I’ve been asked this question a lot – where does this all go? Where will my gymnast progress to within the sport or what does it all lead to?
There’s two answers to this – firstly the development route within gymnastics and how we do this at Affinity. Yes, we have squad gymnasts that enter competitions and do displays plus there’s plenty of progression within our class system. Here’s how it all works:
In each class area the gymnasts progress through different class levels as they age. They are assessed against our own Affinity Awards scheme each term and each area (pre-school, general, tumbling and freestyle) have their own schemes representing what they do in class. Then there’s the squad system. These classes run in parallel to the others and are accessed by invitation. We look for the gymnasts who have the physical potential to progress quicker or further in the sport and who also have the attitude, interest and work ethic to do so. We generally assess gymnasts in their usual classes. We’ve a set of access skills and capabilities for each squad that our coaches will look for and when they identify a gymnast has these, they will nominate them for a squad trial. Denise, our Department Leader of squad gymnastics will then arrange a trial to see if the gymnast is ready to move into a squad class. We’ve various squads now based on age and ability as follows:
Pre-development squad – 4-6yr olds, 60min class per week.
Development Squad – 6-9yr olds, 90min class per week.
Advanced + Squad – 9yrs +, 90min class per week with option to train twice.
Competition Squad – for those competing at Regional General Level 3 and upwards, 3.5 hours training a week.
Gymnasts in these squads work towards County and Regional General Gymnastics competitions – this means they train on floor and apparatus. We do offer competitions to other areas too when it suits – for example our Wednesday tumble class occasionally compete in local tumbling competitions as appropriate and of course everyone is invited to our own Affinity Invitational. Gymnasts usually have to be 8yrs in the year of competition to compete – although at our invitational it's 7yrs old. However its worth knowing that at Affinity, our squad system is based on floor and apparatus skills so to gain access to these squads, gymnasts ideally need to be in general gymnastics classes where they are learning all of these skills.
As competitive gymnastics goes, at Affinity we focus on ‘general’ level competitions, which have restrictions on the amount of hours a gymnast can train to maintain a level playing field. This suits our facility type and training time available. We can take gymnasts to a really good level here but what happens if we have a potential Olympian appear? Simple really – we’ll direct them to a club that can cater for that style of gymnastics. Training for higher levels of gymnastics – usually ‘artistic’ gymnastics, requires an average of 12-15 hours training time a week to succeed. It’s fab, but it’s just not our focus area at Affinity.
The second answer to ‘where does it all go’ is a broader one but I feel much more important. Whilst yes we’re coaching gymnastics (and we LOVE it!) really what we’re doing here is coaching people. The skills and experiences learnt through gymnastics really set you up for success in all areas of life – a love for physical movement, always improving self-esteem and belief in yourself, how to deal with and grow through challenges, being supported in a happy, positive environment. These things are really what it’s all about and these are gained whether your gymnast competes or not. Whether they are ‘good’ at gymnastics or not. (with a big set of air quotes around ‘good’ as it’s such a perception – I’d argue it matters not one bit but that’s one for another blog post…)