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Looking for advice on competetive swimming vs gymnastics

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My dd is 11. She is quite good at swimming, making it to State this year just after "aging up" to 11-12 group. Her best strokes are freestyle and butterfly. She is also good at gymnastics - actually tumbling and trampoline. She has been invited to be on the team and would probably start at level 6. She can't be on both teams (conflict in practice times) and she likes them both.


If you have been on a competetive team, what would you say if dd was your daughter? I worry about stress to the joints if she were go with T&T. I wonder which sport might "open more doors for her" if she continues to excel. Or should I just let her chose and enjoy it?

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I would choose swimming. But then we eat, sleep, live, and breathe swimming around here, so I'm prejudiced. I agree that there would be more risk w/ T&T, but honestly, I would let her choose. They could both open doors for her, but she has to enjoy it, or it won't matter in the long run.



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I did both gymnastics and swimming, but I was not as good at gymnastics as your dd.


I can tell you this. If not already, swimming is going to get so unbelievably hard. Even the kindest coaches will have to seriously train the kids. I still have nightmares to this day of him saying, "50 50's on the 50! GO!"




Swimming is an amazing sport. It's awesome for the body and mind, and trains in perseverance. There are few negatives.


Except: It's really not that *fun* on a regular basis. Yeah, it's fun to be trained, it's fun to beat your brothers in the pool at home, it's fun to win...but the day to day of it is grueling (or was for me)


Gymnastics on the other hand is so artistic, and so fun. There's much more variety and coaches are less likely to grill, grill, grill because it's more of an individual sport. While she may have some calisthenic training, she will mostly just get lessons from her coach and then practice, practice, practice. If she really wants it, she'll do it.


Really, you need to ask her what she wants. She can get college scholarships for either sport. Swimming is more widely available at many, many more colleges. But there are many great colleges that have gymnastics teams, too.


Swimming will be her life. If she goes to college and joins a swimming team she'll immediately have a slew of highly motivated friends-both male and female.


If you ask her what she really loves to do, and she says gymnastics- then i would pick gymnastics.


But if she loves both, really loves both sports, then I would pick swimming. Go with what she loves, because she'll only be young once.


BTW- When she gets older, depending on how the state competitions are structured, she'll have to compete against guys in butterfly. She'll never win. If she really loves butterfly I'd find out if she'll be competing against boys, because honestly boys kick girls butts every time in butterfly. I've never seen even the best of girls beat the boys at butterfly.


Freestyle on the other hand is individual and often combined with other people, four people together, and in other ways as well.

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As others have said, I would ask her... The sports are so different, and they will take over a large portion of her life either way.


My sister is one of the top tumblers in the world. When we went and saw her at nationals last year, of course my little dd was awed and begged to begin taking gymnastics so she could be just like her aunt. My sister's response was, "Don't let her!" lol... She went on to explain that for her, there was no choice -- she couldn't *not* do gymnastics 'cause it was just *part* of her. No one ever "made" her do gymnastics or later tumbling, it came from within her. But it was a tough life, and not one she would encourage for a kid who wasn't totally driven from within.


It has been great for her too. She has friends all over the world. She has travelled far more than she ever would have without tumbling. And she loves it.


But she has also suffered many injuries, several surgeries, endless hours in the car to get to adequate coaching and facilities. (She and my dad drive more than 4 hours one-way to the gym now.) She doesn't feel much connection to her local school or area because she has spent so much time away...


Between tumbling and swimming for scholarships and higher level competition, swimming wins hands down. There are very few college level tumbling programs; tumbling is not yet an Olympic sport (though trampoline is); tumbling is not televised in the US (though it is in Europe, Canada, Australia...) so it isn't as recognized here...


In terms of the risk of physical injury and the chance for scholarships, I would lean towards swimming. *But* that just sounds so boring to me, lol, despite the great physical training swimming provides. If your dd truly doesn't care, I would encourage swimming. But if she wants tumbling instead, I would understand why...


BTW, have you considered diving? A number of tumblers give up the tumble track for the diving board as they get into their teens. It has somewhat fewer injuries, more chance of scholarships, and uses some of the same skills.



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look ahead....you can only tumble and flip for so many years until you need to stop ;-)


swimming will become a lifelong passion.....she can swim until her dying days. she could teach part time or full time with her years of swimming experience and ability to get certified in those areas. I recently started considering activities in this light....what can they do when adults?


swimming is something she will always be able to do....and who knows? while both could get a college scholarship....again the swimming would be healthy living forever!

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we do year round swimming here (team for oldest ds7, lessons for twin dss6) our kids love it. even after a 1hr workout, the oldest will say it was fun!


so far, the coaching has been pretty gentle (of course these are younger kids at his level and the coaches take that into account). but i'm there while the older kids are practicing also and i wouldn't consider the coaching i've seen to be over the top. yes, they push the kids (and we're talking teens here) but you have to expect that when the goal has shifted to junior nationals, nationals, and even olympic trials. (there is one girl on the team who will be at the olympic trials, whoohoo!) and the team just took first place at the state meet.


also, even at the very youngest levels, I've never seen boys and girls competing against each other. they're always separate events... sometimes it's individual, other times relays, but always split by age group and gender.

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I'd gently nudge her toward swimming! Soooo much better for the body in the long run. Great exercise...uses all major muscle groups w/out stressing the joints (esp. knees). 3 of my dc swim competitively in the summer and dd11 wants to do it year-round as well. It's a tough choice as she excels in both. At age 11, many of those doors might very well be difficult to open depending on the competition and how good dd actually is, KWIM? With so many sports one must start so young in order to even get a foot in that door. But, I don't know your dd so I'm just speaking generally...not pessimistically! I'd base it on which she ENJOYS more and which she wouldn't be able to live w/out. Then I'd discuss wear and tear on her body. HTH a bit. Good luck making the choice!

