Gymnastics is a fun dynamic sport that lets children feed their inner circus performer, daredevil, or Olympian.
We are going to zoom in on SIX things to help you and your child get started at our gymnastics facility.
How do they do that? Watching gymnasts hurl their bodies through the air while twisting and spinning, all the while under complete control is an awe-inspiring thing. Being able to do it is a whole different story. While spunky students may try to launch themselves in the air during that first class, the goal of the coach or instructor is to teach kids the fundamentals and have fun, so they will fall in love with the sport and therefore further develop their skills. Don’t expect any Yurchenkos, full-in back-outs, or giants on day one.
You can use this guide to prepare your child, find out what to expect and pick up a few tips on making this a rewarding experience for your family.
1. THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS … AND SMELLS
Our gym has a ton of sound, from multiple classes taking place, athletes punching off of springboards, the ping of the bars as an athlete dismounts, it may feel like chaos. However, there is an order to the rotations of gymnasts moving between stations and events. If your child is easily overwhelmed, it may be helpful to have them watch a class before signing up to ensure they are excited about the opportunity and are able to handle this very stimulating environment.
Another thing you may notice is the smell, some gyms have that “locker room” scent, but here we pride ourselves on having a gym that is regularly cleaned.
2. GET DOWN TO THE BASICS
Our beginner level classes focus on developing strength and flexibility, as well as good listening skills. It will also help youngsters become comfortable with the gym equipment — and the often discombobulating sensation of being upside down! When children start in gymnastics its like learning a new language. The skills, the equipment, the body shapes, they all have a name and it takes time to learn all the details.
All of our classes are based either on age or ability level and when possible by both. The types of skills taught vary based on the level of the class. For example, older students are able to understand complex instruction better than 2-4 year-olds. Our experienced coaching staff will tailor the instruction to the age group.
Our classes start with a warm-up that includes stretches and other exercises. Gymnastics for both men and women requires flexibility, and this is something that even elite competitors work on constantly. Once stretch is over the class moves on to their assigned rotations which makes sure a class gets to all their events once every two weeks.
You can expect skills such as rolls, handstands, bridges, cartwheels, as well as leaps and jumps, to be covered. If your child desperately wants to learn how to “flip,” let them know that the skills they are learning now are the foundation to build up to that skill. Before you can land a back tuck, you need to learn a backward roll in a tuck. Before you go for an aerial, you must master the cartwheel. Each skill is a building block towards a more advanced skill. They should not try advanced skills on their own until their coach lets them know they are ready.
3. COME PREPARED
This sounds a bit like stating the obvious, however, coaches will tell you it is worth repeating: it starts with arriving on time. Being late may mean the athlete will not have had the time to warm up properly, not to mention the disruption to the other students when someone joins in late.
Bring your child to class clean, dressed and ready to participate. Wear fitted clothes. Kids will be going upside down. You do not want them trying to hold their shirt down when they should be focused on their form and the safe execution of the skill at hand. For girls, leotard and compression shorts are recommended. Avoid tights as the footing can be slippery. Leggings and footless tights are generally fine. For boys, a compression shirt or t-shirt which can tuck in and athletic shorts or compression shorts should work. Gymnasts are not allowed to wear socks. At the beginner stage, special accessories such as grips or tramp shoes are not needed or allowed unless specifically directed by the coach or program director.
No jewelry should be worn. If ears are newly pierced and earrings cannot be taken out, they must be low-profile studs. Rings, necklaces, bracelets (excluding medical) and dangling earrings should be left at home.
Long hair should be tied back. Since kids will be rolling, they may find a bun to be an obstacle on their head. Some kids prefer a braid so that on twisting moves their hair does not whip them in the face. Your child will quickly find what styles work best for them, but most kids will be fine with a simple ponytail or pigtails. The key is to keep it out of the face so it is not a distraction or something they need to swipe aside when they finish a skill. Elastic headbands can be another help here, so long as they have enough grip to not fly off when practicing.
Eat well before class. As stated before, kids will be going upside down. Upset tummies lead to a mess for the instructor, so ensure your child has had proper time to digest their meal before class starts.
Bring a water bottle. Even if the class is only 45-110 minutes, it sets a good habit for your child on the importance of hydration as an athlete.
Finally, have them use the bathroom before class. Especially with the youngest students, when one kid has to go during class, suddenly they all need to go!
Gymnastics is a sport that requires a great deal of hands-on help from the coach. And this is a literal hands-on. Spotting can range from nudging the gymnast to completely carrying the gymnast through the motion. Most of the time, in order to best support a child and be there in case they bobble or fall, the coach will guide the athlete at their midsection — sides, stomach, back, and shoulders. The arms and legs are also spotted to help move a gymnast through a new skill. This not only helps the athlete feel the proper form and technique, but it also helps provide a safer experience as new skills are being developed. Make sure you speak with your child about the coach being hands-on and don't be afraid to talk about what is appropriate and inappropriate contact. If there is ever doubt or question please speak with the coach and their supervisor immediately. The safety and security of our athletes is most important.
Our gymnastics facility has wonderful areas set aside for parents to hang out while class is in session. We have an adult only quiet viewing area, and two large viewing areas upstairs, as well as a viewing area right behind the preschool area.
For some little ones, an audience is a big distraction. If they are constantly looking over to see if mom or dad are watching, instead of focusing on what the instructor is saying or what skills they are doing, so speak with your child and let them know you care and that you support them.
At any age, avoid gesturing to the child to pay attention, or stepping in when the child is nervous about a skill. Well-meaning parents can quickly become a distraction for the coach, as well as the kids. If the coach does need your assistance, they will reach out and ask.
Gymnastics should be fun from the beginning, filled with new friends and new experiences. While there may be challenging moments as the gymnast progresses and the skills become more difficult, it’s hard to top that feeling when you learn — then master — something new!
Fair warning: the fun usually does not end at the gym. Many a parent has been dismayed to find the arm of a couch being used as a vault, the bed a perfect crashpad and walls filled with feet marks from “spotting” handstands. The whirling dervish of arms and legs going every which way is just a tell-tale sign that your son or daughter has fallen for gymnastics!
If you have any questions please contact us, we love to hear from our families! firstname.lastname@example.org