WAKO Coaches – our heroes through pandemic

Today, even the most powerful people in our society are at the mercy of a virus that knows no rank and no title.

On these extraordinary times, women are disproportionally affected with Covid and they have increased demands in all fields in life. They are taking care of security for the family, taking care of the economy for life, do coaching in the kickboxing clubs, taking care of the club members, herself, families at home.

Their efforts must not be overlooked. WAKO celebrates our female coaches as front liners and real-life heroes. We salute them for continuously creative work in the clubs, programming and keeping athletes motivated, for their dedication to learning and contribution.

The sport of kickboxing and our organization stands on their shoulders.

Read the story of Sharon Gill, kickboxing coach, the story of dozens more women in sport around the world, who deserve support. She is setting a standard and an example that we all should admire! She is a woman who is changing the face of the kickboxing sport.

Because #HerWinOurWin.

Teaching the Martial Arts, shielding parents and generating income whilst in lock down
by Sharon Gill.

For England, due to Covid-19, lockdown began in March 2020. All gyms and martial arts businesses had to close and we could no longer teach our students indoors.

For me, this was a massive hit, martial arts is my business and my only source of income and I have quite a large number of students to look after and think about.

I had to think of a way to keep classes going to keep everyone happy, focused and to generate income to be able to pay bills and try not to lose many students along the way.

Straight away I set up zoom classes and got every one of my students involved and training in all the classes. It wasn’t an easy task and some weeks I was teaching and training in up to 26 sessions per week, which really took its toll on my body, but I soon got used to it and once into a routine, really enjoyed it. In fact, once everyone got into the way it worked, many parents also joined in and we had some great sessions together and lots of fun along the way.

At home I have both my parents living with me. Both are 80 years old and are classed as extremely vulnerable, so we were told by doctors none of us were allowed to go out and were highly advised to stay in during this time. This was quite a hard task for me.

Months down the line and I am now allowed to open my gym and run indoor and outdoor classes with all my students. I have had to have extra doors and windows installed to help generate more natural airflow inside, so I had to do some constructing work.

All classes have very strict rules and only up to 10 students are allowed in a class at any time and must maintain social distancing.

Because I have my parents at home who are still very vulnerable, I have to be really careful myself so all students (except for 4-7yrs) must wear face coverings when training and I wear a face mask and face shield as well, along with my assistant coaches.

It now means I teach up to 5/6 classes per night and have to make sure in between each class my gym is fully disinfected throughout, including all walls, toilets and training areas ready for the next class.

When I get home, to minimise risks further, I must put my clothes straight in the washing machine and go straight in the shower, and when I am around my parents in the house I must wear a face mask to protect them.

It’s a hard task but I don’t mind doing it, as teaching the martial arts is something I really love and enjoy.

The rules in England at the moment whilst we teach is very strict. We aren’t allowed any contact whatsoever, so no pad work or sparring is allowed for anyone. It has been very hard for us all to have to make these adjustments , but we still have great sessions and lots of fun and everyone has adapted really well.

After a nights teaching and training, I get up extra early and go into my gym where I have a deep clean. I hoover, have a thorough steam clean of all floor and wall areas and disinfect throughout once again.. this takes 1-2 hours each morning.

I then teach personal training sessions throughout the day and get the gym ready once again for the afternoon and evening classes.

I have also been training in as many international zoom training sessions as possible to keep up with my own training and education in sport. I’ve found Jack Felton’s sessions especially helpful as I find these particularly worthwhile and beneficial to me.

Hopefully, in time everything will get back to how it was and we can go about the martial arts in the way we used to, but for now we have to keep doing what we are doing, making the best of a bad situation but enjoying ourselves and having fun at the same time, we have to keep positive and be great role models to our students, whilst staying safe and looking after everyone around us.

Sharon Gill

WAKO GB coach
WAKO Women In Sport Committee member