Briana R. Alvarez
Mrs. Hurley and Mrs. Stroud
11 April 2012
How Does Competition affect Community?
Hows does competition in competitive gymnastics affect young girls?
1. What I know-
In humanities after going over the Cold War,I have come to learn that
competition affects communities by increasing technology,dividing communities,and
separating families. The historical events I’ve learned about during the Cold war,
display these different effects of competition based on the past .The Berlin Wall and
the Space Race show that competition results in increasing technology and dividing
Competition affects community by advancing technology. For instance,the
competition between the United States and the Soviet Union ,otherwise known as
the Space Race,led to the advancement of space technology.On October fourth
1957,Sputnik 1,the world’s first artificial satellite,was launched into Earth’s orbit,
which was said to be the beginning of the space race. After this point,the U.S. and the
Soviets were in constant competition,trying to “beat” each other in advancing in Space
technology. Russia and America continued to develop new ideas for space technology,
sending up Apollo crafts,satellites and eventually shuttles,as often as every month to
insure they were ahead in what was later called the Space Race. In the meanwhile,
Russia and America received even more knowledge of aeronautic technology as a
result of these competitions.
Competition during the Cold War also caused division in communities because
of the different political and economic views ( Capitalism and Communism). For
example when the Berlin Wall was put up (or started) in 1961,the borders of East
Germany were closed and the walls now completely divided into East and West Berlin,
making West Berlin a compound of the French,British,and U.S. zones (Capitalist),
while the east was the Soviet zone (communist). The division made it impossible
to leave the communist zones and trading prefered goods without the government
approving of it first.
Not only did the Berlin wall cause division between the city of Berlin,but also to
families living on opposite sides of the wall. That meant they would be separated until
the wall was taken down,or if they had managed to illegally reunite.
2. What I want to know-
My personal interest and curiosity lead me to the topic I chose to reflect on
which is,” How does competition in professional gymnastics affect young girls?”.
This topic relates to my essential question ( how does competition affect community)
because in this topic question the competition is professional gymnastics,and the
community is the young girls who are participating in this sport. I chose this topic
because gymnastics is something I love to do and have had an interest in for as long as
I can remember. Gymnastics is something that has been a common interest of mainly
people in my family,with one of my relatives even owning and coaching at her own
gym. Because of my fascination with this sport,the effects of gymnastics on young
girls is something I would definitely be interested in learning more about.
2.1 Research Questions
1. What are physical effects of gymnastics on young girls?
2. What are the possible psychological effects from professional gymnastics and
this way of life?
3. What are some opportunities competitive gymnast may have?
4. What is an appropriate age to begin training a young gymnast?
5. What is the financial impact from the process throughout this commitment?
3. The Search
3.1 What are physical effects of gymnastics on young girls?
The primary theory on the physical effects of gymnastics on young girls,states
that gymnastics could stunt height and developmental growth. It is said that starting
out in gymnastics at a young age,can cause your body to naturally adapt to the sport.
The reason this theory is said to be fact is because gymnasts with larger muscle
mass,who are shorter in height,do better in all elements of gymnastics competition.
A survey was conducted by a college student,Marta Erlandson,comparing sixty-
three,four to six year old children,participating in gymnastics programs,to ninety five
control children of the same age groups. In this experimental survey they measured
certain anthropometric measures like “height,weight,BMI,waist circumference,and
skinfold thickness”(Erlandson). The results of the survey showed that there was not
any significant differences found at any age between the groups measurements. “The
conclusion of this survey does not necessarily mean that the theory was proven
inaccurate,but may indicate that the potential effects of gymnastics training may have
not yet manifested in the children at these ages”(Erlandson).
Although the effect of stunted growth from gymnastics may still be considered
theory at this age,the fact is that some coaches may work children to an excessive
extent that can keep them from growing properly. Girls who are in the elite level of
gymnastics,have been proven to not grow to the right proportioned size that non elite
athletes would naturally grow to. Fortunately,researchers have found that women and
girls do catch up on growth when they significantly cut down on training hours.
Gymnastics is said to be one of the most dangerous sports because it can leave
a gymnast with severe injuries. The reason gymnastics is considered significantly
more dangerous than other sports is due to the fact that most competitive gymnast
start at very young ages,and severe injuries that occur during childhood,will usually
last all throughout adulthood as well. The most common physical effects competitive
gymnast face,include fractured ankles,torn joints/muscles,spinal problems,and knee
injuries. “Menstrual irregularities are incredibly common in gymnasts,with at least
seventy-five percent of girls getting their periods years later than the average girl who
3.2 What are the mental effects of competitive gymnastics?
A common mental effect on young girls caused by the competition in
gymnastics is the obsession with maintaining unhealthy low weights. In the gymnastics
population,certain compulsive behaviors such as excessive exercise habits and
restrictive eating patterns are seen as acceptable. “Pathological methods of weight
control are often introduced such as anorexia and bulimia”(James).These specific
eating disorders occur in more than a few gymnasts;some even leading to
hospitalization and even death.
