WAG Featured Coaches, what do you think of parents that watch the entire practice?

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May 13, 2022
My daughter recently joined her gym’s Xcel Bronze team. The gym has two separate but adjoining gyms for team and recreational classes, and the lobby for the recreational classes is filled with chairs and has a low wall separating the gym and lobby that can be easily seen over while sitting. Many of the parents stay and watch their kids during class. When my daughter was in recreational classes, I was in the habit of staying and watching about half the time. Now that she is in the team gym I want to continue to watch some of the time, but the lobby is set up so that you have to crane your neck or stand to see anything, and only a handful of chairs. Also practices are now 3 hours, which is a long time to sit around in the lobby. A couple parents are usually hanging around but not in large numbers like the rec gym. I feel awkward there and don’t want to be ‘that parent’ but also enjoy seeing her progress. Gymnastics is frankly a beautiful sport to watch. Do coaches like when parents stay to watch team practice or is it seen as intrusive? I feel so conspicuous.

Parents feel free to answer as well. Please specify if you are a coach or a parent.​

We encourage parents to come and watch for short bursts at any time. For example... maybe their kid got a new skill on bars and they want to show their mom or dad.

We also let the parents know that all of our gymnasts who had parents watching 100% of the time during team workouts have quit. Parents are allowed to watch 100% of the time if they would like... but none in our team program do.
If you watch occasionally or for part of practice, I think that's fun. If it's all day everyday, I find it weird. We have one team parent right now who does that. She has three other kids so I just think it's goofy that she spends 2.5 hours twice a week watching her silver train gold. That's just me.

We do also send videos of new skills to parents, so most people don't feel like they miss anything.
At dd's gym, it was more common to see parents of younger, lower level gymnasts watching. They wanted to be sure they were there for an injury or just in case they were needed. As the training hours increase, less and less parents stay. They may come in early to see the last bit of practice and talk with fellow parents. However, there are always a few parents who were there all practice almost every day. Some due to the commute challenge but just wanted to be on top of everything their child was doing. Like JBS implied, it can weigh heavily on those children because the more a parent watches, the more likely they are to "coach from the stands" - why didn't you go for that ___ tonight? Still not sticking that landing?

As a new team parent, I think it is completely fine to watch practice more often to make sure your child is acclimating and that you are comfortable/trust the coaches. Once you feel that, you likely will not want to stay long. Too many other things to do!
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If the parent is a problem parent, I think it's a problem. If they are an awesome parent, I think it's fine, lol. I have had both kinds, so it's not always negative like some make it out to be. Since I too am a parent, I used to join my favorite moms up in the balcony at our last gym when I finished before my daughter. We were optional parents and it was a social gathering. The actual watching part was mostly so that if your kid said, "mom did you see when XXXXXX happened? we could say yes (usually a funny thing that happened rather than a new skill). I made a lot of friends up on the balcony.
I know a lot of my staff find it disconcerting having parents watch at all times. But it can also be nice to share those special moments with them.

It is quite rare to have parents stay and watch after the classes go up to 3 hours or after about 9-10 years of age. But we have had the occasional parent in the that sits and watches every second of training. Never looking away just watches everything. Now that can get disconcerting.

But since COVID that has become quite rare. We closed our viewing area for all of 2020 and 2021, it has reopened now but no team parents stay except for the little ones doing 2 hour practices a few days a week.
Not a coach but quite honestly I was happy when she started 3 hours because it meant I could leave. Watching practice is rather boring as a non participant. It’s a lot of conditioning and drills. I pop in occasionally just to chat with folks. Even new skills I see soon enough at meets. Or the kids record each other.

I believe it’s healthy to pop in from time to time. But based on my experience parents who feel the need to sit at every practice for the whole time tend to get over involved and over analyze all the details that they shouldn’t. And I never see it end well. Last mom who stayed out our gym tortured the coach about what her little superstar should be doing, left in a huff off to get her special kid the proper coaching she was entitled too. That lasted about 8 weeks And she wanted to come back. Our coach said no.

