When sports are referred to as dangerous, many people think about football, wrestling, hockey or even soccer. But what about gymnastics? Our Cara Thomas shows us what coaches teach young gymnasts to keep them safe.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Butterflies filled the young athlete's stomachs as they prepared to compete in this year's Leatherstocking Gymnastics Meet in Utica. They had practiced their routines, knew the steps, and were now ready to show the judges what they could do.
“Any competition is always a little nerve wracking for the gymnasts but we try and build up their confidence and their self-esteem so they just go out there and do what they love to do,” said Danielle Demma, an owner of Valley Gymnastics.
But no matter how much preparation an athlete gets, there's always a chance something goes wrong.
"A couple months ago in the season, I did something to my Achilles tendon. So now I'm off of floor and vault but I should be going back soon though," said Alyssa Smith, an 11-year-old gymnast.
Instructors say, like any sport, injuries are sometimes unavoidable. But these young gymnasts say the fear of getting hurt doesn't hold them back.
"I just do what my coaches say so I don't get hurt," said Taylor Bushey, a 10-year-old gymnast.
“You’ve got to build your core muscles, you’ve got to build everything up to be strong to be able to do the skills that you’re trying to do. But in the gym we teach how to fall, how to roll, making sure you know that everything is safe,” said Demma.
"Like if you're falling forward, don't put your arms down because you could hurt your elbows," said Bushey.
Safety is always a priority. Mats lined the floors, coaches were nearby spotting their gymnasts, and EMS crews sat ready on the sidelines just in case.
But for gymnasts, the risk of injury isn't a reason to quit. They say the thrill of the sport, competition, and the friendships they've made are worth it.
“Whatever you choose, if it’s your love, it’s your passion, of course you’re going to do it and you’re going to have a great time doing it. It’s just who you are, being a gymnast is who they are,” said Demma.
Coaches ask aspiring gymnasts not to try any gymnastic moves at home. They say the safest place to learn is with a coach on a matted surface.