A WREXHAM firefighter has described what it’s been like to swap a fire hose for a balance beam since also becoming a gymnastics coach.

Col Jones, 43, from Acton, has worked for 14 years as a crew manager for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, but over the last few years has found himself falling in love with an unexpected sport, gymnastics.

Mr Jones says the love began when we started taking his then three-year-old daughter to classes a few years ago, before being asked if he would help out at a few sessions.

“I’ve always had a passion for sport, never particularly gymnastics but I sort of fell into it when I started taking my daughter to lessons, and I was sort of coaxed into helping out with some of the sessions.

“Once I started getting involved I realised that actually, I quite liked it, and I got this feeling of satisfaction and happiness, knowing that I was helping these kids grow.

“Sadly, there aren’t a lot of male gymnastics coaches out there, so I felt like this was something I could do a lot more of, and I was eager to get more involved.

“From there I signed up to do some coaching courses, which I started about four years ago, I did the British Gymnastics Level 1 course, and now I’ve completed the British Gymnastics Level 2 as well.”

Since then, Mr Jones has become the head coach at Abbey Road Acro, a gymnastics club at Abbey Road on the Wexham Industrial Estate.

He added: “We get a lot of kids when they turn up for the first they’re really quite shy and they don’t really know if they can do it.

“Watching those kids then grow and morph into these ultra-confident performers, helping them to grow and seeing them accomplish things that they never even thought that they could, and just seeing them smile and enjoy doing something they love is an amazing feeling, that’s why I love to coach these kids and it’s probably the best thing about the role.

“There’s actually a few skills that I’ve managed to bring across from firefighting to gymnastics that have helped me to be a better coach.

“Obviously communication skills is a big help, being able to communicate with children of all ages is paramount to be able to coach them, and communicating with the public and other crew members of the fire service is a huge part of my job as well, so that’s one thing.

“Concentration skills and focus, being able to know what’s going on around me at all times is crucial in both firefighting and gymnastics coaching, and structure as well.

“At the fire service we have structure, and I’m bringing that to Abbey Road Acro with the introduction of proficiency awards, a recognised way of developing the young gymnasts, and alongside this I’m starting a leadership academy to bring on the coaches of tomorrow by developing the older gymnasts' coaching experience and qualifications as well.”

Mr Jones admitted that his two biggest commitments are almost polar opposites, and it’s unlikely to find many who have a vested interest in both.

However, he added that he can see this being a long term passion of his, and says he hopes to set up a family run club at some point in the future.

“The next step for me is to complete the British Gymnastics Level 3 course so I can get involved at an even higher level of coaching in this sport.

“You know it is kind of funny because when people hear I’m a gymnastics coach they are obviously a bit surprised, I admit they are very different.

“I’m a firefighter, I’m a six-foot-one skinhead with tattoos, and I think in public perception, that doesn’t necessarily fit the bill for a gymnastics coach.

“But I can absolutely see a future in this for me, when you see the kids grow, it only makes you want to grow as well, and I think that I will continue to do that.

“I obviously work rolling shifts at the fire service so I coach whenever I get the opportunity, sometimes that’s four times a week, sometimes it’s none.

“I would love to start a family club somewhere down the line, but for now I love what I do and I’m going to continue to do what I love.”