from Gymnastics News Network via Anne Josephson – Jag Gym Blog

Why should kids compete? Is competition good for them? Is it necessary to get them prepared for their grown-up lives?

I don’t think that competition is either good or bad. It just is. Rather it is how we think about it and cope with it makes it good or bad. How much we stress the importance of it that gives it a larger space in our lives than it deserves. And, when we place it as the most important objective of youth sports, then competition is toxic.

I also don’t ascribe to the belief that competition sets kids up to experience the “real world.” It’s been my experience that competition is not as prevalent in the “real” world as people deem it to be. Success is not a zero-sum game. There is plenty of room for more than one person, product or company to be considered successful and the truth is the “best” is often more subjective than objective. Finally, the most useful kind of competition that I’ve experienced in my life is the competition I have within myself to be the best version of myself that I can be.

All of that said, I think that there is a place of competition in the lives of kids, one that can teach them tremendous life lessons.

So here are my 15 reasons why experiencing competition is good for kids:

Preteen child gymnastic girls 01

  1. Competition drives us to learn at a faster rate and perform at a higher level. When the meet is on the horizon, we work harder and faster. We push a little harder.
  2. Competition teaches us to bring our best effort. Keeping score gives us extra motivation to do our best.
  3. Competition teaches us to manage the butterflies in our stomachs. When something is out of our comfort zone or pushes us to perform, it’s normal to feel fluttery in our tummy. Competition brings those butterflies out, and we can work on managing them.
  4. Competition does not have to be feared. Often kids fear competition, making it into something scarier or more important than it needs to be. When they compete, they realize that it wasn’t so scary after all.
  5. Competition teaches us to take risks and deal with failure. Once kids realize that competition is not a terrifying thing, they can take risks. No one is perfect. Everyone can and will make mistakes in performances. Competitions provides a platform for children to experience failures and learn from them. They learn that failure is a natural part of life and necessary to making progress in any endeavor.
  6. Competition teaches us to cope when things do not go our way. Sometimes you work hard, and you still lose. Sometimes you win but still didn’t perform as you wanted to. Kids learn resilience and grit in these moments. Resilience and grit are two traits that most certainly are essential in adulthood.
  7. Competition helps us with goal setting. Setting goals and making a plan to reach them can be done outside of competition. But competition helps provide deadlines and progress checks on our goals
  8. Competition teaches us to play by rules. Learning to operate within rules and developing strategies to use those rules to our advantage are great things competition teaches.
  9. Competition helps us to learn to win and lose with grace. Nobody likes a boastful person, and nobody likes are pouter. Competition gives kids the opportunities to cope with feelings of pride and disappointment and to learn to process them in healthy ways.
  10. Competition can be fun. Most people enjoy games. They have fun playing them. Being a part of team makes us feel like we belong.  Taken correctly competition is fun for kids.
  11. Competition can build self-esteem. Self-esteem cannot be handed to kids; they have to earn it. Competition is one-way kids earn self-esteem. When you develop a talent and work hard for a result, it feels great. When you fail and can bounce back, you feel better knowing that you have resilience.
  12. Competition teaches commitment. There is a saying that says “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do. That is why they are successful.” Building the habit of commitment is a wonderful by-product of being involved in competitive sports.level_8_boys_from_usa_gymnastics_world
  13. Competition gives kids another community.When you are part of a team, you are in a network of peers and adults who have interests and values similar to yours. It is always great to have another village in your life or that of your child’s.
  14. Competition presents opportunities to travel.Maybe it’s just within your state, or maybe it’s national or even international. But being part of a competitive team often gives kids an opportunity to visit places and interact with people that might not otherwise meet.
  15. Competition causes kids to perform better in school.Data shows that high school students who play sport are less likely to drop out. Furthermore, participation in sports also has been associated with completing more years of education and consistently higher grades in school. Not surprising that the discipline and goal setting that is learned in competitive sports helps in school.

