Begin here, Go anywhere: 7 Sports gymnasts should try

I love USA Gymnastics slogan, “Begin Here, Go Anywhere.”

Whether it be graduation, injury, fear, finances, or other commitments, there comes a time in a gymnast’s life when she will have to retire the leotard (or at least the competitive one – check out Johanna Quass).

The goal? To find an activity that will challenge, motivate, and apply the tools and skills so passionately earned in the gym. Below is a list of sports that are particularly appealing to former gymnasts, along with obstacles they might find when transitioning to each new sport.

Do you have your own favorite post-gymnastics activity? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!!!

1. Diving

Years of flipping, twisting, tramp time and either innate or trained air awareness make gymnasts prime candidates for the sport of diving! If your gymnast’s body is in need of less impact, the sport of diving might be the right “after-gymnastics” fit. Another bonus? It’s an NCAA and Olympic sport!

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: getting use to head first entry – quite contrary to gymnastics training :).

Learn more about diving and where you can train from USA Diving‘s website.

2. Dance

Interested in an activity that will make good use of your child’s acro skills, flexibility and knack for performance? If the floor exercise or balance beam were your gymnast’s favorite events, dance may be an obvious pick. There are many genres of dance to experiment with . . . lyrical, modern, jazz, ballet, ballroom, hip hop, and don’t forget break dancing!!! Dance is also an activity that can offer collegiate opportunities.

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: changing gymnastics artistry to fit the dancer mold.

3. Cheerleading

Your gymnast may have an old teammate or two that has made the switch from gymnastics to cheerleading.  As far as “after-gym” options, cheer is a popular pick. Gymnasts boast strength, flexibility, and an array of tumbling passes; all useful in the world of cheerleading!  If your gymnast is fearless, the competitive sport of cheerleading (incorporating daredevil stunting) might be right up her alley.

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: trusting a peer to throw them into the air and catch them again.

4. Snowboarding/Skiing

Guts and coordination are helpful when you’re heading down the mountain and gymnast’s aerial training preps them for death-defying feats on the slopes. If cold weather is a deterrent, have your child experiment with water skiing or wake boarding! Read about former gymnasts turned World Cup aerial skiers here: Gymnastics Victoria.

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: having their feet strapped to something! This is definitely not a barefoot sport :)

5. Acro/T&T/Team Gym, etc.

Technically your child remains in the world of gymnastics with this option, just transitions to another facet of the diverse sport. If bars is not your gymnast’s thing, try T&T. If strong, agile, trusting & controlled are adjectives you’d use to describe your athlete, let her try acro. If you’re looking for something less costly, time-consuming, or more team-oriented, try Gymnastics-For-All’s group gym! The main benefit to this approach is that your child keeps their gymnast status and you keep your gym mom title!!

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: finding a local gym that offers the program they want to try.

Learn more about these sports on the USA Gymnastics website.

6. Equestrian Vaulting

If your child is an animal lover (especially fond of horses), this is a sport to look into. Equestrian vaulting, much like gymnastics, combines artistry and acrobatics but atop a moving horse. Although this sport is more popular in Europe, there are teams across the United States. Equestrian vaulting began as a training technique for Roman Soldiers, but modern day vaulters compete locally, nationally, and world-wide as individuals, pairs, and teams with up to three vaulters on the horse at a time. Intrigued? Watch the YouTube video posted below or look up more videos HERE.

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: understanding the variables that accompany competition with an animal.

Learn more or find a local club on the American Vaulting Association website.

7. Cross-Fit

This fairly new and fast-growing phenomenon is an ideal sport for the 18 and older retired gymnast, although some boxes (individual clubs) now offer training for youth. Why so great? Because crossfit incorporates gymnastics conditioning and skills into it’s training; demanding physical strength, coordination, and endurance. Gymnasts usually excel in the rope-climb, pull-up, handstand push-up, and muscle-up exercises. Don’t be fooled though . . . to survive in crossfit, gymnasts need to diversify their strength training. But what gymnast isn’t up for a challenge? Especially a challenge that allows them to keep those hard earned muscles!

