Fun or serious, girls take to gymnastics

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Back-handsprings and flips were the order of the day on the fourth day of Natchez Gymnastics Team Camp.

The camp, held from 9 to 11:30 a.m. this week, offers intense training for competitive members of the team, which is getting ready for competition beginning in October and stretching into March. Coach Kim Strawbridge said her 20-member team, ranging in age from 4- to 13-years-old, is familiar with the strenuous training and hard work they are enduring this week.

&uot;Throughout the year, each team-member practices four to five hours a week,&uot; Strawbridge said.

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But Strawbridge said her students learn a lot more than back-hip circles and punch-fronts.

&uot;We try to instill a positive self-image and a strong self-esteem into each child,&uot; Strawbridge said. &uot;And we definitely have fun doing.

Strawbridge said all work and no play makes for unhappy and unproductive gymnasts.

&uot;I am probably the only coach in the world that rewards her team with candy,&uot; Strawbridge said.

And to reward her team for a day of hard work, Strawbridge treated the team to a pizza party and afternoon of swimming on Tuesday.

&uot;I like coming to the gym,&uot; said 8-year-old Abby Dillard. &uot;Gymnastics is fun.&uot;

But five-year veteran team-member Rebecca Brown, 13, has a more serious take on the sport. &uot;Gymnastics is fun, but I work hard. I like the competition.&uot;

Strawbridge and partner Christy Delaney said every gymnast approaches the sport in a different way. Each child brings something unique to gymnastics and each child gets something different out of it, Strawbridge said.

&uot;Because gymnastics requires work on the four elements, gymnasts tend to be very well-rounded competitors and people,&uot; Strawbridge said. &uot;If a child can master gymnastics, they can master any sport.&uot;