WAG An Open Letter to My Daughter's Coach . . .

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Aug 7, 2014
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So, this is a weird sport. We've been around it for a while and I tend to be a sponge and soak everything up without saying much. When I have concerns, I address them with the coach; otherwise, I just sit back and watch. I frequent CB, though mostly as a troll reading through other people's posts (I generally read many of them out of curiosity, though I have on one or two occasions been able to tell DD when she complains about something 'Hey, I saw a post on CB (or another forum) about that very issue and here's what the commenters had to say.'). On one of my trips through these forums I came across this and thought it might be worth sharing. I don't know if I fully agree with the letter writer (whoever he/she is), but I think there are some nuggets of truth and wisdom to be gained from the letter. Thoughts?

(Note: I have removed personal references like gymnast/parent names, club names, locations, etc.).

An Open Letter to My Daughter's Coach
Let me begin by saying thank you. Thank you for putting up with my sometimes moody and irrational daughter on a daily basis. Thank you for striving to be a positive influence on her life. Thank you for understanding that she is a human being whose behavior isn't always going to make sense. Thank you for dealing with her tears and fears, her highs and lows, her mental blocks and mental breakthroughs. Thank you for everything you are to her, and to us.

I would also like to say thank you for everything you do for the parents, for your efforts to create a happy, positive environment for us. And thank you for also being a fallible human being because that shows my daughter that perfection is neither the standard nor the expectation. Thank you for messing up and making mistakes. Thank you for showing her that life continues even after the biggest screw ups and that sometimes all that is needed is a sincere apology and a promise to do better tomorrow.

Having said that, though, there is something that bothers me. Why the favoritsm? I'm fully aware that some kids are more coachable than others; some kids work harder than others; some kids are more driven and determined; some kids fear nothing; some kids have a better attitude and work ethic. And some are just easier to get along with. But why alienate parents in favor of other parents? I want to believe this is not intentional, but having sat back and watched for a number of years, I'm not so sure it is. Some kids will go farther in the sport, this is true. Some kids want to go far in the sport but can't (for any number of reasons). Some kids just want to have fun and challenge themselves every day. Do you prefer to coach one of these groups more than the others? That's a slippery slope. Sure, some kids are insanely talented and it is apparent from a very early age, but that number is small. Some kids have to grow into their bodies. Some kids have to learn how to use their bodies. Some kids simply lack maturity at 4, 5, or 6 years old (or 10, 11, 12 years old). Are the parents of the dynamos better parents for you? I certainly hope not. Are they the foundation of your program? Again, I certainly hope not.

It is not just the parents who notice this--kids are incredibly observant and they know when someone is receiving preferential treatment. I don't know how many have the maturity to speak up (I'm going to guess no many), but when confronted about it, why the denials? Even if it is an issue of perception, why not practice some introspection and ask yourself what is going on that would, or could, create that perception? I know this is a difficult thing to do, and it does require an admission that you yourself are not perfect. But it will be tremendously beneficial in the long run. Yes, for a majority of the girls, their perception is off. Maybe it was a specific event, or maybe they're just having a bad day. And perhaps even for some parents their perception, too, is off. But why not address the concern, even if you think it is frivolous, instead of circling the wagons? The one thing kids need more than anything is to know their adults are authentic, and part of being an authentic human being is maintaining integrity and credibility.

I have seen many talented kids come and go from the program, also for any number of reasons. But I have also seen parents pull their kids because of the favoritism. This is unfortunate. Whatever need parents are trying to satisfy, filling it through the success of their child--especially when that success necessarily comes at the expense of another--should not be encouraged. Frustrating parents who only want the best for their child because you perceive them to be 'difficult' or 'negative' runs counter to what you're trying to accomplish. Ultimately, you'll be left with a small group of reasonably talented girls and a reputation among the gym community that you probably don't want.

I know this letter will put me in that group of 'difficult' parents. You may even see me as being too 'negative'. But nobody is perfect; we all are in need of improvement. I sincerely hope that this letter has the intended effect of making the gym a better place for all involved. You are such an integral part of our lives and we truly want only the best for you, but running off talented girls simply because they aren't 'favorited' and allowing truly toxic parents to have your ear benefits no one, least of all your gymnasts.

Sincerely,
[Name Removed]
 

kayjaybe

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My thoughts are that it won’t make one bit of difference. (I know this isn’t y0ur letter, but you asked for thoughts.)

We have experienced coaches like this and I think they have a different perspective. Perhaps they are trying to make a name for themselves as a coach and see this as the way to do it. If that is their career trajectory, then they need to focus on the “stars” to get there.

