Parents often enrol their children in gymnastics hoping they will be the next Olympic gymnastics star…and maybe they will! But more likely than not, their time in the sport won’t be on such a worldwide stage. However, that doesn’t mean that if your child never wins a gold medal there is nothing to be gained from participating in the sport.
From the very first day they step foot on the floor, kids gain so much from the sport of gymnastics. Even if a child never makes it past the first level, they will learn lifelong lessons. Here are just a few.
Even if their class is just once a week, they learn the meaning of commitment. Gymnastics class is somewhere kids go regularly, and they get used to going there at the same day and time every week. When they sign up, they are committing to going to every class, or at least most of them. From the first class to the last there are many weeks in between, and this shows kids that making a long-term commitment means following through.
Mastering skills after hard work gives kids self-confidence. Going for a skill that is initially scary, like a cartwheel or a backwards roll, helps children gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. When they are proud of their bodies and themselves, kids gain a valuable sense of self-confidence.
3. Following Directions
In gymnastics, following directions is the key to having a good time in class. Directions and rules are there for a reason, usually to keep students safe, and this lesson is taught on day one. Gymnastics lessons are a place where children must learn to take turns, wait patiently for their turn, and listen to the instructions before jumping into action. Especially for kids not yet of school age, gymnastics is a great place to learn to follow directions and can help children go into school prepared because they have had to sit and listen to directions before.
4. Social Skills & Teamwork
The gym is a great place for kids to safely socialize with adult supervision. Gymnastics is a wonderful place to make friends, because it is a fun activity children can share together and bond over. Some activities in gymnastics require multiple kids to work together to achieve a goal, which also shows how important teamwork is.
Respect in the gym is a big deal, whether it is respect for your coach, team mates, or other adults in the gym. Some gyms even have time before or after class when they sit down and discuss what is expected of young gymnasts, and respect is definitely one expectation. Even if respect is not verbally addressed, it is taught through learning to wait your turn, listening, keeping hands to yourself, etc.
6. Health & Wellness
Gymnastics makes exercising fun, which shows kids that exercise is exciting and a good thing, rather than something you have to do but don’t necessarily enjoy. Kids who take gymnastics classes learn that exercising can make you happy and teaches you to take care of your body. Prioritizing health and exercise as a child forms the habit of working out, which can become a lifelong tendency.
7. Time Management
Going to gymnastics takes time out of the day, and kids are forced to make sure they have time for it. This may sound silly to adults because children do not have a lot of responsibilities to manage, but for kids, it really teaches a lesson of time management. To get to gymnastics class they may have to stop whatever game they are playing, come home from a friend’s house, or make sure they get chores and homework done before going to class, which is time management!
8. Goal Setting
In gymnastics, not everything can be achieved overnight—and that is a good thing! Teaching kids to strive for goals that they have to work towards is an incredible life skill because it teaches them perseverance and dedication. Goal setting is an important skill for everyone to have in life, but it is one that is taught, not just picked up out of nowhere. Gymnastics is a perfect place to teach this skill early in life and in a fun way!
Strength, flexibility, balance, and more, gymnastics truly teaches it all! It is often referred to as the foundation for other sports, and that is absolutely true. If kids stay in gymnastics their whole lives, that is great, and preschool gymnastics of course teach the foundation for more difficult gymnastics down the road. But even if a child only takes one gymnastics class, it also sets them up with the coordination skills and body awareness to succeed in other sports.
Gymnastics can be unsafe if you don’t follow the rules, which makes a gymnastics gym a good place to learn the importance of safety. For example, a common rule in gymnastics is that after their turn on the trampoline, kids have to exit and walk back to their spot on the floor. If they try to bounce off the trampoline onto the floor or stay on while another child is jumping, there can be injuries, even though they may be minor. Rules and safety are discussed often in a gym setting, making it a good place for kids to learn about safety from a trusted adult who isn’t their parent.
There are a million times where persistence is taught in this sport, even in preschool gymnastics classes. Putting mistakes behind you, showing up after you failed, and getting back up after a fall all happen in gymnastics. Young gymnasts learn that it doesn’t matter if you failed, as long as you have the persistence to get up and try again. That purposefulness transfers to so many things later in life, such as applying for jobs, retaking a test in school, and more.
The kid’s beam may seem low to an adult, but to preschool gymnasts, it may as well be a hundred feet up in the air! Conquering their fear of getting up on the beam, bars, or any other obstacle is a great life lesson. There will be many things in life that they encounter that they could quit once they are afraid, but if they learn during gymnastics lessons that they CAN face their fears and overcome them, they are likely to try it in other areas of life as well.
13. Mental Toughness & Work Ethic
Many things in class will be challenging to kids, and lots of children at this age have never had to do something truly difficult for them mentally. The great thing about starting mental toughness and a good work ethic in gymnastics class is that there are low stakes. A child running off because they are tired or not working hard is a great chance to start an age-appropriate conversation about mental toughness, but there are no huge consequences if they don’t improve on this skill right away. Gymnastics simply gives them a fun place to work on these skills.
Even if a kid isn’t going to eventually end up in a profession where they have to perform in front of people, learning how to perform a skill or routine can help kids overcome the fear of crowds and performing that they will encounter in life. They will definitely have to give a speech or presentation at some point in school, and learning how to get up on the floor and show a skill or routine will transfer to their confidence in performing other activities.
There will be some days where a child just doesn’t feel like going to gymnastics, or maybe their class is early on a Saturday morning and they have to wake up for it, or for whatever reason they want to skip it one day. Making themselves go in and give 100% even though they aren’t feeling it teaches self-discipline and motivation.
The Van der Stel Gymnastic Coaching Team