Of course, many of these 15 benefits can also be achieved through other means, including non-competitive sports, the arts or faith-based activities.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that when done purposeful and developmentally appropriate manner that places the needs of the children well ahead of winning, competitive sports can and should be a great experience for kids


gymnastics life lessons

Someday they will perform their final cartwheel, back tuck or giant swing.

There will be no more achievement ribbons to earn, compulsories or optional routines.

No coaches wrangling kids into classes, and no judges in blue handing out scores.

And the leotards will be tucked into storage or passed on to former team members.

Someday, for all kids who do the sport, gymnastics will come to an end. For some it may be after a few months, others after years and still others will only put down the grips when college is over or even beyond.

But this I guarantee: at some point everyone who does gymnastics retires.

So, while I am committed to making sure all the kids in my programs get awesome instruction and have a wonderful gymnastics experience, I am even more committed to ensuring that they take with them life lessons that will serve them far beyond the years that they spent in the gym.

After all, if all goes, as it should, a person should spend significantly more time in the post-gymnastics phase of life.

Gymnastics carries young people forward with a number of skills that aid in making them a successful adult. Here are some of them:

  1. Resiliency. You learn the art of resiliency, falling down and getting up over and over again, literally and figuratively. Being passed over for a promotion is disappointing, but so was seeing your best friend get moved up a level ahead of you. You survived that and you will survive this. It won’t cause you to quit, it will cause you to double down and work that much harder.
  2. Hard work. Speaking of hard work, you understand that hard work is the necessary ingredient to getting what you want. Sure talent is a nice thing to have and so is a little good luck, but you know that in order to reach your full potential hard work is the key ingredient.
  3. Determination. You have a resolute determination to be your best. You’ve developed your grit by staying the course with your long term goals even when frustrated. And, you’ve cultivated your willpower muscle by developing habits that keep temptation at bay.
  4. High Pain Threshold. Not just physically but also mentally. You can endure short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
  5. Patient (but not apathetic). You understand that success does not happen overnight and that there are no short cuts. You also are edgy about the time things take, always trying to work a little harder to speed up the process. In short, you are patiently impatient.
  6. Brave. Being brave does not mean that you have no fears. Rather it means you know how to overcome your fears.
  7. Goal Setting. You understand the importance of setting goals and know how to set them. You aren’t afraid to set big, lofty goals and you know how to break them into smaller manageable bites to ensure that you are making progress. You re-evaluate your progress from time to time, never taking your eyes off the final destination, but rather tweaking the steps to get there.
  8. Action-oriented. You know the difference between wishing and doing. You goals are set and then action is taken.
  9. Thick-skinned. After having coaches telling you what you did wrong repeatedly in practice and having judges attach a score to your efforts, you can take criticism. You can separate someone giving you critical feedback from someone attacking you as a person. As a result you don’t get flustered with someone doesn’t simply gush about your work. You listen and incorporate the feedback just as you have been doing since you first step foot in the gym.
  10. Reflective. All of those years of having your coaches ask, “What do you need to fix on your next turn?” has turned you into a self-reflective person. You can self-coach.
  11. Internally motivated. You learn to work not for rewards or awards, but for the satisfaction of doing the work. You know that the value of your work isn’t in a trophy or medal or even the positive acknowledgement of another; but, rather comes from within.
  12. Self-efficacy. After spending years learning new and difficult things, you believe in your ability to learn things.
  13. Growth mindset. And even when you are unsure as to how to learn something, you know that you can learn how to learn the things that you don’t yet know how to do.
  14. Confident. Standing in front of judges and an audience on a four inch wide beam while wearing a leotard has taught you much about confidence.   Even when you are nervous you know how to hold your chin up and continue.
  15. Physically fit. Gymnastics is the basis for fitness. By doing gymnastics you have a foundation for exercise that will serve you will throughout your entire life.
  16. Balanced. Literally, but also metaphorically. You learned from a young age how to balance your “gym-school” life so that now you effortlessly do the same with your “work-life” balance.


by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

All kids love to play on a playground! Most kids are active and love to move around. Many might not think that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging from the monkey bars can be terrific exercise. However, as kids get older, it can be a challenge for kids to get enough daily activity. Reasons include increasing demands of school, a feeling among some kids that they aren’t good at sports, a lack of active role models, and busy working families. In spite of these challenges, parents and caregivers can instill a love of activity and help kids fit it into their everyday lives. Doing so can set healthy patterns that will last into adulthood.

