Written By Lisa Rau
Gymnastics is a sport that requires an extreme amount of dedication not only on the gymnast’s part but also on the parents. There is no question that gymnastics is demanding on both, but the trick is to flow with the waves as this provides an incredible experience your child will forever cherish, remember and take with them life-long lessons. This sport teaches more than how to practice year-round nearly 5-6 days a week and how to salute the judge and pray that they can hit 6 for 6 routines (speaking as a parent of boys in the sport).
When I look back to when my children were first enrolled in the sport, I thought it was a summer camp Flip and Slide for a week that then we would move on to the next adventure. At the end of the week, my children enjoyed the camp so much they enrolled in classes. Again, I thought they would get tired of the incredible amount of fitness exercises that were required and quit after the semester. How wrong I was! They saw this challenge through graduation from high school and college.
A divorced parent and trying to raise my children to be the best they could be was a challenge. Gymnastics kept them off the streets. They had schedules that kept them extremely busy from morning to night including weekends. They maintained excellent grades in school and graduated with honors from college. They were very respectful to everyone they met. School activities, trick or treating, birthday parties, movies were all things the children had to often pass on. Now grown adults, I have asked them if they are sorry that they did not get the chance to be a kid playing video games and hanging with friends going to parties, etc. Their response was overwhelming “not at all”.
As a parent, I often look back and wonder what I could do to help others gather some understanding how we (as a family) made it through years of training, meets, long summer days in the gym, and get the best experience we could. I, still to this day and will continue, to stay in touch with parents from the gym and my children continually talk to their team mates. We are so blessed and grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in gymnastics especially through a divorce when financial issues were a factor. The coaches and office works of the gymnastics center will always be recognized and receive thanks from us, because, we know that without their involvement in our lives, we truly don’t want to know where we might be today.
For years, I drove my children to gymnastics and sat upstairs watching. I considered gymnastics to be an incredible experience for them in every way physically and emotionally – so I decided I was going to be an active parent and let them know they had my support – so endlessly, day after day, I sat there watching. Some days seemed endless watching the same moves for months on end, waiting to see a new skill emerge. Watching routines evolve and knowing each element – so I knew if they made a mistake at their meets. I would not trade those hours of watching them.
As they were growing up, level after level, meet after meet, I followed some rules I heard from other parents when we joined the gym and made sure to keep in mind this was for my children and to find the best way to be a bystander as possible. I wanted them to enjoy their time on the floor with their coach as well as they wanted me to be able to say “yes I saw you do that tonight”.
Here’s just a few of my thoughts:
I can look back at our experiences in the gym at club level and college level and truly be proud of what gymnastics was able to provide for my children. It is not the job of the parent to micromanage the coach, the practice schedule, the meet schedule, or even the skills they are teaching. It is the parent’s job to SUPPORT the coach and put your trust in the coach. This will reflect to your child and the relationship you build with that coach will be life-long and treasured.
Gymnastics is a very rewarding but brutal sport. However, if everyone respects their individual role, it’s the athletes who will triumph!