A trampolining coach who has contributed to Team GB’s success and was an integral part of establishing a Northampton club has been named as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Tracy Whittaker-Smith, from Duston, has been coaching trampolining for more than 40 years after she began at Northampton School for Girls (NSG) when she was 16.
The 57-year-old used to compete in county gymnastics and was introduced to trampolining at school.
Tracy said: “I had an unsettled childhood. Without being so focussed on sport, I may have become a statistic. PE teachers went over and above to help give me the opportunity to excel.
“I couldn’t afford to attend club activities but my teacher encouraged me and let me participate for free, so in return I ended up helping out. I found a real passion in helping others to achieve and I learnt so many skills it was a natural progression into coaching.”
Tracy took her passion to the next level and helped to establish Northamptonshire Trampoline Gymnastics Academy’s (NTGA) new base in Benham Sports Centre, Moulton Park in 2006.
The centre became one of the premier UK clubs and a breeding ground for World and Olympic athletes.
After coaching Jaime Moore - the first trampolinist to represent Team GB at an Olympics in 2000, Tracy took over as head of the senior national women’s team in 2012 and worked with Bryony Page who won Team GB’s first trampolining medal in Rio in 2016 and a further medal in Tokyo 2020.
Now, the former Barclaycard employee, who is still in charge of the national team, has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for her services to trampolining.
Tracy told Chronicle & Echo: “When I opened the letter I was really shocked and stunned. I’m bowled over. It’s amazing.
“I would never have expected anything like this, ever.
“It was the club that nominated me and this MBE is for them and all the great people that have supported me for many years, including family and friends, coaches, athletes, leaders and support staff.”
NTGA went from strength to strength while Tracy was at the helm and the club continues to grow, with around 1,000 members attending sessions every week.
Tracy added: “It became clear that there was a particular lack of provision for people with disabilities to enjoy sport.
“It started with a couple of groups, one being from the National Autistic Society and has grown to being a programme of more than 30 hours every week.
“It’s really fantastic to see the club and everything we created over many years doing so well.”
Tracy hopes the MBE will help her to inspire more people and implement change in the professionalisation of coaching trampolining.
“I never dreamt I could this far so I want to inspire others to follow their dreams and passion and to see where it takes you,” Tracy continued.
“Coaches are having a hard time of it at the moment in the sport, so I want to inspire coaches to know what a positive impact difference they can make.”
Tracy said that although she is now a national coach, the MBE is “very much for Northampton”.