There are many benefits that exercise has to offer your kids. Some of which include:

  • strong muscles and bones
  • weight control
  • decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • better sleep
  • a better outlook on life

Healthy, physically active kids also are more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. Best of all, physical competence builds self-esteem at every age.

If you have not checked out our fitness classes yet a Fun & Fitness Gymnastics, now is the time! First trial class is always free.


class boys

by Anne Josephson

Gymnastics is not just for girls.

Not even close.

Yes, the sport is considerably more popular among girls. But did you know that many regard male gymnasts as the strongest of all athletes?

In Men’s Health’s list of the 50 fittest athletes, it is a gymnast who is ranked third, ahead of sports stars like Michael Phelps, LeBron James and Usain Bolt. And, the magazine admits that the gymnast, Kohei Uchimora, “might be pound-for-pound the fittest guy on the planet.”

So that sounds like he should be ranked first to me…but I digress.

Even if your son has no desire to pursue gymnastics as a sport, there are still many benefits for boys to participate in gymnastics.

I know that might sound confusing: why would you have your child enroll in gymnastics if he had no interest in being a gymnast?

For these 5 simple reasons:

Gymnastics is the perfect foundational sport. There is no sport that teaches basic fundamental athletic skills better than gymnastics, especially for young kids who lack the motor and cognitive skills for team ball sports. In gymnastics class, your son will learn to run, jump, and balance, to develop his coordination and body awareness and to become stronger and more flexible. These basic athletics skills are then transferable to any sport he chooses to play when he gets older. Or, if he opts out of sports all together, he will have a foundation for fitness.

Gymnastics is the perfect cross training sport. If your son is already involved in another sports program, gymnastics is a perfect way to enhance his conditioning by building up his athleticism. By participating in gymnastics your son will become stronger, more flexible, more agile and have a better sense of where his body is in the air, all resulting in and overall improvement in his fitness and athleticism.


Gymnastics is the perfect injury prevention program. Two of the most common ways kids get injured in sports are from sprains or strained muscles and from falling. Gymnastics is useful in helping kids avoid sprains and strains because it teaches kids to warm up properly and it helps them increase their flexibility (two of the main reasons sprains and strains occur). Additionally, there is no better place to learn to fall than gymnastics! Part of any core curriculum in gymnastics is learning how to fall safely.

Gymnastics is the perfect character building sport. Coaches want athletes with a strong work ethic and who are resilient. Gymnastics is not an easy sport. It teaches kids that hard work is necessary for results and that trying over and over again is just part of the process. Discipline is a natural byproduct of doing gymnastics.

Gymnastics is the perfect sport to learn to be coachable. Gymnastics teaches kids to listen. Gymnasts receive corrections after each and every turn. So a gymnast might receive literally hundreds of pieces of feedback in one practice!   Gymnasts learn to not take this feedback as criticism but rather as helpful information designed to improve their performance.

Gymnastics is NOT just for girls. Gymnastics is the foundation of ALL sports.  Who knows?  Maybe your son will “flip” for the sport and become a gymnast or maybe he will just get some solid building blocks to use in his future athletic endeavors.  Either way, it is time well spent getting the recommended 60 minutes (or more) of physical activity per day they need, and they are not in front of a screen!