Most of these disorders occur because of anxiety about performance and negative
self confidence the gymnast develops about their body size and shape which come
from constant display to the public in the competitive settings,as well as the “social
influence”,from the coaches and team to be thin.
3.3 What are opportunities young girls are given through competitive gymnastics?
Young gymnasts are given many different opportunities through competitive
gymnastics,some including traveling internationally,meeting professional athletes,and
becoming sponsored and advertising for different brands and industries. One of the
most honored competitive events to qualify in is the Olympics. This event provides
the majority of opportunities of all competitive events. Because this competition is so
widely known and watched,advertising the participating Olympians in commercials and
magazines is something most businesses choose to do because they believe it will
attract more people to their product . Additionally,gymnasts are given the opportunity
to travel all over the world for the Olympics (which depends on where they are held
that year). During the few weeks of this event,the gymnasts are also able to meet and
interact with many other professional athletes from all different areas of sports.
3.4 What is an appropriate age to begin gymnastics training?
An appropriate age for beginning gymnastics training is still controversial.
Many believe that ages four to five years old,have been identified as critical years
in early childhood that may influence developmental fat and bone mass,that could
have potential importance on adolescent health. It could be a benefit to start training
this young because it would narrow chances of obesity and would begin developing
the child’s muscles in advance for competitive or even an elite gymnastics level,by
creating a .good exercising habit early on . On the other hand,it could be seriously
dangerous too. Any injuries that occur during these critical developmental years could
leave the child with permanent life long injuries that may have been spared,had they
started a few years later. Amy VanDeusen,a mom of a young gymnast,states that age
six sounds just right to her. She believes that the more serious it is when they’re young,
the more likely they won’t last in the sport because of the intense pressure. The reason
Amy thinks age six is just the right age to begin training is because when a child waits
until age seven or older,they are said not to learn enough and are further behind the
later they start.
Although gymnastics training may not be the best idea for a young child or toddler,
beginning classes are always an option. Basic gymnastics classes are offered for
children as young as eighteen months,but until a child is around age three,most
believe they are not ready to be enrolled in beginner classes. Beginner classes start
out being grouped by ages,but as they progress they are grouped by skill level.
3.5 What is the financial impact from the process of becoming a professional gymnast?
The financial impact of gymnastics depends on what competitive level one trains
in. Gymnasts,no matter how talented or skilled must spend hours a day to perfect their
ability and maintain physical shape. Most training Olympic athletes spend an average
of eight hours a day,seven days a week ,training their mind and body. This intense
training it is more than a full time job. Which raises the question,How do competitive
gymnasts earn money to pay for coaches,housing,food,and other ordinary living
expenses? Well the answer to this question for most gymnasts is something called
sponsorship. Sponsorship is a form of survival for most amateur athletes,especially
those who compete in non-paying events such as the Olympic games. Sponsorship
can cover the costs of living and training for non professional athletes in different forms
including private,corporate,and team ownership. Gymnasts who are training without
sponsorship may face significant financial struggles because of all the expenses of
4.What I learned
I learned that competition in gymnastics has more negative effects than positive
ones. Through my research I have found that the majority of effects of gymnastics on
young girls have been negative.Competition in gymnastics limits physical and mental
growth and can lower girls self-esteem. The one positive effect gymnastics can promote
to the gymnast,is narrowing chances of obesity and developing larger muscle mass
early on by creating good exercise habits.
When I started this project,I understood that competition affected communities
by increasing technology,dividing communities,and separating families . After doing
my research,I know now that competition affects communities by impacting physical,
mental,and financial health. Although these answers sound different,they both bring
across the same message:Competition affects the relationships between people in a
community. For example,Berlin Wall caused division between neighbors and separated
families. Similarly,gymnastics competition affects communities of girls by impacting
their physical,mental and financial health. This essay taught me that communities are
affected differently depending on the type of competition encountered.
Erlandson,Marta. “The Effects of a Gymnastics Program on Early Childhood Body Composition
Development.”University of Saskatchewan library electronic Thesis and dissortations.
(2007):1-4. Web. 25 Apr. 2012. <http://library.usask.ca/>.
James,Geoff. Negative Effects of Gymnastics. Ezine articles. Ezine articles,2003. Web. 19 Apr
McDonald,Sharon. Telephone Interview. 04 04 2012.
Vandeusen,Amy. What age should a child start serious gymnastics training.
www.About.com/gymnastics. Readers Respond,2009. Web. 23 Apr 2012.
The Who,Where,Why,and Whens of Gymnastics. Elitegymnastics.com. Nd. Web,14 Apr 2012.
Web. 24 Apr 2.