I can’t help myself; we will be in polite company, visiting, or with new friends at a social event and someone will bring it up. Maybe they’re just being polite in asking what I do, but that is just the spark that ignites what is going to happen. They might say 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. Of course, I don’t mind but it’s a little like finding out a new friend sells insurance and then sharing that you are inadequately covered. Though it might seem like going all sales mode on a stranger but I don’t feel it’s selling; it’s more like This is what I do and I will not apologize for being 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 big 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 beliefs it cultivated in me that created an atmosphere to allow them to happen.
Being a gymnast gives kids not only the skills to base goals upon but the skills to understand how to set a goal and then how to achieve it.
No one is good at gymnastics because they got lucky, or because their mom did it and the genetics gave them an advantage. A gymnast sees 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 efforts.
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. A few years ago I had a girl on the team 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 on the football team from further embarrassment). Young girls learn that physically they can stand at least even with boys and can even surpass the expectations that society can lay on them. To be sure, it is important in the recent atmosphere of female empowerment, but that is always what I wanted my gym 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. It is important that children feel socially accepted, and though gymnastics is called an “Individual” sport it gives children a sense of community and belonging, and that’s huge. A feeling of community provides a structure of expectation and accountability, two things that many kids now days don’t get.
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 usually have a GPA in the highest 10% of students in any given school. There are studies that show enhanced reading ability in gymnasts (See link in photo) and that this sport builds not only physically strong children but mentally strong children as well.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is the fact that being a gymnast teaches you how to try. I have often told people that Gymfinity lessons for a 3-year-old child are as or more important than a college education. Because, I believe that if we can teach a child to fall in love with learning new things, if we can teach them that trying things can broaden their horizons and will raise their personal expectations and potential; if we can teach that, then college in their future will be a breeze. It’s not always about harvesting the corn, it’s about planting the seed. For me in college, Gymnastics taught me that I could study 3 hours a night while my friends needed to study 5 and 6. I had to stick to a tight study schedule and be more efficient because I had a training schedule to balance as well. It taught me that chemistry wasn’t as hard as others complained. 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).
This morning I heard a child leaving the gym after a pre-school “Tykes” gymnastics class say: “Mom, look what I can do!” I translate that as “Mom, my potential is limitless, let me prove it.” And that’s what I want for every child that comes through the doors of Gymfinity. That’s what I want for my kids. Isn’t that what you want for yours?
OK maybe it’s a bit of “hardcore sales mode” but I do truly believe that gymnastics = success. I am living proof, and if I can do it, so can your children.