In recent years, the numbers of boys taking up (and sticking with) gymnastics has dwindled.
After Louis Smith won a silver medal in the pommel horse for Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics, it was expected that these numbers would pick up. But have they?
We want to help break the myth that gymnastics is just for girls, and get boys back into an exciting sport.
We spoke to Marilyn Gadd, head coach at Gym School at Andover Leisure Centre, and her son Craig, who is studying a degree in Circus Performance Arts, to find out who gymnastics is well suited to, and how we can get more boys involved.
First things first, why do you think not many boys take up gymnastics in the first place?
Marilyn: Unfortunately, gymnastics is seen as a ‘girly’ sport. Boys can be ridiculed by their peers for doing it, unless they can demonstrate strength and are able to perform a skill that impresses.
Craig: I think it’s purely because of the stereotype of it being for girls, and they will look girly. Other than the leotard – which could be considered slightly feminine, despite being worn by professionals – this isn’t true. It is good for teaching you not to be scruffy!
And if boys do start gymnastics when they’re young, how long do they continue for?
Marilyn: Boys start gymnastics at 5, but tend to drop out at 8 or 9. If you have a group of boys working together, they tend to continue until about 11 or 12.
Craig: When boys get to 8, they often leave gymnastics to do more ‘male sports’ – such as football. Boys usually start because their sisters do.
So why would you recommend that boys stick with gymnastics? What skills can they learn through it?
Marilyn: Gymnastics improves areas such as flexibility, co-ordination and concentration. These skills can help boys with any other sports they may play, as well as helping in school.
Gymnastics is also very good for boys who don’t like team sports as much.
Craig: It helps develop body control and overall strength, as well as social skills. The dynamic and strength elements such as vault and bars are good for boys, and there is a tendency for them to enjoy these.
Do you think last year’s Olympics had an effect, and opened gymnastics up as an option for more boys?
Marilyn: I think it definitely had an effect, and highlighted that boys can do gymnastics too. It does take hard work to achieve what Olympic standard gymnasts can do, but that shouldn’t put people off.
Craig: The success of Team GB’s gymnastics team was inspirational, but I don’t think seeing it on the TV would really alter the opinion for older boys that it’s a girly sport.
We don’t believe that all is lost. There are clearly huge benefits to boys taking part in gymnastics, especially if they are not the footballing type.
The physical skills boys can learn through gymnastics are very valuable. Anne, a mother of 3 boys who all went through Gym School, said: “I started my eldest son at gymnastics to help with his co-ordination and posture. They all learnt skills including self-control, accuracy, movement skills, balance, and how to think for themselves.”
It’s very refreshing to see a new wave of male gymnastics role models coming through, with the likes of Louis Smith and the Team GB boy. Hopefully, now we can spark a new generation of champions!
Our Gym School currently has 65 girls to only 6 boys. We have spaces in Beginners, Improvers and Advanced classes.
Please click here for more information on Gym School, and contact Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to join.