If, like me, you have boy gymnasts, it’s a question you might have been asked before. Sometimes it’s not actually asked outright, but you can hear the question in the things people do ask, or see it in their facial expressions. Those slightly raised eyebrows, that wrinkled nose, the general air of surprise when you say that your son has his gymnastics lesson after school tonight. “Isn’t it a girl’s sport?”
In our family, it was always a given that all of our children, male or female, would take gymnastics classes, as both my husband and I were involved in the sport in one way or another throughout our childhoods. Whether or not they chose to stick with it was up to them. That has meant that I haven’t had any negative reactions from family members, although I have heard stories from other people about grandmas asking why they don’t do a “boy’s sport” like rugby or football instead, or uncles suggesting that boys might be somehow weaker or less masculine because of their chosen sport. I imagine that this must be hard to hear from those closest to you.
However, that’s not to say that I haven’t heard some odd ideas about my boys doing gymnastics over the years. Probably the most common question is: “gymnastics? Isn’t that more for girls?” Now, this might be because the person asking simply hasn’t come across any little boys who do gymnastics before, which is fair enough; however, surely they can’t have missed the success of our internationally competitive male gymnasts over the last few years?
Other common questions about boy gymnasts often involve leotards- “what do they wear instead of the girls’ leotards?” or “aren’t those leotards really uncomfortable for them?” (answers: they wear boy’s leotards; they’re cut differently to girls’ ones to fit a boy’s shape).
“Aren’t you worried it’ll make them a bit… girly?” is another question I’ve heard. For a start, what’s wrong with being a girl, anyway? There are many ways to ‘be a boy,’ just as there are many ways to ‘be a girl,’ although that’s a post for another day, as once I get going on that topic there’s often no stopping me!
In any case, no I’m not, as, contrary to popular opinion, gymnasts- both male and female- are some of the toughest kids I’ve ever come across. The strength and conditioning exercises they do in every single training session would put many adults to shame! You can read my post about why I’m happy for my boys to do gymnastics HERE .
What many people don’t understand if they’re not involved in the sport, is that gymnastics isn’t simply the sparkly leotards dancing around the floor, or leaping across a beam, that you see on TV. Telling people who are surprised that my sons do gymnastics about the sheer number of pull ups my boy gymnasts can do on a bar, or the amount of press ups they can do in one go, seems to impress them into (maybe, hopefully) beginning to change their thinking a little bit. And watching them scale a large climbing frame in seconds, or drop down into splits without warning, has been known to make people’s jaws literally drop open.
Once, on a family fun day in my home town, a local cross-fit gym set up a bar and challenged people to see how long they could hang there without letting go. Mr F, at 7 years old, asked if he could have a go. He hung there for so long that a crowd gathered round to cheer him on. Someone asked if he did cross-fit class, and his gym-coach dad proudly answered “no, he’s a gymnast!” By the end of the day, the winners were announced- Mr F was in second place, beaten by ONE SECOND, by ONE adult, all day. Gymnasts really are amazing!
Have you ever experienced any negative reactions to your boys taking part in gymnastics? Or perhaps you’ve had a really positive experience with your boy gymnasts you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!