What Is The Best Age To Start Gymnastics?

Gymnastics is a sport that many start from a very young age, but can be practiced by athletes of all ages. Many gymnasts will argue that the younger you start, the better chance you have of reaching higher levels of success. So, when is the time right to start gymnastics? Find out below.


Defining Goals

Gymnastics is a sport that has many benefits for athletes, but can also be taxing on the body. This is something that parents should consider when getting their child started in the sport. At young ages, the sport is highly recreational and safe, but as your child grows older and gains higher skill levels, the sport becomes more complex.

Gymnastics classes at young ages are a great way to socialize your child and keep them active. Many gyms provide classes where kids can learn the basics of the sport while playing fun games and getting their energy out. At higher levels, classes focus on gaining skills, and eventually competing in meets. Depending on your child's wants, they can continue toward a competitive path in gymnastics, or stay in recreational classes.

Ages 3-5

The goal of gymnastics at this young age is to teach strength, balance, flexibility, and discipline. Most gyms that provide classes for this age group will focus on introducing kids to the basics of the sport and encouraging them to have fun while learning all about gymnastics. Skills learned will be focused around climbing, jumping, running, and rolling. These are all fundamentals that will be key if your child wants to move to higher levels later.

Sometimes, at classes of this age, parents will be encouraged to participate. This allows parents to see what their children are learning and help to motivate them in their development. Different gyms will have different options, so make sure you check to see what they offer!

Ages 6-11

As your child gets older, they will often be placed in gymnastics classes based on skill rather than age. This way, they are with other kids who are doing skills at their same level. These levels can be recreational like lower levels, but it is around this age range that gymnasts can begin to move toward competitive gymnastics. If your child finds that they really enjoy competing in gymnastics, gyms will often have opportunities for them to do so.

At this age, if it is safe, gyms will encourage kids to learn specific gymnastics skills. Fundamental skills such as cartwheels, round offs, and handstands will contribute to your child's gymnastics skills in the future, so their classes may be more focused on solidifying these skills before moving to higher levels.

Ages 12 and Up

If your child starts gymnastics above the age of 12, they may have to spend some time catching up to the athletes around them. Many children start gymnastics at very young ages and have been improving their skills ever since. However, this doesn't mean that your child will be behind. Gyms offer classes for kids of all ages, and they have coaches that will help your child to reach whatever level they strive for.

The age to compete for elite gymnastics is 11 for Juniors and 16 for Seniors. Senior gymnasts are who you see competing in international competitions and the Olympics. If your child wants to compete in these higher level competitions, they will have to work very hard at the gym to perfect skills and create routines. For many gymnasts, this is a full time commitment.

For Future College Athletes

Many college gymnasts have been in the sport since they were young, but not all. There are also college gymnasts who have competed at the elite level before, but who have stepped back to the college level while they are in school. To prepare to be a college athlete, there are a few things that you should do:

  • Reach level 10 in gymnastics: College gymnastics teams usually expect their athletes to have gained skills at the tenth level of gymnastics.
  • Get your name heard: By competing in a variety of competitions before college, your child can catch the attention of colleges who may want to recruit them.
  • Talk to colleges: Reach out to college programs that have gymnastics teams and find out what they are looking for!
  • Go to camps: Colleges will often hold camps for prospective students. Your child should try to attend camps at colleges they are interested in so they can meet the coaches and get to know the program.

For Future Elite Athletes

Similar to college athletes, most elite gymnasts have been doing the sport since they were very young. This allowed them to build multitudes of skills over time. If your child wants to become an elite gymnast, they must first reach the tenth level of competition. This will take years of training and hard work. After reaching this level, the nest steps are:

  • Join a Junior Olympic (JO) program
  • Learn skills in levels 1- 10 of the JO program
  • Begin to compete in JO competitions
  • Try out for an elite training program and build skills there
  • Compete in regional and national championships in the hopes of qualifying for an elite competition

Safety Concerns

Gymnastics is a sport that can come with a lot of risk. The skills that gymnasts perform can be dangerous if done incorrectly or not in a safe environment. Coaches at gyms do their best to spot athletes and ensure they are not doing skills too difficult for them, but some injuries can be inevitable. Gymnasts can rip their skin on the bars, get bruises from falling during a skill, or worse. Many gymnasts will tell you that they've had their fair share of sprains, strains, or even breaks.

Gymnastics skills are hard on the body, which is why many athletes retire at such young ages. Ultimately, your child will continue to face injuries the higher they get in the sport, but many gymnasts will argue that those bruises are worth it once they perfect the skill they were working toward.

FAQ

How do I get my kid started with gymnastics?

Getting your child started with gymnastics is as easy as finding a gym near you and signing them up for classes. Gyms will offer classes for all ages and skills levels, and will work to help you find one that matches your child. You can also invest in some gymnastics equipment to have at home, such as mats or low beams so that your child can practice at home as well!

How old should my child be to do gymnastics?

While anyone at any age can participate in gymnastics, many will advise that the younger your child can start, the better. Gyms offer classes for ages as young as 1, and will range from there to adult classes. Ultimately, it depends on your child's interest. They can start at whatever age they want!

Can I teach my child gymnastics?

You can teach your child gymnastics, but should be very careful when doing so. Gymnastics can be dangerous if you are teaching your child incorrectly. You should do lots of research online first before attempting to teach your child any skills. However, what you can do is teach them the fundamentals, such as jumping, climbing, and flexibility. These can all be practiced at home alongside possible gymnastics classes.

How do I pick a gymnastics coach for my child?

Gymnastics gyms will have a variety of coaches who coach at different levels. In this case, you may not have a choice as to who coaches your child; the gym will simply match your child with the coach who is at their level/age group. At higher levels, you will have more control over your child's coach. You should do research on the coach's values and practices to ensure that they will be a good match for your child. You should also take your child's opinion into consideration, as the most important thing is that they are comfortable with whoever is coaching them.