.

Michelle has also coordinated a weekly webinar series to provide support and guidance to all high-performance coaches. The webinar series was introduced with the aim to provide credible and important information, updates and news to all coaches within the program.

The series has been an overwhelming success, with more than 40 coaches tuning in for the inaugural webinar.

Michelle’s use of innovative methods has ensured that all coaches and athletes across the Olympic disciplines are kept informed with the latest updates from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), FIG and GA.

In collaboration with GA’s high-performance coaching team, Michelle created a number of Trello boards; an online platform where anyone involved can share and discuss their work. These boards have been created to provide relevant and credible information to members of the gymnastics community.

Information is regularly shared through these platforms and has been a source of knowledge as the gymnastics community adapt to changes.

Complimenting the work Michelle is doing with elite coaches around Australia, WAG National Pathways Coach, Regan Molyneux has done similarly with pathway coaches and athletes.

Regan has introduced several important and valuable resources that athletes can utilise whilst undertaking their home training. Despite the postponement of Regan’s Team Future Advanced (TFA) camp’s, regularly held at the AIS, Regan has worked determinedly to keep the next generation of gymnastics stars engaged and passionate about their sport.

These measures will undoubtedly hold high performance gymnastics in Australia in good stead for many years to come.