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I have a competitive swimmer, and a competitive rhythmic gymnast (who came over from artistic gymnastics, so I know a bit about it, too). Swimming hands down.


1) Swimming is low impact. RG isn't as injury-prone as artistic gymnastics (what you think of as "gymnastics") but it IS still hard on the body- especially feet and ankles. We have regionals next weekend, and have a gymnast on the team with an ankle wrap due to an inflamed tendon, a gymnast with shin splints (RG is competed on a wood floor with a thin carpet- no spring floor), and one with an ingrown toenail (again, a product of turning under toes for a fancy series of falls that RG does). Not rotator cuff surgery,(I know an artistic gymnast who had this at 11!) but they are training in 3 hour chunks with these injuries, and its painful to watch!


2) Swimming can be done your whole life. They have artistic gymnastics at some colleges, but no RG or tumbling. You are just done at 19 ish, earlier if you get hippy or too curvy in puberty (sad, but true). Not swimming! ANy size person can safely swim, and there are even Masters teams for senior citizens. And college scholarships!


3) Swimming is cheaper. MUCH.



But...this does you know good if she wants to be a gymnast, you know. MY DD would happliy train for 5 hours a time (and has). She loves it. It would break her heart to have to quit. So, unless the child in question truly finds both as enjoyable, you better go with the one they like best!



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My vote is for swimming - but I am highly biased. I agree with all reasons listed previously, especially that in general swimming is better for all around health and can be continued through your entire life.


But I must warn that although not as frequent as gymnastics injuries, there are still some common swimming injuries. I swam competetively from the time I was 6 through most of college. The athletic training room at college was filled with swimmers before and after practice getting ultrasound, heat and electric stim before (ice afterwards). After millions and millions of strokes shoulders and knees do start to wear out. I had to stop because I had destroyed my rotator cuff (shoulder). If I had known of the dangers ahead of time, it could have been prevented because there are resistance exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles that hold the joints together.


I like the suggestion of diving. I was on the diving team for 4 years too. It was easy to do both swimming and diving most clubs/teams make it convenient to do both.

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My 11yodd is just finishing her fifth competitive season and is a level 7. Though she has not had any serious injuries (just strains and aches), many of the girls have. The risk for injury increases as the level increases, but some of her younger level 7 teammates have suffered from broken growth plates, stress fractures, and a chipped sacrum. Dd has had increasing strain on her joints. One of the level 7 dads is a chiropractor and he says that it is a lot of stress to joints and bones right when they are growing the most. He doesn't seem to worry or hesitate in having his daughter in gymnastics, though. As for us, if dd did not love the sport, we would not push her to continue. Since she does love it so, we just make sure she eats well, takes supplements, and takes care of herself. As others have said, I would think that swimming would be lower impact, but I don't really know much about swimming. We see a lot of former gymnasts who are now in their 40s and 50s and went on to be coaches who seem to be in very good shape, so the stress they put on their bodies when they were younger does not seem to have done any major damage. Of course, they also don't share their medical history with everyone.


From talking to a friend whose children are involved in competive swimming, it is much cheaper than gymnastics. It is also a good sport to choose if you're going to have several children of different ages and abilities involved.


Someone said that there are limited scholarship opportunities for gymnastics. That is true, and I don't know how swimming compares. However, gymnasts can often get cheerleading scholarships if there is no gymnastics program.


All of that is food for thought, but ultimately I would allow my dd to decide if both were equally available (cost, time, programs in your area). I know my dd would have to choose a less expensive sport if her grandparents didn't sponsor her in gymnastics.

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We LOVE gymnastics in our family!!! However, it is a high impact, very expensive sport. Unless DD wants to become a cheerleader or coach, the skills can only be used in gym or diving. There is also an element of "mean girls" to so many gymnastics teams.

Unless DD can't live without gymnastics, I'd urge her to find a cheaper sport! My girls love the sport, and we've encouraged them to try many others and keep insisting it's the love of their lives. :D

Congrats to DD for having the ability to 'dive' into Level 6. T&T is a lot of fun. You can tell the T&T teams from traditional USAG teams locally--they're the ones who have smiles on their faces!

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I wanted to point out that several posts are treating artistic gymnastics and tumbling as if they're the same. Obviously they're closely related, but tumblers tend to compete well into adulthood (the US National Champion is ~three years older than I am!), and the female tumblers are larger and sturdier on average than the artistic gymnasts. They're still fairly petite, of course, but the top US women are, as I recall, all about 5'-5'3" and are a lot more muscular (and not at all waifish) than the artistic gymnasts.


Anyway, I'm just saying that if she really wants to do tumbling instead of swimming, tumbling *could* last her well into her adulthood if she wants it too, and she could stick with tumbling even if you suspect she'll turn out to be a little bigger than the average artistic gymnast as well. (My sister jokes/claims that gymnastics and tumbling stunted her growth -- but I think that's just 'cause she wants to imagine she could have turned out taller than me, lol!)

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I'd let her choose and enjoy it. While you might think at first glance that tumbling will be harder on the joints, once she's swimming at a senior level, they do so many miles a day that a lot of kids blow out their shoulder joints (particularly with butterfly) before or shortly after getting into college. I know one boy right now who is a high school freshman and his shoulder joints are gone. He had to quit before the end of this year's short course season. (He does play football, too, and so lifts a lot of weight, etc.) Our orthopedist last summer told us that those kids who end up excelling in swimming in college are often the ones who are left in the game after the others have blown out their shoulders.



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