Unless there is compelling reason to be there for extended periods ie, possible abuse. Then just don’t.

And if you are at a gym where you feel you have to stay all the time, then it’s not the right gym for you.
Until my hours got real high, my mum or dad always watched. It was never because they wanted me to go to the Olympics or anything, they just said they liked to see me and my sister so happy, doing what we loved. When I did my first back handspring, and I had been struggling, not to mention twelve, so I thought I would never get it, I was so happy, and I look up and smile and was so proud of myself, and I see my dad giving a thumbs up and huge smile from the seats. Our seats are huge long rows, no obstruction. I attached a picture.

However, it does depend on the parent. One girl always had her parent walking up and down with the class, coaching from the stands. Oh my god, was that annoying! She was told multiple times to 'please find a nice seat so that our spectators can view their children, and stop yelling for the comfort of the people around you.' Well, her answer was a dismissive '...No.' And she corrected wrong too! Like the opposite of what the right technique was. 'Pick it up, name! Do you want to go to the Olympics or what?' Did I mention were in preteam?
Name, as I artfully called her, quit when she was 10.


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Em09 beautiful gym, so sweet that your parents are super supportive!

Our gym recommends not to watch a full practice more than once a month so that you really notice the progress when you do come. They are also really good about letting the upper level girls record pieces of practice/new skills to show off. Occasionally popping in is the way I usually go, nice to visit other parents. With the price of gas, some parents who travel are sticking around more for practice but usually don't actively watch.
When my kid was struggling I was there....a lot....I am one of the higher level team moms that goes to the most practices. I enjoy watching the sport. I also enjoy reading a book while I am there, and talking to some of the other moms. Mostly I like to take the kiddo and watch and event, go home then come back for the last 15-20 minutes of practice. Its a nice middle ground I get to see some stuff but I am not sitting there for 4 hours. But when she was struggling and wanted me there as a security blanket....I definitely stayed a bunch.
Thanks for all the perspectives. I definitely wasn't planning on staying and watching 100% of the time. 6 hours a week is far too much time for doing that. When she was in rec I watched about an hour a week and that felt like a pretty ideal amount of time to me. Enough to see how she is progressing and get to know the coach, parents, and other kids but not so much that it got boring. Part of the reason I feel so awkward right now is the 3 hour practices make it hard to find a way to stay for such an ideal amount of time. I'm not sure whether to stay for part of it (which part?), only stay for like, every 4th practice, or what. The other awkward part is the lobby set-up making me move around and stand in weird places to see different parts of the gym.

I would never coach from the stands, I wouldn't even know how since I wasn't in gymnastics myself (I was a soccer kid during the era when 'soccer mom' was a common phrase). Besides with the way the gym is set up I would need a megaphone for my voice to be heard in most areas of the gym. Like Em09 said it's more about seeing my girl grow and learn. I am also wanting to see how she is acclimating to the new rigor. My daughter is not what you would consider a growth mindset person and tends to get emotional when frustrated.

Em09 I am so jealous of your parents for having that view. I couldn't find a good picture on my daughter's gym set-up on their website but these two show the basic problem. One of them shows the view from the pre-school area where boys are stretching that shows the way the lobby is normally set-up with folded up benches blocking the view of the floor practice area. You can see girls in the mirror on the beams. The beams are no where near the lobby. The vaulting area is behind whoever is holding the camera and there a play structure for the preschoolers between him and it. The other picture shows a meet from the lobby. In the right corner you can see where the bars area is set-up, quite far from the lobby.


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I also enjoy watching practice when I can, but I typically only stay when I'm singularly responsible for both drop-off and pick-up (otherwise I just spend hours in the car in crazy traffic, nope!). I bring my laptop/airpods and work, or a book, or I chat with other parents if any are there.

I'm glad this thread was started, because I've wondered if the coaches notice as I certainly wouldn't want to be labeled as problematic. I was not a gymnast so trust me, there is no sideline coaching going on over here.