Greatest obstacle for gymnasts: withstanding continued body wear and tear.

Learn more on the CrossFit Games website.

40 Responses to “Begin here, Go anywhere: 7 Sports gymnasts should try”

  1. Pauline Stauder

    My daughter was in gymnastics for many years, initially recreationally, then competively. After years of being on a club team, she was no longer having fun, which was the criteria we set for quitting. Concurrently, during the last two years of competing, she discovered horses, riding western and English. The passion that she has for hunter-jumper riding is nothing like she had for gymnastics. As beautiful as the sport of gymnastics is, there is nothing compared to seeing my girl riding over those fences on her horse. Gym was good for her, establishing a character of responsibility, physical strength, confidence, and making good friends. I, too, benefitted with making great friends. Life after gymnastics is different and good. It is fun to watch my girl grow and develop into the person God intended her to be.

    • Gym Gab

      This is a perfect example of “begin here, go anywhere”! Knowing when to move onto something new is important. It can been hard, even scaring, to retire from a sport you’ve invested so much time, money, and emotion into, but realizing what was gained, “responsibility, physical strength, confidence, friends” makes the transition easier. I love your perspective and declaration that life after gymnastics is good, even great!

  2. Jennifer

    Gymnasts also make great hurdlers and pole vaulters for track and field. Flexible and strong.

  3. Wendy

    Flying trapeze and jiu jitsu! That’s what I do. I especially know a number of ex-gymnasts who do trapeze. And when I teach a conditioning class my other grappler pals, I include a fair amount of gymnastics. The power, flexibility, and upper body strength transfer over… With flying the tricky part is learning how to work on a bar that is in motion as opposed to stationary bars. And learning to bounce on your back, not land on your feet and ‘stick it!’ Jiu jitsu can be a little rough on the joints, and the rolling and falling techniques (drawn largely from it’s cousin, judo) have crossover with gymanstic tumbling – although the techniques and intentions change a bit. I use the straight arm strength I’ve gained through gymnastic training to ‘post out’ and keep my balance when someone is training to flip me, and I also know how to take a tumble or a roll (usually because someone else sweeps me over) and right myself quickly. I often tell folks to try out gymnastics for themselves or their children. Even if they try it for awhile and move on, the skills transfer to a lot of activities. Fun read!

  4. Chris Christie

    The beauty of gymnastics, or any sport, is that it teaches young girls to love being active and to trust their bodies. That trust and passion can be carried through the rest of their life and even if they leave gymnastics behind they’ll find something new that makes them just as happy.

  5. Breena

    I made the switch from competitive gymnastics to cheer and I hated it. Sure I was good at it, but I didn’t enjoy it like how much I enjoyed gymnastics. I took my balancing skills to horse riding. Doing hunter-jumper and dressage. I have to say the muscle strength and balancing in gymnastics have helped a lot!

    • Gym Gab

      Cheer has a very different culture than gymnastics, making it not an ideal fit for many retired gymnasts. Like you, my sister also took her gymnastics skills to the horse after she retired from gymnastics and is currently immersed in the world of dressage. Glad to hear you’ve found something you enjoy!

  6. Mary

    Rock climbing is also a great sport to try after gymnastics, as it requires much grip strength.

    • Molly

      Another sport that grip comes in handy for is wrestling if your ex gymnast is ok other people’s sweat. I know many male ex gymnasts that are fantastic wrestlers because of that background

    • Jo

      After retiring from gymnastics I went into rock climbing. I found my background in gymnastics amazingly useful to progress fast in the climbing. It’s not just the grip but mainly the body coordination that comes in handy. And like with gymnastics I enjoy to challenge my body making technically difficult moves.

