Admittedly, I have never really known much about gymnastics. My daughters were more into softball and dance and never really showed an interest in the sport. I recently spent some time discussing gymnastics with some parents of kids ranging from toddlers to college. I was impressed and learned just some of the benefits of the sport of gymnastics.
Like all youth sports, gymnastics provides social interaction and discipline; improved mental focus and concentration; flexibility and balance and of course, health benefits. What is different is the teaching of biomechanics and physics in regards to how the body can move and using those tools to make it happen. Donít tell the kids but as one parent said, its science class in the gym.
From a very young age, without even knowing about it kids are encouraged to use play to build their understanding of how their body works. The sport of gymnastics and the equipment used allows faster development of this process through interaction. Children and coaches can use their imagination, act out situations and develop relationships within the sport probably more than any other youth sport. Through the fun of the sport and the training that goes with it, the youngsterís body learns to perform independently as well as interacting with equipment.
The athletes who work at it and continuously practice then have the ability for faster development of their awareness of both space and body control. I mean, have you ever watched these kids on a balance beam? Steel workers on high rise buildings donít even have the balance that some of these kids do. Gymnastics allows children the chance to think for themselves, to stimulate their imaginations and to solve problems safely as they know the consequences not of failure, but of not understanding their space and their equipment. Because of this relationship between space, body and equipment, gymnastics kids are learning to work in unison with these things to achieve success.
On my radio show, Youth Sports Now, we talk a great deal about biomechanics in youth sports. Gymnastics really allows kids to experience biomechanics through every move they make from the horse to the rings and the uneven parallel bars to floor exercises. Each and every move they make matters and is part of the overall athletic performance. As an example that gymnastics really can teach, the National Science Foundation recently provided grants using gymnastics as a means of teaching fundamental physics to students in high school and college.
Not enough proof of the benefits of gymnastics? How about participation in gymnastics helps meet the exercise recommendations set forth by the American Heart Association. The American Heart Association recommends children participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Further, a study conducted by researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have shown that children who participate in gymnastics, are likely to have better self-esteem and self-efficacy. And if that is not enough, participation in gymnastics can help maintain a healthy body, which is key to preventing numerous health ailments. Conditions like asthma, cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Involvement in gymnastics helps encourage a healthy lifestyle including regular physical activity and eating a well-balanced diet. Gymnastics helps promote a healthy heart, lungs, muscles and bones.
Of course any youth sport or physical activity is great for our kids, and by no means should we minimize any other youth sports program. But when your kids are looking around for a sport or activity, have them consider gymnastics ó they donít have to become an Olympic champion ó just a healthy, well-adjusted kid.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business. Contact him at