Tips and advice from those who know
Former gymnast Hall “got the bug” to coach at age 18,
and he’s been hooked ever since. Now Hall, 45, is running
his own gym, Huntingdon Gymnastics Club, and pushing
British gymnastics ever upward. A father of three, the
modest Hall (who is assisted by Ben Howells) coaches
2008 Olympic pommel horse bronze medalist Louis Smith
and 2009 world all-around silver medalist Daniel Keatings.
The Southend Essex native recently fielded questions from
IG Editor Dwight Normile about his hectic life in the gym.
Since winning the 2008 junior Europeans, the British men have
been impressive. Explain how your men’s national system is set
up. We have around 20 gymnasts in the TOP Squad and they meet
for at least one week every month, and more before major events.
They are coached by Andre Popov, Sergei Sijianov, Alex Shiriev and
myself, and personal coaches are encouraged to attend. We have an
excellent team of dedicated coaches, led by Eddie Van Hoof, and this
focus is reaping rewards.
Has that trend of British men taking sc holarships to compete in
the U.S. ever been a deterrent to team unity and success in
Britain? I don’t think so. The gymnasts that went to the U.S benefit-ted tremendously, as did our system, but now we seem to have the
necessary ingredients at home to support our elite athletes in a very
positive team environment, with coaches and gymnasts all working to
a common goal.
Do national team members receive financial support? Yes, two
or three receive the equivalent of a full-time salary due to their potential to medal at world events. Other members of TOP Squad receive a
monthly amount of around 300 to 600 pounds, and there are incentives for making medals at competitions such as Europeans and
There’s no friction or jealousy. They are best of friends and really
could not have achieved so much had they not been together. They
are a real asset to the club and help the younger gymnasts to believe
that great results are possible. The hardest job was getting them to a
level when there was nobody to follow.
Gymnasts probably spend more time with their coac hes than
with their parents. How do you separate the tendency to
become a friend rather than a coach? I hope I can say that we are
all friends, but also that there is mutual respect. The guys know that
there is a line in the gym that they shouldn’t cross, and I’ve learned
that patience and an ability to depart from the rule book are sometimes necessary.
While soccer (football) must be the most popular sport in
Britain, where does gymnastics rank for boys? It’s still all about
football in this country, but I’m quite proud that we’ve introduced the
words “pommel horse” to the general public. Our waiting list is full
and we are desperately trying to expand to cope with the demand.
When did you recognize
Daniel’s all-around ability,
and did you take any specific
approach to develop it?
I knew Dan was a good all-arounder when he won the
British Under 14 title at just 11
years old. I’ve always had the philosophy that every gymnast should
do all-around for as long as they can, to try to excel at one or two
apparatus and do a reasonable job on the other four.
comes from seeing
young kids become
As a coach, what is your biggest challenge, and what gives you
the greatest satisfaction? My biggest challenge is balancing the
demands of being a father, husband, gym manager, and performance
coach, keeping all the plates spinning without losing the focus on
2012. My satisfaction comes from seeing young kids become good
people. I’ve worked a great deal with disabled gymnasts and have had
some of my most fulfilling moments seeing their joy at mastering elements such as a forward roll or a walk along a high beam.
How are Louis Smith and Daniel
Keatings different to train, personali-ty-wise? They are quite different, yet
share common traits such as ability to
perform, bravery and a love of life.
Louis is Mr. Cool and knows what to do
in order to prepare. My job is just to
motivate and point him in the right
direction. Dan needs to follow a plan, to
work harder, and tends to have more of
an input from me.
Does having two stars in the same
gym ever create friction or jealousy?
The 2012 London Olympics
seem to be coming at the perfect time for you and your gymnasts. Does that intensify your
motivation each day? Is it difficult to stay in the present? I feel
very privileged to be working with
such talent that could come to
fruition at an Olympic Games on
home soil. 2012 provides a great
focus for gymnasts and coaches
alike, and my only difficulty is
thinking about what to do in