This is one of the most common questions that people often have when they are looking into starting gymnastics. Just looking at how young the kids are when they are doing all sorts of amazing things can make you feel that you must be too old to start.
The truth is that you can start gymnastics at any age and that there is no age limit that you have to start gymnastics by. If you have a background in another flexible activity like ballet then you already have a head start.
However, while you can start at gymnastics at any point in your life, you should also know that there is a certain point at which you are too old to start it if you hope to make it to the Olympic Team. With that in mind, whether you are too old or not will depend quite a bit on what your goals are that you hope to reach in gymnastics.
The Different Goals That You Can Have For Gymnastics
There are essentially five different goals that you can have for where you hope to make it to in gymnastics. Each of these goals has an optimum age range that it is best to start training at if you hope to achieve the goal that you have in mind.
These different goals are: recreational gymnastics where you plan on doing it just for fun or as a way of getting enough exercise; gymnastics where you hope to reach the point where you can compete in gymnastics meets to some degree; the elite level where you hope to reach the point where you can become qualified as an elite gymnast; getting a college scholarship as a gymnast; and, finally, making it all the way to the Olympics on the Olympic Gymnastics Team.
Doing gymnastics can be a great way to have fun, and there is no specific age that you have to be in order to start learning it. The range for this is anywhere from 0-100 as long as you are physically capable of still being able to do the basics. In fact, sometimes people who find that they are getting stiff as they get older can often take up gymnastics as a great way to keep themselves limber and get the exercise that they need.
Recreational gymnastics is also a great way to meet new people, and some gyms will have classes specifically for older beginners. This not only means that you will be in a class that has people in it who are at least closer to your own age, but it also means that the friends you make there will be closer in age too.
If you are still a teen these friends can turn into lifelong best friends, and even if you are already an adult you can still make some great friends. If you are still a teen, however, there are also other things like gymnastics summer camps and things like that which can be great fun to attend.
Getting to the point in gymnastics where you are good enough to compete is something that will take a bit of time and effort, but it is something that is quite possible to get to even if you are already an older teen or even an adult. The Xcel program in particular is designed to get you into competing as soon as you can and to make it easy for beginners to reach that point.
This being the case, while it may be mildly embarrassing to be put with little kids, it is still perfectly possible to accomplish competing even if you are a fully grown adult if this is what you really want to do. If you are an adult it may take you longer to learn the skills that you need in order to do well in these competitions, so being younger will still be an advantage but is not something that will be necessary.
If your goal is to become an elite gymnast, then you have your work cut out for you. There is no specific age that you must become an elite gymnast by, and therefore no specific age that you have to start learning gymnastics by. With that being said, however, reaching this level in gymnastics is something that takes hours and hours of practice every single week to accomplish.
To give you an idea of the dedication it requires, most young gymnasts who hope to make it to this level switch to homeschooling at some point in order to spend the maximum amount of time possible in training. Being homeschooled means that they do not have to spend time on a school bus, can practice their stretches on the floor while they study, and frees up a lot of other time here and there that can all be spent on gymnastics.
If you are already out of school then this wouldn’t be a problem, but a job that takes hours of your time would be. Many older elite gymnasts choose to only have a part time job or something that has super flexible hours so that they can continue their training. While spending all this time practicing gymnastics might not be 100% necessary in order to still make it to the elite level, it will take you years longer otherwise.
A college scholarship is something that is hard to get and that you will face a lot of competition for. Most scouts who are looking for talented young gymnasts to give scholarships to are going to have a very specific age range and level of skills that they will be looking at. Therefore, in order to stand a chance of getting noticed, you will likely have to be in this age range while you are at the right level.
This age range is usually somewhere between 10-17 years old, and by then you are expected to be either a level 9 or 10 or an elite gymnast already. Preferably you at least have a few years of experience competing at level 10. This being the case, if you are already 10 years old and have not even started learning gymnastics then your chance is very small indeed to be given a scholarship.
However, it is still not completely impossible if you apply yourself to learning gymnastics. You would simply have to make it to at least level 9 before you turned 17 and be doing quite well in your gymnastics meets, getting high scores, and show that you have talent and are still improving your skills.
In order to stand a chance at becoming an Olympic gymnast you have to start at a really young age for this. One of the very latest starts by someone who made the gymnastics team was Alicia Sacramone who did not start gymnastics until she was 9 years old. That being said, if you want to go to the Olympics like she did then you should start gymnastics training at no later than 9 years old.
However, as mentioned there are a few things that you can do to get a head start. If you have already been taking ballet or dance classes for some time then you could perhaps not start taking gymnastics classes until you are around 10 or 11 years old and still have hope that you might make the Olympic gymnastics team.
In order to make it to the Olympics, whatever you age may be, you are going to have to devote a lot of time and effort into your training and really keep your eyes on the goal. In order to be an elite gymnast most kids have to switch to being homeschooled in order to devote as much time as possible to their training, and if you want to make it all the way to the Olympics you will most assuredly have to make the switch at some point. In addition, you will also have to be willing drop any other hobbies or anything that would distract you from your goal.