FIG Artistic Gymnastics Age Group Program

Lausanne (SUI), Dec 13: Over the previous two years, the FIG with annual funding assistance from the IOC, has developed an Age Group Programme for Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. It was completed in 2011 and then introduced in five regions of the world (South-East Asia; Central America; Central Africa; Southern Africa and West Asia). Twenty-eight participating federations expressed their intention to implement the programme and were offered five-day training and implementation camps within the first year. Two special seminars in Montreal and Lausanne were held to introduce twelve additional experts to understand the programme so they could lead these many training camps in several languages.

The first country to host one of these five-day camps was Saudi Arabia that hosted the camp in its excellent facility in Riyadh from December 5-9, 2012. The FIG expert for the camp was well-known and enthusiastic gymnastics educator and coaching blogger Rick McCharles of Canada. He had recently used the content of the Age Group Programme for the focus of an Africa Zone 2 training camp in Senegal. Saudi Arabia had elected to hold this training camp only for Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.

These camps are intended to expose as many coaches as possible from the host country to the programme so that it will be implemented and understood uniformly. Because of the nature of the coaching staff in Saudi Arabia, seventeen coaches attended but held citizenship from five different countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and China. It was a remarkably high level of attendance for a country not much seen in world level gymnastics.

The FIG Age Group programme includes a testing and monitoring programme for Men’s and Woemen’s Artistic Gymnastics physical abilities and technical skills as well as a complete competition programme with modified optional rules for age-group gymnasts and compulsory exercises for all ages. It also includes a variety of additional information related to developing a systematic gymnastics programme that can lead to high performance. The programme was developed by FIG Director of Education and Academy programmes, Hardy Fink (CAN) for the competition programme, Dieter Hofmann (GER) for the testing programme and Carol-Angela Orchard (CAN) for the dance and choreographic content. The just completed second edition of the published programme and manual was used at this camp.

The five-day camp focused primarily on practical work in the gymnasium with coaches and their gymnasts on the various technical and physical tests, the compulsory exercises and the modified optional rules. Some theory background was provided to promote the FIG philosophy of protecting gymnasts during the growth years.

The main translator into the Arabic language was Ebrahim Alabdali who serves as technical secretary for both Saudi Arabia and Yemen and is an experienced international judge.

The excellent hosting by the Gymnastics Federation of Saudi Arabia was an excellent start for the formal introduction of the FIG Age Group Programme. Another such camp will be held for MAG and WAG immediately afterwards in Qatar and then, again for MAG only, in Yemen. —- FIG

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