A Future Nadia in Nablus?

It is believed, to the farthest reaches of the world, that the universal language of the human condition is love. I disagree.

I believe it is gymnastics.

Since the beginning of time, children spanning the globe have jumped, balanced, tumbled, stretched, flipped and rolled.  Children of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, children born with and children born without; children possessing Olympic-sized abilities and children who struggle with the simplest of skills: these children speak through the language of movement.  They share fear and strength, they share pride and determination, and they share enthusiasm and hard work.  Children in China, in Russia, in South Africa and in England – and now, in Palestine – share a fierce passion for the beauty and challenge of gymnastics.

The Core PM gymnasts getting ready for a workout!!

When I read TYO’s posting for the international internship position in Nablus, my thoughts immediately jumped to gymnastics.  TYO was in search of individuals with experience with youth athletics - people who could pass that knowledge along to a group of children who need the psychosocial benefits athletic endeavors provide.  Having spent over fifteen years coaching gymnastics, I knew the benefits that the sport to could bring to young Palestinians and in turn, to the future of Nablus.

In my opinion, involvement in organized sports benefits any child who commits to the challenge.  And it isn’t just my opinion; the benefits of gymnastics are well researched and proven.  Bill Sands, a respected expert who writes extensively about the science and psychology of gymnastics, reports: “Gymnastics shares with other sports the opportunity to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship, fair play, dedication, and so forth… Gymnastics helps people learn to work hard for objectives that can take years to achieve. In the modern world of quick-fixes, instant communication, instant hamburgers, and instant entertainment, there still needs to be a place for young people to develop their character.”

The children living in Palestine need exactly this: skills in teamwork, fair play, and a means through which to develop their character.  They need to understand that in order to create change, one must persevere in the face of adversity.  They must appreciate that there is no “quick-fix”, and only with hard work and commitment can their communities change.  They must have pride in themselves, their teammates, and their abilities to achieve.  Gymnastics is the vehicle with which these skills can be conquered.

TYO Intern Jessica teaching Hiba the correct way to perform a bridge

Today in class, I watched as twenty 6 year olds pushed up into a bridge for the first time.  Performed correctly, the skill requires looking at the floor. The Core PM children couldn’t keep their eyes down – they looked everywhere but at the floor.  They looked at the world from this new position and smiled and laughed.  Their happiness and pride was contagious – a feeling of hope that I hope catches and spreads across all of Nablus.

- Jessica

Jessica is a Fall 2013 intern at TYO in Nablus