There are many reasons I want my children to do gymnastics. I’ve always thought it’s a great idea for children to try their hand at a variety of extracurricular clubs and activities, to find something that they really enjoy. I went to swimming, dancing and trampolining lessons as a small child, and then later on to Girl Guides. Although none of these activities became life-long passions of mine, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to try them out; and so I’ve tried to make sure that my own children can dabble in lots of different hobbies, too. For them, gymnastics has always been a favourite, and here are some of the reasons why I’m happy about that:
1. I love that absolutely anyone- from tiny tots in a parent and toddler sessions, right up to retirees at adult classes- can have a go. Yes, it requires serious dedication to reach a high level, and not many children who start at gymnastics classes will become the next Nile Wilson or Dominick Cunningham; but they can all experience the enjoyment and sense of achievement that comes with learning new skills.
2. It’s a good ‘foundation’ for doing other sports in the future. Kids who do gymnastics are used to conditioning exercises which work on the strength and flexibility of their whole bodies; so whatever other sport they may turn their hand to when they’re older, chances are that they’ll already have developed some of the skills they need for it.
3. Little gymnasts are constantly learning new routines, often for several pieces of apparatus at the same time. Their brains are almost as active as their bodies! Being able to learn and recall information quickly is such a useful skill to have, both in school and beyond.
4. Friendly, recreational competitions are a good way to work on resilience in a ‘safe’ environment. Since not everyone can win, children get the chance to practise missing out on a medal, but still having fun anyway. I think this skill comes in handy in lots of other areas in life, too!
5. The sense of community in the gymnastics world – particularly in the men’s artistic world – is second to none. I’ve been to competitions where coaches from other clubs are old training partners of my husband, and watched them greet each other as if it were days, rather than years, since they last saw each other. The friendships my sons have formed with their gymnastics friends are sometimes stronger than those they have with their school friends. Even though they may spend less time together, they have a major interest in common, and I’ve seen genuine friendships blossoming in the gym between children with several years’ difference in age.
6. Gymnastics takes discipline- it can be dangerous if you don’t follow the rules. Children soon learn that if they want to improve in the gym, they need to work hard, even at the boring bits! This kind of self-discipline is such an important skill to have throughout life; learning it early, in a fun way, will benefit children as they move to secondary school, and on into adulthood.
7. It’s fun! Obviously this doesn’t just apply to gymnastics; but seeing Mr F and Mr S’s radiant faces when they learn a new skill, hearing them chatter about what they’ve been up to at training, and watching them practise together at home convinces me that all the time and expense has been worthwhile!