It’s NOT My Life, But It Is An AWESOME Part of My Life: 50 Things that Everyone Can Benefit From by Being a Gymnast


Earlier this week, I wrote a post called Gymnastics Is NOT Life. The premise was that gymnastics should not be the center of either gymnasts or their parents’ lives. It went on to detail ten things that I wanted everyone to consider as important when discussing how central gymnastics is to their identity.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, but some were less than thrilled with my idea that gymnastics ought not be at the core of a family’s life. This did not take me by surprise because when people feel passionately about something they react.  Furthermore, we all have different experiences in life, and some thought mine were over exaggerated. They weren’t, but I will grant you that I live in a part of the country that does not necessarily reflect the country as a whole. Nevertheless, reasonable people can disagree. I welcomed the dialogue that caused me to think and prompted me to clarify some of the things that I wrote.

What I was not prepared for was the misunderstanding that my blog specifically called out gymnastics (as opposed to other sports) and that my blog was anti-gymnastics.

First, I want to be clear, the discussion was limited to gymnastics because I am writing a blog aimed at the gymnastics community. Much of what I said absolutely can be applied to any number of youth sports, arts programs or school itself.   Gymnastics families do not have the monopoly on taking youth sports to an extreme and are hardly alone in the sport of competitive parenting. And in time I will rewrite this to generalize it to youth sports for my blog on the Huffington Post that is aimed at a wider audience. Gymnastics is not the only sport that gets taken overboard.

But, second, and more significantly, let’s get this clear: I LOVE GYMNASTICS. I think it is an incredible sport for all kids to be involved with and that it teaches so many great life lessons in addition to being really fun. Furthermore, I participated as an athlete, coach and judge for better than 10 years, two of my daughters competed in the sport and it’s been my career for over another decade. Some of my closest, most cherished relationships are a direct result of this sport, and I am continually impressed with the dedication and professionalism of those who I am lucky enough to call my colleagues.

I love gymnastics: as an athlete, a coach, a judge, a parent and a gym owner. I love the sport wholly and completely. And like most things we grow to love, we also grow to understand its shortcomings and flaws. In turn, because we love it, we also are in the position to call it on those faults and shortcomings.

So here is a quick list of 50 things that I LOVE about gymnastics (in no particular order):

  1. Gymnastics is the basis for all sports.
  2. Gymnastics develops a life long love and ability for fitness.
  3. Gymnastics makes kids strong
  4. Gymnastics makes kids flexible.
  5. Gymnastics develops coordination.
  6. Gymnastics develops grace.
  7. Gymnastics teaches kinesthetic awareness.
  8. Gymnastics teaches playground readiness that children need before entering school.
  9. Gymnastics teaches kids to take turns.
  10. Gymnastics improves children’s coachability.
  11. Gymnastics helps kids learn to read.
  12. Gymnastics teaches self-discipline.
  13. Gymnastics teaches grit.
  14. Gymnastics develops resiliency.
  15. Gymnastics promotes a growth mindset.
  16. Gymnastics stresses incremental improvement.
  17. Gymnastics teaches goal setting and encourages ambitious thinking.
  18. Gymnastics builds self-confidence.
  19. Gymnastics encourages respectful behavior.
  20. Gymnastics delivers the tough message that life isn’t always fair.
  21. Gymnastics teaches how not to quit.
  22. Gymnastics teaches courage and how to cope with things that scare you.
  23. Gymnastics encourages kids to do hard things.
  24. Gymnastics teaches patience and how to delay gratification.
  25. Gymnastics helps kids learn to take feedback and constructive criticism.
  26. Gymnastics teaches humility.
  27. Gymnastics develops responsibility.
  28. Gymnastics teaches how to compete against oneself for personal bests.
  29. Gymnastics teaches how to manage nerves when presenting routines or competing in a meet.
  30. Gymnastics teaches time management.
  31. Gymnastics develops leaders.
  32. Gymnastics teaches the commitment of being on a team.
  33. Gymnastics demonstrates how to cope with the emotions that arise from winning, losing, frustration, jealousy and pride.
  34. Gymnastics develops a positive work ethic.
  35. Gymnastics keeps kids engaged in productive activity, keeping them away from less desirable influences.
  36. Gymnastics teaches kids define success in terms beyond winning.
  37. Gymnastics helps kids excel in school, including boasting among the highest graduation rates in the NCAA.
  38. Gymnastics improves brain function.
  39. Gymnastics may encourage girls to pursue science.
  40. Gymnastics strengthens girls’ bones.
  41. Gymnastics develops sportsmanship.
  42. Gymnastics teaches the difference between quitting and ending.
  43. Gymnastics places caring adults in your child’s life who are an integral part of your village.
  44. Gymnastics puts kids into contact with like-minded kids who are working toward goals.
  45. Gymnastics creates an extended community.
  46. Gymnastics creates life long friendships.
  47. Gymnastics helps make happy childhood memories.
  48. Gymnastics creates happy family memories.
  49. Gymnastics gives coaches the ability to influence kids positively.
  50. Gymnastics is fun.

In short and to repeat: I LOVE GYMNASTICS.

What reasons do you love gymnastics that I did not list?