The hushed awe of the crowd indicates the arrival of the tiny gymnast. Small shoulders back, she focuses her steely gaze on the expansive mat in front of her. She stands, poised, like a quivering arrow in a bow set to release. The music swells, she raises her arms and she steps forward into the spotlight to begin her routine.
Gymnastics has long been a much-admired sport. The dedication, the focus and the elite athleticism involved by competitors have meant it has a special place in our culture. It is given extensive coverage in the Olympics and is often held up as the pinnacle of sporting prowess.
However, gymnastics is not just the realm of Olympians. There are considerable benefits that your child stands to gain from enrolling in the sport at a junior, more casual level. They may not stand on the podium collecting gold, but they will collect a wide variety of life-long skills that will stand them in good stead for their further education.
1. Enhancement of Cognitive Abilities
Concentration and focus are key in gymnastics. The development of these mature skills means that children will gain the discipline required to approach, develop and acquire success.
2. Listening skills
Good listeners retain information and reframe it in a way that they will remember and be able to recall. They use repetition, association and symbols to help them remember important things and discard unnecessary elements.
Gymnastics is all about this selective, careful set of listening. Being able to focus and retain important information will provide an opportunity for later success in the classroom.
3. Self-esteem and confidence
Imagine being able to, and being encouraged to, use your body to express yourself. Expressing joy through movement, setting challenges for yourself and finding success.
Physical movement sparks joy in children. Allowing them to move, free and unrestrained, releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins helps to safeguard against issues like depressive moods and anxiety.
Encouraging involvement in an enjoyable, expressive and joyful sport like gymnastics will allow children to take part in an activity wherein their confidence grows week by week. The connections they make in these classes, both with their peers and with themselves, improve their self-confidence and teaches them they CAN instead of CAN’T.
4. Goal setting
It seems like today’s children can often give up before they even start. Tasks seem too big, deadlines seem far away and it all just seems like way too much effort.
When your child pursues gymnastics, they are introduced early to the idea of realistic and measurable goal setting. Individual children will work towards achieving different milestones. They will experience the satisfaction of gradual improvement and the huge sense of achievement when they cross the threshold of a brand-new skill.
This is a skill that directly correlates with educational expectations. Your child will work to master the art of setting a goal, working towards it, readjusting expectations and then experiencing that golden sense of achievement. Hard work will pay off – a valuable life skill.
5. Social interaction
The social interaction gymnastics offers children are varied, differentiated and complex. At YMCA Gymnastics, your child will be introduced to other children from all walks of life. They’ll meet children of differing abilities, from different cultures and from different social backgrounds.
Exposure to different lifestyles from an early age goes a long way towards encouraging our children to be respectful and tolerant. In today’s society these are attributes that are more important than ever.
6. Flexibility (mental and physical)
Not only will your child be able to bend and stretch; their resilience and ability to bounce back from a difficult situation will be improved as well.
7. Strength (mental and physical)
The development of mental toughness connects directly to a growth in self-confidence and self-worth. To know your potential power is to walk tall – something that gymnastics kids do regardless of their physical height or ability!
8. Problem-solving skills
Developing problem-solving skills means your child will be able to ‘stick to it’ when things don’t go according to plan. They will see things from different perspectives, endure challenges and figure out how to make things ‘work’.
9. Skills for other sports
Coordination, flexibility, physical strength and endurance. The skills your child develops in gymnastic could well serve them in a vast variety of different physical pursuits. Some of today’s most famous footballers got their start on the gym floor!
There’s something to be said for the innocence of childhood fun. YMCA Gymnastics shine the spotlight on the importance of children finding joy in movement, making positive connections to other people and developing community spirit.
If you want to set up something active for your little one at home take a look at this post about home gymnastics equipment to inspire your creativity and keep your little ones moving!
This article was provided by YMCA Gymnastics and published in Issue 24 of our print magazine, October/November 2017.