What Gymnastics Means to Gymnast’s Academics

Gymnastics is a rapidly growing sport at the club level. It is estimated that there are over 3 million children participating in gymnastics in this country. USA Gymnastics, the Olympic governing body for the sport of gymnastics, has seen a 37.5 percent increase in the number of private clubs over 5 years. There are as many as 4000 gymnastics programs in the country.

Better Students and Better People

There are many reasons for the increase in the numbers participating in the sport. One of the primary reasons is the role that gymnastics plays in the noticeable improvement of gymnasts as athletes, students and as a person in general. Gym owners and coaches have found this personal growth of their gymnasts is one of their primary motivations in their continuing participation in the sport.

A Confidence Builder

The confidence gymnastics builds in young gymnasts alone is reason enough to participate in the sport or enroll your child in the sport. The confidence and lessons learned from the sport transfer to every other area of a gymnast’s life. Coaches see examples of this over and over in their careers at every level of the sport.

Self-Discipline in Both the Gym and in School

In spite of the number of hours gymnasts spend training in the gym, they seem to do better in school. Apparently the lessons learned in the sport regarding discipline, dedication and commitment that gymnasts learned from their sport, translate into success in the classroom. It is not uncommon to see students with average grades before they make the team, improve to honor roll status while working out in gymnastics 20 – 25 hours per week or more.

Higher Than Average Academics

On the whole, gymnasts get good grades throughout elementary, jr. high, high school and college. One study showed that more than 35 percent of NCAA gymnasts have achieved a 3.5 or better in school over the previous two years. Graduation rates for gymnasts exceed 90 percent in college, a much higher rate than average. More NCAA Women of the Year Finalist academic awards were awarded to gymnasts than any other sport and at a rate of two to three times of other sports. Gymnasts also received more NCAA post-graduate Scholarships than any other female sport over the last 5 years

More Training than Other Athletes

Gymnasts arrive at college with an average total of 12 years of gymnastics training and experience. Competitive team gymnasts who compete in gymnastics in college likely averaged 25 hours per week of year-round gymnastics practice for up to 50 weeks per year. Most other sports are seasonal and no other sport can claim that their athletes come to college with 5000 hours of training under their belts during their high school years.

Gymnasts Graduate

Graduation rates for female gymnasts exceed 90 percent in college. We expect that the rate for high school gymnasts is near 100%, but there is no way to track that statistic since gymnasts usually compete for private clubs instead of high school programs.

The Force is with Them

Competitive team members and gymnasts tend to improve their academics while participating in the sport. Their confidence levels improve and this transfers to other areas of their life. Participation in the sport is a positive force in the life of gymnasts and their academic life and career. Shhhh! – don’t tell them gymnastics is good for them, they just think it is fun.

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2 Responses to “What Gymnastics Means to Gymnast’s Academics”

  1. Dana Jarvis April 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Hi Coach Howard,

    I found the information on gymnastics relevant and focused. In studying the scientific literature on gymnastics, I am most interested in studies that support your perspectives in the post. What are the best studies that support a positive correlation regarding kids in gymnastics doing better in school, graduating from high school and college, improved discipline and stronger social skills? Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

    – DEJ

    • Coach Howard May 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      Thanks for our comment and question. I am going to apologize for my brief response. I am currently on a deadline for finishing up my next gymnastics book and product and have only a little time to devote to your question. Over the 25 years I have coached gymnastics, I have continually read and utilized research that made me a better coach. I did not do this in an academic context, but in a practical context and paid little attention to normal rigorous academic referencing. From time to time, I did record studies that I had read with an idea to perhaps rereading those studies that had provided useful information for practical gymnastics coaching. That list, which I have not added to. literally for years has over 1500 scientific studies listed, but not in any topic by topic sorted order. A quick look gave me the following:

      The Athletic, Academic and Social Experiences of Intercollegiate Student-Athletes
      Journal article by Patricia S. Miller, Gretchen Kerr; Journal of Sport Behavior, Vol. 25, 2002

      Exploring the Effect of Relationship Dynamics and Dimensions of Support on Gymnasts’ and
      Figure Skaters’ Self-Concept, Education & Psychological Resilience: A Research Proposal
      Jacqueline H. S. Cheng, Herbert W. Marsh, Martin Dowson, and Andrew J. Martin
      SELF Research Centre, University of Western Sydney

      Why Gymnastics?
      By Wm A. Sands, Ph.D.
      Motor Behavior Research Laboratory
      Department of Exercise and Sport Science
      University of Utah

      Are athletes also students? The educational attainment of college athletes
      DA Purdy, DS Eitzen… – Social Problems, 1982 – JSTOR

      I know there was another study about NCAA gymnasts and their superior academic results and I often had every gymnast on my team on the honor roll during some semesters. I would guesstimate that on my teams, the percentage of team gymnasts on the honor roll was above 90% every year, every semester.

      I hope that helps you some. I know there is much more evidence out there, so I wish you luck in tracking it sown and I would like it if you were to share your findings with me, so in the future I have a more organized answer to this questions for those who may be interested – gymnasts and parents.

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