In 2004, 16-year-old Carly Patterson won Olympic gold in the women’s All-Around gymnastics event, followed by Nastia Lukin in 2008, Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas in 2012, and Simone Biles in 2016. The resulting boom in gymnastics participation has lead to gyms offering everything from Tiny Tot Tumbling to gymnastic classes for adults.
Something to Cheer About
Competitive cheer leading has no doubt also contributed to increased enrollment in gymnastics classes across the U.S. Most cheerleaders will perform one of more tumbling passes in the course of a competitive routine, featuring such moves as back layouts, handsprings, back tucks, and elements done in combination.
Gymnasts who decide to leave gymnastics behind have another outlet for their skills and energy: cheer leading. Up to 98% of female cheerleaders are former gymnasts. Whether competing for a gym-based team or for their high school team, former gymnasts have found a home on their local cheer squads.
Inside the Gym
The typical beginning gymnastics class consists of a group warm-up, stretches, and introductions to each apparatus: parallel bars, rings,vault and pommel horse for boys, and uneven bars, balance beam, and vault for the girls. Both boys and girls participate in the floor exercise. Gymnastic classes for adults follow the same format, with allowances made for adult physiques.
Youth who want to compete in gymnastics begin with levels 1-3 for introductory elements, all the way to level 10. Meets are held locally, regionally and at the national level. National-level gymnasts may be eligible for additional training camps for the U.S. team in preparation for Olympic and international competitions.
An Early Start
Most of the elite gymnasts seen in the Olympics and world championships got off to an early start with Tiny Tots course between the ages of 2-5. Countries such as China will select promising children from preschool classes and enroll them in residential gymnastics schools where they are groomed for international competitions.
Although no such system exists in the U.S., many young gymnasts will spend hours in the gym each day, sometimes practicing up to 30 hours a week in preparation for national meets. Home schooling has become a popular choice for promising young gymnasts trying to squeeze more practice time into an already busy day.
Close to Home
For students who want to take a more relaxed approach to the sport, many city parks and recreation departments offer once-weekly tumbling or gymnastics classes. Children have a chance to enjoy gymnastics without the pressures of competition and high-level training.
Whether the goal is to reach the world stage or to shine in the local parks and recreation class, gymnastics offers a host of social and physical benefits for everyone who participates. Even children who choose not to compete will reap the benefits of setting goals and becoming physically active. Gymnastic classes for adults will give parents and other adults a sample of this tough but rewarding sport, and will provide them an appreciation for the time and effort it takes to reach the Olympic podium.