We will be in polite company, visiting, or with new friends at a party and someone will say it. The response usually gets my wife’s eyes to roll and the person asking to get an avalanche of “more than you wanted to know” soapbox speech from me. What do they say? Usually it starts with something like “we were going to sign up for gymnastics but…” or “My kid does ______ and has never done gymnastics but…” It’s a person’s attempt to connect to me once they find out that I coach gymnastics. I don’t mind but it’s like asking an insurance salesman about universal coverage; it starts off the sales mode. Though I don’t feel it’s selling it’s more like This is what I do and of course I am passionate about it.
What do kids get from gymnastics? Let me start by saying, I believe that everything I have in my life is because my brother Harold introduced me to gymnastics. I went to college, started coaching, started a business, grew a nationally competitive team, built a top-notch staff, met a great woman and had great children. All because of gymnastics. There are details to each of those claims that would clarify why these things came about from the gym but more importantly, and less tangibly, is the belief I have in myself that created an atmosphere to allow them to happen. Arrogant? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as confidence.
Being a gymnast gives kids not only the skills to base goals upon but the skills to understand how to set a goal and how to achieve it. A gymnast see direct and proportional response to their own effort. The harder they work the better they get. It’s visible, and obvious and allows self reinforcement of their own effort.
There are physical attributes that come naturally from being a gymnast. Most of our team girls hold records in their respective schools for pull-ups, sit-ups, sprint speed, and most other physical tests offered in school. I had on team a few years ago a girl that set the record in her school for push ups and the teacher made her stop at 125 in the interest of time and saving the boys from further embarrassment. Young girls learn that physically they can stand at least even with boys and can even surpass expectations that society can lay on them. That is what I want my team girls to understand.
Socially the kids can spend many hours at the gym, they often see coaches as second parents and team mates as sisters/brothers. But even the class kids that come once a week feel a sense of belonging. A sense of being a part of a bigger program. That is important that children feel socially accepted, though gymnastics is called an “Individual” sport it gives children a sense of community and belonging. That’s huge.
Years ago, I coached two girls whose dad was a high school physics teacher. He told me that his 9-year-old gymnast daughter had a better sense of applied physics than most of his high school students. Kids in gymnastics get to see cause and effect, balance and structure stability. They see forces of acceleration and force dissipation and they understand it all. Kids as young as 4 learn about the center of mass and gravity’s effect on it. They learn because the learning is fun and the lesson is personal. On average gymnasts have a GPA in the highest 10% of students in a given school. There are studies that show enhanced reading ability in gymnasts and that this sport builds not only physically strong children but mentally strong children as well.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtMkwgx512s&NR=1&feature=fvwp] Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is the fact that being a gymnast teaches you how to try. I have told people that Gymfinity lessons for a 3-year-old are more important than a college education. If we can teach a child to fall in love with learning new things, if we can teach them that trying things can broaden horizons and will raise your personal expectations and potential; if we can teach that, then college will be a breeze. Gymnastics taught me that when in I was in college I could study 3 hours a night while my friends were studying 5 and 6. I had to stick to a study schedule and be more efficient because I had a training schedule as well. It taught me that chemistry wasn’t that hard, I could do double back flips. I’m sure it was easier than that, so I approached it with that attitude (got an A too).
I heard it this morning, from a child leaving the gym after a pre-school “Tykes” class: “Mom, look what I can do!” I hear that as “Mom, my potential is limitless, let me prove it.” That’s what I want for every child that comes through the door of Gymfinity. That’s what I want for my kids, don’t you?
OK maybe it’s a bit of “sales mode” but I truly believe that gymnastics = success. I am living proof, and if I can do it, so can your children.
Watch the video above, forgive the spelling, it was created by a foreign gymnast/coach I think. But the message is clear; There are tears, fears and a little hard work but the return on the investment is exceptional.