With lockdown restrictions finally easing, you may be looking for new activities for your child to try; and if gymnastics classes are something your son or daughter is interested in, you could be wondering how to go about finding gymnastics clubs in your area.
A quick search online for ‘gymnastics classes near me’ will bring up a list of clubs near to you, and their websites; but you could also head over to British Gymnastics’ website and use their ‘find a club’ facility. This will provide you with a list of all the gymnastics clubs in your area, and their distance from your home address. Gymnastics is a very common extra-curricular activity, so even in my small town, there are several gymnastics classes near me. When I type in my old postcode from the large city I lived in some years ago, 15 gymnastics clubs are listed within a five-mile radius!
So, when you’ve found some clubs close to you, how do you go about deciding which one to sign your child up for? Although I was never a gymnast myself, I’ve been in and around the world of gymnastics for a long time, as the older sister of a gymnast, wife of a gymnast and then coach, and mother of two sons who have been doing gym since they were pre-schoolers. In this post, I explain what I feel are some of the important things to consider when looking for a gymnastics club.
Firstly, as gymnastics is a really popular sport, many -if not most- clubs will have waiting lists. So don’t be put off by being told that you will need to wait for a space to become available for your child- you can always put their name on the list, and then turn it down later if they change their minds. Equally, don’t select a club purely because it’s the only one with no waiting list. Try to get a sense of whether this will be the right club for your child first. There’s also no harm in putting your child’s name down for more than one club, and then waiting to see which one has a space available first.
Word of mouth is a great way to gauge the reputation of a club. If you know parents whose children are already members, ask them what the atmosphere is like there- are coaches approachable and friendly towards parents, children and, importantly, each other? Is everyone made welcome, even if they’re just popping in to pick up their child at the end of a lesson?
It’s also important that you can watch your child’s gymnastics classes, if you wish to do so. In fact, British Gymnastics’ safeguarding documents state that it is “essential” for clubs to be open about their training sessions. When choosing a gymnastics club for your child, find out how you will be able to observe their lessons- depending on the set-up of the club, there may be a separate viewing area upstairs or in a corner of the gymnasium; or CCTV may be used to watch what is going on in the gym from another room somewhere else in the building.
If a club says that you cannot watch your child train, consider why not- I would personally immediately discount a club which did not allow parents to view training sessions (although of course, you should bear in mind that COVID regulations mean many clubs have temporarily suspended parental viewing).
As well as parents of current gymnasts, if you know anyone whose children used to attend gymnastics classes, try speaking to them too. Ask what their experience was like, and why they decided to leave their club. Have they moved on to another club, or had they simply decided they no longer wanted to do gymnastics? And if they have moved elsewhere, what were their reasons? The answers to these questions could also help you decide if a particular club is right for your child.
Visit some gymnastics classes for yourself
Depending on COVID regulations in your area, of course. As a child, my local gymnastics club held its classes in a leisure centre sports hall, and any member of the public who was in the building’s upstairs café area could observe the sessions- when my sister asked to join the club, it was because she’d seen other children training while she was having a snack after swimming, and I bet lots of other children signed up for the same reason.
But if viewing a session in this way is not possible at the club you would like your child to join, ask if you can make an appointment to have a look around. Take your child with you, and see what they think. What kind of feeling do you get from your tour around the facility? Is this somewhere your child will be happy? Just like with a school, the club that is the ‘best’ performing may not actually be the one that suits your child best.
When you visit the club (or chat with someone over the phone if a visit in person is not possible at the moment), here are some useful things to think about, and questions that you might choose to ask:
How will find I out what my child is learning? Some clubs may produce a written report at certain times of the year, or call you in for a meeting to discuss your child’s progress. Others will prefer to be more informal, chatting with parents at pick ups and drop offs on an ‘as and when’ basis.
Will my child be with others their own age, or with those with a similar ability level? Will boys and girls be in separate groups? As men’s artistic and women’s artistic gymnastics use different apparatus, some clubs separate boys and girls immediately. Others choose to keep everyone in a ‘general’ group at first, and then separate boys and girls later on. But if you have a boy, a club which never separates their men’s and women’s artistic groups may not be the right one for your child, so this is worth bearing in mind.
Is the club mostly recreational, highly competitive, or somewhere in between? Think about whether this aligns with what you and your child might want from the sport. If they may want to become competitive later on, can the club support that? If not, do they have good links with another club that they could refer you on to further down the line?
Who will coach my child’s group? Having high level coaches in the building doesn’t necessarily mean much if your child will only ever be coached by an older gymnast, for example. I have heard of a club who puts one of their top coaches with the most advanced group (for obvious reasons), and the other with the very youngest beginner gymnasts- in order to spot talent, but also so that child are given a really strong grounding in the sport, right from the beginning.
Does the club offer other gymnastics activities such as acrobatic gymnastics or trampolining, where your child could potentially branch out if they decide that artistic gymnastics is not right for them?
If you found this post via a search for ‘gymnastics classes near me,’ I hope that you have found it useful. Please do give it a share if you think that other people may enjoy reading it, too!