When my daughter first made team just last year, I was absolutely dreading having to sit there for 3 hours as I keep myself on a pretty strict schedule in an attempt to balance work/home/all things. But I've found that it's an enjoyable change of pace from my home office and such a positive environment that it always cheers me up! Now that her practices are getting longer, who knows if I will feel the same way, we'll see.
I probably stay for about 70% of practices (2 x 3hrs a week at the moment) but i bring my laptop and it's really just an opportunity to get extra work done. Sometimes my husband does the same.

Our daughter seems to be getting new skills all over the place at the moment so it is quite fun to see that happening. I will definitely not stay when she's doing full days over the summer, and will probably do no more than pop in for the last half hour now and then once she moves to more sessions next year.
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At our gym they have no issues with parents watching, but most parents that live locally don't normally stay. However, we are the only gym in a large area, so there are many parents who drive 1 or 2 hours one way to get to the gym, so they usually stick around. I tend to come about an hour or so before the end of practice but I'll be honest that's mainly to socialize with friends, help with Booster activities, and just have downtime after work. Been going to the same gym (for multiple kids) for 12+ years so many of the people are closer than family :)
I have wonder this myself. When my daughter did the recreational class I would go from work to gym so I could watch her gain new skills. Recently we changed gyms and she made team and classes are 4 hrs 2x a week. When we changed I stayed for the entire practice the first 3 times just to make sure she was good and getting accumulated. And the coaches ask me questions too because they were getting to know her. Now I go in the last 45ish minutes of class. I hate driving at night so thats one reason I go there. But I do other stuff. I am the only one parent there but that is because the other kids either are riding with me in our car pool or they drive.
I don’t teach what I don’t know so sidelines is not happening. Just a mom who isn’t found of being late and doesn’t like night driving more than what she has too lol!
Young kids training long hours in a sport historically rife with abuse -- do you seriously think it's odd that some might want to observe to ensure that everything is OK?
If I felt that I couldn’t leave my kid alone (as in without me) at the place she was at she wouldn’t be there. Now that doesn’t mean I didn’t pop in from time to time. And any gym that says it’s not allowed or makes it difficult is a huge red flag. At our gym for privates, you have to be there, no coach will be alone with the gymmie.

But no, not for whole practices regularly. Feeling like you can’t leave is a problem.
If I felt that I couldn’t leave my kid alone (as in without me) at the place she was at she wouldn’t be there…

But no, not for whole practices regularly. Feeling like you can’t leave is a problem.
Speaking in such generalities seems inappropriate to me. I don’t know about your kid, but MINE requires some explanation about the how and why of various gym interactions:

“No the head coach isn’t picking on you because she’s giving you the most numerous and detailed corrections — it’s because she thinks that you’re particularly talented.”

That’s the sort of thing that you can’t uniformly expect a type A 5/6/7/8 year old KID to pick up and if it doesn’t get addressed one can see how bad things might be internalized. Especially if a coach is gruff about it, as some are.

The reality is that a lot of TERRIBLE stuff has happened at places where parents felt comfortable leaving their kids. Your comfort level doesn’t dictate what happens — everyone was comfortable with Nassar once upon a time.

Just my 2c. I don’t think staying should be stigmatized. But I do think that a lot — but not nearly all — of the people who stay are overly invested stage parents.
My son is aged 6 and I've always enjoyed staying to watch him. He lights up , grins and bounces for the whole time. He likes to wink at me when he's learned a new skill, I give him a thumbs up. Now he goes to a longer class with older kids (he's youngest) and only a few parents stay or else they stay a while, go off for coffee or to take siblings somewhere then return for last bit. I wouldnt take him to a gym where I couldnt see him. I think when they are little a bit of encouragement from parents helps. He looks over at me far less now than he did, he's more intent on what the coach is saying as he's more keen on impressing him than me now. I think thats normal, so for me it just depends how old they are. I just love seeing his pure joy, but I don't interfere. At summer camps I take my laptop and work, lots of folk do that too.
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