If gymnastics were easy, they would call it football.
According to Utah gymnast Kari Lee, each sport is difficult in its own way. While Lee couldn’t do what a football player does, what with all the running full-force and pounding each other, the same goes for football players — they couldn’t do what a gymnast does.
“It’s just hard in different ways,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say one is harder than the other, because it just takes different physical attributions to do the sport that we do.”
The key word here is sport. Some might argue that gymnastics is not a sport, but rather a fine art. Those who are involved in it, however, see gymnastics in a different light. They call it artistic gymnastics for a reason, according to Lee, so the art aspect comes in because it is supposed to be artistic, but at the same time she still considers gymnastics a sport.
Just like any other sport, gymnastics takes a lot of mentality and physicality, and gymnasts have to be in peak shape. It has everything every other sport does, if not more.
While Lee would just ignore those who said her sport was just a fine art and nothing else, because she has been doing this for over 16 years and it’s her way of living, she admits that it would probably bother her a little bit. Luckily, she hasn’t met someone who has ever said those specific words to her.
Junior Maddy Stover would say what gymnasts do is special, but there is a lot of skill behind it.
“There is a balance to gymnastics,” Stover said. “There is a lot of strength and power involved in gymnastics that I think some people forget about. It is definitely a unique art form, what we do, but more along the lines of sport.”
But head coach Megan Marsden doesn’t see gymnastics being called an art form as negative. Marsden thinks the sport encompasses so much style, grace and dancing that people at times confuse it with the arts. The part that Marsden doesn’t love about that is the way people look at it.
Sometimes the crowds in the stands feel like it needs to be quiet in the arena, and they wait for the soft applause after. Marsden likes the sport aspect in terms of the fan involvement, because she thinks the athletes love to have the fans applaud after they do a skill right in the middle of the routine and they enjoy people cheering out or yelling their name. None of that would happen at a ballet, so for that part of it, Marsden enjoys the sport side.
Marsden added that a dancer has to be extremely tough, so she looks at art movement and sport movement as something similar. It’s just a matter of how it beats you up.
“A football player gets beat up by hitting into other football players,” Marsden said. “My gymnasts get beat up from the landings — their bodies having to land hard on equipment and do it over and over again through an entire childhood, so I think you have to be very tough to be a gymnast.”
In order to be tough enough in the sport, gymnasts have to endure difficult routines, practices and tricks. Lee feels that the the training they do is normal. Whenever she is asked what is the hardest thing she has to do, she’s thrown off, because she has never thought of it like that. She has always done everything that has been asked of her without hesitation.
Marsden said she has her girls finish every practice with holding a handstand for at least a minute. Marsden wants her girls to continue to hone in on a base move that is involved in several skills on each event.
While art requires skill, gymnastics always requires strength and agility, just like it would in football, basketball or any other sport for that matter. Stover thinks there are some artistic qualities that make gymnastics a unique sport, but she definitely calls it more of a sport than an art.
Even though gymnasts spend their whole lives doing this sport, it doesn’t stop them from going to watch other meets, and they enjoy everything they watch — both as an art and a sport.
“My parents own gymnastic businesses, so whenever we host a competition and I’m able to go, I just go and watch,” Lee said. “I love watching the younger girls, because I was there once and I remember everything. I just love watching it. I do think it is an art and a beautiful sport. Hard on the body, but a beautiful sport.”