Gymnastics is one of the most fundamental and exciting of all physical activities. Basic gymnastics skills develop attributes that are perfect stepping stones for other sports and activities: flexibility, balance, strength and agility. And through proper instruction, children enrolled in gymnastics programs demonstrate progress in a number of key developmental areas.Coordination: Through learning basic gymnastics skills, a child develops a keener sense of balance, body awareness and coordinated movement.
Confidence: Gymnastics training is based on learning a progression of skills. As a gymnast moves from easy movements to more complex skills, he/she develops a sense of accomplishment and a natural confidence in his/her abilities.
Goal Orientation: The progressive nature of gymnastics teaches a child the purpose and value of setting goals for his/her efforts — a valuable lesson at any age.
Discipline: Gymnastics is its own best reward. As gymnasts progress, they learn that in order to improve, certain things have to be done a certain way each time if it's going to work. That requires discipline. The incentive for applying that discipline is basic: pure fun! Children learn very early that discipline can lead to some very enjoyable successes.
Organization: Still in its early stages, recent research suggests physical training in gymnastics enhances a typical child's ability to think logically. In order to progress (and have more fun), a child is required to be organized, disciplined and focused on the task at hand. As a natural outgrowth of training, children learn to approach the challenges of life logically, sensibly and with confidence.
Creativity: Gymnastics allows children to express themselves in a unique and individualized way. So much of gymnastics is exploration. Children are constantly challenged to try new skills, to discover just how much they can accomplish through hard work and creative thinking.
The list of benefits goes on, fueled by the potential and the promise the sport of gymnastics holds for each child who wanders into the gym and learns how to stretch his or her wings Š and mind.
Apparatus: Beginning in 2001, the vaulting horse was replaced by a vaulting table for safety reasons. It is padded and covered with a non-slip surface to enable the gymnast to block herself high in the air. A springboard is also used to propel the gymnast onto the vault table (see photo on opposite page).
What to look for: The best vaults will show great height and distance from the table. A fast run is crucial to create the necessary momentum for a dynamic vault. Vaults begin with the gymnast jumping onto the springboard with both feet, but some vaults start with a roundoff that turns the gymnast around and positions them backward on the board. The landing must be secure and finish within parallel lines printed in the landing area.
Uneven Parallel Bars
Dimensions: 2 bars, each 8 ft. long; at heights of 5 ft. and 8 ft.
Material: Wooden veneer or synthetic material.
What to look for: Routines must swing back and forth between the two bars and display elements of swing, flight and pirouettes. The gymnast is not allowed to stop, and all skills should finish at or near the handstand position.
Dimensions: 4 in. wide, 4 ft. high, 16 ft. long
Material: Laminated wood or metal covered with suede-type surface.
What to look for: A combination of skills, from down on the beam to aerial elements above it. Dance, leaps and turns complement the acrobatic tumbling series. The best routines will show grace and rhythm, seamlessly connecting acrobatics. Routines are between 70-90 seconds.
Dimensions: 40 ft. x 40 ft.
Material: Plywood sheets supported by rubber, foam or uniformly distributed springs, and topped with a soft elastic material, either rubber or ethafoam. The floor is covered with a carpet or carpet-like material.
What to look for: The only event accompanied by music, women's floor exercise should combine dance and acrobatics in concert with the musical selection. The best routines will captivate the audience through expressive choreography and showmanship. Routines are between 70-90 seconds.
Dimensions, Material: Same as women's floor exercise.
What to look for: Routines are between 50-70 seconds, and the gymnast must cover the entire floor area with all different types of tumbling. All tumbling passes should be dynamic and be completed with controlled landings. Balance, flexibility and strength are also common elements to men's floor exercise, which should show rhythm and harmony.
Dimensions: 5 ft. long, 14 in. deep, 4 ft. high.
Material: Pommels are synthetic material, and horse is either wood or steel covered with padded leather or non-slip synthetic material.
What to look for: The gymnast will cover all three areas of the horse using primarily double-leg swings. There is also a scissor requirement. Considered the most difficult men's event, pommel horse requires great balance and concentration. The gymnast is not allowed to stop during the exercise, but you might see him pause during a handstand element.
Dimensions: 1 1/8 in. thick, 8 in. in diameter, 8 1/2 ft. above the ground.
Material: Laminated wood or synthetic material. Leather or nylon straps.
What to look for: This event favors the physically strong gymnast. The top ring performances will contain static strength skills such as the iron cross, the Maltese cross and the inverted cross. All strength elements must be held for 2 seconds at the prescribed angles. Swinging elements to a handstand are also required. Also called the ³Still Rings,² this event requires the gymnast to maintain complete control over his body and the apparatus. Deductions occur if the rings start to swing back and forth during static skills.
Apparatus: Same as women.
What to look for: The best vaults will show great height and distance from the table. A fast run in crucial to create the necessary momentum for a dynamic vault. Most vaults begin with the gymnast jumping onto the springboard with both feet, but some vaults start with a roundoff that turns the gymnast around and positions them backward on the board. The landing must be secure and finish within parallel lines printed in the landing area.
Dimensions: 11 1/2 ft. long, 6 ft. high., width adjusts from 16-20 in.
Material: Wooden veneer or synthetic material.
What to look for: Routines consist of swing, flight and static elements. Gymnasts swing in different types of positions: on the hands, above and below the bars; on the upper arms; and on one bar, perpendicular to the apparatus. The best routines will flow smoothly from skill to skill and finish with a perfectly-landed dismount.
Dimensions: 1 1/8 in. thick, 8 ft. wide, 8 1/2 ft. high.
Material: Stainless steel.
What to look for: Gymnasts must perform giant swings forward and backward, and with a dorsal grip (back facing the bar). They also will execute exciting release skills, many of which include a somersault and/or twist. In-bar skills are also seen, where the gymnast's legs or hips swing close to the bar. Also called "High Bar," this event produces the most exciting dismounts in gymnastics.