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Gymnastics— a way to be physically fit, strong, and in shape

Gymnastics Australia Oceania development manager Brooke Kneebush (far right) with some of the local youngsters she worked with during a recent trip to the territory.  [photo: courtesy]

If your child likes to run, tumble, jump, or flip, it may be an indication that gymnastics is their calling. But the sport is not limited to youngsters. Even adults who want to maintain their strength and flexibility are encouraged to look at gymnastics as a way to be physically fit, strong, and in shape.

Gymnastics Australia Oceania development manager Brooke Kneebush was recently in the territory, conducting a week-long training clinic for youth, including education workshops for coaches and judges.

One of the sessions was held at Pacific Horizons School and the rest were conducted at the Pago Pago Youth Community Center.

If you missed out this time, don't worry. Kneebush usually visits every six months.

Last year, over a span of four days, she was able to help 40 local children, introducing them to the basics and planting a seed that hopefully will lead to a deeper appreciation of the sport.

"The kids had lots of fun, with many parents saying that this is a great activity, and their kids loved it,” Kneebush told Samoa News in an initial interview following last year's successful clinics. She said some of the parents told her they were looking for an activity for their kids, and now they had found something.

According to her, there are seven different gym sports, but gymnastics serves as a great foundation for all sports and activities like dance and cheerleading, utilizing acrobatics and so much more.

Also during her trip last year, Kneebush spearheaded training sessions for adults to become involved with gymnastics through coaching, training, or just as a supporter.

At the time, DYWA sports commissioner Ethan Lake told Samoa News that one of the main goals is to get a Gymnastics National Federation set up in the territory.             

Zena Iese, secretary of the Gymnastics Federation of American Samoa (GFAS), explained that Kneebush's current visit was to continue to strengthen the GFAS, which was first introduced in late 2015 with the help of the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs (DYWA) Sports Division.  

A media release from the GFAS quotes one parent as saying, “Gymnastics is not only fun for the kids to learn, it is great for their bodies; and with the obesity problem here in the territory, this is a great way for kids to get into and stay in shape.”

Iese said Kneebush's recent trip was made possible through the support of the International Gymnastics Federation and currently, the GFAS is applying for membership to the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) and has had ongoing activities since its introduction.GFAS thanks DYWA director Jonathan Fanene and his staff, and the American Samoa Amateur Wrestling Association and its president, Irene Kane, for lending their wrestling mats, which provided  a safe training area for the GFAS workshop participants.

According to the GFAS, of particular focus during Kneebush's recent development visit were the gym sports of FreeStyle gymnastics and cheerleading.  Both are appealing to youth because of their team approach to developing strength, flexibility, tumbling and acrobatic skills.

"FreeStyle gymnastics is the newest discipline to come under the umbrella of gymnastics, having its origins in parkour, freerunning and other extreme sports. There is now a pathway to international competition governed by the International Gymnastics Federation," said the GFAS.

Kneebush emphasized that gymnastics is a sport that has something to offer everybody.  It does not require large or expensive equipment and it can be performed indoors or outdoors. 

"People of all ages, abilities, and shapes and sizes can participate in gymnastics," she explained. "Getting young children started in gymnastics can provide a great foundation for other sports, and also create lifelong healthy attitudes to physical activity. 

"Additionally, gymnastics can be of enormous benefit for the cognitive, physical, and social development of people with a disability; and ultimately, gymnastics is a Top Tier Olympic Sport which offers international competition opportunities for elite athletes.”

Regular FreeStyle gymnastics and cheerleading will be conducted by clubs of the Gymnastics Federation of American Samoa. 

The Federation is keen on hearing from anybody interested in receiving coaching or judge training in the future.

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