Gymnastics Information

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dotGymnastics is a sport where moves are performed on different kinds of equipment, such as the balance beam and vault. Gymnastics develops your strength, agility and skill!

dotThis sport has been around for a long time. It dates back to ancient Greece and has been an Olympic event for more than a century -- from 1896, to be exact.

"Obviously, gymnastics is a really good exercise -- it teaches you good motor skills and tones your body," says Kathy Kelly of Indiana, a longtime gymnastics enthusiast.

dotBoth men and women do gymnastics. Both use the vaulting horse to leap through the air and do floor exercises full of tumbles and jumps.

There are some events that differ between male and female gymnasts, however. This is based on the equipment called "apparatus." Men's gymnastics includes the rings, parallel bars, and pommel horse. Women's gymnastics includes the balance beam and the uneven bars.

dotWomen gymnasts also do "rhythmic gymnastics." This is a floor routine that involves performing graceful dance movements while holding and manipulating items such as hoops, ropes, balls, ribbons or Indian clubs.

dotGymnastics is performed at many levels, from children at community clubs to elite Olympic-level athletes.

Don't feel intimidated by professional gymnasts you see on television! "Not everyone can aspire to that level, but it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the sport," says Kelly. Professional gymnasts are elite athletes with many years of practice.

Why is this girl smiling? Because gymnastics is not only great exercise, it is fun!
Courtesy of: International Gymnast

dotUSA Gymnastics is the governing body of the Olympics in the U.S. -- it has about 72,000 competitive members alone. This doesn't include all the thousands of other gymnasts who just do the sport for fun.

dotWhether you compete or just do it for an hour or so a week, gymnastics enthusiasts say it's a great way to challenge yourself and keep fit.

"Gymnastics gets you in great shape and also helps you with other sports in strength, body awareness, flexibility and overcoming fear," says Chris Ellefson, a gymnast who also competes in wrestling.

dotIt takes time to build flexibility and strength. Don't expect to be doing any dramatic tumbling routines your first week.

"Do the simple skills well, rather than attempt the difficult ones and do them badly. Start with a simple front somersault and believe you can do it. This way you're less likely to hurt yourself, too," says Sherwin Ho, a gymnastics enthusiast in England.

dotGymnastics doesn't have to be a dangerous sport. With common sense and proper supervision, even difficult maneuvers can be done safely.

"Serious accidents do occur, but they're rare and they usually happen at a very high level of competition," says Frances Robinson. She is a former competitive gymnast from England.

"A good coach, a modern well-equipped gym, and an athlete who knows his or her physical limitations can reduce the risk of serious injury to a small level."

dotWhen it comes to professional gymnastics, smaller is better. Male gymnasts are rarely over six feet tall and women are rarely over 5'8" tall. On the other hand, anyone can enjoy recreational gymnastics.

"Depending on the skill level you're aiming for, even elderly people and those who aren't that fit can do gymnastics. You can do some very basic stuff and still call it gymnastics," says Ho.

dotGymnastics can be a very inexpensive sport to start. You don't even need leotards to start. If you join a school or community club, costs range from free to about $50 for lessons. If you decide to become more competitive, coaches and exclusive clubs can get expensive.

"Indeed, gymnastics must be one of the cheapest sports to try," says Robinson.

dotGymnastics is very popular. There are waiting lists to get into some clubs! Luckily, there are plenty of gymnastics clubs out there.

dotThere are career opportunities for gymnasts who really love this sport. College coaches can earn good incomes, while world-famous coaches can make hundreds of thousands per year. These positions are rare, however. Most coaches aren't in it for the money.

"Most coaches do it for the love of the sport," says Ellefson.

If you really love gymnastics, you might consider a job as a coach or judge, or getting involved in the administration aspects by running a gym.

Getting Started

dotThere are many different ways to participate in gymnastics. Start by looking into classes at a community recreation center, YMCA, YWCA or local gym. Ask if you can stick around and watch.

"Look for clubs which have beginning level classes with people from your own age group," says Ellefson.

dotWalk before you run -- make sure you have the basics down before you try difficult moves.

"Once you've mastered the simple skills, you'll have a better base for the more difficult ones," says Ho.

dotLook for a coach or instructor with common sense. Make sure your coach is patient and allows you to progress at your own speed. Be prepared to spend some time before you see real results. Remember, practice makes perfect.

"Don't expect it to come too easy at first. It takes time to learn. If you push yourself, you could wind up injured," says Robinson.

dotFinally, in spite of the atmosphere surrounding gymnastics, it's supposed to be fun and you should look at it that way.

"You can do gymnastics without fantasies of being an Olympic champion, or even competing at all," says Robinson.

Ho agrees. "Have fun in what you do and enjoy yourselves. There's no point in doing it otherwise."


USA Gymnastics
Pan American Plaza
300-201 S. Capitol Ave.
Indianapolis , IN   46225


International Gymnast
P.O. Box 721020
Norman , OK   73070
Women's Gymnastics: A History,
by  Minot Simons II
Gymnastics: Floor, Vault, Beam and Bar,
by  Trevor Low


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