Vale, Shirley Tilley

1932 – 2017

The Rhythmic Gymnastics community of South Australia mourns the loss of Shirley Tilley.  Shirley was instrumental in the development of Rhythmic Gymnastics (RG) in South Australia by assisting the then, South Australian Gymnastics Association (SAGA) but also Gymnastics Australia (GA) in the introduction of RG into the country during 1977.  Shirley Tilley was invited to attend the inaugural Rhythmic Gymnastics coaching course, run by the Otto’s (of Acromat)’ as they then knew it was the type of sport the calisthenic community would excel in and be able to assist develop into the future.

Shirley or Mrs. Tilley as she was known to her gymnasts started both Kara Kara Rhythmic Gymnastics Club (with Helen Broad) in 1977 and then a few years later, Mitcham Rhythmic Gymnastics Club (with daughter Deb); both clubs are still in operation today.  Shirley was a knowledgeable and driven coach and judge who supported gymnasts to reach their personal potential. This included providing boarding for international coaches in the early years and supporting gymnasts such as SA Olympian Linda Douglas as she trained towards SASI and AIS selection.

Mrs. Tilley was also the main leotard supplier for Gymnastics South Australia (GSA) and many gymnasts who competed in the 80s and 90s wore her leotards at Club and State level. I can personally remember visiting the Gymnastics, Dance and ‘Cali’ store ‘Deblyn’ to purchase a new ball and get fitted for leotards, as well as attending private lessons with my sisters in the backyard of her Netherby home.  Mrs. Tilley was highly respected by her gymnasts and as a gymnast under her coaching you certainly followed instructions when she gave them to you.  You knew that you were lucky to be training with her and that technique and skills were taught with a high base of knowledge from years of education.  She often travelled around the world to seek new opportunities and gain more ideas for training and routines for her athletes.

Shirley was a Brevet judge, who judged at Australian Nationals for GSA from 1979 to the late 90s, when she stepped into retirement. She was a highly decorated coach who worked at various clubs and as a SASI coach for a number of years.  Shirley continued to serve as a patron of Mitcham Rhythmic Gymnastics Club, and attended competitions to support the community and see the gymnasts develop.   Shirley was awarded both Life Membership with GSA and the Calisthenics Association of SA.

Shirley will be fare-welled by family in a small private ceremony on her 85th birthday.   We send our love and condolences to daughters Lynette and Debra.  Shirley leaves those of us who were lucky to be coached by her or crossed paths in either a gymnastics or calisthenics capacity with memories of a strong, knowledgeable woman with wonderful sewing talents.  She was a strong driving force in the development of Rhythmic Gymnastics in South Australia.

Farewell Mrs. Tilley.

By Kate Johnson and the rhythmic family.