Sport, what is it, how do we define it? It is a widely used term in most, if not all modern languages: Deporte, in Spanish; Αθλημα (Athlima), in Greek; Urheilu, in Finish, all words with a universal connotation of movement, action and exercise, words that are understood by those who use them. We often refer to a particular activity as the sport of, as is the case with gymnastics or any other game that is deemed to be of a competitive nature. And whilst some of us may disagree upon the definition of the term, we can all agree that it is a topic of importance, especially when it comes to our society’s health.
I have written before that the benefit of sports on the mind and body of its practitioner is invaluable. Countless scientific studies have concluded beyond reasonable doubt that people who are physically active are *in general* healthier than those who neglect exercising.
Arguing about the definition and by extension the benefits of sports would take much longer than the several minutes you will spend reading this article, but I do recommend that you indulge that endeavour, soon; it might help you see cooperative play [sports] in a clearer light. Now, with that task in mind, let’s ask ourselves a tougher more objective question: where does sport start? Really, let’s think about the essential parts of sport and what an activity of our choosing would require to be classified as a sport.
Movement, it seems, is the principal aim of athletic development. Every action taken in the training environment should be directed towards improving human physical movement capacities. In the soccer field one team of players attempt to move with more control than the other while kicking the ball towards the net. The second but not less important enterprise of sport is to ensure that its practitioners follow the rules its games; when two wrestlers start a match they understand that they must disengage upon the referee’s request, they also know that certain techniques (like punching, which is encouraged in boxing and other contact sports) are prohibited in their sport. The players in the soccer field, and the people watching the game, are aware that the ball may not come in contact with a player’s hand without the team the player belongs to incurring a penalty.
Proper movement within a set of rules is what sport is about; cooperative games that adhere to this contract promote good psychological development in those who play them. Rules ensure fair play and a solid framework within which the players can develop their physical movement skills. Sports are currently being used as a unifying force by the United Nations to mitigate the damages brought about by cultural differences around the world, most especially in the developing world. You can read more about the importance of sport here: https://www.pulsars.ca/blog/why-sports - let us know if there are other positive aspects of it that we might have missed and we will include them in a future article.
Now, and I will do my best to set my biases aside, if I had to pick one activity that covers the two main initiatives of sport almost absolutely, I would have to point to the sport of gymnastics – a sport that can be considered the ultimate expression of human movement. Gymnastics doesn’t only require a complex set of rules and a sophisticated set of movement learning progressions, it necessitates that movement and rules be followed properly for it to remain functional. The rules of gymnastics go beyond its abstract competition guidelines; there are certain [coaching] rules that must be obeyed to facilitate safe movement development of athlete and coaches.
No other sport offers a better approach to teaching movement than gymnastics does; it holds the ABCs of athleticism: Agility, Balance, Coordination and speed, as its fundamental principles. Because of the difficult nature of the skills it presents to athletes L.T.A.D or Long-term Athlete Development must be one of the undertakings of gymnastics training.
Neither I nor anyone in the Pulsars Gymnastics family would ever be tempted to say that other sports do not offer good structures for athletic development, what we do claim is that the gymnastics method, when followed properly, is the most adequate for general enhancement of physical and psychological aptitudes. Gymnastics training offers the basic skills required by any other sport, including the team dynamic present in higher level competition.
I am not saying that sport begins and ends in gymnastics; I am simply saying that it starts here, with a critical approach to teaching complex skills.