Sometimes parents of gymnasts – and even young gymnasts themselves – wonder why the sport of gymnastics requires a year-round commitment rather than being seasonal like other sports. The reason is that achieving high-level gymnastic performance is based on mastering the building blocks that go into each skill set. This takes a long time and ideally shouldn’t be interrupted or the flow of learning will be compromised.
Also, although competitive gymnasts may compete for just one part of the year, the rest of the year is spent training and preparing for the next level of competition. Constant improvement and reinforcement are critical to attaining mastery of top-level skills. While small breaks aren’t necessarily negative, a four-month-long break from the sport could make it very difficult to return and resume meaningful progress on the next set of skills.
Here are four building blocks of skill mastery that we believe are the most important:
Knowledge of skills
Knowledge: Performing a back handspring properly is a great example of the ‘building block’ concept. It cannot be accomplished unless you first understand, practice, and then master the correct hand, head and body position, all of which are learned in simpler skills, such as the handstand.
Flexibility: Although some athletes are naturally flexible, most need to work on becoming flexible so that their bodies will be able to stretch, twist, and bend in ways that are needed for specific skills. Even gymnasts who are naturally flexible still need to learn proper ways of moving so that they don’t overstretch and cause injury to themselves.
Strength: Although it may look effortless, swinging your entire body weight around a bar or executing a flip without hands calls for incredible strength.
Confidence: Mental blocks (often caused by stress) or feelings of fear can wreak havoc on your ability to perform skill sets. Overcoming these feelings requires practice and repetition, and this takes time.
Work Ethic: Progress in gymnastics doesn’t happen overnight or in one day. Having a strong work ethic allows you to consistently do whatever you need to do to advance in the sport – whether it,s practicing multiple hours a day and/or multiple days a week and coming to the gym with the resolve to work hard.
Remember – there is no shortcut to excellence!!