Many parents wonder if their competitive gymnast could be an Olympian someday. Parents of stellar adolescent baseball players and track stars also have dreams of having a pro athlete in the family someday.
However, the bottom line is that most kids (no matter how well they do in competitions) will probably not become professional athletes, and this includes gymnasts.
When faced with the questions whether your gymnast will be an Olympian, it’s best to be honest with them and yourself. The question you should be asking is whether recreational or competitive gymnastics is right for your child.
Recreational Gymnastics vs. Competitive Gymnastics
Most gymnastics centers offer recreational gymnastics and competitive gymnastics. Recreational gymnastics is great for all kids despite their abilities or their age.
Recreational gymnastics increases awareness, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, kinesthetic awareness, and depth perception in all age groups.
It’s safe to say that most recreational gymnasts are not going to be starring on the women or men’s Olympic gymnastics team, but it does help create overall conditioning that can be applied in other sports.
Some kids that excel at recreational gymnastics will be asked to move on to their gyms competition team.
Competitive gymnastics requires more time and effort than recreational gymnastics, and just because your daughter or son is picked for a competition team doesn’t guarantee they will excel in the sport.
Should Your Child Stick with Recreational Gymnastics or Move on to Competitive Gymnastics
When your son or daughter is asked to move on to competitive gymnastics from recreational gymnastics, you are probably pretty eager to say yes, but there are a few things you should consider first.
When considering moving to team, you should be honest with yourself about the commitment you are making.
If your son or daughter can’t or won’t commit to the time required to participate in competitions and team practice, you and they will likely get discouraged rather quickly. Below, we have gathered a general list of prerequisites for competitive gymnastics.
It’s important to remember the list below isn’t complete. Depending on your unique situation, some prerequisites won’t apply, and there may be other issues unique to your gymnast as well.
Competitive Gymnast Prerequisites
While there is no surefire way to tell whether your son or daughter will excel at competitive gymnastics or have what it takes to be an Olympian someday, there are some general prerequisites of competitive gymnasts listed below.
- A love of gymnastics (without a love of gymnastics, your gymnast will surely lose interest rather quickly)
- Natural ability (many of the best gymnasts show a natural ability at a very young age)
- An innate ability to mimic what they see (gymnasts that can mimic what they see pick up new skills more easily)
- Mental toughness (gymnasts that cry and pout in response to criticism usually quit rather than advance to higher levels of gymnastics)
- Ability to take constructive criticism (kids who don’t take criticism well usually aren’t coachable and can’t excel in the sport)
- Physically resilient (gymnastics is hard on the body, which requires physical resilience)
- Ability to take a fall (in gymnastics, gymnasts are going to fall, and they have to be willing to take the bumps and bruises associated with the sport)
- Strong problem-solving skills (gymnasts need to recognize their mistakes to fix them and can’t do this with the proper social skills)
- An ability to control emotions (especially frustration)
- Capability of working as a team and individual (gymnastics is an independent sport, but requires gymnasts to be able to work well with others)
- Must be okay with giving up other things (gymnastics requires a ton of time, which means there isn’t much free time for other activities and even friends)
- Extremely organized (gymnasts who aren’t organized will have a hard time keeping up with the demands of gymnastics and school)
- Strong (strength work is a requirement of competitive gymnastics and gymnasts must be willing to put in work to get the strength they need)
- Flexible (gymnasts have to devote as much time to their flexibility as they do their strength to be successful)
- Independent (children with separation anxiety or co-dependency may struggle with gymnastics and quit as a result)
The prerequisites above are generalities that may or may not apply in your gymnast’s situation. Even if your gymnast doesn’t meet all of the pre-requisites above it doesn’t mean competitive gymnastics isn’t right for them.
In fact, many gymnasts begin low level teams or pre-team to work on the skills above. By the time your son or daughter gets to higher level gymnastics, they will either meet the prerequisites above or may find themselves looking for different activities to keep themselves busy. Feel free to share your tips below.
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