by annejosephson


gym parents

  1. I love my child so much it hurts. It makes me a little irrational.  Please bare with me.  Be gentle.  My heart is walking around outside of me, and I entrust it to you.  I am not asking for a free pass, just a little empathy.
  2. And of course, I want you to love my child too.  I realize you have many kids to love, but let’s admit it…mine is really awesome.
  3. Despite what my actions might suggest, I want to be a good parent.  I really do.  So much so that I am prone to making mistakes because I over think things.  I need your help in guiding me on how to be the best support for my child-athlete.  If you think I am doing something that isn’t good for my child (like watching every practice or constantly bailing her out when she leaves her gym bag at home), communicate that with me.  I am all for help from the village.
  4.  I need more information.  I don’t understand things and that make me anxious.  I need to understand how kids move up.  I need to understand how to explain to my child what she needs to do to move on with her friends or to know that she won’t be so I can explain that to her.  When I don’t have information from you, I rely on other parents, the internet or I make things up myself.  We both know that this is hardly a good thing…
  5. Because remember: I don’t speak gymnastics.  To me a giant is a character in a fairy tale.  Kip is a guy with top siders and a country club membership.  And don’t get me started on Tsukahara or Yurchenko… Then, once I think I have the hang of what the levels all mean, things change, and I am confused again.  Is level 6 easier than level 5 or is that just my imagination?
  6.  Just because I ask you a question, does not mean I am questioning your competence.  I genuinely don’t understand things and need clarification.  Please try not to be defensive.  I am working hard to assume good faith and hope you will assume the same in me.
  7.  Big surprises freak me out.  They freak everyone out.  If my child isn’t going to move up or is missing a major skill she needs for competition, please tell me in time for me to prepare her or better yet help her achieve her goal.  I know that delivering bad news is not fun for you, but if you tell me in advance I can maybe do something about it.  And if bad news is unavoidable, be sensitive in how you deliver bad news but tell me the truth.  In private, please.

Gym Mom

  1. Please understand we are juggling a variety of commitments and that means sometimes we might be late or even miss practice.  I understand that gymnastics is your career and it makes it harder for you to do your job if my child isn’t in the gym.  But occasionally a sibling’s first communion or grandma’s 90th birthday will fall on a day of practice or even a meet.  And, once a year we travel to visit family and once another time we will actually scape enough cash together to go on a vacation.  Sometimes the carpool falls through and I cannot get her little brother from soccer at 5pm and be on the other side of town to drop her at practice at the same exact time.  We accept any logical consequences that arise because of her absence from the gym and will do our best to notify you in advance, but please do not take your anger or disappointment out on her.
  2. You are the expert on the sport and my child as an athlete, but I am the expert on my child.  Please know that I will always defer to you on what to teach my child, but I can provide insight to you on who she is.  For instance, if one of my children says she’s not feeling well, I might take it with a grain of salt.  If my other who has never missed a day of school in her life and never gets sick says that, I am certain its true.  Let’s work together to share what we know so we can best understand her.
  3. If you have a chance, can you encourage my kid to read, straighten our her room and be nice to her parents and siblings?  You see, you have a magical influence over my child.  She worships you and wants you to be proud of her.  You are her role model.  And I am grateful for that and am happy to bring you Starbucks whenever you need a caffeine boost.


