For many reasons, some myths will not go away. And education is the best possible solution, as is always the case for nonsense and the problems it causes. These 4 pervasive myths about the sport of gymnastics continue to cause concern and suffering for many people.
I intend to shed more light on the subject and point to the flawed thinking behind these misconceptions.
1) Gymnastics is only for girls.
Perhaps the most widespread sports myth at one point, this idea persists today. More offensive than the belief is the perpetuation of this myth by people involved in the sport.
I continue to hear parents of gymnasts say that “their daughter does gymnastics, and their sons play hockey as they should.”
It’s annoying to hear and read from the freestyle trampoline community say that gymnastics is stupid, or worse still, that gymnastics is girly. Both statements ignore the history of their sport.
Gymnastics is a great way to develop hand-eye coordination and learn the fundamentals of movement. Hockey players can benefit from gymnastics training, and freestyle trampolinist wouldn’t have a sport without gymnastics. Being the most complex sport in the world, gymnastics has something for everyone, irrespective of gender.
2) Gymnastics requires a specific body type.
This myth still causes concern and suffering for many people. In its worst form, it’s an excuse for bad coaches to mistreat athletes.
Horror stories about this myth abound. Some coaches will resort to unethical and unhealthy practices in high-performance groups to control their athletes’ body weight.
There is evidence that some coaches used puberty suppression tactics to maintain an athlete’s body type and stop regular biological changes.
Tactics that had dire consequences for the athlete’s mental and physical health.
Again, gymnastics has something for everyone. Different people might require different training, but we know there is no limit to what the right attitude can achieve.
3) You have to start gymnastics young.
Many gymnastics clubs run adult classes enjoyed by thousands of people worldwide. I personally know successful international competitors who started later than it was expected. I’ll repeat that attitude is almost everything.
Science proves the aphorism about teaching an old dog new tricks to be wrong. The training approach must change to fit the athlete’s (or the dog’s) experience.
4) Gymnastics is a dangerous sport.
All sports are dangerous if you train carelessly.
Studies show that cheerleading owns the majority of catastrophic head and spinal injuries. A sport that most of us associate solely with entertainment is one of the most dangerous, second only to football, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics.
Statistically, the proper preparation, supervision, and approach make gymnastics one of the safest sports around. Play hard. Play safe.
Gymnastics is for everyone, regardless of gender or orientation. The idea that any sport should be limited to a specific gender comes from antiquated ideas about human behaviour. These same thinking traps once led people to believe that women shouldn’t vote.
Body types can present a challenge in some activities, but the best strategy is to think critically about those challenges and learn to overcome them – for ourselves and others.
Age can factor in how far you go in almost any sport, as there are time-sensitive developmental stages. However, these stages do not preclude enjoying the learning of new and intricate skills.
The danger of anything is commensurate with your approach to training. Many life-threatening accidents happen at home; it’s the approach to tackling any activity that makes it safe.
— Coach José