Gymnastics as a part of physical training has been familiar to New Zealand schoolboys ever since gymnasiums were set up in colleges and high schools. More recently the youth work of such organisations as the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Associations, Boys' and Girls' Brigades, and district clubs has introduced gymnastics to boys and girls of all ages. Most New Zealand towns now have some gymnastic facilities for their people.
It is, however, only comparatively recently that gymnastics have been nationally organised. In October 1956 the New Zealand Gymnastic Association was properly constituted by the combined efforts of the three existing associations in Auckland, Hamilton, and Taranaki. Auckland has had an association since 1948, Hamilton since 1954, and Taranaki since 1955.
For some time the national development of the sport was slow. But the influence of the Hungarian-born first president, A. Pillich, and his German wife, with their wide knowledge and advice, gradually spread a knowledge of international gymnastic trends through most districts. A notable development at this stage was the opening of club membership to women. They quickly made their presence felt and brought with them a new wave of enthusiasm. A State grant in 1958 made possible a system of incentive awards for skill in gymnastic fundamentals. Under this scheme 3,000 awards are made annually to boys and girls. Successful national championships have been held every year since 1958.
Fourteen district associations, as well as many individual clubs, are now affiliated with the New Zealand association. The total membership is over 16,500, including children, teenagers, and adults. The national association's code of gymnastics is practised in some form in every city and borough, and the New Zealand association is affiliated to the Fédration Internationale de Gymnastique and the New Zealand British Empire and Olympic Games Association.
Overseas competition has been confined to privately sponsored tours of Australian centres by a men's team in 1957 and a squad of women in 1960. Both gained excellent results. The men's team included A. McNabb who won the inter-university gymnastic competition at Cambridge (England) in 1954 and, as captain of the Cambridge Union Gymnastic Club, was runner-up in the following year. In 1964 New Zealand was represented at the Olympic Games by a team of three women gymnasts who were unplaced.