Author: Katelynn King – Rainbow Gymnastics Director/XCEL Team Coach
They’re here! They’re here! The Olympics are finally here! And we CANNOT contain our excitement! Watching the rush of adrenaline before Simone Biles performs an astounding Floor Routine. Celebrating with Sam Mikulak after a staggering performance on the pommel horse. These are the types of events that make our kids want to be just like them. So why not let them?
Granted, your child may not see the podium at the Olympics, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful in recreational or team Gymnastics or can’t use Gymnastics to be successful elsewhere.
There is an unlimited amount of benefits in enrolling your child in a Gymnastics class; some of these aspects are obvious, while others may not be.
Some of the more obvious benefits are the physical ones:
Balance and Coordination
Gymnastics requires an innate amount of balance and coordination. Not only do your girls have to be able to walk on a balance beam that is 4 inches wide and 4 feet tall, but boys and girls alike have to be able to find their center while they’re upside down performing a cartwheel or handstand. Especially with children who are learning more about their own body awareness, Gymnastics helps kids not only recognize what muscles move and when, but it also helps enhance their spatial consciousness and figuring out how much space they’re taking up. Gymnastics may not keep your accident-prone kiddo from falling, but it will help them learn how to fall in a way that might hurt a bit less.
If your child is interested in another sport, such as Football, Soccer, Lacrosse, or Volleyball, Gymnastics helps build the strength needed to throw, catch and run. It also boosts their ability to be light on their feet, and to manipulate their body and space in a way that isn’t taught during Football practice.
It’s no secret that Gymnasts are flexible, and there is a good reason for that. Stretched muscles are strong muscles, and the more you stretch, the easier it is for your blood to flow, body to move, and muscles to grow. Having good flexibility also helps with balance and coordination when performing day-to-day tasks. Plus, how many of us get out of bed, or off a chair, and moan and groan because our muscles are tight? Flexible muscles also mean stronger ligaments, tendons and joints, meaning, less breaks, twists and sprains! Good flexibility also helps with other sports, much like Balance and Coordination does!
Some of the less obvious benefits of gymnastics are the mental and psychological ones:
Confidence, Grit and Determination
One of the many jobs of a good coach is to boost the confidence of their Gymnasts. It is innately terrifying to flip around on the floor with no assistance. Our brain naturally tells us NO to going backwards when we’re in midair. But any Gymnast knows how to override that fear with the confidence instilled in them by their coaches and by the drills they’ve done prior. It’s a slowly progressing sport so that we can ensure the safety of the Gymnast, and that way they know they can trust themselves when performing something they’ve never done before. You’ll never hear a Gymnast ask their Coach, “are you sure?” because they know, if the Coach is asking them to do something, the Coach knows they can do it.
On the flip side of that, it can become frustrating if a Coach does not feel the Gymnast is ready to “chuck it” just yet. Or, if they’ve spent week upon weeks learning a skill and they still can’t do it yet. This is where the child learns grit and determination. They won’t let it overcome them and they’ll never say, “I just can’t do it!” They will continue to try over and over again. Doing the same drills each week. Receiving the same spot every week, letting the fire burn inside until they eventually do it on their own. And then everyone in the gym will (not so silently) cheer for them, celebrating that victory.
When we watch artistic Gymnasts on TV or at a meet, we only see one person on the event at a time. One person on the bars, one person on the rings, one person on floor. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Gymnastics teaches you how to work as a team. Especially on a competitive team, each Gymnast is working closely with many other girls or boys, sometimes for hours, learning from one another and leaning on each other. You become close, much like a family. And as such, you want each other to do well. Only one person can win 1st place, but you are okay with your teammate getting first over you, because you work together. It’s a win for you as long as someone on your team gets up there. In recreational Gymnastics, you make friends who come to the same class week after week and cheer each other on when your friends get a skill that they’ve been working hard to accomplish.
Not only does Gymnastics help your child with their physical development, but it helps with their mental development. They will become stronger, more flexible, more confident team players, and can carry their knowledge and skills from Gymnastics to any other facet of their life.