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Mills Gymnastics USA
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Great about Gymnastics?
Study after study confirm that kids
involved in sports, including gymnastics, are more likely to stay away
from drugs, score higher on achievement tests, stay in school, have
greater self-esteem and live a healthier lifestyle. Show me a child in a
healthy athletic environment and I'll show you a child learning motor
development, interpersonal relationship skills, perseverance, discipline,
commitment, humor, perspective, teamwork, humility and leadership. And the
kids think they're just having fun!
No doubt about it, sport enhances life. And
for those with a penchant for variety and challenge, the local gymnastics
club might be a great place to hang out. Following are the five most
important reasons why learning a cartwheel is a valuable investment.
1. Gymnastics is a multifaceted sport.
This is a sport that develops physical
strength, speed, agility, nerves of steel, and competitive prowess.
Additionally, women must wrap that package of athleticism in grace and
personality. Not many sports draw upon such a wide range of ability.
Within the three main gymnastics disciplines (Men's and Women's Artistic
and Rhythmic), there are as many as 15 different individual events, each
with unique challenges and thrills. Add General Gymnastics, Trampoline
and Tumbling, and opportunities in the sport are endless.
2. Gymnastics is a challenging sport.
Walking, let alone flipping, is hard to do
on a four-inch balance beam. It takes more than a few push-ups to master
an iron cross on the rings. Leaping through a moving hoop is not a cake
walk. Gymnastics is "difficult." But the very qualities it takes to master
these skills - courage, perseverance, risk, determination, vision - are
the qualities that foster excellence in any endeavor. Dealing with the
"difficulties" will translate into valuable life skills and strength of
character. Bolstered by unconditional love from parents and skilled
guidance from coaches, gymnasts are better prepared to handle the
"difficulties" of life because of the challenges faced in the gym.
3. Gymnastics is a socially interactive sport.
The unique social environment in the gym
provides for healthy growth. In gymnastics, a nine-year old trains with
older and younger athletes. Self-esteem is boosted by camaraderie with
older teammates. Maturity and perspective is nurtured as she then turns to
relate to the younger athletes on the team. Few sports provide the
opportunity for kids to work so closely with teammates of different ages.
The social maturity gained within the sport is far healthier than the
"social immaturity" forced on kids spending aimless afternoons at the mall
or watching television.
4. Gymnastics teaches individual responsibility and courage.
Though there is a team element, gymnastics
is an individual sport. When practice is over and the green flag is
raised, the athlete faces the apparatus alone. To execute a routine
successfully, under the scrutiny of judges, coaches and spectators, it
takes concentration, determination, endurance, and often courage.
Confidence to call upon these qualities is nurtured every time a child
attempts another routine. Life requires us to take personal responsibility
for the choices we make. Courage to take that responsibility and make
right choices is developed with each mount and dismount.
5. Gymnastics enriches childhood.
After my Olympic experience, I was often
asked if I felt like I had sacrificed a normal childhood for my athletic
dreams. I was always a bit confused by this question. I did gymnastics
because I wanted to. Sports was not a sacrifice, it was a choice. Granted,
that choice meant sometimes I was also choosing to forego other
activities. But thanks to guidance from my parents and coaches, gymnastics
opened doors and enriched my life. Victories, defeats, travel,
relationships and much more combined to teach me the joys, difficulties
and realities of our world.
And I'm not alone. Traveling the country to
develop the Athlete Wellness Program for USA Gymnastics, I've had the
privilege of meeting former gymnasts who now have careers in counseling,
medicine, advertising, law, youth ministry, coaching, emergency response,
environmental engineering and parenting, to name a few. All agree their
gymnastics training better prepared them to tackle the challenges of the
adult world. It takes wise coaches and parents to
translate gym lessons into life lessons. Most gymnastics clubs are
founded on the belief that the sport has the potential to be a
health-enhancing experience for all who participate. If anyone is looking
for fertile soil to grow life's champions, you might start at
your local club.
Nancy Thies Marshall is a 1972 Olympian, five-time national team member,
former national Vault and Balance Beam champion, and collegiate
All-American. She is currently the developer and manager of USA Gymnastics
Athlete Wellness Program and a freelance journalist. Nancy and her husband
have three children and live in Salem, Oregon.