Last month, Mr F took part in his first gymnastics competition since the COVID-19 lockdowns. After almost two years, it felt quite strange to be back in a competition environment- and COVID restrictions still in place meant that it seemed both familiar and alien at the same time.
Walking back into the last gym Mr F had competed at reminded me immediately of what I had been missing about taking him to gymnastics competitions. Since inter-club competitions are gradually beginning to get going again, I thought that lots of gym parents might be wondering what to expect from their child’s first post-COVID competition, so I decided to write about our own experience, in the hope that it helps some of you.
Mr F was understandably very nervous when we arrived at the gym, and looking around as we queued outside, I don’t think he was the only one. There were lots of nervous faces waiting to be allowed in- on parents as well as children! But within minutes of starting to warm up, Mr F looked absolutely at home on the floor again, as if it had been weeks, rather than years, since his last competition.
The organisers had worked hard to make the venue as safe as possible for spectators and gymnasts. Individual bottles of hand sanitiser were given out on entry, with additional sanitising stations around the gym. Fewer gymnasts than usual were competing, and as a limit of two adult spectators per gymnast had been set, the viewing area wasn’t nearly as crowded as it normally would be.
Chairs were arranged in socially distanced pairs, and parents were asked to limit their movement around the viewing area as much as possible, with masks worn whenever we did need to move about. Of course, people did still move around a bit to get a better view of their sons on the different apparatus, but I think that’s to be expected; and there was certainly less movement that at many competitions I’ve been to. As it was less crowded than usual in the spectator’s area, it felt reasonably easy to keep my distance from other people, and I found that most people were generally quite respectful of each other’s space.
Everyone seemed to be a bit unsure of themselves at first- including the competition organisers, who pointed to the spectators that it had been two years for them, too, and asked us to please bear with them! Despite this, though, we all soon settled into the swing of being in the competition environment again. It was so heartening to see Mr F smiling and chatting in passing to his competitors just like he usually would, almost as if the past two years had never happened. Watching the boys cheering each other on, genuinely proud and congratulating both their team-mates and those from other clubs on good performances, actually made me feel quite emotional!
I did miss all of the clapping and cheering that usually goes on at gymnastics competitions, as I do think it all adds to the atmosphere of excitement. But, as this was the boys’ first competition experience in so long, I think the quieter atmosphere might actually have been for the best, as a noisy gym could well have been off-putting, especially for the younger gymnasts.
Overall, Mr F’s first competition of 2021 was a really positive experience, and has made me feel much more confident about how British Gymnastics-affiliated clubs are safely providing a path back towards normality for our children.
Have your children been to their first post-COVID gymnastics competition yet? Let me know how it went in the comments!