Certified STOTT PILATES® Instructor
In addition to being a Certified STOTT PILATES Instructor, Jess Kirkham is also a dancer. She trained in all forms of dance and was part of the Royal Ballet Senior Associates and Central School of Ballet before physiotherapy for ankle surgery led her to Pilates. As an Instructor, she calls on her years of experience in dance to inform her decisions for an unusual client list—the local pro rugby team.
Here is her story.
It was a normal day at Cheltenham Pilates & Yoga Studios, where Jess had been teaching Pilates for the past two years. When she came to work, she was told she had a new client scheduled for that day. “Sounded like he was from New Zealand,” her colleague told her casually. Nothing unusual. But then her new client arrived. “He was absolutely huge,” Jessica says. “I knew right away he was a player.” A rugby player, that is.
Jess’ new client had just moved to the UK from New Zealand, as her colleague had correctly guessed, to join Gloucester Rugby, a professional rugby club based nearby. He had started Pilates at home, and was pleased to find a place to practice in his new town. So pleased, it turns out, that he told his teammates. Soon Jess was teaching three players. Then she got a phone call from the team’s head of medical science.
“I was nervous,” Jess says, of preparing for her lesson with him. She broke out her old anatomy books and started brushing up on her knowledge, researching what rugby players in particular might need in a Pilates practice. Her work paid off. The head of medical science, impressed with the class, lobbied for funding to bring the entire team to Cheltenham to take classes with Jess.
“I’d never taught anyone like that,” Jess says of the players. “They pose quite a challenge.” Not least of which is size. Often their arms are so big, they can’t quite fit on the Reformer, a situation that Jess must take into account when she plans her lessons. She also works closely with the head of medical science, who lets her know particular training programs the team is currently practicing in order that Jess might supplement these activities in her classes. She also has to consider the different types of players in each class. “Half are forwards, who need to do a lot of running, and half are big, and need to prep for scrums,” she says. Balancing the needs of everyone in class is “literally turning two plates at once,” she says. “You have to learn to multi-task.”
“Half are forwards, who need to do alot of running, and half are big and need to prep for scrums.”
Her background in ballet is useful, she says, as it gives her insight into the sports mentality, and she often crafts programs for the team to take on the road with them when they travel to away games. “They work hard,” she says. When they are in town, the classes also double as a social occasion. “It’s great, really great,” she says. “They come in early, have a coffee.” Some of the players like Pilates enough to order Reformers for their own homes.
“They keep coming,” she says. “That’s what’s important.”