It's no secret that rhythmic gymnastics is a sport, where athletes peak typically in their late teens (15-20), making it an early initiation sport. Whether a participant decides to move on to competitive rhythmic gymnastics or do it recreationally, starting the sport early offers significantly more benefits and opportunities.
One of the main reasons for this is the diversity the sport offers in terms of physical skills:
It helps improve the participants’ stamina, the muscle strength, the controlling rhythm of the music and development of the athletes’ creativity. The essence of rhythmic gymnastics is to improve the skills of the sports, to participate in competitions to enable the athletes to understand the techniques, and tactics, involved and to develop the right body posture.
-Rhythmic Gymnastics of the Early Childhood, by Endang Murti Sulistyowati,
Master in Sports Science and Endang Rini Sukamti, Faculty of Sport Sciences ( 1st Conference on Interdisciplinary Approach in Sport)
As for progression, it's important to remember that Rhythmic Gymnastics follows an early specialisation model, meaning that athletes start early, specialise early -meaning they choose gymnastics as their only sport soon in life-, and retire early too. Gymnasts at the Olympics tend to be in their early twenties. This is due to the fact that rhythmic is an incredibly hard sport with very high demands, and the earlier gymnasts start the sport, the more time they have to perfect their skills. The early specialisation model is not recommended in many sports, but gymnastics is an exception:
Some sports, such as gymnastics, tennis, or ballet must be pursued from a young age, as these athletes can compete professionally from as young as 15. In addition, the skill sets required to be successful are often refined and honed over time to develop high levels of proficiency. [...] Could you start this at 16? Of course. But in order to develop the strength, mobility, flexibility and skill required to do so, it would take years of expert coaching. Furthermore, by 16 years of age, you’ve likely already developed a whole host of bad movement habits (e.g., limited thoracic extension from excessive sitting)
-Tom Green, "Early Specialisation In Youth Athletes: What's All The Fuss About?" Science for Sport
Early competition doesn't necessarily mean rhythmic gymnastics has to be strict, hard, or overly competitive. Gymnastics can be learned through games, challenges and self-expression:
Since gymnastics is introduced at early childhood, playful methods should be applied, and the trainer should be able to make the athletes happy and comfortable when they do the sports practices.
-Rhythmic Gymnastics of the Early Childhood, by Endang Murti Sulistyowati
Rhythmic Gymnastics requires tremendous amounts of flexibility. The more a person grows, the more flexibility they lose. So to maintain and gain this very important skill, the sooner one starts to train it the better.
Wings Rhythmic Gymnastics clubs offer classes to children above the age of three. Check more information on our website if you are interested on our pre-school and recreational rhythmic gymnastics programmes.