ETKO Sports Academy

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by ETKO Sports Academy's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from ETKO Sports Academy is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Founders Laura and Vio Etko
with son Leon
Over 1,000 members pass
through the doors each week
As of 2019, ETKO Sports Academy has been in business for
over ten years. Reaching the decade mark in 2018 provided
a fitting point to reflect on the company’s success, as
well as acting as a catalyst for future planning. The organisation
started life as Laura’s Gym in 2008, offering only a small number of
classes for preschool children. Today, however, its team members
welcome over 1,000 members of all ages through their doors every
week – the youngest of whom are baby gym-goers; the oldest
are retirees attending their “Exercise for All” sessions. Over the
next few years, new developments will arrive. Directors Laura
and Viorel Etko – both distinguished athletes – outline the
company’s foundations, future and place in the fitness industry.
We both come from an enthusiastic sporting background. I (Laura) am a former
international gymnast who competed for Scotland. Co-director Viorel – known
as Vio, also my husband – is an eight-times British Wrestling champion, a
Commonwealth bronze medallist and, at the time of writing, a world veteran
wrestling champion. We are both passionate about fostering a lifelong love of
exercise in others – and, indeed, ETKO Sports Academy’s activities are structured
around the three pillars of fun, fitness and family.
Foundations and fundamentals
Exemplifying this passion is the company’s focus on offering a strong programme
of activities for preschool children. Our comprehensive preschool programme
»Directors: Laura and Viorel Etko
»Founded in 2008
»Located in Oldmeldrum,
»Services: Fitness instruction,
exercise classes and sporting
»No. of employees: 30
»Our motto: Believe You Can
»Caters for all ages, from
babies to retirees
ETKO Sports Academy
Highlighting best practice
is divided into three distinct areas:
ETKO Gym Babies (three to 18
months), ETKO Gym Tots (18 months
to three years) and ETKO Gym Kids
(three to five years). These preschool
sessions gently introduce youngsters
to ETKO Sports Academy’s unique
Fundamental Movement and Basic Sport
Skills Programme©. Progress is then
consolidated and built on as children
move on to school-age classes, which are
offered in disciplines such as gymnastics,
wrestling, running and physical fitness.
One might ask why we focus on
fundamental skills at such an early
stage. All too often, we come across
older children who have never
properly learnt how to perform core
movements, such as jumping or
hopping, which prevents them from
participating effectively in a variety
of sports. This gap was highlighted
in a statement in early 2019 from
sports minister Mims Davies, who
called for children to be given the
“fundamental” skills needed to build
“a sporting habit for life”. While her
call was directed at schools – and
followed a study conducted among
130,000 children aged five to 16 – we
believe that early engagement, ideally
at preschool stage, is crucial. This is
evidenced by the difference in ability
between children who have followed
our preschool programme and those
who join at school-age level.
Energised expansion
October 2016 saw the opening of
our national-standard 1,092-square-
metre gymnastics centre, which is
fully equipped with a sprung floor,
integrated trampolines and a foam
pit, plus beams, bars and vault
apparatus. Our former facility, based
on the same site, was refurbished to
create a larger fitness suite for teen
and adult training plus a dedicated
studio for exercise classes. This major
expansion of our facilities coincided
with a significant rebranding exercise,
including our name change from
Laura’s Gym to ETKO Sports Academy
and our transition from sole trader to
Such a substantial increase in our
space has enabled us to grow the
size, volume and variety of classes and
coached sessions we offer. Our junior
wrestling programme, spearheaded by
Vio and Nico Cojocaru – both reigning
British champions at their respective
weights – is among the foremost
in the country, with over 80 active
Our ETKO Runners programme has
also expanded to accommodate
new sessions for both beginners
and secondary-school-age children.
Recognising that there are key points
when young people tend to disengage
from sports, we have worked hard
to develop training sessions and
membership packages for teens. We
are keen to bridge the fitness gap for
this important group, who often have
limited options when they finish junior
activities but are not of an age to
access adult gym facilities or clubs.
This approach links with one of our
core company values: inclusion. It is
further reflected in the specialist classes
and membership packages that we
have developed to suit mature adults
who may be retired, plus individuals
who work offshore.
Classes are offered in
various disciplines
October 2016
saw the
opening of
our national-
Fighting fit
Our operating model – initially as a
sole trader and more recently as a
limited company – means that we are
in an unusual, and often challenging,
position when it comes to applying for
funding and partnering with others.
Our expansion programme of 2016
was entirely self-funded, despite there
being an acknowledgement of the
need for such a facility in northeast
Scotland, as well as our stated
willingness to share it with other clubs
in the area. It was disappointing to be
declined for funding on the basis that
our activities would be detrimental
to other clubs in the area, given that
we are open to working with others.
Our ultimate goal was, quite simply,
to create a centre that would benefit
many young people in the locality. We
are delighted to have achieved this,
albeit independently.
Our business status also tends to
complicate our interactions with
sporting governing bodies, schools
and local authorities: our involvement
is frequently restricted because
we are not a club. This is a missed
opportunity, as the feedback from
schools we have worked with indicates
that their staff and pupils require
our blend of instruction, experience
We firmly believe that working in
partnership with others is the way
forward and hope very much that
there will be greater openness and co-
operation between private and public
operators in the future. By sharing
knowledge and resources, we have a
better chance of improving the overall
quality of coaching and services we
deliver throughout the sporting sector.
Mims Davies has issued her call to
action for all organisations, big and
small, across the sport and physical
activity sector to ensure that children
are “physically literate”. While
individual efforts are commendable,
a positive and united approach will
surely increase our chances of success.
Above all, though, we must not
lose sight of our common goal: to
encourage others to develop positive
sporting habits for life.
We have
worked hard to
develop training
sessions and
packages for
The thriving junior
wrestling programme is
one of the foremost in
the country

This article was sponsored by ETKO Sports Academy. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development