  7. Amanda

    An uncanny activity I took up after many many years of gymnastics was color guard. I really excelled and my senior year I had a dance solo. I always had this graceful and very articulate style to me on floor and when I incorporated it, on beam. My instructors always said I moved so gracefully and one with the flag and rifle; and of course I had so much muscle, I could fly across the field. (We were a competitive marching band). I also took up cheerleading, which was alright, I just needed a winter activity, and I had done it as a younger kid (6-9) for youth football.

  8. Sarah K.

    I would highly recommend any current or former gymnast to check out SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING! The strength, flexibility, and team spirit is something that makes this transition / cross training one of the best!

  9. Heather Tolford

    I coached one of the first girls to compete as a High School pole vaulter in Oregon after she stopped doing gymnastics . As a track and field and gymnastics coach, many of my gymnasts converted splendidly to high jump, long, jump, hurdles and pole vault!

  10. Ashley

    I’m a young adult/former gymnast, and I highly recommend the aerial arts. At present, I’m learning lyra (aerial hoop) and pole dancing. I’ve been able to advance more quickly due to my background in gymnastics which gave me the flexibility and strength to adapt to these challenging sports (yes, pole is a sport!). I haven’t yet tried aerial silks, but it’s on my list!

  11. Michelle

    my sons artistic squad ends tonight! No new coach could be found so that’s it! The kids have tried dance, DMT, street workout class, parkour, trampolining and flicks n tricks! Think with all that core strength they can try anything. Trampolining and DMT is where they are all going. Such a shame there is nowhere near us for them to keep training but they are enjoying new things.

  12. Gale Hickling

    mu daughter Skye quit gymnastics training L10. She tried competitive cheer 5 months and in that time Univ of Oregon saw a video of her tumbling and flew her out to recruit her when she graduated. She ended up going to another University and walked on the Dive team. By her senior year and after a serious major accident, she broke BOTH standing records, was placed in top 5 at her regionals and was the 1st to go to NCAA zones’. She also was nominated for NCAA’s Woman Athlete of the Year out of all college sports in Div 1. Not bad for never having done that sport!! All because of the hard work ethic, strength, dedication and desire to be the best at what she does that she learned from gymnastics.

  13. Kale

    After having to quit gymnastics due to a severe injury I played soccer. I hated it but I wasn’t bad at it. Then I went on to play girls lacrosse and played on the varsity team for 3 years in high school. I also ran varsity cross country all throughout high school and ran the 100m, 100m hurdles, 200m, 400m, and 400m hurdles in track. I never tried pole vaulting but I wish I had! It’s hard Bc I definitely don’t have the same muscle tone anymore so I feel fat/unathletic but I’m definitely not. Life after gym has been a crazy ride but it’s been fun. I’m so thankful I started off with it Bc it set me up with some pretty great successes!

  14. Kelly C

    Seriously? No Martial Arts? Many styles blend acrobatics, gymnastics, dance and theatrics! The bonus is the girls learn to defend themselves! A life skill necessary in today’s world.

  15. Renee

    My daughter does competitive gymnastics and plays hockey. Her balance and agility on skates is amazing. Her coaches attribute her skating skills to her overall athleticism developed through gymnastics.

  16. Kenzie

    I did gymnastics for 12 years, and in my last competition season I was level 9 training 10. After a major injury I started running track and field. I exell in hurdles and sprints, because of my flexibility and power in my legs from all of the tumbling. I also tried pole vaulting, but didn’t do very well only because of my height. (5′) I think that track and field is a great sport to try after you retire from training and competing gymnastics.

  17. Kristen

    JUDO! I went straight from Gymnastics to Judo and it was perfect. Aerial awareness, strength, ability to ground yourself and not be pushed off balance, flexibilty and best of all, no fear of hitting the ground hard!

