Does your athlete seem to be in a position of not moving forward in their sport? Does your athlete seem to have shut down? Does your athlete talk to you about their passion for their sport? Many times parents make decisions based on their own logistics (commute, financial, etc.) and do not take into account how it actually affects their athlete. When children are happy, then tend to want to talk about their accomplishments and how much they like what they are doing. However, when they are unhappy, they tend to shut down.
Gymnastics is an incredible sport and teaches athletes so many different lifelong skills (i.e., time management, dedication, healthy lifestyle choices, determination, respect, and desire). One time I personally thought my son was no longer happy at his gym – as a last ditch effort I decided to take him to a gym closer to home and more convenient for me; however, that was the worst mistake I could have made.
He rapidly lost interest in the sport, slowly stopped going to practice, and within two months was no longer in the sport but running the streets getting into trouble. His old coach sat me down and said – I stopped by your son’s gym today to pay my meet fees and saw him at the pommel horse. I went over to talk to him and asked him how he was doing. His response was “Coach, I don’t know what I am doing here, this is NOT my gym”. I did not know what to do with this information as my son and I were barely on speaking terms and as hard as I tried, I could not figure out why he resented me.
A few more months went by and things just kept getting worse. Finally, one day out of the blue, my son said “I want to go back to gymnastics at my old gym with my real coach”. We called his coach and he immediately invited us to talk to him. My son returned to the gym after 6 months, loving every minute of being back with his team and coach. He competed that weekend in a meet and took 1st place. His passion and heart were back.
I watched this happen to so many children. The parents would get upset with something a coach said or did, or the gym changed a schedule, etc. and take their youth to another gym. Then they wondered why their child was sad, quiet, no longer loving the sport, no longer giving it their best.
Gymnastics is a sport that requires an incredible amount of time and dedication from not only the athlete but also the parents. If parents are going to spend the money on their child to be the best they can be, then it should be something that is discussed with the athlete as well. Contracts were renewed every September in our old gym. Before I signed that contract and made the commitment to pay the fees, uniform, meet fees, volunteer my time for meets, and meet the fundraising goal, I sat the children down and had a discussion on if they absolutely wanted to make the year long commitment. Face it, if it is not in their heart to continue, perhaps the best thing is to seek alternative sports. The commitment needs to be from BOTH the athlete and the parents.
Recently a head coach retired and parents at the gym were already trying to decide where to take their kids because they did not feel that the two coaches that remained were “good enough” for their athlete. People called and asked our advice. I had to sit down and truly think about how to respond. But loyalty means so much – coaches working with athletes many hours a day/week/month/year, they become close (like family). My response was “you need to do what is best for your athlete”.
I was so impressed after talking to one parent who just did not know what to do as there was a gym much closer to her home and for her convenience it would have been easier. However, she took the route of asking her children to sit down and write her a letter as to what they saw as their future with gymnastics. She gave them the option of staying, moving to a new gym closer to home, or quitting the sport. Both her children wrote incredibly moving letters – each of them offering to give more to the sport. But the bottom line was they pleaded to stay at their current gym because they wanted to stay with their team and their coaches. Coaches and athletes have disagreements frequently as the coach is trying to push the athlete to be the best they can be while the athlete is just struggling with a skill, tired, or stressed. But at the end of the day, their relationship is unique. The athlete knows that when they leave the gym, the coach is still proud of them and when they walk back in the gym the next day, it’s a new day and a new start.
Lifelong friendships are formed around the chalk tray, while working out, competing together yet against each other. Bonds are formed between coaches and athletes that are treasured a life time. Sometimes, it is truly best to talk to your athlete about what it is that they want – isn’t it them putting in the practice time, competing, and being judged? If they are not happy, then no one is. Talk to your child – ask them to write down what they want to do – sometimes you will be on the same page, but sometimes you may have to swallow your pride and realize that what might be logistically best for you, might not be the answer for your youth.