By Coach Brian Keith Shrewsbury
Learn to Be Patient or Pay the Price
When athletes are training in gymnastics it is very important to help them set their goals and allow them to achieve their goals without pressure. Making sure they get encouragement along the way is vital too. Often times coaches and parents will push athletes to acheive from the sidelines. Encouragement is necessary and helpful to gymnasts, and will help them achieve their goals. However too much encouragement or discouragement becomes a distraction. Gymnasts trying to please their parents instead of concentrating on their training will ultimately be self defeating to everyone.
Gymnasts must learn to believe in themselves, and understand that they can accomplish and win by hard work, goal setting and making their own decisions about their achievements. A child’s success should never live or die on what a parent, or a coach thinks. It is very sad to see passion in an athletes become when his or her goal is pleasing instead of achieving for his or herself. Passion comes from within, not from parents or coaches or any other outside source. Gymnasts of course need support and encouragement and that encouargement should come with rules and boundaries set by parents, coaches and athletes.
Back eight or nine years ago when I was coaching gymnastics, I had the honor to coach my son Kellen Tichenor. Today he is a gymnastics coach himself, and my business partner. He is a very kind and compassionate person to his gymnasts. He is always encouraging and trying to help his students set goals for themselves. I can’t say as a coach, I was always as kind and compassionate Kellen is. Often times I pushed my athletes, and at times I was very disappointed in my athletes when I felt that they could have done better. In my early years some of my methods for training were negative. That negativity was passed on sometimes to my gymnasts wanting to please me.
The negative days never helped them to achieve; negative criticism does not make a gymnast feel good about themselves or their accomplishment. Over years the stress can hurt relationships, both parenting and coaching. Fortunately as the years passed I grew up, I became a better coach and I learned to realize that encouraging my gymnasts and guiding them to set their own goals took more patience, and was more rewarding both them and myself.
So, if you are one of those parents that chatters on the sidelines or shows their disappointment on your face to your child; it will eventually backfire on you. Children and athletes want to please those around them when they are younger and that will change. Athletes begin to mature and that pleasing attitude will turn around and become oppositional and defiant. As the child learns the parent should learn; some things work, some things don’t. At times it is better to not have an opinion than to have too much of one. If your child seems disappointed, encourage them, help them get back on their feet. Don’t give them excuses though either, and don’t make the mistake of feeling their feelings for them. Let your athlete experience their own joy or sadness, they will survive. Let them experience both the success and failure, they are equally important.
Being an athlete is not a one day or one week or one month experience. It is a journey through many years, and there will be mistakes made. As those mistakes are made by everyone, just learn to improve your delivery with your athlete and toward his or her coach too. Each person in the process to make an athlete are important. It takes a village to build an athlete up and just a few words to bring them down.
Years after I was finished coaching my son in gymnastics, we tried to have a business relationship which brought back some of the negatives from our coach and athlete days. Some of the coaching /athlete relationship was not as good as it should’ve been and some of those very same problems from that relationship carried over. We both ended up in business counseling and personal counseling to improve our relationship, and to learn boundaries. Counseling became one of the best things we could have decided to do. Creating boundaries and better communication helped my son develop his independence not only as an athlete but as a business owner and I learned to share equally in the decision making. Counseling and discussing our feelings in counseling helped us a great deal to understand when I should help and when I shouldn’t help. Today I believe we have a good working business relationship and we have become very close as a father and son too.
Lastly my advice to parents out there who have young athletes is to learn as much as you can about being patient. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you know how to parent at home, that you know how to parent an athlete. It does take a combination of understanding the sport and all the stresses that are involved in the sport. Your child will develop and learn in ways that you never imagined that they would. Sometimes you may understand the emotions and sometimes you won’t. Wait for your child to communicate his or her feelings to you; but don’t wait forever, you may have to start the diaolgue. It will be a frustrating experience sometimes, but the growth you will see will be rewarding in the end. When you see your child successful, happy and independent then you have done something right.
I raised all seven of my children in gymnastics at varying degrees of difficulty. Some were great gymnasts, some were average and some just did it for fun. Every one of their experiences was important and a positive to them and to me. I enjoyed the level of gymnastics that each of my children did and the relationship that I had beside them while they experienced what they wanted to get out of the sport. Even as a coach I learned as much as they did over the years, and I’m thankful for the experience that I have had with each and everyone of my children and students.