Sadly, in terms of national news, there is nothing happy to report from the gymnastics world. Many local and college teams are doing great things, but the reality is that abuse scandal is still the headline for gymnastics in most search engines. As scandals, finger-pointing, and fear seem to be taking hold in so many aspects of our culture, let’s focus on something positive right now.
For many kids, from toddlers to teens, spending time on a gymnastics mat is some of the most fun they have in a day. Tumbling mats let kids be kids with lots of padding to make sure they don’t get hurt. They can wrestle, bounce, tumble, and play without worrying about the hard floor. Older kids who’ve had some training can safely practice their skills at home to increase the pace at which their skills are mastered.
Is there truly safety on a gymnastics mat? Places where we thought our kids were safe before have turned out to be just as suspect as those we knew weren’t safe. So yes, bring a gymnastics mat into your home, and you’ll have the peace of mind and joy of watching your child practice in a safe environment. Outside the home, it is every parent’s responsibility to be vigilant, no matter where the child is. Don’t like the term ‘helicopter parent’? Get over it. Your child’s safety is your responsibility, and when you choose an instructor and facility for your tumbler or gymnast to train in, you have to be ‘that’ parent who asks questions, sits in on classes, and grills other parents and instructors about the reputation of the facility and coaches. There’s no other way around it. Blind trust can lead to the headlines like we’re reading today.
Gymnastics is an excellent, full-body sport that should be safe, on or off the gymnastics mats. Let’s insist on transparency and integrity from our children’s coaches and trainers – anything less is unacceptable.