Intoduction to General Gymnastics I n the United States we have developed a very formal, rigid definition of sport. Weare quick to point toward professional sports, college and high school programs, and club sports such as competitive gymnastics. The physical fitness boom of the 80's and the emphasis on health and fitness in the 90' s draws our attention to activities in which people can participate in for a life-time. Questions to consider-Is gymnastics a part of life-time sports activities? Could gymnastics become a sporting activity for mass participation? When we define the sport of gymnastics our first impression is a picture of a superstar on the awards stand at a major competition. (Kim Zmeskal at the 1991 World Gymnastics Championships in Indianapolis). However, we know though that these champions only represent the peak of the participation pyramid-indeed, competitive gymnastics is just a small part of the overall participation in our sport. Can we also include in our definition other sporting activities that include gymnastic-type movements? The freedom of movement that characterizes competitive gymnastics gives us the latitude to create a broader definition of gymnastics, General Gymnastics. Any limits we place on activities move in a direction that limits the overall participation in the sport and enjoyment of physical activity. Part of the enthusiasm for gymnastics obviously stems from the recognition of top level performances on television and the recognition they receive from the media. But even our professional athletes in football and baseball demonstrate their interest in gymnastics, back somersaults after touchdowns and Ozzie Smith's tumbling entrance to the baseball diamond. Many other sporting activities include gymnastics-type movements. Cheerleaders use acrobatic and tumbling elements. Aerobic dance incorporates basic gymnastics positions, skills, and dance elements. Sports Acrobatics utilizes the handstand position as one of its core elements. As we expand our perception of gymnastics to all the activities which use basic gymnastics positions and skills, we find that there is a wide range of opportunities to apply gymnastics training and performance. We must seek to encourage and promote those activities, not limit them because they do not conform to our rigid definitions of competitive artistic or rhythmic gymnastics.
enhance their attractiveness and provide expression for their message. Gymnastics teams and clubs use their skills, at all levels, to promote themselves and raise funds. This is not unique to the U.S. In 1991 there was a report on the International Gymnaestrada in the Netherlands where more than 25,000 participants celebrated gymnastics with a wide variety of performances, shows, and demonstrations.
What then is our definition of General Gymnastics? I propose that we include all activities that use gymnastics movements. We should expand our scope to celebrate our sport and the benefits that participation brings, not just formal competition in gymnastics meets, but at all levels. Criticisms of gymnastics include that it is elitist, too expensive, and too complicated for broadbased participation. Growth in competitive gymnastics is small at best, but we have seen advances in overall participation within our clubs. This means that more people are enjoying the sport. Let's provide opportunities for them to continue. If we choose to think in terms of "Gymnastics for All," then more people will have the opportunity to participate for longer periods of time. Individuals and groups, young and old, can participatemaybe they will never achieve the Olympic dream, but who is to say that is wrong? We can visualize tremendous opportunities for participation. What better activity than a celebration of sport and physical activity is there to bring people together, to meet on a common ground? As we move through the 90's and into the next century, we can demonstrate that our sport truly is one of mass participation. We are not limited by a panel of judges, a piece of apparatus, or a given number of participants. General Gymnastics is an opportunity to participate, celebrate, and expand. The USGF General Gymnastics Committee is currently evaluating participation. We anticipate new and different types of "competition" in the form of shows and displays. Questions and inquiries may be addressed to Steve Whitlock, USGF Director of Educational Services and Safety.
Another area in which gymnastics activity is present is group shows and displays. Musicals and thea tre performances use gymnastics skills to TECHNIQUE May 1992
Dave Moskovitz, USGF Coaching Development Coordinator