by Anne Josephson reprinted from Jag Gym Blog

Gym Parents1

  1. Successful sports parents know their role. They are the parent. They are neither the athlete nor the coach.
  2. Successful sports parents know to watch their pronouns.   “We” do not have a meet this weekend, and “we” are not trying to go elite.
  3. Successful sports parents know to keep their eye on the big picture. A bad meet or bad season is feedback toward the larger goal.
  4. Successful sports parents know to respect their child’s coach. Even when they disagree.
  5. Successful sports parents know not relinquish their role as parent to the coach. Parents retain responsibility for their child’s health and well-being.
  6. Successful sports parents know to value their child-the-child more than their child-the-athlete.
  7. Successful sports parents know to make sure their child leads a balanced life. Their sport is important but so is their education, their family and friend time, downtime.
  8. Successful sports parents know how to be appropriately involved in their child’s sport.   They are supportive but not intrusive.
  9. Successful sports parents know to be the soft place for their child to land.
  10. Successful sports parents know when to allow their athlete to struggle and when to intervene.
  11. Successful sports parents know how to work out their own stress regarding their child’s Being a parent is not easy. Being a sport parent makes it that much more complicated.
  12. Successful sports parents know to take responsibility for their own choices regarding time, money and energy expended on behalf of their child athlete. They do not expect an Return            On Investment for their kids’ efforts. They do not make kids feel guilty for the financial choices that they as parents make.
  13. Successful sports parents know how to balance high level training needs and the needs of the other members of the family. The elite athlete child cannot take precedence over the other kids.
  14. Successful sports parents know how to enjoy their child’s time in sports. Sports are fun for children and that joy should bring pleasure to the parents as well.
  15. Successful sports parents know not to offer quitting as the solution to every difficulty their athlete encounters.
  16. Successful sports parents know to remain open to the option of their athlete moving on from the sport.
  17. Successful sports parents know how to behave in the car after practice.
  18. Successful sports parents know how to celebrate their child no matter the result of any individual meet.
  19. Successful sports parents know not to live vicariously through their children.
  20. Successful sports parents know to let their child’s coach give coaching feedback.
  21. Successful sports parents know to let their child be responsible for her own work.
  22. Successful sports parents know to be wary of advice from other sports parents.
  23. Successful sports parents know to be polite to all officials, staffers, parent volunteers etc.
  24. Successful sports parents know not to engage in psychological games with their athlete. They are the parent, not the amateur psychologist.
  25. Successful sports parents know to limit their negative feedback to their parenting obligations, never to discuss sports difficulties.
  26. Successful sports parents know to use the greatest of all therapeutic tricks: silence. Let there be silence and allow your child to exist in that space or have the space to talk.
  27. Successful sports parents know to let their child and the coach to set the goals.
  28. Successful sports parents know to focus on getting better rather than being “the best”.
  29. Successful sports parents know to have grit. They are willing to commit to a long-term goal.
  30. Successful sports parents love their kids unconditionally and without reservation. They want to have a happy, healthy good relationship with their child long after their child’s sports career ends.



One of the more memorable sport movies of the last few years is “42” – the true story of Jackie Robinson’s first season in Major League Baseball as the first African American allowed to play in “the Show”, as it is often called. There is one particular scene in the movie that haunts me, and I hope it haunts you as well. I’m referring to the game when Robinson and the Dodgers play Philadelphia and take the field in front of a very hostile crowd. As Robinson runs out to his position in the first inning, a young boy sitting next to his father watches intently as his father yells racist remarks at Robinson for his mere existence on the field of baseball. Within moments, this young boy who appears to have been caught off guard by his father’s ranting, decides that he too should join in the degrading of the “villain” on the field; it seems like the thing to do.

Liam WOGA P BarsA parent can be a powerful influence on a child. A parent’s values become a child’s values. A parent’s words become a child’s words. A parent’s behaviors become a child’s behaviors. And it stands to reason that a parent’s villains become a child’s villains. What a sobering thought!

Perhaps it’s time to ask, “Who have you cast as villain in your world, and do you want your child to see and treat these people as villains – bad guys, undeserving of respect, targets of personal attacks, ridicule and blame? There are few things as destructive as racism; the movie scene demonstrates a father’s influence on a young mind. But it doesn’t have to be about the color of one’s skin for it to be damaging.

For instance, is it possible that our children learn disrespect for referees, coaches and judges by overhearing our repeated disgust over an official’s cal or evaluation? Can we really expect our children to take responsibility for their performances when we constantly blame the judges or umpires for calling it as they see it? How can we possibly ask our children to listen to their coaches when they frequently hear us criticizing the coach’s decision making?

In truth, parents can be respect-killers for every authority figure in a child’s life by attacking, ridiculing, criticizing, condemning and complaining about referees, umpires, judges, officials, coaches, and sport administrators. When we “villainize” someone, whether it’s during a competition, during the car ride home after a practice, or in front of children while talking to other adults, we should not be surprised when our children demonstrate disrespectful behaviors towards those same people. They didn’t learn it from a stranger.

We have a huge responsibility to teach tolerance and respect for those who volunteer their time (or are paid very little) to officiate or coach our children. If we hope to maintain the services of our officials and coaches, as well as teach our children respectfulness, we must first learn to control our emotions and our reactions on the sidelines of competition. Many organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to retain officials and coaches due to the verbal abuse they suffer at the hands of parents! Yet those same parents expect their children to control themselves.

