After gymnastics for girls ... What's next?
You’ve spent hours of your life in a gym.
You own more gymnastics leotards than shoes.
You’d rather be covered in chalk and smell like sweat than wear makeup and smell like perfume.
Or you’re the gymnastics mom (or dad) and you’ve spent hours of your life in a gym.
... Driving to the gym. ... Driving from the gym. ... Buying gymnastics leotards. ... Washing gymnastics leotards. ... Waiting for the Olympics. ... Watching the Olympics. .... Talking about the Olymics.
Gymnastics for girls, at least competitive or organized gymnastics training, is a sport for the young (boys and men have longer careers, but that’s a topic for another post).
Elite gymnastics competitors often retire by the time they are 20. USA gymnastics lists only 82 colleges that sponsor women’s collegiate gymnastics teams. Most girls are done by the time they graduate middle school or high school.
To someone outside our sport, it might seem sad.
Why compete or train when it’s over so soon? What a waste.
Not at all!
We’re pretty sure you don’t think any of that effort is wasted!
Gymnastics for girls and boys, women and men, can be one of the greatest experiences of a young life. Whether you compete or do gymnastics just for fun, you’re learning incredible life skills like perseverance, mental toughness, and leadership skills.
“Begin Here, Go Anywhere”
That’s the motto of USA Gymnastics and we agree! At Snowflake Designs we know that gymnastics can take you to places you never imagined.
We certainly didn’t think that being a gymnastics mom would be the start of an entire business surrounding the design and manufacturing of cute leotards!
While you might not be ready to be an entrepreneur, there are some incredible career and sports opportunities for former gymnasts that go beyond impressing your friends with your handstands.
Gymnastics Coaching is Only One Option
Becoming a gymnastics coach, especially at the elite level, takes nearly as much time and effort as competing ... which may be why elite coaches were also elite competitors like Kim Zmeskel, Brandy Johnson, Dominique Moceanu, and Amy Scherr.
Others end up founding and running their own gyms including Nadia Comanechi whose journey from competitor to political refugee to business owner has also inspired a dozen books.
Many of our favorite Olympians have at least one biographical or autobiographical book about themselves including:
- Simone Biles
- Shawn Johnson
- Laurie Hernandez
- and dozens more.
Athletic Careers for Gymnasts
What if you want to continue to put your gymnastics skills to use in either a paid or amateur athletic career?
You’ve probably already thought about running away to join the circus, or Cirque du Soleil where auditions start with a video.
There might be a few other options that you haven’t thought about.
Run as fast as you can and fling your body high into the air, twisting and turning into a safe landing.
Sounds familiar, of course!
Pole vaulting requires many of the same skills: great body control, upper body strength, coordination, and fearlessness. For a gymnastics girl who wants an opportunity to compete athletically at the collegiate level, pole vaulting is a strong option.
There are over 1,000 collegiate track and field teams, 12x more than the number of schools with a gymnastics team. And they need female athletes!
Gymnasts, especially those who have a bit of height as they enter college, can be in big demand as pole vaulters.
There may be scholarship opportunities and a chance to be competitive on a national scale.
Yelena Isinbayeva was a gymnast from age 5 to 15, but when she started growing (eventually reaching 5’9”) she left elite gymnastics. Instead, she became one of the greatest women pole vaulters in history, breaking and resetting her own women’s pole vault world records 28 times in her professional career.
But you don’t have to be tall to compete at the highest levels. Svetlana Feofanova was a member of the Russian national team gymnastics team for the 1996 Olympics, but didn’t compete. Eight years later, she won a bronze medal in pole vaulting behind Isinbayeva at the 2008 Olympics. Her height? 5’ 3”!
Photo copyright: evrenkalinbacak / 123RF Stock Photo
If pole vaulting involves just a little too much running for you, how about becoming a real-life ninja?
In the first few seasons of American Ninja Warrior, freerunners, mountain climbers, and parkour practitioners dominated. But in season six, the ninja world went wild for “Mighty Kacy” and gymnasts were officially in demand as ninjas and ninja trainers.
