Find out about: Gymnastics

To watch a professional gymnast perform is simply amazing. The appealing display of enduring strength and almost elastic suppleness combined with absolute precision creates a most spectacular visual performance that can make you gasp or wince in amazement. Some daring moves, especially on the beam or on the rings can easily make us question – is that really humanly possible? It is a sport that continues to fascinate many. With their natural flexibility, children have a natural affinity to gymnastics – it is usually something they can do better than their older sibling and certainly, their parents.

And once they cotton on to this fact, they will happily impress family and friends as they cartwheel around a playing field or walk on two hands with relative ease. So, it makes sense for children to learn how to manage the moves in a formal way, as even a slight slip can be painful.

The advantages of joining a Gym Class
Hundreds of thousands of young children enjoy gymnastics at school, take part in the recreational sessions offered at many leisure centres, and enjoy membership of British Gymnastics registered clubs that can offer a complete development pathway from beginner through to Olympian.

Gymnastics classes are offered to children of all ages, starting with basic balance and movement skills for toddlers who can learn safe ways to tumble and improve balance using soft play equipment. As they get older and reach primary school age, the next step for a child is to join a local gym club where they will learn more controlled, co-ordinated moves such as the forward roll and may even enjoy a bounce on a trampoline.

A good instructor will make the sessions fun and will gently nurture each child to reach his or her full potential. All sessions should start with a thorough warm up that include plenty of stretching, and should finish the same way too. This is especially vital to avoid injury.

Children progress at varying speed, depending on natural flexibility, stretch and strength, but, eventually, girls will be steered to traditional floor exercises, the beam, vault and asymmetric bars, whilst boys are lead towards the parallel bars, rings, vault, high bar, pommel horse as well as floor exercises. Aside from these traditional areas of the sport, Trampoline Gymnastics also remains particularly interesting to children due to its high fun element.

Gym clubs affiliated to British Gymnastics can measure each student’s progress with the British Gymnastics Proficiency Award scheme, which helps to maintain interest and focus.

The benefits of gymnastics to a child
As with any sport, a child’s health and fitness levels will also improve by taking part in gymnastics, helping to combat any signs of obesity or weight related issues from creeping in. With an increased exposure to physical exercise, body confidence will improve which in turn will promote self-esteem. With physical wellbeing comes an increase in confidence that drips into other areas of a child’s life.

Gymnastics also challenges children mentally. As they progress through the stages, and the moves become more daring and challenging a child will need to acquire a self-belief that they can actually do it! Overcoming fears is a major confidence booster. Of course there are many physical benefits too. Gymnastics offers a total body conditioning workout, helping to build strong muscles and bones, increasing bone density. The stretching exercises will help keep a child supple for a long time too. Gymnastics is such a superb sport for a child to pursue for a number of reasons and the skills they learn will stay with them for a lifetime.

Gymnastics in Schools
Gymnastics is the corner stone of the Programme of Study for Physical Education in the National Curriculum. Throughout all the 4 Key Stages, gymnastics is the area of activity that promotes body management skills and the ABC of physical activity. Children need to experience, learn and practise agility, balance and co-ordination in order to be able to participate effectively in all other sports.

British Gymnastics has created a way for children to realise their physical potential through sport. As a child moves into primary school there is the Fundamental Movement Ideas for 4 to 6 year olds and core skills for 6 to 8 year olds. These are highlighted in the British Gymnastics Proficiency Award Scheme available to schools. This award scheme has been specifically developed to provide teachers and children with a structured programme for gymnastics in curriculum and extra-curricular time. Children enjoy being challenged and the badges and certificates give an opportunity for rewarding them for their progression and improvement in gymnastics.

For further information on the new Proficiency Award Scheme please contact Gymnastics Enterprises Ltd on 0845 1249089.

Gymnastics is one of the 5 sports that have been selected to feature in the UK School Games that have been devised to discover talented youngsters leading up to the London Olympic Games in 2012. The first School Games are due to take place in September in Glasgow.

British Gymnastics is the official governing body for gymnastics within the UK. Go to www.british-gymnastics.org. Also take a look at: www.scottishgymnastics.com

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