Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

Is there an ideal time to start gymnastics?  I don’t know.  I know that an Olympic athlete might start as early as 2 or 3.  I’m not trying to raise a champion, just a well-balanced kid who has confidence moving her body… so beginning at 5 seemed okay to me.  When Bella was five I signed her up for a gymnastics class.  The first class was mostly free play and she jumped endlessly on the trampoline with joy.  Occasionally, she would get off the trampoline to explore something else, but always wound up coming back to jump.  Then it was time for the structured part of class…

The organized portion of the class did not go so well.  She wanted me to sit next to her.  When it was her turn to do something, she would tense up.  She did it, but was frightened by each activity – hanging from a rope, walking across a beam, etc.   The activities themselves were not what worried her, but being watched certainly did.  She left the class with significantly less joy and enthusiasm than she had arrived with, and it didn’t bode well for her gymnastics career.

The day for the second class arrived and she cried in the car and begged me not to take her.  I promised she could just watch… which she did.  And that is all she did.

When it was time for the third class she cried in the car on the way, and I thought, “What’s the point?”  So I turned the car around and we went home.

In truth, I didn’t like the class either.  The music was obnoxiously loud.  The environment was chaotic.  The colors were brash.  It reeked of disinfectant and toxic foam mats.  The instructors were kids in their early twenties, who shouted at the kids with phony over-blown enthusiasm, high fives and meaningless praise.  It wasn’t working for either of us.  It certainly was not enhancing her body confidence.  On so many levels it just wasn’t the right fit, and was doing more harm than good.

A year later, I signed her up for a smaller group, in a quiet studio, but so few kids joined that group that the class got cancelled.

Bella is six now.  I would still like her to learn to turn somersaults and do cartwheels.  Still looking for an ideal setting.  In the meantime, a friend of ours was demonstrating back-flips, juggling, and walking on his hands.  He introduced us to a popular movement called, Parkour. He shared this video of his friend who is currently the number one Free Runner in England.  (Free Running is an aesthetic version of Parkour that includes flips, spins and acrobatic flair.)  This is Tim “Livewire” Shief performing breathtaking acrobatics in natural and urban settings.


After watching this and a handful of other videos, I realized that plenty of athletes begin in their own backyards.  Bella’s intro to gymnastics doesn’t need to be in a fancy gym or studio, it can be at home.

I can do a headstand.  That’s all I’ve got.  So I thought we had better find a book or some sort of how-to guide to help us out with more. I found a wonderful book called Head over Heels about Gymnastics.  It’s written by Head Coach Gemma Coles, who began her own career in humble way.  Gemma says, “I was one of the kids you occasionally see tumbling head over heels along the road – why walk on your feet when you can walk on your hands?”  Her book is a guide to help kids improve their gymnastics skills safely in a home environment.

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

Bella was delighted to receive the book in the mail and eager to get started.

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

The book covers warm-ups, posture, shapes, jumps, skills, rolls, leaps and routines.

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

It’s super straightforward with colorful visuals that show each move.

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

Bella was all smiles running through the various poses.

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!


Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

As you can see, Bella was happy and confident trying out new poses.  She got to engage positively with gymnastics through the guidance of this wonderful book.  It took the pressure off.  No shouting.   No false enthusiasm.  Can’t wait to see how she develops with this, now that I know we are on the right track… ready to grow by leaps!

Head Over Heels about Gymnastics!

If you are also looking to help your child expand her gymnastics skills in a gentle way, I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Who knows where it might lead.  You just might have the world’s next champion Free Runner on your hands!  :)

Need your own copy?  Here’s the link:   http://headoverheelsgymnastics.co.uk/

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  1. Momma to 1 says:

    Lovely post. I too have an only child who needs to go at her own pace. Will check out the website for this book!