Kacy Catanzaro competed in Division 1 gymnastics and was a collegiate gymnast of the year in 2012 after becoming the top-ranked competitor in her conference. At just under 5’ tall, pole vaulting wasn’t going to be in her future. Instead, she became the first woman in American Ninja Warrier history to complete the first-round qualifying course.
The video of her historic run has over 15 million views on YouTube.
Why are gymnasts so good at obstacle courses?
The ninja warrior course can be difficult for very large competitors because of their strength to weight ratio. Football players have found that their grip simply isn’t up to the task of holding their 200+ lbs. On the other hand, short competitors have had difficulty reaching obstacles, notoriously the jumping spider obstacle which is a small trampoline leading to two parallel, vertical walls.
The competitor has to brace themselves between the walls. It takes long legs… or great flexibility! Which of course, is one of the great gymnastics skills along with balance and upper body strength. These are what make for a strong competitor in ninja warrior and other obstacle course events.
While it’s a lot of fun and there’s certainly fame to be had, “Professional Ninja” isn’t a long-term lucrative option… unless you’re entrepreneurial!
As with elite gymnastics competitors, many of those who have the resources and the entrepreneurial mindset become gym owners and trainers. For a gymnast, their mental strength and determination can serve them well in running a business. Entrepreneurship or building a gymnastics-based business has unlimited possibilities.
Our founder and current president of Snowflake Designs, LaDonna Snow, retired from a job in law enforcement when she and Mr. Snow started their family. When their daughter began taking gymnastics, all they could find were plain pink and black leotards designed for ballet. Nothing cute. And certainly nothing sparkly!
When LaDonna started making gymnastics leotards for Kindra, all the other gymnastics girls and moms wanted their own. There was a need and LaDonna tapped into her inner-entrepreneur to fill that need.
Several Olympic gymnasts have also started their own businesses, many of them launching their own training gyms and becoming coaches as we’ve already mentioned. Shannon Miller, one of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts in the world, and the most in the United States with a total of seven medals, launched a health and fitness business including her own activewear line for women.
Carrie Englert Zimmerman, perhaps less well-known because she competed long before today’s active gymnasts were born, is also a successful entrepreneur in an unexpected direction - marketing, design, and PR - proving that gymnastics is a great training ground for success in nearly any endeavor. Former gymnasts are also making the future better for gymnastics for girls.
Hall of Fame gymnast Lisa Wang has co-founded an organization called SheWorx to help ambitious women entrepreneurs succeed.
Gym Moms and Dads
There is though, one option that many former gymnasts eagerly embrace and it’s something that creates a wonderful history and legacy for the sport: gymnastics mom! This is one of our favorite groups of ex-gymnasts. Gym moms who used to be gymnasts themselves understand the sacrifice and the discipline that their little competitors and trainers are going through. This can make them a sympathetic ear for the difficulties. Or maybe less!
Brandy Johnson is combining coaching and gymnastics mom training her daughter Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. While Sydney didn’t make the 2016 Rio Olympics team, she is a senior international elite gymnast with three 9.9’s under her belt and top finishes in state and regional meets.
One of the most famous gymnasts in history, MaryLou Rhetton, is a gym mom!
Just like everything else, she’s gone BIG. She has four girls in gymnastics!
You know you're a gym/cheer mom when this is the first thing you see in your car each morning pic.twitter.com/9EAsgiFU1X— Mary Lou Retton (@marylouretton) May 15, 2014
What’s in Your Gymnastics Future?
There’s far more to the future of girl gymnasts than we can cover in this one article.
Former gymnasts are also well-suited to the rigors of training to become a judge (who better to know?).
They’ve also entered into cheerleading in college and for professional teams, especially now that cheer is more and more acrobatic.
Gymnasts, with their great strength, have been successful bodybuilding and fitness competitors.
They’re also sought after for diving, although many say it’s hard to get used to “landing” head first!
What sport, lifestyle, or entrepreneurial venture do YOU have in mind for your future? The possibilities are nearly endless. Go out and get it!
More Stories You Might Like:
Behind The Seams: How To Make A Leotard (Insider Video!)