I think it is up to the gym owner (if the coach is not the owner) to control this, so the writer should consider giving a copy to the gym owner as well. If this favoritism is not what the owner wants for his gym, then he will hopefully address it.

Unfortunately, it can really divide a gym. I watched it happen with ours. The situation has now resolved itself and the girls are SO much happier. I love that my non-star DD gets the same focus and attention that the girls on the top of the podium get. I love that they make decisions on what is best for her, not what is easiest for them.
 

QueenBee

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I have a slightly different perspective on this. I think too many times we, as parents, can get caught up in whether Stacey is getting more attention than our Susie without stepping back to figure out whether Susie is getting the attention she needs at her point in gymnastics. And, unfortunately...many parents use meet results or skill progression (in comparison to other gymnasts) to determine if their Susie didn't get what she deserved from the coach.

I have heard parents bitterly complain that their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child just finished sweeping a podium, and I have heard parents complain their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child doesn't have the meet they thought their child was going to have (falls and mistakes happen at every level). The only common thread between those bitter complaints usually is the parent comparing their Susie's results to Stacey's results.

"Thank you for congratulating me on Susie's 1st AA finish today. But think about how much better she could have scored if the coaches didn't favor Stacey. Stacey scored four tenths higher (in a different age division) than Susie today, and I know Susie could have scored just as high (if not higher!) if only the coaches would give her the attention she deserves!"

"I cannot believe Susie fell on her beam cartwheel. It's only because the coaches didn't give her enough attention this week. Susie says she wasn't coached at all on beam this entire week before the meet...I've had to help Susie with her cartwheels on our home beam because the coaches were too busy working with Stacey instead on concentrating on my Susie."

"I can't believe the coach won't let Susie train her BHS BHS on the high beam. Susie told me she can do the skill but the coach won't let her because the coach says Susie is 'scared'. Ha! I would know if my Susie was scared of her beam series, and she isn't! Stacey already has a BHS BLO...why oh why won't the coach let my Susie do the skills I am sure she can do?"

I wish I could say I was exaggerating the statements above, but if anything I am sharing mild examples of what I have heard in my many years of gymnastics. I don't know who said it first, but comparison really is the thief of joy.

If you are at a gym where you trust the coaches, where your child is making progress, and whose philosophy on training and progression makes sense to you - my best advice is to stop worrying about whether Stacey is moving faster through skills, or getting higher scores. Stacey's gymnastics have literally nothing to do with your Susie's gymnastics. Each child is on their own timeline, each child will progress at their own rate. Life isn't fair and coaches aren't going to have the same relationship with each gymnast (or their parents). Coaches aren't robots and it isn't right to expect them to treat each child the exact same way. Appropriate interactions is not equivalent to "exactly same" interactions.

If you don't trust the coaches, you don't think your child is making progress, and you don't agree with the gym's training/progression choices...find another gym. Don't waste your time stewing in the parent viewing area and competition meet stands about favoritism. You do neither your child nor yourself any good being angry or sending 'open letters' of passive aggressive complaints regarding favoritism.
 

kayjaybe

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I have a slightly different perspective on this. I think too many times we, as parents, can get caught up in whether Stacey is getting more attention than our Susie without stepping back to figure out whether Susie is getting the attention she needs at her point in gymnastics. And, unfortunately...many parents use meet results or skill progression (in comparison to other gymnasts) to determine if their Susie didn't get what she deserved from the coach.

I have heard parents bitterly complain that their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child just finished sweeping a podium, and I have heard parents complain their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child doesn't have the meet they thought their child was going to have (falls and mistakes happen at every level). The only common thread between those bitter complaints usually is the parent comparing their Susie's results to Stacey's results.

"Thank you for congratulating me on Susie's 1st AA finish today. But think about how much better she could have scored if the coaches didn't favor Stacey. Stacey scored four tenths higher (in a different age division) than Susie today, and I know Susie could have scored just as high (if not higher!) if only the coaches would give her the attention she deserves!"

"I cannot believe Susie fell on her beam cartwheel. It's only because the coaches didn't give her enough attention this week. Susie says she wasn't coached at all on beam this entire week before the meet...I've had to help Susie with her cartwheels on our home beam because the coaches were too busy working with Stacey instead on concentrating on my Susie."

"I can't believe the coach won't let Susie train her BHS BHS on the high beam. Susie told me she can do the skill but the coach won't let her because the coach says Susie is 'scared'. Ha! I would know if my Susie was scared of her beam series, and she isn't! Stacey already has a BHS BLO...why oh why won't the coach let my Susie do the skills I am sure she can do?"

