It's another school year and with so many different after-school activities to choose from, it can be tricky to find one that will be a perfect fit for your child. Little Steps recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Doherty, Head Coach of Gymnastics at ESF Sports. In this Facebook Live session, Kim discusses the benefits of gymnastics, gymnastic trends currently emerging in Hong Kong and Asia and what common concerns there are amongst parents. 

What are the benefits of gymnastics:

Is gymnastics a good sport for children and why?

The core of gymnastics is balance, coordination, flexibility, and teaches children to be dedicated to a sport. For many, it will be their first introduction to a structured lesson, it teaches children self-discipline, learn how to receive constructive criticism and also receiving it positively. It also helps them overcome their fears of preparing for competitions and they learn loads of new skills. Peer integration is a big part of gymnastics, and it improves their concentration and their cognitive skills. 

Why is there a stigma that gymnastics is mainly a sport for girls?

Strength wise, gymnastics is an amazing sport for boys, but often has to compete with sports like football/soccer and rugby. At ESF sports, once the schedule is finalized, they plan to start a boys only gymnastics club. Boys tend to be a bit more robust, especially when on the younger side, and girls have a tendency to be a bit softer. Also, different apparatus are catered to each group. Simultaneously boys and girls wish to different things when it comes to gymnastics, such as girls prefer to do balance beam and boys prefer to do rings. But a good crossover is tumbling and the trampoline, all kids love that!

Top 3 mental perks of gymnastics:

1.Social Skills - interactive with peers, patience, taking constructive criticism.

2. Cognitive Skills - practicing sequences, practicing different routines, problem-solving, also helps if children are afraid of heights. 

3. Physical Strength - develops good posture

 

Common questions and common concerns:

When is it appropriate for a child to start gymnastics?

There is no hard and fast rule on when to start gymnastics, but a child can start between the ages of 3 and 5 for recreational gymnastics. Anything younger than that, it would be with the assistance of their parents, and then it would be more on a playing basis, shapes coordination, balancing, etc. It is recommendable to do it an age where they are going to school so that they understand the concept of waiting in line and following instructions. The rule for training can be based on their age, meaning if they are six they can do up to 6 hours of training per week and if you're ten, then 10 hours maximum.

At what age can children move into competitive gymnastics?

Children can start at the age of ten and their training hours will depend on which level they are in, for example, level 2 is 6 hours a week, level 3 is 12 hours a week and level 4 is 16 hours a week at ESF Gymnastics. And pre-team, which is 16 to 20 hours of training, qualifies as fully competitive, and age 12 is recommended, due to their strength and endurance. The sport does not necessarily have to evolve into a competitive sport, it can be enjoyed recreationally if the child has stage fright for example or simply prefers do it recreationally. Although it is advised to compete in the competitions because it completes the process of learning the routines.  At ESF, Coach Kim will naturally not force children to join them and if they truly wish to not compete, the children will instead perform their routines they have learned in private. At ESF the classes are unique in the sense that they are divided into small groups meaning that the chances of not winning a medal are extremely small. There is the choice of high competitive level and fun competitive level at ESF. 

How much is too much, when it comes to training? What are the signs?

Luckily for Hong Kong, it is rare for children to receive too much training due to the lack of facilities for gymnasts. Signs to look out for are sleepless nights, an apathy to their school work and going to classes, making excuses to not go to training when they initially loved the sport. The first thing a parent should do is talk to the coach; there is always room for adjustment of training and altering the classes for the benefit of the gymnast. Advice would be not to stop entirely but rather to take some time off, and come back when the coach makes the adjustments.

How often does sports injury occur? What measures does a parent take to prevent it?

Ankles is a big one, children nowadays have weak ankles due to the fact that they are mainly wearing sneakers, that have a lot of heel support. In gymnastics, there is quite a lot of injuries with ankles, and at ESF, they do a lot of conditioning for ankles. Wrists are another big one, but that injury is mainly when they wish to practice in the playground. This, actually, is the biggest cause of injuries, children who are exercising their sequences or routines in areas that are not fit for practice. 

 

Gymnastic trends in Hong Kong and Asia

How does Hong Kong/Asia rank in terms of the sport?

Hong Kong itself is currently quite low in the ranking in gymnastics, but they are most definitely increasing. Some incredible coaches are emerging and the beam routine is becoming quite famous in Hong Kong. Elizabeth Chan who is training at ESF is hoping to get gold in the Asia Games and be qualified for the 2020 Olympics!

If your child is interested in joining ESF Gymnastics click here to enroll today!