For Olympic gymnasts, basics come before the tough tricks
Local clubs, including TNT Kid's Fitness and Gymnastics in Fargo, focus on the basics, giving young athletes a strong foundation for more advanced skills.
FARGO — When a child enters a gymnastics class for the first time, several qualities will stand out to the watchful eyes of a coach.
Kelly Brost, competitive team manager at TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics in Fargo, said strength, natural physique and flexibility are among them.
But one quality may be the most important of all.
“First and foremost, passion. We want the athletes to come into the gym and want to be here,” Brost said.
Passion and natural talent will be on display in a big way starting this week in Tokyo as the 2020 Olympic Games kick off, with women’s gymnastics being one of the most highly watched of all the sports.
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No Olympic athlete will have reached this pinnacle, however, without having built a solid foundation of basics, and continuing to work on them regularly.
Tom Forster, high performance team coordinator for the U.S. women's national gymnastics team, even posted about it to Facebook on July 18.
“Every morning training begins with conditioning and shaping. Yes, it’s that important that even Olympians do basics everyday!” Forster wrote.
If any gymnast dreams of someday competing on the Olympic or collegiate stage, they must learn to love the basics, because proficiency there will allow them to progress more quickly and safely.
Basic skills could include handstands, cartwheels, walkovers, roundoffs, back handsprings and split positions.
“Gymnastics is science, it’s physics, right? Our body makes shapes, so every skill that we do, we are trying to perfect and develop that shape so that we can go into the next shape or skill,” Brost said.
Sometimes gymnasts get bored with the basics, she said, so they have to be reminded of their importance. “It doesn't matter if you are 4 or 24 … that's where the work gets put in,” she said.
Building the foundation starts early.
In a typical recreational or preschool class, a divide usually becomes evident toward the end of the nine-week session. Brost said that’s when it becomes most obvious which kids are thriving on structure and being attentive to coaches.
Those children are then offered an opportunity to work in an even more structured and intensive environment. “As we go up, each level intensifies a little bit more, and the athletes kind of move through the program in progression,” Brost said.
Whether the gymnast chooses to stick with the sport or go onto others, what they take with them is invaluable — development of fine and gross motor skills, balance and coordination.
“Not everybody's an Olympian but everybody has a place in the sport,” she said.
The women’s gymnastics competition in Tokyo runs Saturday, July 24, through Tuesday, Aug. 3, and will be presented across the networks and platforms of NBCUniversal.