I wish I could say I was exaggerating the statements above, but if anything I am sharing mild examples of what I have heard in my many years of gymnastics. I don't know who said it first, but comparison really is the thief of joy.

If you are at a gym where you trust the coaches, where your child is making progress, and whose philosophy on training and progression makes sense to you - my best advice is to stop worrying about whether Stacey is moving faster through skills, or getting higher scores. Stacey's gymnastics have literally nothing to do with your Susie's gymnastics. Each child is on their own timeline, each child will progress at their own rate. Life isn't fair and coaches aren't going to have the same relationship with each gymnast (or their parents). Coaches aren't robots and it isn't right to expect them to treat each child the exact same way. Appropriate interactions is not equivalent to "exactly same" interactions.

If you don't trust the coaches, you don't think your child is making progress, and you don't agree with the gym's training/progression choices...find another gym. Don't waste your time stewing in the parent viewing area and competition meet stands about favoritism. You do neither your child nor yourself any good being angry or sending 'open letters' of passive aggressive complaints regarding favoritism.

Well, in the case at our gym, it would be things like coach is working with group A on Bars, but his favorite was on beam. He would REPEATEDLY be watching across the gym to favorite and coaching and encouraging her while ignoring the group he was supposed to be working with (while she HAD a coach on beam working with her). In our case, it wasn’t about the fact that Susie got more turns or something ridiculous like that. I couldn’t have cared less if my dd never got coached by “big coach” because he was assigned to the top girls. (I actually think that would have resolved the issue.) But if you ARE coaching my dd, pay attention to her and the group you are with, not someone on an event you aren’t even assigned to at that moment.

And in my case, it had absolutely nothing to do with performance or scores. My dd is strictly a middle-of-the-road gymnast. No matter how much attention she gets, she is never going to be a L10 top of the podiumkid. But when I pay the same amount of money for coaching as another parent, when you are coaching my kid, focus on my kid and her group, not your favorite across the gym.

So yes, there were TRUE favoritism issues and they are since resolved, I’m happy to say.
 

ldw4mlo

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3 things pop immediately

1- there are at least 3 sides to every story. Yours, mine and the truth.

2- fair is not everyone being treated the same and given everyone the same. Fair is giving folks what they need to succeed.

Finally 3- people are imperfect. They are human. They come with their own histories baggage and biases. Best you can hope for is that the baggage is neatly stowed. And the only bagged you can control is your own.

Might have more upon pondering.

Everyone needs to find their own fit.
 
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coachmolly

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I think favoritism is real in the gym world and a completely valid concern, but I also wouldn't be quick to jump to conclusions. Maybe you have seen this happening for a long time and have pretty concrete proof of what's going on, I have absolutely seen that happen and it stinks for the kid and is not right. It breaks my heart when I see that kind of thing because I experienced it as a child and know the impact it had on me. But I think if you want your letter to really hit home, you might want to mention more specific examples of what you see happening in the gym, how it is perceived by you, and how it is being perceived by your daughter. I think that would carry far more weight than some vague references to favoritism. Bring them to the gym owner first, ask him/her to keep an eye on it. If they are good at their job, they will watch practices discretely and get a sense of what's happening and address it with specific coaches as necessary. I think simply handing a letter like this to a coach would serve to only worsen the problem and deplete any sense of trust that had been present.

However, coming from the perspective of a coach, I think sometimes there is more than meets the eye. Sometimes a coach knows that one kid has something going on at home and needs a little extra attention, knows a kid is about to hang it all up out of frustration and needs extra encouragement, is harder on Kid 1 because the coach sees her potential and knows she needs to be pushed and a little easier on Kid 2 because coach knows she is doing the best she can. There are times I will celebrate wildly with one kid over a very mediocre performance because I know it was the best she could possibly do while another kid will just get a "good job" and high five for a higher scoring routine because I know she could have done better had she not been goofing off with her friends 30 seconds before competing.
Few parents see (or care) about the work the coaches put in behind the scenes. The unpaid time they spend thinking about a kid, how to fix this skill or that one, how to keep her in the gym, how to build a better team. What a thankless job coaching can really be and how some of us drag ourselves into the gym every night, put on a smile for 4 hours before walking out the doors totally defeated and not entirely sure why they keep doing this to themselves. If I received a letter like this from a parent, I would be inconsolably devastated and probably opt to step away from the gym for a few months- or forever. So remember that coaches are real people too- with feelings, things going on in their lives outside of the gym, reasons for doing what they do.
 

