Words By Erica Newton- Co-Founder MyFirstGym
With the Winter Olympics soon to be on our screens, children everywhere suddenly envision themselves luging or bobsleighing at ‘cool’ (read: frightening) speeds. Moguls and aerial ski jumps look like a heap of fun, “and come on Mum, I could totally do that!” are yelled out across the house. Scratch the surface of each athlete’s story though, and tales of how they’ve trained for this goal since they were young abound. Each tells of hardships, intense training schedules and, for our Aussies, some pretty strange ways to do that training. How can we support our children, our budding young sports stars with dreams of Olympian or sports stardom in their sights?
Nurture fundamental movement skills.
Not all athletes start out wanting gold around their neck, but all of them begin their Olympic journey finetuning fundamental movement skills. According to the Australian Institute of Sport, ‘Possessing a well-rounded repertoire of fundamental movement skill competencies lays an ideal platform for future skill development, potentially to elite levels.’ Not only that, nailing those essential skills builds confidence, adaptability and resilience for your little one in all areas of life, not just physical activity.
Ian Thorpe started in the pool to help with the most basic of functions: breathing! As an acute asthma sufferer, he went on to become one of Australia’s most successful Olympian swimmers. It’s never too early to develop those fundamental skills and foster big Olympic dreams, with classes starting for children at just 7 months old at MyFirstGym.
Nothing’s more supportive than a familiar environment. For Valentino Guseli, the youngest member of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic team, being on the slopes of Perisher since he was 3 years old has certainly helped him get comfy with snow and steep descents. In the last few years alone, the 16 year old has broken a heap of records and blitzed international competition, including a halfpipe air world record in 2021 where he flew over 7 metres into the air!
Of course, we don’t all have unfettered access to ski slopes (hands up Queensland!) but every MyFirstGym provides a supportive community in which to start exploring which type of movement best suits every child.
The AIS identifies that “a high proportion of elite Australian athletes took part in a diverse variety of sports before specialising,” participating (on average) in four different sports before they settled on ‘the one’. Multiple Paralympic wheelchair racer Richard Nicholson tried and competed in gymnastics, archery, swimming, powerlifting and skateboarding before committing to road and track racing! Where better to sample a wide range of sports and physical activity than through the MyFirstGym classes Gymnastics, Ninja, Parkour, Cheer, Dance… your little superstar will find their niche in no time!
As parents, we are our children’s first (and most influential) role models. Providing an environment where physical activity is seen as a natural part of life is important, as is supporting your child’s interest in the sport of their choice. Lois Muhlen-Shulte will compete in Beijing as a slalom alpine skier, and says his earliest memories included following his big sister around the Hotham Ski School at just 3 years old. Then there’s Valentino Guseli’s grandfather, who built a huge air bag at the end of their local ski slope in an effort to provide a soft landing for his grandson closer to home, negating the need to travel overseas to train. Incorporating movement into your family’s everyday activity will give your children the support, encouragement and inherent dedication needed to excel in sport.
Developing your child’s physical skills and love of sport means supporting them in a range of different ways. Suddenly fascinated with bobsleigh? Watch Cool Runnings together as a family. Pretending to ski jump off the couch (okay, this one isn’t ideal but it HAS happened in certain MFG households!)? Start with the fundamentals of gymnastics and make a special trip to the nearest ski jump- even diving boards will give a similar impression of height and speed. Encourage their efforts and development both positively and loudly. And remember: standing up on the podium doesn’t have to be their (or your) end goal.
Inspiring a love of movement, developing physical skills, habits and resilience in a safe, supportive and fun environment is paramount to climbing to the top of any sport. MyFirstGym is an excellent place to start your little Olympian’s journey to greatness, wherever that may take them!