8 Helpful Hints for Developing Balance
I bet you thought I was going to be discussing balance beam tips… Nope
Some athletes and coaches (and parents) fall into the trap of thinking that Gymnastics is Life rather than simply a sport which can be used for the betterment of. They pour heart and sole into becoming the best they can be. They are willing to sacrifice whatever is needed to reach their lofty goals and aspirations. This attitude is common amongst the high achievers of the world. The commitment to total dedication is commendable but balance in life is key to long term success not only within the sport itself but more importantly LIFE.
Gymnastics is an age limited sport. The transition from cartwheels to real adult life dictates that we place importance on developing balance between sport and the things that will matter most years down the road. Balance also keeps that athlete fresh, eager and hungry for more. Here are a few things to consider when trying to provide balance for your athlete.
1- Family takes priority over sport. Missing or reducing family vacations, skipping weddings or family reunions, missing out on sibling events etc serve to lessen the family bond. Sure you might have to miss some events as sacrifice is a part of sport, but make your family a priority as they will always be your pillar of strength for LIFE. Make time for family.
2- School should take priority over sport. We encourage our athletes to use public schools if for no other reason that it provides a social outlet that is non gym related. The importance of making school a priority is obvious when it comes to academics (the ability to do a handstand will not provide future income for many). Do not sacrifice homework or study time for gymnastics time.
3- Gym is not prison. Attending events that seem important to an athlete should always be an option. Again, prioritizing these events will be necessary so as to maintain respect and discipline at the gym. BUT when an event is deemed important…. attend it. Be it a school dance, a school sporting event, community service events, sibling support events or family gatherings, missing a practice every now and then is not a sin. IN FACT coaches will get a big return on investment as those that are “allowed” to attend social events will in turn repay the gesture with greater effort in the gym (happy gymnasts are hard working gymnasts).
4- Stress the life lessons that sports inherently provide. Those that focus solely on competitive results are less likely to get the true benefit of sport. Life lessons serve to fill our toolbox with tools that we can use for the rest of our lives. Results of a sporting event on the other hand are very forgettable. Life lessons like: working hard creates progress, goal setting points us in the right direction, enduring through adversity makes us stronger, mistakes are opportunities to begin again with better information, teamwork works, sportsmanship creates better people and more. The main goal of participation in sport should be what we can learn in the process.
5- Stress the character shaping skills over the physically impressive acrobatics. This is a tough one to focus on as we all want to learn skills that defy the laws of gravity. We all want to learn skills that wow our friends and family. BUT the character building skills will far outlive the physical skills. Honesty, integrity, compassion, determination, patience, focus, aggressiveness, and more are skills that can be learned through sports participation and traits that people of quality possess in abundance.
6- Appreciation of what others invest into your gymnastics careers is a very important part of learning balance. Sports are done by and for the athletes and that should certainly be the focus. With this being said however balance is enhanced when athletes are taught to appreciate what others put into the equation. Parents invest time, resources and emotional energy, Coaches also invest and sacrifice for the betterment of their athletes. Gym management and booster clubs provide behind the scenes support that contribute to the process of developing an athlete. Learning to appreciate others helps with balancing their perspective.
7- Athletes form life long relationships with teammates at the gym. They spend countless hours together in the trenches and thus the bond between teammates becomes very strong. Balancing gym friends with those at school and in the neighborhood can be time well invested. Non gym friends provide us with a look at life from a non gymnast perspective and since we will not always be a “gymnast” these viewpoints and outlooks can be beneficial.
8- Give back to the sport that provided you with so many great opportunities. The same can be said for giving to your community, church, school and family. Giving back is another form of appreciation and serves not only to create leadership opportunities for our future adults, but also a fantastic trickle down impact on the various organizations we give to. Examples of giving back: Volunteer to help with fundraising events, serve as an apprentice instructor, conduct after school programs for area youth, serve as a mentor for up and coming athletes etc. Giving back to your sport is not only rewarding but an example of great citizenship.
Balancing the scales between sport and life is not as easy as it may sound. We all get caught up in our hectic schedules and finding the extra time needed to promote balance is difficult. One need only look at the alternative to realize the importance of encouraging a balanced approach to life. Sports are a great tool for enhancing our life skills but placing priority on your family, school, friends and life skills time will in turn produce a much more rounded individual.