  18. Jennifer

    I love all the comments and ideas. I took gymnastics for many years as a child. I never competed or anything like that. But I could tell it made me a great athlete for other sports. I was always a great jumper, climber and sprinter. I remember when I ran track the coach tried to convince me to do high jump because of my gymnastics background. And we had no need for high jumpers. I was only 5 feet 1 inch so I refused. I have tried tennis and have been told by how I move they can tell I was in gymnastics. Not sure what that means. I still wish there was adult gymnastics bc it makes the body so strong and flexible.

  19. Timothy

    This is a great article. My wife and I are just starting to deal with the doom and and gloom of our son leaving gymnastics. We’re looking for any insight to add to our own thoughts and plans. Can anyone recommend such resources that are centered around this subject, but with a focus on boys? The vast majority of all info I’ve found online, concerning all things gymnastics, is geared toward girls. My son is 14, and is currently competing at Level 9. He was always a top team member in his younger days, golds and silvers at State, but he’s become rather tall and lanky…not good for gymnastics. He is fairly devestated at the prospect of quitting, though he has his own reasons that, along with our overall situation, make it clear that it’s time to leave. His top prospects for maintaining a sharp physical focus are cycling (which I did…..tough sport, relatively unsupported in the U.S.) and recreational soccer. We live in a rural area south of Chicago. There seems to be zero Ultimate Frisbee in the area, which is another sport I did in my youth. Such a sad time time for us, but we’re trying to arm ourselves with as much physical and emotional ammo as we can muster to help him with this transition. Thanks.

  20. Ana

    As a former national gymnast, I find it very difficult, impossible, to find a substitute for gymnastics. Since this carrier finishes early, it s difficult for gymnasts to continue their work. Or to go on loosing capabilities with aging. You learn useful skills for live and other sports, but it s not the same. When you are a gymnast, you get the feeling you did your life complete in the first twenty years of existence. There s no real substitute. It should be explored a desaccelerted practice of gymnastics for those who retire competition, but not senior championships. Classes or gyms to practice it for leisure, for the level allowed at each stage.

    • Isabel

      I agree with you, Ana. I left gymnastics about 2 yrs ago as a lvl8 due to an injury. Since then I’ve tried diving, dance, volleyball but nothing seems to give that same spark or make me passionate and love the sport like I did gymnastics. I took for granted the time I was able to do gymnastics. My P.E. coaches are constantly blown away by my athleticism and try to put me in track, boxing, martial arts etc. But what I really miss is being able to swing around the bars and fly off of them and put on a show during my floor routine. I really can’t find anything that gives me the same thrill. I feel like I’m so behind and can’t try a new sport. If anyone has any suggestions please comment:)

  21. Rose

    I was a gymnast for 15 years. My sophomore year of college I had to hang up the leotard after fighting multiple injuries my freshman year. I got really into Zumba!! However my junior year i decided to walk on to the Division 1 rowing team and excelled really quickly with a lot of the muscle groups being the same between gymnastics and crew!!

  22. Kasee

    Makenna – I love your blog and you and your husband are both wonderful coaches! I too love the USA gymnastics slogan “Begin Here, Go Anywhere!” As a parent I always wonder when the day will come that my kids decide they are done with gymnastics. Of course I hope not for a long time and would love for each of them to compete as college athletes for a team but I know that is not a possibility for everyone due to skill or injury or desire. I have had many people ask “Will you let them just quit after all the time and money you have invested in gymnastics?” I thought about this a lot at first and my answer is always the same to friends, family, and even my kids when we discuss quitting gymnastics. The time and money I spend is not an investment in gymnastics, it is an investment in my kids. They have learned so much from gymnastics and the commitment they have had to the sport and their teams. If they have thought hard about the decision to quit and feel like it is time then yes I will 100% support them but quitting gymnastics isn’t something I will allow them to decide after one bad meet or one frustrating practice it has to be something they put effort into deciding and once they have committed to a season they must finish out the season with 100% effort. And then I also want them to decide what they want to do next because I think it is important to stay active and involved in a sport especially after they are used to 20+ hours in a gym. Thanks for your great blog and the wonderful information and articles and experience you share with us all!


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