Written by: Coach Joe
Let me paint a picture for you. It’s 1984. I’m about six months old. Ronald Reagan is President and gas prices were around $1.21. What was I doing during this time? Trying to catapult myself out of the crib - and driving my parents crazy in the process. My energy level, and my need to flip and tumble, didn't get much better when I hit the preschool years, so my parents decided to look for something that would allow me to do what I love, but also teach me how to do it properly - gymnastics. Little did I know that this sport would end up becoming such an important part of my life.
Even if your son isn't trying to catapult himself out of his crib, here's six reasons why gymnastics is so important for boys*:
The long-term investment
While the chances of your kid making the Olympics are slim to none, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put them in gymnastics. There's plenty of other long-term benefits that make this sport beneficial. Beginning gymnastics at an early age helps with balance, coordination, and gross and fine motor skills - and there is no other sport that can offer this. This is a great way to give your child a solid ground floor to becoming a well-rounded athlete.
The Dignity (in winning and losing)
As adults, we know that life isn't always easy. But kids don't always get this concept. Talk to any gymnast though. If there's one thing that they know, it's that there are people you are better than, and people who are better than you (Simone Biles notwithstanding). The social benefits of this dignity - in winning and in losing - is something that he will carry with him throughout his life. To know how to win/lose graciously shows a level of integrity that we unfortunately don’t see as much of anymore.
Gymnastics really is for everyone and for someone like me, who has a reading disability, gymnastics was something that I was able to excel at. Being a C+ student from kindergarten up until graduating college (thanks Mom & Dad for helping me get there), I know what it feels like to be behind in your studies, and not have the confidence to say something. Lucky for me the gym was not the classroom. For a whole array of boys, with many types of difficulties, the gym is a place of refuge. The commitment, discipline, and confidence I got from the gym is something I am truly grateful for because it was the only place where I felt truly included.
For some people, making friends is easy - and for others, not so much. Here's the thing about gymnastics, communication with your teammates and your coaches is necessary, which kind of forces the social interaction. Even though it's an individual sport, similar to swimming, tennis, or track and field, the opportunity to build lifelong friendships happens naturally when you're working out next to the same people three to four times a week.. Gymnastics also teaches you to look, listen, and understand and these three things are the basis of any friendship of substance. As you move up the ranks, you go from the kid looking up to people to the person younger kids are looking up to. This is how you keep friends long after doing giants and kips.
We've all had that moment where we're overtaken by fear. The reality is, this is how your son is going to feel in the gym at some point. Especially when they're learning a new skill. Of course, there are some kids that fear nothing, but as they get older that usually dissipates. Since gymnastics is a progressional sport, and we build the child’s confidence to the point where they will just go for it (even if there are still scared), their ability to move past their fear increases.
I was taught that leadership isn't leading from the front or the back, but shoulder to shoulder. In gymnastics, like any sport, sometimes there's one kid who consistently wins first place. Here's the thing though, one person can’t win the team trophy by themselves. It’s a team that wins or loses together. Having been on both sides of the coin, you start to learn that even though you compete alone, you need one another to move forward. You learn how to share constructive criticism - knowing when to say something and when to not. You learn how to be a responsible and compassionate young adult through these leadership traits and that will be something that's ingrained in your son for a lifetime.
*Descriptions of "Women's Olympic events" and "Men's Olympic events" reflect the USAG guidelines for gymnastics categories that are broken up into "female" and "male" skills. We recognize that not every child fits into the gender binary. Our classes are open to children of all gender identities and will include exposure to all Olympic events. regardless of category. LIC Kids Gymnastics supports kids of all gender identities.