While it has always been widely known that gymnasts often develop close friendships, especially when they have reached the team level, a 1996 scientific study by Wiess, Smith and Theeboom investigate the topic in depth.
How To Win Friends
One of the interesting aspects of the study is that it points the way for how gymnasts can actively take steps build and maintain close friendships and relationships on their gymnastics team or in their gymnastics program.
Only Other Gymnasts Can Really Understand You
Gymnastics is such a specialized sport that often the only ones who understand the amount of work and difficulty of what gymnasts are doing and the specifics of the sport are other gymnasts. Even parents often don’t understand just what their gymnasts are going though.
Only Gymnasts and Coaches Really Understand the Sport
The rules of the sport are complicated and the number of skills and combinations so numerous that friends outside the gym and parents often cannot understand the intricacies and complexities of the sport enough to be able to keep up in a gymnastics conversation.
No Time To Waste
The amount of hours many gymnasts spend in the gym often isolates them from their school mates and friends outside the gym and keep them from participating in the perhaps less important but more common social activities like going to the mall, talking on the phone and hanging out.
Learn How To Build Friendships in the Gym
This makes gym friendships important for gymnasts to develop and maintain. It is also very likely that a good number of the friends a gymnast has will be other gymnasts. It can be useful and instructive to know the dimensions of gym friendships and to know what steps can take to build and maintain them.
The Daily Dozen of Friendship Building Tools
The study identified “12 positive friendship dimensions: companionship, pleasant play/association, self-esteem enhancement, help and guidance, pro-social behavior, intimacy, loyalty, things in common, attractive personal qualities, emotional support, absence of conflicts, and conflict resolution.”
These characteristics are and can be used by gymnasts to foster good friendships. Each of these factors could be used to establish gymnastic friendships in the gym. To be or become popular in the gym, gymnasts should direct these behavior characteristics toward everyone on the team and specifically toward those they wish to develop close friendships with.
Spend Time Together
Companionship refers to taking an interest in other gymnasts, spending time with and keeping company with them. Time together breeds friendship and familiarity and gymnasts can work out together and spend workout time together.
Smile and Be Positive
What the study described as pleasant play association could in the case of gymnasts be taken to describe working out while maintaining a positive and enjoyable manner. Everyone likes people who are in a good mood, have a smile on their face and are easy to get along with.
Pay Attention to Your Friends
Self-esteem enhancement means taking an interest in and complimenting other gymnasts frequently. Paying attention to other gymnasts and giving them positive feedback not only builds friendships, but is likely to improve your teammates performances. One of the most important aspects of building a friendship involves paying attention to the other person and being aware of their actions, feeling and thoughts.
Give a Helping Hand
Providing help and guidance, by offering positive suggestions and assistance when asked to, is both a sign of a good teammate and a good friend. Passing on tips that the coach has given you that may apply to your friend(s) improves their gymnastics training and makes for a good friend.
Spend Time Together Outside the Gym
Pro-social behavior refers to attempts to participate in non-gymnastics activities together outside of the gym. Actively working to spend time together outside of the gym shows your interest and commitment to friendship and further increases the amount of time you spend with your chosen friend(s) from the gym.
Share and Learn to Keep a Secret
Intimacy is the extent to which you share in, and keep confidential, personal matters with your friends and teammates. As we mentioned, other gymnasts are often the only ones who truly understand what gymnasts are going through and can and do serve as confidantes to their friends and teammates. As always, do not keep secret from coaches or parents behaviors which are dangerous to other gymnasts.
Be a Friend All the Time and Everywhere and With Anybody
Team and gym loyalty is the extent to which gymnasts support each other at all times. One of the conflict situations that can occur which demonstrates this character trait best is when gymnasts are in a social situation with both their friends form the gym and with schoolmates or friends from outside the gym. True friends maintain loyalty to their teammates and friends outside of their exclusive group.
Share Your Gymnastics
A built in characteristic of gym friends and friendships is having things in common and associating with friends who have similar likes and dislikes. Gymnasts have their sport in common and their team and gym in common which is a built-in commonality.
Be All You Can Be
Having attractive personal qualities means working on being the nicest person that one can possibly be. In a competitive environment, some gymnasts have trouble balancing these two qualities. “Nice guys” don’t finish last. They are just better and more enjoyable friends and teammates. The perfect gymnastic relationship is often to be friendly, supportive and competitive. This can allow your friends and teammates to be pushed by your accomplishments and to better themselves in the long run by keeping up or being competitive.
Providing emotional support to teammates involves assisting and comforting your friends and teammates when needed. Gymnasts, however, must be careful to not reinforce negative thinking and behaviors in their teammates like commiserating with gymnasts who are feeling sorry for themselves or are exhibiting quitting behavior or giving up. Coaches sometimes also set guidelines as to how they want gymnasts to support each other, which probably need to be followed (assuming they are reasonable, rational and not just controlling).
Friendships benefit from the absence of conflicts in which teammates do not fight but seek independent resolutions to disagreements. The gym situation has a built in moderator in cases like this in the form of the coach. Problems can and often should be presented to the coach for resolution. Coaches are also often useful for providing conflict resolution and establishing rules for solving conflicts within the gym.
Examine Your Friendship Behaviors
Logically, undesirable friendship characteristics involve doing the opposite of the above positive friendship and behavioral characteristics. The study also identified four negative friendship characteristics: conflict, unattractive personal qualities, betrayal, and inaccessibility. Gymnasts need to examine themselves and their behaviors to ensure they are not engaging in such negative behaviors.
There is Nothing Better Than a Good Friend
Our personal experience reinforces the fact that deep and lifelong friendships can be developed in the gym. As with anything of value, friendships require care and attention to flourish and grow. Actively work on and work to maintain your friendships in the gym. Be a good friend and you will have many good friends.