If youth sports is truly a laboratory for learning life lessons; if its purpose is to help our children develop physically, mentally, and emotionally – then it stands to reason that parents cannot temporarily suspend such virtues as respect and self-control during the minutes of a game or course of a competition. If you recognize the tendency to get emotionally hijacked by your emotions during competitions here are some suggestions:

  • Increase the physical distance between yourself and the field of play; sit farther away from the action
  • Closely monitor your self-talk during the competition to stay focused on only the things within your control; an official’s decisions or scores are NOT within your control so leave them alone
  • Guard your reactions, especially in the first 10 seconds after a play or routine, or a “call” or score by a referee/judge
  • Ask yourself, “How would I feel right now if I were an official at a youth sport competition having to make a close or controversial call, or determine which deductions I should take?”
  • Be ready to consider this question at any moment: “What life lesson is my child exposed to by having to deal with the adversity of a ‘bad’ call, or score during this competition?”

Give these strategies a try. They will go a long way in helping you set a good example for your children and make it safe for our referees, umpires, and officials to continue doing the task they enjoy.


Chang WOGA P Bars

It’s important for children who are involved in athletics and team-based activities to learn from a loss or setback instead of letting it negatively affect their attitude and performance. Violent incidents and excessive “drama” involving athletes (and/or their parents) and referee and judges have made recent news headlines, such as the Detroit-area soccer player who was accused of punching a referee after receiving a red card in a recreational league game. Unfortunately, this act of violence was fatal.

Of course it’s necessary for all young people to know that neither rage, and/or most certainly violence is never the solution, but the adrenaline rush that accompanies sporting events can present a challenging emotional situation for child athletes and sport parents, making it necessary to address the young athlete’s disappointment or anger before emotions flare out of control.

Teams are like families, and they can choose to let their values ooze out of their conversations, decisions, policies, and practices. Meetings before and after practice, as well as quick conversations during practice can be opportunities to reinforce good sportsmanship, respect for the event, and for opponents and other participants. The gym locker room, car, and competition site are settings ideal for story, example, or testimony that says to all, “this is who we are.”

“Many young athletes need a paradigm shift in how they see competition”

The most fundamental challenge coaches and sport parents face in youth athletics is shifting the athlete’s thought process about the competitive experience.

I’m referring to a shift from:  “This loss is proof that I’m no good and therefore devastating.”  To: “What does this outcome represent to me in the way of feedback that I can use to get better?”

This more logical approach will not occur to most deeply competitive athletes immediately – as in the first 10 minutes after a poor performance or loss.  Unfortunately, it’s common for athletes to blame others for a defeat, whether they put it on the judge, equipment, teammate, coach or parents. The Detroit soccer player clearly allowed his poor sportsmanship to reach a dangerous level; he is being charged with second-degree murder for fatally punching the referee (and father of two).

In the case of young athletes, the sooner the initial “Boo-Hoo” (pity party) can be replaced with the question “What can I learn from this?” the sooner real progress can begin toward the goal of performance excellence.  This paradigm shift represents a more direct pathway to future victories than the pathway of anger, resentment, self-degradation, and self-pity – which only prolongs the immaturity of the athlete.

This is not to say that the outcome of a competition doesn’t matter, but it matters in a different way than most kids are being taught.  A poor performance is not who you are; it’s only what you did.  It is the responsibility of adults- parents, coaches, mentors- to teach young athletes this concept through leading by example and offering encouragement.

When a child is emotional following a loss, poor performance or setback of some kind, they need to feel understood, but they also must learn to handle defeats as a learning experience. This is where you- the parent, coach, friend or other adult- can help an athlete approach the issue from a positive perspective, guide them on the path to evaluating their own missteps, and not the possible fault of others, and inspire them to try again. Eventually children will begin to process these concepts on their own, allowing them to accept this day’s outcome and work toward higher levels of athletic performance for tomorrow.