GAgymmom

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I have a slightly different perspective on this. I think too many times we, as parents, can get caught up in whether Stacey is getting more attention than our Susie without stepping back to figure out whether Susie is getting the attention she needs at her point in gymnastics. And, unfortunately...many parents use meet results or skill progression (in comparison to other gymnasts) to determine if their Susie didn't get what she deserved from the coach.

I have heard parents bitterly complain that their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child just finished sweeping a podium, and I have heard parents complain their child isn't getting enough attention/favoritism when their child doesn't have the meet they thought their child was going to have (falls and mistakes happen at every level). The only common thread between those bitter complaints usually is the parent comparing their Susie's results to Stacey's results.

"Thank you for congratulating me on Susie's 1st AA finish today. But think about how much better she could have scored if the coaches didn't favor Stacey. Stacey scored four tenths higher (in a different age division) than Susie today, and I know Susie could have scored just as high (if not higher!) if only the coaches would give her the attention she deserves!"

"I cannot believe Susie fell on her beam cartwheel. It's only because the coaches didn't give her enough attention this week. Susie says she wasn't coached at all on beam this entire week before the meet...I've had to help Susie with her cartwheels on our home beam because the coaches were too busy working with Stacey instead on concentrating on my Susie."

"I can't believe the coach won't let Susie train her BHS BHS on the high beam. Susie told me she can do the skill but the coach won't let her because the coach says Susie is 'scared'. Ha! I would know if my Susie was scared of her beam series, and she isn't! Stacey already has a BHS BLO...why oh why won't the coach let my Susie do the skills I am sure she can do?"

I wish I could say I was exaggerating the statements above, but if anything I am sharing mild examples of what I have heard in my many years of gymnastics. I don't know who said it first, but comparison really is the thief of joy.

If you are at a gym where you trust the coaches, where your child is making progress, and whose philosophy on training and progression makes sense to you - my best advice is to stop worrying about whether Stacey is moving faster through skills, or getting higher scores. Stacey's gymnastics have literally nothing to do with your Susie's gymnastics. Each child is on their own timeline, each child will progress at their own rate. Life isn't fair and coaches aren't going to have the same relationship with each gymnast (or their parents). Coaches aren't robots and it isn't right to expect them to treat each child the exact same way. Appropriate interactions is not equivalent to "exactly same" interactions.

If you don't trust the coaches, you don't think your child is making progress, and you don't agree with the gym's training/progression choices...find another gym. Don't waste your time stewing in the parent viewing area and competition meet stands about favoritism. You do neither your child nor yourself any good being angry or sending 'open letters' of passive aggressive complaints regarding favoritism.
Sadly, I have heard most of these things said. I have also watched coaches blatantly favoring certain gymnasts over others. Its sad, but its a reality. I try to tell my gymnasts that every where in life things like this happen: at work, at school, even in families. I try to give mine coping techniques, but at the end of the day, it still stings. The letter was a nice try, but it most likely didn't make a difference (for whomever wrote it). I'd be surprised if the author's gymnast didn't find a new gym before the month was out. I also understand that some personalities are just easier to be around or work with, and some personalities are more difficult to work with. As human beings, we tend to gravitate toward what is more agreeable.
 

QueenBee

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@kayjaybe Glad to hear the issues at your gym were resolved. It sounds like your issue with your coach was he/she was not training the gymnasts they were supposed to be training. It wouldn't matter to me why the coach wasn't coaching (if this was a persistent issue), the lack of coaching and the safety issue would be the issue. Every single gymnast training at a club deserves to get the training they are promised when they joined the club.
 
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bookworm

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I would never send a letter like the one in the OP...unless I was prepared to be shown the door, and not be surprised about it.

Queen Bee makes several valid points with the bottom line being what the coaches are doing with other kids is not your concern, only what they are doing with your kid. If you're going to analyze every minute of practice time and who it favors, you're in for a long tedious ride.
 
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Let me offer some clarifications I think I missed in my OP...

First, I didn't write the letter. I came across it on another forum and copied and pasted it here to see what people with many different experiences think of the concerns expressed by the writer.

Second, there IS favoritism at our gym, but that's just life. As long as my DD is happy and feels that she is getting the coaching she needs to be successful, and as long as I don't see or hear any rude comments made by parents about other parents, kids, or coaches, I'm perfectly happy to sit back and watch DD have fun and enjoy being a kid.

We do have friends at another gym in which favoritism is blatant and encouraged. Unfortunately for them, they have two kids on team--one is a favorite, the other is not. One is happy, the other is not (no surprise). I hear the grumblings of favoritism (mostly through screening DD's texts, IG, and snaps) but don' directly have personal experience with it, hence my curiosity in posting the letter.

