As a follower of fellow Olympic gymnast turned educator and inspirational health advocate Kyle Shewfelt (@KyleShewfelt), I read with interest his recent blog post about the challenges boys face when they decide to participate in, and commit to, a “girlie” sport like gymnastics. The piece resonated with me on two levels – as a former female gymnast and as a parent of a young boy.
As a young female gymnast, I never encountered any hostility or judgement about my choice. Often, it was the opposite, “Wow, gymnastics seems like such a great fit for you; it’s athleticism and artistry all rolled into one. Good luck with it.” Never had to think twice about gender and why I chose this particular sport. Besides, the male gymnasts we competed alongside were so much older than us, we never had much in common!
But, for boys like Kyle, things were a bit different. Kyle shares, “I remember when I was a young boy, I always felt a bit of pressure to do other sports and activities, but gymnastics was always my passion. It was difficult sometimes – often I would get teased that I did a “girls” sport. But I realized that I couldn’t control the other kids. They were just lacking confidence in themselves because they hadn’t found the “thing” that they loved to do. That is why it was important for me to be confident in my path and to dedicate myself to my dream, regardless of whether I had the approval of everyone around me or not. By me continuing to do gymnastics despite the teasing and comments, I was actually showing everyone around me what it truly meant to be committed. I quickly realized that I could only control my own thoughts, my own actions and my own work ethic. It was ME chasing my goals, not anyone else. Sadly, I had NO control over the thoughts or opinions of others.”
As the mother of a young boy who is very active and loves his parent & tot gymnastics classes, who knows what he will choose to focus on when he gets older. I wrote a piece about the benefits of gymnastics for all kids, and so if he chooses gymnastics, dance, or any other discipline that is seemingly “girlie” later on, so be it. I will support him of course. Kids deserve to be happy and fulfilled, and for many, that means spending a ton of time upside down in a gym with lots of girls.