If your child seems to live and breathe gymnastics, chances are he or she has or will join a competitive gymnastics program. Competitive gymnastics is unlike recreational gymnastics. Not only is practice more often and longer, but competitive gymnasts participate in meets, both near and far.
These usually take place on weekends and during holidays. Many families consult meet schedules before scheduling vacations. Competitive gymnastics is a life choice that demands the time, energy, and finances of the entire family. If your gymnast reaches Level 9, 10, and Elite status, it will feel like your entire family is living for gymnastics.
Know what is expected of you and your budding gymnast.
1) Read the fine print
You will likely be provided with a team handbook, rules and policies, and a contract. Read all carefully and make certain you understand everything. Newbie parents are expected to ask questions. For instance, will you have to continue paying if your gymnast quits or can’t participate due to an injury? Are parents expected to work at home meets?
2) The Coach is the boss
When children are members of a competitive team, parents should defer to the coach in all gymnastics matters and this includes a gymnasts’ attitude. Expect and model good sportsmanship and attitudes.
The coach evaluates gymnasts and makes decisions that are best for the team. That may mean that your gymnast doesn’t always get to compete in the event she wants. As a rule, parents shouldn’t interfere in coaching. However, if your gymnast is stressed and has a “win at all costs” type of coach, you should look for a different coach.
3) Gymnastics is expensive
Tuition, meet fees, and registration fees are only the beginning.
An example of fees you might encounter are:
Tuition (Level 3; more for higher levels): $160 per month
Gymnastics meet entry fees: $30-100 per meet
Coaching fees (travel costs): $25-125 per meet
Travel expenses (varies): $500 per away meet
Team uniform (depends on growth and wear): $150 every two years
Special equipment (therabands, weights, grips): $50 per year
Practice leotards; spirit wear (team shirts, bags): $100 per year
Annual team membership fee (booster club): $25-100 per year
Gymnastics registration: $54 per year (in USA)
If there is a booster club, take part in fundraising activities. It keeps individual costs down. Getting to know other families can have other benefits, such as carpooling.
4) Healthy lifestyle is encouraged
Many gymnastics coaches encourage healthy habits both on the mat (warm-ups) and off the mat. Competitive athletes need to stay hydrated with water or sports drinks. Well-balanced diets give athletes the energy to compete. Proper sleep is important as well. Children need at least nine hours of sleep; athletes need even more.
Look at the commitment your gymnast has for the sport. Gone are the days when practice could be skipped because you didn’t feel like going. Is he or she willing to miss a school dance because of a meet the next morning?
Competition can be a mental roller coaster, full of anxiety, excitement, depression, and elation. Competitive gymnastics isn’t for everyone, but for those with a love for the sport, it can be a joy.
6) Select Proper Gym
If you are searching for a competitive gym, look for the following characteristics:
- Is it brightly colored and kid friendly?
- Is the staff at the front desk friendly and helpful?
- Check out the equipment in the gym – there should be 2-3 sets of bars, 4-8 beams, a full 40×40 spring floor and at least one vaulting table.
7) Why Choosing Gymnastics
Why Gymnastics? Did you know that gymnastics develops 26 multiple intelligences in children? The benefits are tremendous. It’s an “all body” sport that develops muscle memory, strength, flexibility, kinesthetic and haptic awareness, depth perception, socialization, discipline, organization, prioritization, internal motivation, respect and the list goes on. If you are lucky enough to find a coach who is a fantastic role model, your gymnast will also gain wonderful life lessons because coaches become pseudo-parents since they spend a great deal of time with the athletes. As gymnasts move up into higher levels they spend more and more time in the gym and often times they will spend more time with their coach than they do with their parents. Trust? Yes, it can be a scary extension but a necessary incision.