It’s amazing that just one sport can teach a child so much about the world around them. Gymnastics can also help kids learn in school. It makes their minds strong by teaching them another language, using advanced processing in controlling their body in a variety of directions and speeds, and memorizing their routines. Gymnastics also teaches them patience, how to handle failure, and how to keep trying until they reach a goal. It also introduces athletes to advanced concepts, like physics.
Motion, thrust and Newton’s Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
A handspring vault; an athlete runs at top speed toward a vaulting table, jumps onto a springboard, propels herself through the air, lands for a split second on top of the vault, then flies through the air yet again before landing on her feet and stopping perfectly still. To go from running forward to changing that motion to upward flight, a gymnast has to know at what angle to jump on the springboard and how hard to jump to get just high enough to reach the top of the vault. Next, they have to judge when and how hard to push off of the vault to get their body to move toward the floor at the right speed and angle so that they can land and stop moving instantly.
Anyone who has fallen off the balance beam knows the meaning of gravity. On this apparatus, gymnasts must fight gravity by keeping their center of balance directly centered above the beam. While performing skills, if there is any movement that is off-center, the athlete will fall off of the beam.
Circular Motion and Centripetal Force
A giant swing or hip circle on bars: the athlete’s hands are on the bar while their body rotates around the bar and back to where they started from. The athlete’s hands provide the center point of the motion creating the centripetal force that brings them around the bar in a circular fashion. This is much like the orbit of the moon or the spin of a pinwheel.
These are just a few of the physics concepts gymnasts learn. What I love is that even our youngest gymnasts are learning these concepts. Our 3 year olds learn to run, jump on the springboard and up onto the vault. They learn to center their balance on the beam. And while their bar swings are more like a pendulum at this age, they will work their way up to centripetal motions in no time! Give your child a head start on science with gymnastics!