Gymnastics is one of those sports/activities that just can’t be beat as a healthy activity for children. It’s a no-brainer. Kids love to run, tumble, swing, dance, perform feats of superhero strength, and get applause for it all. The segue from child’s play into gymnastics is an obvious one. Choosing a gymnastics school or gym for your child is a little trickier. Here we offer some basic suggestions to guide you in a search for a good, safe program for your little gymnast.
Asking yourself a few questions about your child and your own expectations is the only place to start when you’re trying to find a good gymnastics program. First, and probably most importantly, what is your own commitment to the whole idea? Are you looking for a once-weekly activity to get the little one out from in front of a screen? Or are you looking for regular activity, maybe several times a week, perhaps with competition in mind? How much time are you willing to give to driving, waiting, attending competitions, etc? If you are able to commit only minimally at this time, then a recreational gymnastics program is what you need. Look for these within local recreation departments, colleges, and places like the YMCA. Activities like gymnastics are often offered through some after-school programs, too.
If your level of commitment is deeper and you’re willing to do the necessary legwork to make gymnastics a regular part of your and your child’s life, then investing in a good gymnastics school is going to be more important. Here are a few things to investigate if you’re sure you’re ready for this!
Give that you’ll be driving regularly, is the facility within an acceptable distance? Take time to investigate the school: how long has it existed? Does it have a good reputation? Are there a good number of older students there (indicating that students and parents like the program well enough to stick with it for years)? Are parents encouraged to become active in the program in different ways? And of course the big question is whether the fees are reasonable. In this instance, it can literally pay to do your homework. Look at other schools and clubs and compare. If your school or gym is way over or under the local average, buyer beware. And finally, take a look at the equipment in the gym; you should see properly-used equipment that is in excellent condition. There should be plenty of thick crash pads, tumbling mats, and other gymnastics equipment and they should all be in good repair. Safety has to be at the top of the gym’s list for the kids, or you should look elsewhere.
If it’s a good gym, you’ll be invited to tour the facility and sit in on a class or two. Sitting in on a class is hugely important. It gives you the opportunity to see how the class is structured, how the coaches interact with the students (are the kids comfortable?), and what your child could expect from the class. If you feel comfortable in the class, your child is likely to feel comfortable as well.
This is probably the most important aspect of your investigation. A good instructor will be warm and encouraging, someone to whom your child will look up. The coach’s primary job is to teach your child how to enjoy being active through gymnastics. A good coach will incorporate stretching, playtime, and instruction. The United States Association of Gymnastics offers safety certification for instructors in safety and spotting techniques, as well as teaching new skills. Make sure your instructor is certified and up to date!
Gymnastic activities will encourage children to choose active lifestyles and to stick with them. This is even more important in an age of screen-dominated careers and entertainment. So put on your Private Investigator’s hat and get to work finding the best gymnastics program for your child – it can be done!