Most (hopefully all) gymnasts will tell you that gymnastics is special because of the unique skill set it develops within its athletes. Physically, your body will become stronger, more flexible, and move more dynamically. Mentally, growth in critical thinking, emotion management, and self- esteem offer a regimen to be proud of. Lastly, gymnastics hits the sweet spot for both individual sport and team participation, offering its subject a chance to succeed and grow on their own and as part of a team.
If your child is constantly walking on their hands instead of their feet, here are some activities that should be right up their alley!
Parkour style “Ninja” Classes
If your child loves rolling, flipping, and tumbling, but maybe they have expressed to you, or you have noticed they become distant or discouraged by the restrictive nature of gymnastics- this could be the happy medium you’ve been looking for! Most youth find the movement of gymnastics thrilling, but can find the scope of movement too narrow and restrictive. “Do that this way, do this that way”- it can be grating on highly creative/energetic types. Insert, parkour style movement! All the running, rolling, swinging, and flipping they can handle, but within a broader scope. The options really are endless when it comes to how many ways you can move your body, and gymnastics only covers some of the pages. If your child needs a broader outlet to add to their time in the gym, try out a ninja class. They can be done as a supplemental class to add to a recreational/excel gymnastics schedule, or they stand perfectly well on their own. Try a ninja class today!
Love solving puzzles? Take critical thinking and apply it to body movement! Rock climbing is the ultimate thinkers sport. You must decipher how your body needs to move and then execute your strategy. Climbing specializes in strength and flexibility, which is often why gymnasts are so naturally talented as climbers. Local rock climbing gyms are popping up left and right around the country so its the perfect time to give climbing a try! Really think you’ll love climbing? Take it outside! There are many institutions who teach rock climbing classes and clinics to learn the proper outdoor safety and skill requirements. It can be a great activity for the whole family. Locally, try VITAL climbing gym or the YMCA. VITAL, is a “bouldering” gym, meaning no ropes required! The ground is padded and all the walls are low enough to fall from. The YMCA touts the highest climbing wall in the state, where climbers can ring a bell if they reach the top. Staff members are used to entry level climbers with zero experience, they will fit you for the proper rental equipment, help you tie into the rope and then also belay (catch) you while your climbing.
Yoga can be a fantastic way to help bring the body and the mind back to a calm and collected state. Bonus, for gymnasts, the stretching factor is a breeze! Acro yoga classes that focus on inversions (balancing the body in contorted ways, like handstands) is a good way to help gymnasts discern and isolate different muscles in the body. Its always good to try a few classes with an instructor first, but once you feel comfortable with the movement, yoga can be done at home anytime. Finding a calm and private space at home can help children unload and organize their thoughts and feelings while also moving their body in a way that connects and filters through their mental being. If your child seems leery about all that meditation stuff, assure them that an “acro style” or faster pace class will keep their body plenty challenged!
Take your flipping to the pool! The more time children spend in gymnastics, the more demanding the sport becomes on the body. Unfortunately, a common occurrence can be unprecedented wear and tear at a young age. If your child loves flipping, but like many gymnasts, needs a break from the constant impact of floor tumbling- try diving!
All of these activities would be great to try along with gymnastics, or on their own. As coaches and youth advocates, we disagree with “specializing” in any particular sport. By varying the activities your child does, the more well rounded they become. By putting all of your eggs in one basket so to say, your child misses out on opportunities to grow and branch out physically, socially, and mentally. We know they love gymnastics, and would spend every second in the gym if they could… but extending their awareness into other sporting areas will improve their gymnastics skills as well. Plus, we like to hear about all of their adventures outside of the gym while they are here with us!