Finding Success in Gymnastics and Life

Subject: Finding success in gymnastics

Dear Coach,

When I was young, I learned ballet but quit during the middle of my first year because the teacher had been so strict and harsh. My mom tells me I wasn’t very flexible back then, but now I am starting high school and can do backbends and splits. I love stretching and I really would love to learn f gymnastics. However, there are many problems that stop me from going for these sports.

First of all, I’m not very athletic. For some reason I stopped running in elementary school, I think it was because of my change in school and I didn’t feel comfortable in PE class, and now I have asthma and I’m in really bad shape. And when I start something I always end up not finishing or accomplishing anything, so every time I try to train myself, like running or jump roping, I stop in the middle. I think the only way to fix this is motivation but I’m not good at any sport so it’s not very helpful.

Second of all, I’m a very slow learner, for example, I’ve attempted many dance classes but all I ended up with was a lot of pressure and stress because I’m always the only one lost and behind. Which means I have to take private lessons, and it’s not really affordable.

Lastly, there are no training places for gymnastics near by, or even in this country (Korea), because it’s a competitive country and there’s only a place for Olympics training or little kids. I have a lot of friends around here that miss gymnastics or really want to learn as well, and I feel like if I don’t learn now it’ll be too late. I know that strength is really important and want to know if there are any exercises or stretches I could do to prepare for when I get an opportunity to learn, or anything else I can do to learn gymnastics. Or maybe gymnastics is just not the sport for me? I hate to think that but I’m not sure if I can really do it-can anyone learn or do we have to be extra motivated and devoted or talented? I would try hard to learn though, if I could. I could also consider other sports like ballet and figure skating but I like gymnastics way better, and the chances of learning it are just as slim. Is there anything I can do about this?

Sorry for writing so long, and thank you for reading it.


I going to apologize for speaking so generally here in the beginning of my reply, but I am going to give you the secret to both gymnastics and life here which you need to understand before YOU make any of the other decisions you were asking me about.

There is one way to success in life and sports, a simple three-step process that is so difficult to do that 95% of the people in the world never even start the process much less stick with it. If you follow the process, you will be able to control your life and achieve success in whatever sport or activity you choose. If you don’t follow the process, you have to count only on luck or fate to guide your life and your chances are not good.

Step One: You must have a very specific, very clearly defined, written goal for your life. The goal must be so specific and so clear that when you think about it, it seems as real as real life.

Step Two: You must learn, know and understand all of the steps, both mental and physical, from the very first step until the last step, that you need to take to achieve your goal. You must also be willing to pay the price of doing everything that it takes. There is a saying common to greatness often spoken now that in order to be exceptional at something you must first do it 10,000 times. Not everyone is willing to pay that price and do all that work to get great.

Step Three: Then, each and every day you must take actual action to complete one or more of the steps you know that you have to take in order to achieve your goal.

Now to your specific questions as long as you understand. You say you are not athletic. In gymnastics, the first two requirements are great strength and exceptional flexibility. For a girl your age, the fastest way to get strong in as short a period of time is to lift weights. The fastest way to get flexible is to do partner stretching. There are two types of successful gymnasts and athletes. One is the naturally talented athlete. The other is the athlete who works harder than everyone else.

Second of all, you said you were a very slow learner. While this definitely makes a difference in dance, where dancers are expected to pick up moves and combinations very quickly, almost instantly, gymnastics is very different. In gymnastics, you train all year to do four routines. You don’t have to learn fast, you just have to learn well. There are certain sports and activities that you don’t have to be a fast learner to excel.

Lastly, you said the only training facilities are for training for the Olympics or for little kids and private lessons are not affordable. This is a much more difficult problem. Gymnastics equipment, facilities and training are expensive. At your age, you are most likely dependent on your parents financially, so you have little to no control over that aspect. If it is true, like you say that you already have a group of friends that want to learn as well, there likely is someone somewhere there who you could pay to coach you, if you look hard enough. Or you might be able to start a gymnastics club at your school.

But the first thing you need to do is to decide what your dream is, what your goals are. And whether you just would like the glory or whether you really are willing to pay the price and do the work necessary every single day to get really good at gymnastics or what ever else you choose.

If you think it really is gymnastics you want to do, you can test yourself and see how determined you are by giving yourself 6 – 12 weeks to radically improve your conditioning, strength and flexibility. Run every day a minimum of 20 -30 minutes and work your way up to 45 minutes until you are thin and trim. Begin a gymnastics strength training program which includes lifting weights 2-3 times per week to increase your strength. Do splits and shoulder stretching and partner stretching to get your splits down and your shoulders flexible enough to do walkovers. Get your friends to work out with you if they will or do it on your own if they aren’t dedicated enough.

Mostly, you need to look deep inside yourself and see what it is that you really want – to be in shape, to be a medium level competent gymnast, to get a college scholarship, to gain fame and glory. Only you can really know what it is that you want. Decide what you want to do, how good you want to be and find out how long and where you can train to achieve that level.

We sincerely wish you good luck and success in meeting your goals and dreams.

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2 Responses to “Finding Success in Gymnastics and Life”

  1. mary March 30, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    where i go for gymnastics, it is a total disaster. we dont do something different .we just do the same thing every saturday. we should do somthing harder like doing handstands on top of the bar and swinging all around the bars. that will be ok for me.

  2. Coach Howard March 31, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Thanks for your comment. It is something I totally agree with. Coaches should be making their classes as interesting as possible and one of the best ways to do that is to teach something new every class. Your comment inspired me to write a short article about variety in gymnastics classes that you can read at How to Make Gymnastics Boring. I hope you see some improvement in your class.

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