Gymnastics is a great activity for kids of all ages and abilities. In addition to amazing upper and lower body strength, gymnastics also helps kids develop balance, co-ordination, flexibility, and self-confidence. Not to mention, the gym is a great place to have a ton of fun. If you are thinking about getting your son or daughter into gymnastics, you need to do a bit of research first. Things to consider when choosing a gym, especially for young gymnasts, is whether the activity is right for your child? For the best experience possible, you need to find the right gym/club for a gymnast of any age.
Find a Gym that Works for Your Gymnast’s Age
Finding the right gym for your child depends a great deal on their age. If you have a young child, around 18 months, you should search for a gym with a “Mommy and Me” class. Mommy and Me classes allow parents to accompany their child around the gym and help during activities. Parents of toddlers, ages three to four, will want to enroll their son or daughter in a gym that offers beginner gymnastics classes. As your child progresses, gymnastics classes will be less about how old your son/daughter is, and what their ability is.
How to Find a Gym
When you are searching for a gym, it’s best to start a search in your local area first. To do this, simply google gymnasiums in your area and check their relative location to your home. Check out the gyms in your area, and gradually branch out from your location until you find a gym that works great for you. It’s important to keep in mind that gyms in your area can vary greatly from one location to another, so it’s important to check out a few before making a final decision. When searching for the right gym for your gymnasts, choose a gym that meets the following basic requirements:
- Visitor’s viewing area
- Clean facility
- Is the gym cool in hot months and warm in cold months
- Overall friendliness of the gym
- Appropriate gymnast/instructor ratio
- Safe environment
- Happy gymnasts everywhere
- Are coaches stressing safety?
- Activities offered (AAU gymnastics, cheerleading, etc.)
More In-Depth Concerns When Choosing a Gym/Club
After you have found a well-staffed, clean, well-lit gym/club for your young gymnast, you are probably ready to sign your child up. But, before you do that, there are a few more concerns you should consider.
- Class times
- Workout attire requirements
- Duration of classes
- Does the gym offer recreational and competitive classes?
- Will the gym close for inclement weather?
- Is staff trained in gymnastics? (look for spotting techniques, ask about qualifications)
- Is anyone in the gym first aid/CPR trained?
- Check out the meet schedule from the previous year (Are meets local or do competitive gymnasts have to travel to attend meets)
- Ask to see the equipment
Evaluating a Gym’s Equipment
When you are checking out a gym’s equipment from the viewing area, it probably looks fine, especially, if you don’t know much about gymnastics equipment. To better evaluate a gym’s equipment, look for the following types of equipment.
- Gyms should have the latest equipment
- Look for bouncy spring floor, vault tables, uneven bars, and good mats
- Gym should have a variety of mats, including 8-inch thick mats
- Uneven bars should be parallel and not crooked
- Look for a pit (pits are great learning tools and an important piece of gym equipment)
- Tumble track
- Soft tumbling area
Talk to Other Parents
In the viewing area, there will always be tons of parents. Depending on the amount and type of classes going on at the time will influence who you get to meet in the visiting area. The one great thing about gymnastics parents is that they usually LOVE to talk about gymnastics and their home gym. Some may have even been to other gyms in the area, which can help you get a good feel for what is available near you. When talking to gymnastics parents, feel free to ask about the staff. For example, is the gym owner (manager) in it for the love of gymnastics, or just the money? How reliable are the coaches and staff? Are there any safety issues with the area the gym is in, or the building itself? Parents of other gymnasts are usually a wealth of information, and the more you befriend, the greater sense of the gym you will get.
Making a Decision on Gym/Club
After visiting local gyms, speaking with the staff, and witnessing the interactions in the gym, you are probably ready to choose a gym for your child. It’s a fact of life that parents don’t always make the perfect decision the first time, every time. But if you have done your research, based on the tips, above, you can feel confident that you have made a good choice. If it turns out the gym isn’t a perfect fit for your gymnast; you can always change gyms in the future.
Photo Credit: Heathrow Gymnastics Club