This was an idea that I had held for a long time.
The original nugget of thought probably originated around the idea of my own children (whenever that becomes a real idea), yet still was a great one.
Why do gymnastics though?
You see, most parents think about 3-6 year olds and the introduction to “sports” and immediately go “Soccer is great for Timmy/Tommy/Maryann/Francesa! Or, T-Ball is where my child will lay down the foundation for an elite athletics career!
They instead are going to end up learning skills without underlying movement competency. They are going to become frustrated and frustrate you by trying to master skills before the properly can move their own body.
You see, learning and playing skill required sports and team work at a young age sets everyone up for failure. Sure, do some kids excel naturally, of course, but not the rule, they are the exception.
We’ve all seen a T-ball game or soccer game where the kids have no CLUE what they are doing, and every parent is screaming “You’re running the wrong way!” or “That’s the wrong goal!”
Children are literally dealing with more information than they can process, and you are expecting refined skill.
How do we change this? How do we promote better athletes?
We teach better movement competency.
We ask for children to acquire movements that help to better their understandings of their bodies and space, teach them the importance of strength, learn how to fall, and have a blast while doing it.
How many of you can do a cartwheel?
How many of you can do a handstand?
When is the last time you ran and jumped?
These are all movements and integrated steps in a gymnastics program. This is the development of a human athlete.
In the early years of life, human beings are acquiring information in the form of speech, facal expression, empathy, and movement. These motor programs from rolling and crawling and standing become what happens in running and squatting and jumping.
What happens when a movement pattern never is acquired?
You want your child to run better, but you have had them running with a lacrosse stick in their hand since they were old enough to grip it. Do you think they will run well and normally if this pattern is the ingrained set for what “running” is? Of course not!
Thus, asking a young athlete that has never learned the movements that help build their advanced movement correctly to do something exceptional and skills specific is asking too much.
I tell people all the time to allow their children to play as many sports as possible. This inclusion in all games and patterns develops a better athlete in the future. Well what if the idea of athleticism and exercise was established from an early age.
What if a professional helped your child learn how to tumble and jump and climb and run appropriately?
What if due to this environment your child enjoyed doing exercise, and was capable of learning new skills in half the time of other athletes?
Wouldn’t this improve their chances of not only being a better and more promising athlete, but a more healthy human being?
My nephews loved their time at gymnastics (though this is second hand knowledge from my sister). My youngest nephew, Tyler, did a beginner class and was a rockstar from day 1 (he’s the better natural athlete).
Christopher, the oldest of my sisters kids went directly to an advanced group for his age level (5/6) and was frustrated to learn for the first time he wasn’t the best. He was frustrated and near tears, but my sister pulled him aside and explained to him his need to stay calm and learn, and he found success through commitment to effort and struggle.
This step is the first in the journey my sister and brother-in-law have taken in teaching the kids how to move and play beyond normal. They are getting a better education in athleticism than nearly anyone else they know. Within 6 months I expect both to do cartwheels and flips as well as a number of pushups and stabilization movements.
Most importantly I expect them to have fun.
Isn’t that what sports and athleticism is all about?
Bill Rom is the top strength and conditioning coach on Long Island.