Comparing kids to one another is human nature (comparing one human to another is human nature). I don't necessarily think the problem is in making comparison's between kids necessarily, but in WHAT comparison is being made. Are you comparing to very different gymnastics styles? This is an okay comparison in my book because it is not a negative comparison. Are you comparing an older/higher level kid with your younger/lower level kid with a similar body style to try and predict how that coach will coach your kid when she moves up into his group? Again, an okay comparison (as long as you know your conclusion may be wrong). Are you comparing scores between two kids? Well, now I think we've entered into a danger zone. We live in Texas and and last year's state meet for our level was pretty crazy. In the junior groups, if your scores weren't north of 37 you could pretty much forget about making the Regional team; but in the senior groups, all you needed was to be in the 34-35 range to make the team. It was a HUGE disparity, but reflects that we've reached a level in which the skills are much easier to done when you still have the body of a child, thus the scores will be higher.

The one thing in the letter that stuck out to me, though, is the comment about parents deriving their sense of identity from their kid's success. I have seen in our gym, unfortunately, parents compare a first year kid to a kid who is repeating the level and then get irate with the coach (and the parents of the other kid!) because their kid was not performing as well as the repeater. I was, to be honest, blown away because this is an apples and oranges comparison. You don't know why the kid is repeating the level, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with current level skills. Maybe she was injured and was out for a couple of months and the coaches decided it would psychologically be in the kid's best interest to repeat the level instead of competing a level that she would be mediocre at best. Maybe the kid is struggling to pick up skills for the next level and so repeating is in her best interest. Maybe the kid had a conversation with the coach and the result of that conversation was the decision to repeat the level (for any crazy reason that isn't necessarily obvious). (And yes, the two kids in question happened to be the same age and in the same age group). This is a dangerous place to be because now, not only are you hostile with the coach because your kid is getting beat, but now you've created some animosity between yourself and the other parent and, quite possibly, between the two kids who, up until that point, couldn't have cared less about the whole situation. I'm not sure there's an adequate solution to that issue, but I do think it will eventually take care of itself.

Sadly, I have heard most of these things said. I have also watched coaches blatantly favoring certain gymnasts over others. Its sad, but its a reality. I try to tell my gymnasts that every where in life things like this happen: at work, at school, even in families. I try to give mine coping techniques, but at the end of the day, it still stings. The letter was a nice try, but it most likely didn't make a difference (for whomever wrote it). I'd be surprised if the author's gymnast didn't find a new gym before the month was out. I also understand that some personalities are just easier to be around or work with, and some personalities are more difficult to work with. As human beings, we tend to gravitate toward what is more agreeable.

This is true. I would never send DD's coaches a letter--if I have this type of issue and I feel it is creating a negative environment at the gym, I'll request a one-on-one meeting with the coaches. Even then, I don't know that it would achieve anything more than making them aware that there is an issue (or even a perceived issue) that should be addressed. But still, there are no guarantees that the coach will do anything about it.
 
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jenjean70

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" I don't know who said it first, but comparison really is the thief of joy."
My youngest son (whose twin brother is the gymnast and gets all As in school) heard this saying on the news and pipes up with "It depends on who you are comparing your self to!" I lol'ed at that one- it's totally his personality! Actually none of my boys compare themselves to others- I am the one who has always been guilty of that. :(
 

tucktwisttumble

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I don't really have time to read through everyone's responses right now, but something came to mind as I was skimming...

Life isn't fair. Suzie is going to grow up and be an NCAA athlete, Sally is going to quit gymnastics and pursue music, Sammi is going to drop out of school and work for the family business... etc etc. All very different, but equally "valid" paths. What is the commonality?
Each and every one of them will experience favoritism in their given/ chosen life paths. Whether they fall victim to it, or they are the favorite, or they play favorites in their CEO-position, it is going to happen. Life isn't fair - but it is something we have to learn to deal with. Dealing with it can be addressing it, removing yourself from it or tolerating it.
Like someone above said - it is human nature. We are going to compare each other, we are going to gravitate more to one person than the other - and that could be (perceived as) favoritism.

The sooner kids can learn this and learn how they best cope - the better everyone is.

Last thought as I too experienced SO much favoritism in dance growing up... My mom always told me to "find something that makes you the favorite". Meaning, there is a group/clique/job for everyone that makes them feel good about themselves. We all just have to find it!

I hope this didn't sound too cynical. I just think it is a matter of reality.
 
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