Active Gifts

It’s tough sometimes during the end of the year to express love to our friends and family with material gifts as the season dictates. Often getting a child something from their wish list means giving them something that will end up under the bed in a week or, worse, consuming their attention by digitally entertaining their brains. But gifts that communicate your love as well as your values are always the best way to go, and in this post, you’re going to learn about a really great gift idea. Continue reading Active Gifts

Gabby the Role Model

It seems so much longer ago than only three years that Gabrielle Douglas won the hearts of every little girl who’s ever tried a cartwheel. To every youngster’s chagrin, she took some time off, graduated from high school, and then, this past week in Scotland, she returned to claim gold and the hearts of the even more young people.

What makes Gabby and second-place finisher and friend, Simone Biles, such engaging role models? There have been scores of outstanding female gymnasts and athletes who have certainly achieved greatness, even mastery in their sports. There have been charismatic, engaging young women, girls even, whom it was easy to like, but there hasn’t been anyone quite like Gabby. Young, athletically gifted, motivated, charming – the whole package.

She added to that package at World’s last week and now has a whopping 10 gold medals to her name, and the most world championship medals ever earned by a woman. At only 18 years old, Gabby is going into Rio with a resume no one can touch. Has it gone to her head? Apparently not. While that head on her shoulders is on straight, it’s not too big. She loves the sport, but isn’t all about the sport. She enjoys the games, but treats them as games, something to enjoy, not something to stress about to give up a childhood for. And that’s what makes her such an outstanding role model.

Kids hear too many sports figures and other could-be role models talking about “giving it all” and fighting to the end” and crushing their opponents. Gabby takes a different approach. Work hard and enjoy the competitions when they happen. End of story. No teen angst here. No sacrificed childhood or regimented life. That’s what’s appealing about her. She’s real. Kids can truly see her, not her public persona – because she doesn’t have one. She’s that rare breed in the public eye: kind and sincere.

Gabby has the confidence vote of every young gymnast out there as she preps for Rio. And she deserves it.

Who Loses with the Two Person Rule?

Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas led the US Women’s Gymnastics team to a resounding lead in qualifying for the team finals of the World Gymnastics championships this past weekend. With leadership and performances like theirs, it’s easy to see why the US women are so dominant in the sport. Continue reading Who Loses with the Two Person Rule?

So Your Kid Wants to be an Olympic Gymnast?

Seems every new gymnast’s dream is to be an Olympian. There’s no shortage of inspiring role models, proof that hard work, a supportive family, and a dream can get you where you want to be. But the journey begins with that first step – wait…what exactly is the first step?!

Elite athletes, almost without exception, begin training in their sport at a very young age. This doesn’t mean strength training at age two, but it does mean that a very young child must have an interest in being active (and what two year-old doesn’t?) and have a family who is interested in helping the child progress in the sport. For a child geared toward gymnastics, formal training can begin in pre-school.

Tumbling classes abound to help little gymnasts develop gross motor skills as well as balance, self-control, and even discipline. Tumbling activities also introduce the concept of group or team, which is utterly foreign to a toddler who is proficient in the “Me!” category. Participation in group classes will help the young child develop control and confidence as well as help determine the child’s level of interest in pursuing gymnastics beyond a pre-school class.

If an aptitude for gymnastics is discovered early, a child in a good program can be allowed to progress at his or her own pace with comprehensive direction from a trained gymnastics coach. You don’t need a Karolyi at this point, but a coach who is able to encourage and challenge a young child successfully is a true find. The search for this coach should be undertaken with all the seriousness one would apply to seeking a mentor or trainer for any adult vocation. A coach who has trained elite gymnasts before is likely a good candidate for an aspiring child gymnast. Be wary of programs that focus on too much competition for young children; kids need to learn to be part of a team as well as an outstanding individual gymnast and too much competition can train them to turn their focus inward. A coach who teaches the social skills of being a team member as well as training the individual is perfect for the very young but very driven gymnast.

And the rest is history. Or it could be, anyway. Your young child could make history as an Olympic gymnast, but that critical first step is up to you. Begin active play with your child from the moment they’re able to interact, embrace an active lifestyle so your child absorbs your enthusiasm, and as soon as you can, enroll the little guy or gal in a tumbling class. And as soon as you see the light in their eyes when you talk about gymnastics, find a trainer. Then take your place in the stands and be your child’s biggest fan.

