Practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering talents, including gymnastic abilities. When you have a mixed group of teenagers with varying degrees of experience and ability, however, coordinating practices that appropriately engage and challenge everyone at once can be tricky. Alleviate experienced teens’ boredom with routine exercises, while giving novice gymnasts the foundational practice they need, with games that encourage all players to improve their skills in healthy, amusing ways.
Relay races are a fun way to promote healthy competition, ambition and determination among teens, while also encouraging gymnastic abilities such as flexibility and reflexes. To create the race, divide a large space -- a backyard or gymnasium, for example -- into three or four different sections, with a finish line at the end. Use chalk, cones or flags to mark each race checkpoint. Split teens into two teams, each with the same amount of players as there are sections, so that everyone has a distinct part in the race. Position one player from each team at every checkpoint. The object of the race is to reach and tag the player at the next checkpoint, continuing in this manner until the last player can move across the finish line. Require each runner to execute a specific skill or exercise as he progresses to the next checkpoint and tags a teammate. The first race runners, for example, might only be able to advance toward their teammates at the second checkpoint by performing cartwheels or tumbles, while the second group of players are to tag the next teammates in line after executing a handstand. The first team to cross the finish line wins.
You can easily turn a backyard or open indoor space into an obstacle course with basic gymnastics equipment, or even ordinary items. Set up a course with low balance beams, tumbling mats and a mini pommel horse and determine how players will overcome each obstacle, according to ability levels. Will a player need to simply walk across the beam, or cartwheel across it? Will she tumble across the mat or walk across it on her hands? If gymnastic equipment isn’t accessible, practice agility, balance and flexibility training with obstacle courses made from ordinary items such as rolled-up towels for hurdles and a long, flat board or rope to use as a balance beam. The player who completes the course with the best time wins.
Challenges and Competitions
Instead of simply engaging everyone in group exercise drills, host challenges and competitions to encourage young gymnasts’ hardest efforts. Split teens into pairs and hold face-off challenges to see who can hold a handstand the longest or tumble down to the other end of the gym the fastest. Include a “playoff” round for the winners from each challenge to determine an ultimate competition winner.
Other Games to Promote Gymnastic Abilities
A good, old-fashioned game of leapfrog is one amusing way to practice springs and jumps. If that’s too elementary for your group of teens, play a game of endurance on the balance beams. The object is for players to maintain balance on one foot or while in a split or handstand position the longest, without touching the mat below. For a high-energy, aerobic game, create targets on the floor mat and challenge players to reach them with different jumps. Establish a point system, with further targets earning more points for a successful landing.