Gymnastics 2014


Haru has been doing gymnastics for nearly two years now.  She has progressed nicely especially in the last six months.  However, this isn’t because  of her gym glass; it’s more due the combination of take cheerleading, and coaching from me.   For a while now, I have been quite frustrated with Haru’s gymnastics class.  First of all, there are way too many kids in one class.  At times, there are up to 20-30 kids in a single class and 4 to 5 instructors.  The student to instructor ratio  wouldn’t be too bad, but lately there have a couple of REALLY unruly children that requires one or two babysitters instructors to look after them the entire time.  This is simply a total waste of resource, and takes away instruction time from other kids.  On the gymnastic school website, it says that a private lesson (which this effectively is, because these unruly kids get a dedicated instructor for one full hour) is about 8,000 yen/ hour.  So these kids are getting a full private lesson for free every week.

Of course, I don’t blame the kids for this, after all kids are kids, and you really can’t expect them to behave 100% of the time.  I even find myself having to scold Haru sometimes for making careless mistakes in class due to goofing off or inattention to the instructor.  When these kids, run around the gym and climb up on the equipment or doing things that shouldn’t being doing, I often look over to see the parents’ reaction.   Unfortunately, I see them just laughing or smiling without any shame, or even worse, they would be texting or playing games on their phones and paying absolutely no attention to their kids.  Often times, I would think what I would do if my kid was continuously disrupting class, and over consuming the instructor’s time, and I would always come to the same conclusion.  I would make her quit.   After all, these classes aren’t free and not only will she not benefit from going to gymnastics, it also consumes my whole afternoon.  In short, because of these 2 kids and their parent’s lack of attention and interest in them, this gym class has turned into daycare facility.

Because of this, my wife and I have contemplated taking her out of this school and putting her in another school that seems to put more emphasis on…  gymnastics -of course!!   We’ve been to check out one particular school located in Shin Yokohama called YSMC, which is MUCH closer to where we live.  Their gym is MUCH bigger with better and newer equipment.  But best of all, they seem to do proper level testing and partitioning based on the person’s ability, and not on the child’s age, which is the proper way to do things.  This will naturally separate those who are there to goof off and be disruptive from those who are serious.

We’ve been out to see the lessons at YSMC, and the older children in this class are purely amazing.  Even some of the younger kids around Haru age where able to do things that no one could do at the gymnastics school she is currently going to.  It was very impressive to watch, however YSMC also had it’s short comings.  First of all, the gym that they use is not a dedicated space like current school. The space and the equipment is rented out by the facilities to many different school.   So, often times, there are other gymnastics schools sharing the gym at the same time, whereas the school that Haru currently goes to owns their own gym, and has full control of all of the equipment and the facilities.  This may not be important now, but it will become important should Haru decide to compete in the future and needs to use the gym to practice a certain event.

Secondly, spectators are not allowed in the gym, so we would have to watch Haru from the spectators box which is very small and always very crowded. (Japan -is there a place where its not overcrowded?)  This is somewhat important now, because being in the gym allows me to coach on how to do things properly, but this will be less important in the future.

Lastly, since I am not allowed in the gym at YSMC, I would no longer be able to coach her on things like handsprings and round offs, which her current class doesn’t teach, and is important for some of her cheerleading routines.  Of course, depending on the lessons that YSMC teaches, this may not be needed.  For all of these reasons, plus the fact that all of the classes are all currently full at YSMC, we decided to wait at least another year before we consider switching her school.

Last weekend, we checked out the “junior” level class at Haru’s current school -the class that Haru will be joining beginning in April, since she will be in elementary school.  Initially, my wife and I were very cynical and skeptical that the junior classes would be any different since the instructors were the same instructors that teach her class now.  But I was wrong.  The class was definitely a step up in difficulty, and there weren’t little unruly kids disrupting the class.  All of the kids were much more focused on their performance which was a breath of fresh air.  There were also small penalties for kids who make silly mistakes, which I thought was interesting but good.  Haru also watched the older kids as well, but she seemed either uninterested, unimpressed, or bored most of the time.  At first I thought she was just tired, but she was clearly not interested.

We left the lesson only 30 minutes into the class, because Haru wanted to go home.  On the way to the car, I asked her why she looked so disinterested, and she replied “because I can do everything that those kids can do already”.  Although this was not really true -there were a few things that those kids were doing that Haru could not do, it would not take her too long to get those skills.  I liked her response though, because it tells me that she didn’t see what those kids were doing as being above and beyond her ability.  As a matter of fact, I would say that Haru’s floor and mat skills were actually better theirs.  So I simply told her, “then prove that you can do better and the teacher will put you in a higher class” to which she responded “okay”.  One thing that is good about this school is that once the child is in elementary school, there is no cap on how high she can go.  If she is good enough, they will place her in “junior advanced” class which is an evening class for advanced level kids.  Not sure what the criteria is for getting into that class, but placement is totally at what the instructor thinks.  One of Haru’s friend’s older sister was recently placed in  junior advance, and her ability was about the same or maybe a bit higher than Haru.  The next level above junior advanced would be “elite”, which is a prep class for competitions.  Then the highest level is “competition” level.    Kenzo Shirai, who’s parents are the owners of the school, is a favorite to be on the 2016 or 2020 Olympic team, and he is currently in the competition level class.

So this spring is going be a bit interesting.  I am currently coaching her on making her round offs more crisper and more powerful, and I am working to get her to a back handspring which is a pretty advanced skill for age, but I am positive she can do it with a bit of practice.

Haru, practicing a one hand cartwheel and round off before her class starts:


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