Gymnastics Equipment at Home

Looking to extend your gymnast’s practice time? A coached session at the gym is a great start, but if you want to keep the interest level up in the younger gymnast or give the older ones the ability to practice outside the gym, nothing beats a well-equipped area at home for practice.  Continue reading Gymnastics Equipment at Home

Is My Child Too Young for Gymnastics?

Starting children too young in certain activities can prove to be disastrous if their attention spans won’t tolerate it, if they really hate it, or if it’s too taxing on their little bodies. But gymnastics isn’t one of those activities. In fact, gymnastics might just be the best activity you could choose for your toddler or young child. Continue reading Is My Child Too Young for Gymnastics?

Urban Gymnastics

Most gymnasts consider gymnastics an end to itself, but for a growing number of them and other athletes, gymnastics is fantastic training for another activity: parkour. Sometimes called “urban gymnastics,” parkour incorporates more gymnastics skills than just about any other sport. There’s no question that you have to be in shape for parkour, and the training of a gymnast gives an athlete a leg up (so to speak) in becoming an accomplished traceur.

Balance is fundamental to a gymnast. Even in toddler tumbling classes, students are made aware of their bodies, how they interact with different apparatus, and how to control them. For the parkour enthusiast, balance could mean the difference between a great run or an injury. Being aware of your body in time and space is crucial to land on a balance beam, hit a vault accurately, or judge the upcoming space between yourself and your destination. Misread, misjudge, or use the wrong amount of force and you’re out of the game. Good balance is crucial and indispensable in both gymnastics and parkour.

Gymnasts are some of the most flexible and agile athletes on any playing field. This serves them well in the gymnastics arena, but translating it into parkour can be a challenge. Routines are often so programmed that the fluidity needed to successfully navigate in parkour can be evasive. Un-learning the expected form (no judges are watching) and giving in to spontaneity will make a good gymnast an excellent traceur.

You don’t have to be a super-hero to leap tall buildings in a single bound – well, maybe not a single bound – but you do need holistic strength. Body-weight training is the preferred method of training; no bulking-up required. But functional training will help increase muscle strength for jumps, flips, and other traditionally gymnastic skills without adding cumbersome and limiting muscle mass.

If you’re interested in parkour, you might want to consider some gymnastics training. It’s not absolutely necessary, but will definitely come in handy when you’re ready to flip off your first wall.

US Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Team Qualifies for Olympics

For only the second time in history, the US Women’s rhythmic gymnastics team qualified the country for the Olympic Games. Team USA secured the spot in the Games at the Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships this week in Stuttgart, Germany.  Continue reading US Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics Team Qualifies for Olympics

After-School Gymnastics

School bells are ringing all over the country, which means it’s time to switch from a summer schedule to a school schedule. For many kids, this means choosing after-school activities, whether school or club sports, part-time jobs for the older ones, clubs, or other activities. When you’re evaluating your child’s after-school options, keep gymnastics in mind.

It’s true that many kids are over-programmed, being shuttled from one activity to another 5 or 6 days a week. Kids definitely need some down time, but they are also sick and tired of sitting at desks all day long. Even the most engaging classrooms simply can’t give kids the time, space, and structure they need to expend energy and develop physically. This is why gymnastics can be so valuable. A good gymnastics program provides structure in a safe environment, lots of space for uninhibited movement, a positive social setting, and an opportunity to develop both physically and mentally. What more could you ask for from an after-school program?

Kids learn best from playing, and gymnastics has this in spades. Younger kids tumbling around on mats think they’re just having a blast, but they’re really learning muscular control, balance, patience, and how their bodies relate to the world around them. In fact, there are probably a few adults who could benefit from an after-work gymnastics program! After sitting in chairs and on the floor most of the day, children will benefit from a focus on physical activity after school. Gymnastics offers that activity in the form of a structured program designed to progress as the child progresses.

At a good gym, you’ll find experienced instructors who can meet your child where he or she is and help them develop while they’re having fun. Of course, a good gym will also have solid, safe equipment and apparatus for the gymnastics program. Be sure to take a close look at the equipment; it should be in good repair, clean, and in use. These are good indicators that you’re looking at a good program. There should be crash pads everywhere – that’s a good sign that safety is a primary concern. And while the more recognizable apparatus should be visible, look for smaller objects like lower balance beams and bars, skill shapes, and other skill-developing equipment. This tells you that your child will be walked through the learning process at his or her own pace. You may want to consider purchasing some of the practice equipment for use at home, too.

If you find  a gym or club that has all these things, you’ve found a safe, nurturing after-school option that will continue to teach after the school bells have stopped ringing for the day.