Clothes call: Local gym demands gender-specific attire for kids

Some gymnastics programs let little kids wear shorts and T-shirts. Others want girls in leotards. (Stock Photo) Some gymnastics programs let little kids wear shorts and T-shirts. Others want girls in leotards. (Stock Photo)

Julia Lapan’s 3-year-old daughter was excited to take her first gymnastics class at Classics Gymnastics. “She ran onto the floor,”—only to be sent back because she was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.

“I bristled at that because she was wearing what the boys were,” says Lapan, who asked that her daughter’s name not be used. “The coaches gave me quite a bit of pushback.”

At another class, the little girl, now 4, was wearing a leotard with shorts when the coach sent her back off the floor because the shorts weren’t approved, says Lapan. “This time she was crying.”

The mother says she’s frustrated and finds the dress code sexist, especially for kids whose young whose bodies look pretty much the same.

Spencer Watkins, the owner of Classics Gymnastics, says there are good reasons for the attire policy, which mandates leotards with footless tights or bike tights for girls and T-shirts with gym shorts for boys.

“The biggest issue is accidental nudity,” he says. “They spend a lot of time upside down.”

The other is that with coaches catching kids, there can be a lot of hands-on. Coaches don’t want to touch kids “in places where they’d be uncomfortable,” says Watkins. “That’s something we don’t want.”

He also notes that competitive teams compete in leotards.

Other programs for kids offer more leeway in attire. The Little Gym, for instance, is a noncompetitive facility, and children can wear shorts or leotards, says owner Sarah Oliva. “The only thing we require is that kids go barefoot.”

At the Ballet School of Charlottesville, Atsuko Nakamoto says students wear different colored leotards so she can tell which class she’s teaching. Are there exceptions? “Naturally,” she answers.

Students can wear shorts or a scarf so they can be more comfortable, she says. “I ask them to wear fitted clothes so I can see the body line so I can correct it,” she says. “If a kid wants to wear shorts, I’m fine with it as long as there are no pockets, because they want to put their hands in them.”

Lapan says Watkins has offered to give her a refund, but except for the dress code, she likes the gym.

“I see how society treats girls and boys differently,” she says. “I just want them to play by the same rules. Girls feel like they can’t speak up.”

The worst, she says, is “for toddlers to be subjected to different dress codes and for them to be humiliated and sent off the floor.” And she worries about children who are gender nonconforming.

During the era of #MeToo and the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, Lapan says, “It’s time to shine a spotlight on sexist policies that create false dichotomies between boys and girls, not to mention being totally tone deaf to the needs of trans and gender-nonconforming children.”

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kelseymooney
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kelseymooney

I actually thought the same … kind of crazy for young kids.

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

People who are disturbed emotionally subject their children to issues. Disgusting.

Sandra Holbrook
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Sandra Holbrook

I brought this up to them a couple years ago when my 4 year old forgot (well I forgot) her leotard but she had bike shorts on. She had to borrow one. I asked them why and was told that they want the kids wearing what they would wear for competitions. I looked at the boys and they all had gym shorts on. I asked then what the boys wear in competition and they told me short style leotards so I followed that well why aren’t they wearing the leotards?. I was told they can he hard to fine and… Read more »

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

Goof for you!

Jennifer Beard
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Jennifer Beard

I took my daughter (two and a half at the time) to a trial toddler class at Classics Gymnastics. Ten minutes into class, the instructor basically threw her hands up and said that she couldn’t help my daughter. We left in tears (both of us) feeling humiliated and alienated. About the start our fourth session of PB&J at Carver Recreation. My daughter loves it and has learned so much there about how to get her body to do what she wants it to do. The two instructors we’ve had were sweet, creative, and patient. Ableist and sexist businesses don’t get… Read more »

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

Good for you!

Gayle Millner
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Gayle Millner

So…accidental nudity is ok for boys???

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

Your comment makes absolutely no sense.

Bill Marshall
Member
Bill Marshall

So a business does something that MAY be controversial.. the public reads the story and the public decides whether or not to support the business. This is the way america and capitalism works. If the business fails due to the policy than a lesson will be learned… if all of a sudden their business takes off then the competition can learn a lesson…The same goes for restaurants that don’t want children or are pet friendly or unfriendly. The same holds true for people who don’t want to bake a cake with a cross on it. Let the people decide. As… Read more »

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

Yep.

els
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els

Thank you for this interesting story. Our community, generally, would and should support that children wear what is SAFE, COMFORTABLE, and AFFORDABLE. Children don’t earn their own money and can’t buy clothes. So this is actually about PARENTS or ADULT GUARDIANS of the children. PARENTS can reasonably be asked to provide their children clothing that is SAFE, COMFORTABLE and AFFORDABLE. Perhaps some clothing requirements feel ‘un-safe’ and ‘un-comfortable’ to some children – or their parents – or the business/school/facility owner/manager. There cannot be ONE SUIT OF CLOTHES that satisfies all perspectives on safety. There MUST BE accommodations that meet an… Read more »

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

Everyone has the freedom to wear SAFE, COMFORTABLE, and AFFORDABLE clothing at home.

els
Guest
els

And, parents and guardians of dependents, are morally required to provide safe, comfortable and affordable clothing to children. When parents and guardians take children to participate in activities with other children, the standards of ‘safety’ and ‘comfort’ in the privacy of the home can conflict with the standards of a public activity, e.g. school, e.g. playground, pool, e.g. doctor’s office, e.g. in this case, the kiddie gym. There is not a single standard. After all, in some homes, ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘affordable’ is nude children, or children in diapers until they are 12, but that is not ‘safe’ or ‘comfortable’… Read more »

Kenneth A Martin
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Kenneth A Martin

I agree and if the standards or requirements are different outside of the home then the parents should either abide by those standards or not take their dependent there. And the parents should not engage in confrontations concerning those standards in front of the children.

els
Guest
els

we agree. thank you for engaging a clarifying conversation, with a rational purpose, rather than an ideological thrust … something few are doing these days … in the White House, in local City Hall, or among the ‘screamers’ – as Mr Trump said – ‘on all sides’.