End of a Dynasty

“Unfortunately, any good stuff has to end,” says Martha Karolyi, the coordinator for the USA Gymnastics Women’s national team. After many years of both coaching and coordinating, and leading many, many gymnasts to the gold and silver medals, she and her husband Béla (whom she succeeded in her role) are leaving the sport behind. Continue reading End of a Dynasty

The Best Gymnastics Coaches

If you watch competitive gymnastics for any length of time, you begin to notice subtle differences in the athletes and teams. These can be attributed to any number of things, but one of the most pervasive influences on an elite athlete or team is the coaching staff. So why do elite and sometimes amateur athletes seem to coach-hop so frequently? Why did you wait to take that 400-level sociology class until a different professor was available? Same answer: you want the best teacher.

Personalities and teaching styles just have to click, or the best coach and the best athlete will never be able to work together, regardless of the level of their achievement. Discerning subtleties in a coach’s style of instruction is only possible through experience. At the amateur level, word-of-mouth will give you an idea about whether a coach’s style will be compatible with yours, but there’s no substitute for the road test. That said, there are certain qualities every good coach should have, whether teaching tumbling to toddlers or finessing elite performances at the Pan Am Games.

Many top-tier coaches are former gymnasts themselves who understand the importance of a solid foundation from which to build. They have experienced first-hand the progression from balance and control as a young person to strength and grace as an accomplished gymnast. These coaches will teach from that perspective, and it’s important to insist on this in a coach for yourself or your child. Only a coach with a belief in the basics will help a gymnast evolve into an elite athlete.

This same kind of coach values continuing to grow his or her own knowledge base as well. You wouldn’t engage a doctor who earned her degree 30 years ago and hasn’t studied since then – imagine the diagnoses and treatment! A good gymnastics coach is no different: learning how to coach is just as important as learning what to teach, and there is a big difference, though both are equally as important. Insist on a coach who values learning new skills to teach, but also new and improved ways of teaching them.

Few gymnasts respond well to drill sergeants (but some do!). A coach who can inspire and drive an athlete with positive inputs will see greater results than one who is primarily critical. Especially in the younger tumbling classes, a positive attitude in a coach will influence how the child views the sport and whether or not they will desire to continue in it. As the gymnast gets older, a coach can challenge and drive a little more to motivate the competitive spirit. But the best coach will always be an encouraging, supportive, and positive presence in the gymnast’s life.

Insisting on the best teacher means you get the best education, whether in academics, in the business world, or in your gymnastics ventures. Find a learning, growing, progressive, and positive coach and you’ll enjoy years of gymnastics instruction.

Why Should My Child Do Gymnastics?

“Why should my child do gymnastics?” There are a million positive answers to this question, and we’re going to look at a few of them here. The short answer is the same answer given to any parent asking why their child should participate in any sport: because sports are good for children. The longer answer is more complex, but important to understand.

Pre-schools and elementary schools have increasing numbers of obese children in attendance. These obese children grow into obese teens, and then adults, living with life-threatening risks that could have been mitigated in their early years with something as mundane as the introduction of an active lifestyle. And that’s why gymnastics.

We want to prepare our children for their futures. What better way to equip them than to instill in them a love for an active lifestyle? It’s like an immunization against a sedentary and obesity-prone life. Gymnastics is the one sport that even the littlest kids can become involved in, and the sooner the better.

Let’s look at the physical benefits of gymnastics for children. If they begin gymnastics at very young ages, gross and fine motor skills are not developed. Gymnastics and tumbling programs teach children about their bodies: how to control them, what they can do, and how to strengthen them. As they roll and run balance and swing, kids are developing muscular strength in ways that playtime or a physical education class could never impart. And finally, one of the things we all admire about the elite gymnasts is grace and flexibility.  A three year-old isn’t high on anyone’s list of graceful things, but through gymnastics, even children will learn control that can evolve into beauty and grace. Training in flexibility will make all their movements fluid and graceful (eventually!), and will help keep them in condition to do many other sports and activities if they choose. Few other organized sports train participants in flexibility the way gymnastics does, which is a shame, because flexibility informs so much of what were capable of later in life.

The non-physical but equally as important reasons to do gymnastics are similar to those of any organized sport. As a child progresses from tumbling to more complex routines and gymnastics apparatus, he learns self-confidence. In a non-competitive learning program a child is free to progress at her own pace, without a fear of “losing” or of disappointing coaches, teammates, or parents. Within the non-competitive gymnastics field, children learn the art of disciplining their minds as well as their bodies. In a competitive program for older and  more advanced gymnasts, discipline becomes even more important, and stays with the athlete in all aspects of life.

The future is going to happen to our kids. We may or may not be there to see it all for them, but we can equip them with the things they need to be successful in it. Gymnastics is a gift that gives them a healthy lifestyle, the socialization of teamwork, self-discipline, and confidence; all the best tools to becoming a happy, healthy human.

Gymnastics and Special Needs Kids

Children with special needs, like those on the Autism spectrum, are increasingly finding hope and help through physical activities like gymnastics. The sensory stimulation that different apparatus in a gym can offer a child is almost limitless. Fine and gross motor planning can be improved through gymnastic exercises and routines, and the opportunity to socialize in this kind of environment can make transitions in social settings easier and less stressful. No wonder children with special needs have found a home in the gym! Continue reading Gymnastics and Special Needs Kids

Having a Ball with Gymnastics

The upcoming events at World Gymnaestrada in Finland (July 12-18) will highlight some of the most intricate and interesting performances gymnastics has seen. Without a doubt, the most spectacular will be the group events, with hundreds, possibly thousands of participants in a single routine. A performance of any kind on that scale is extraordinary. But the individual gymnastics competitions can put some of the most flexible, agile, and athletic gymnasts in the spotlight. These are the performers that take our breath away.  Continue reading Having a Ball with Gymnastics

Choosing a Gymnastics Program

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. Continue reading Choosing a Gymnastics Program

2015 World Gymnaestrada

Every four years, a gymnastics spectacle captures the world’s attention, and it’s not the Olympics. The World Gymnaestrada will be held in Helsinki, Finland, this July and is expecting over 21,000 participants from 50 countries. This non-competitive gymnastics event is a celebration of the universal appeal of and participation in every kind of gymnastics at every level of mastery and at every age level. Continue reading 2015 World Gymnaestrada

2015 USA Gymnastics Championships Coming Soon!

It doesn’t get any stronger or bouncier, any more graceful or rhythmic, than at the USA Gymnastics Championships. The nation’s top male and female competitors in rhythmic and acro gymnastics are getting ready to take the floor in Greensboro, North Carolina in just less than a month. And you should go. Continue reading 2015 USA Gymnastics Championships Coming Soon!