Experiences of young South African gymnasts, parents and coaches about the health benefits of sport participation
Gymnastics, as a physical activity, presents young people with opportunities to learn physical skills, improve eye-hand coordination, develop gross and fine motor skills, and socially develop through engagement with other young people. An understanding of aerobic and anaerobic physical activities is important to enhance young people’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. This study investigated the perceptions of a purposively sampled group of young people in the Western Cape of South Africa about the health benefits of gymnastics participation , and reported findings from the perspectives of registered competitive gymnasts, gymnastics coaches, and parents of gymnasts (total n=34), with specific reference to the domains of physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. A qualitative approach based on the Process-PersonContext-Time (PPCT) concept, adapted from the bioecological model, was used as the theoretical framework to underpin, analyze and interpret findings of the study. Four key informant interviews were conducted with four coaches, and five focus group discussions were held with gymnasts, parents of gymnasts and gymnastics coaches. Thematic analysis of the participants’ responses indicated the following themes as health benefits and opportunities for children’s development through gymnastics participation: socio-emotional development with respect to positive attitude shifts, respect of peers and coaches, and physical development concerning musculoskeletal growth. Development of strength and flexibility were also found to be positive contributors to child development. Additionally, improvements in cognition which could positively influence children’s academic achievement and the learning of new movement skills, were also attributed to gymnastics participation. The implications of the findings for children’s holistic development was discussed.
Keywords: Gymnastics, parents, coaches, sport participation, physical, cognitive and socioemotional benefits.