As USA Gymnastics member clubs across the country consider re-opening their doors after COVID-19 restrictions, the national governing body of the sport has compiled safety measures, tips, and guidance to consider if and when clubs re-open.
The main guiding document includes details on establishing cleaning/sanitation guidelines, risk mitigation, spotting, parent viewing, students responsibilities, parent/guardian responsibilities, communication, and more.
On the introductory page of the document, USAG clarifies a number of items, including: 1) this is not intended to encourage clubs to open earlier than they otherwise should; 2) SafeSport policies continue to apply in full; 3) this is not an exhaustive list of preventative measures; and 4) even when taking all precautions, there is still a risk of transmitting illnesses.
In addition to the re-opening considerations for clubs, USAG’s Athlete Health and Wellness Council has released a position statement to serve as a re-integration strategy for returning to gymnastics training.
The in-depth document includes a questionnaire to guide coaches through understanding the physical training that each of their athletes sustained while they were away in order to help them determine where to start with each athlete’s training plan.
Also included are training plan templates for all gymnastics disciplines. Plans can span anywhere from 4-8 weeks and can be modified for each athlete. Plans are goal-oriented and include recommendations for intensity and volume, as well as discipline-specific training.
Beyond the physical challenges of returning to training after an unexpected break, USAG acknowledges the importance of addressing athletes’ mental health as they return to the gym.
“Just like each athlete’s physical training was different during the closures, each athlete will return to the gym with unique mental health perspectives,” the statement says. “These documents will help coaches honor each athlete’s experience and navigate their return to the gym from a mental health perspective.”
Why is a return to gymnastics training strategy necessary?
- Gymnastics is a high-risk sport that demands extensive preparation and training to perform safely.
- Gymnastics is a sport that requires a high level of timing and body awareness.
- Over time, gymnasts can adapt to this high volume, while allowing for adequate recovery and healing.
- It is well recognized that body composition can change in adolescent and adult athletes following prolonged restrictions from training.
- Prolonged time away from gymnastics, as short as 2-4 weeks, can create a state of “detraining”, with fitness and strength losses.
- After this prolonged absence from training, there will be a significant amount of anticipation and excitement to resume gymnastics training – including gymnasts, coaches, and family members.
- This highly anticipated return to training is prone to a process that is too quick.
- An accelerated return puts the gymnast at a high risk for injury.
- In the context of normal training cycles, a systematic training plan is required to prepare an athlete for the demands of sport. Management of training loads is necessary to avoid injury.
- In general, a healthy approach to integration of training loads can help tissues adapt through strengthening. An unhealthy approach to integration of training loads will cause weakening of tissue and injury.
- Following a restriction from training, a healthy strategy for training load reintroduction is even more necessary to avoid injury.
Source: USA Gymnastics’ Physical and Mental Health Guidance for a Safe Re-Integration of Gymnastics (2020)
Links to resources:
- Member Club Considerations for a Safe Re-Opening (PDF)
- Physical and Mental Health Guidance for a Safe Re-Integration of Gymnastics (PDF)