Parents DD not very motivated in gymnastics

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Proud Parent
Jul 7, 2015
I am looking for any advice. DD (8) competed level 3 last fall. She did not have a strong season at all though she wasn't the only one on her team to have a not strong season. Along with a few of her teammates the plan was for her to repeat level 3. I was happy with this plan expecting a much stronger second season at 3 and strong seasons moving up the levels thereafter. DD is an excellent student in school and loves being part of the gymnastics team and has loved the sport of gymnastics since she started in a beginner class at age 5.5. It has always been her dream to be on team and she took several years to make it through rec, preteam and now level 3. She still claims to LOVE the sport and really identifies as a gymnast.

I very rarely watch practice mostly because of my work schedule but also because I tend to find it upsetting because DD is not very good and always seems to be struggling with even skills that she's had for a while. Please don't tell me that I should be proud of her, etc -I am proud of her -but watching her do gymnastics does not tend to make me feel proud of her. I watched a couple of practices lately and was somewhat shocked by how little progress she seems to have made in the past several months. Not only that (and yes I know we shouldn't compare our gymnast to others but I did) her teammates have all progressed so much in comparison to her -even the ones who were not the top of the pack and will be repeating level 3.

I left practice with the same horrible feeling that I had after each meet last season. I couldn't shake the season that this is not right that she should process so little, so I emailed the coach to get her thoughts. She told me that she doesn't think that DD is very motivated in gymnastics and that if she repeats level 3 she will likely end up with scores in the low to mid 8s again. It even sounds like she will likely not make states even as a repeat which just doesn't make sense to me. She said we could do this but she thinks that the x cel track would be a better fit for DD b/c she wouldn't have to push herself.

Now let me start by saying I have NO problem with her moving to x cel. I think in many ways the track would be a better fit for our family and I like the idea that it wouldn't be as stressful in terms of having to have skills by a certain date, etc. However I have several concerns about the situation in general. First of all, I don't like the idea of her participating in an activity that she doesn't want to work hard at. Also, why is a kid who is motivated in school and other areas not motivated in gymnastics? And why would a kid want to spend 10 hours a week in the gym if she didn't want to work hard while there? Does she really love the sport or has she just been doing it so long that she can't imagine life without it? I do realize that it's an intense sport that has very young kids put in long hours and do a lot of conditioning -and maybe that's just not for her -and that's fine but if that's the case I wish she would realize it. I also can't help but wonder if she'd be doing better in another program. We are at one of the more relaxed gyms in our area and the girls don't tend to score that well and the coach is young and inexperienced. Maybe a stronger program could lead to a turnaround and a new attitude? There are some gyms near us that would not have a gymnast compete if they were going to score in the low to mid 8s -and I am considering having her evaluated there and seeing if they would let her compete at all -either they say no or they say yes and I would imagine she would rise to the occasion in their program. Now I really don't care about her scores but I know she'd be devastated to not qualify for states for the second year in a row.

I'm just so confused about where to go from here -take her out of the sport entirely? x cel? Level 3 again at our current gym? Move to a better gym?
Have you asked her what she wants to do?

This all just came up today and of course I haven't seen her because she's at gymnastics :). But I do think I need to figure out what I think is best for her first. For one thing, if she were to switch to another JO program that would probably happen very soon -whereas her coach said we can reassess the move to x cel in a few months -so if I think she'd be better off in x cel I would rather not mention a move until a few months from now so she doesn't have to worry about it for that long.
So she's in her second season of level 3 and scoring low 8's and coach thinks that would be the same if she did a third year of 3? Is she uptraining? Does she have level 4 skills? Is she bored?
Is she maybe just a kid that's slow and steady at getting skills? My DD has never showed a huge zest or excitement for gym, however she always wants to go, never complains and says she loves it and is having fun. I often wish she'd exhibit a fire for it and go after new skills (or improving current ones), but nope, she just plods along. If your DD is happy, then perhaps she is right where she should be.
I want to add that I wouldn't automatically assume the coach is right and dd is just unmotivated. Perhaps it's a coach-gymnast relationship/communication issue? I think some further probing is in order. Have there been any changes made in between seasons or is she just doing the same thing as last year?

For example, my dd's highest AA in her first season of level 3 was a 33.6 (low 8's). In her second season she raised that AA over 3 whole points. What changed? Another year older, another day in the gym and a new coach.
So she's in her second season of level 3 and scoring low 8's and coach thinks that would be the same if she did a third year of 3? Is she uptraining? Does she have level 4 skills? Is she bored?

No she competed level 3 this past Fall and will either compete x cel or level 3 next fall for her second competitive season. Coach is predicting low to mid 8s again this fall if she does level 3 again.
It really could be any of those things but it doesn't sound like a very motivating coach and program. Maybe she just doesn't understand what she needs to do to improve, and the coach doesn't sound keen to help her.

I think you need to talk to her and see what she thinks. Does she still love gymnastics as much ?
Would she like to try a different sport? Maybe along with xcel ?
Research alternate sports available - tramp, Acro, cheer, diving, dance, soccer, softball, martial arts, whatever you think she might be interested in so you can offer up some ideas if she seems like she doesn't love it like she did.

What does she think of the coach? Wiuld she love it more with a different coach? Would she be interested in changing gyms?

I think without asking her and trying to get some clues (yes she may just say she loves it, it does become their lives) you can't tell what the reason is
No she competed level 3 this past Fall and will either compete x cel or level 3 next fall for her second competitive season. Coach is predicting low to mid 8s again this fall if she does level 3 again.

Ah, ok. Honestly it sort of seems like the coach has written her off. I would certainly try to dig a little deeper with dd to see if there's any validity to the coach's claims and then go from there. Does she goof off in class? Not listen? Does she cheat on conditioning? All these types of things could lead the coach to come to that conclusion. I just know from my own dd's experience that there's hope for a first year level 3 low scorer. . It would be a shame to be pushed in a direction simply because the coach has given up trying, if that's the case.
The program could very well be the problem.. My dd was in a similar situation when she competed her first year. She was supposed to compete L3, but lost skills and really struggled so she switched to Xcel (at the same gym.) She still had a pretty rough season. It would have been easy to think that she just wasn't trying or wasn't motivated, but I had a feeling something more was going on. It was also not the most competitive gym, and there had been a lot of coaching changes, and other red flags, like one of her teammates bullying my dd and some of the other girls.

We switched gyms after that first year of competing and after just a month or two, she was an entirely different gymnast. She just wasn't being coached and corrected properly, her form was bad, she had fears on skills b/c of the teammate who had been mean to her at the previous gym. She really just needed the whole new environment. She repeated bronze that year just to give her a year to catch back up and her AA scores improved by over 3 points. She was a state and regional event champion. She is competing silver this year and doing very well too, also getting new skills left and right.

If your dd is losing interest in the hobby, that's another story. If that's the case, it might be time to try something different. However if she still loves it, than a new program might be just what she needs. She could switch to Xcel at her current gym, but maybe switching to Xcel at a new gym would be an even better idea. Compulsories aren't for everyone and there are a lot of girls that fail to progress well in the compulsory program, that's the whole reason an alternative program like Xcel exists. She could always switch back to JO later on if her skills and confidence start picking back up. Best of luck to you with your decision!
Hmm. I think that this might be a case where watching a practice or two through this lens might give you some valuable information.

How long did she spend on preteam or team track? How are other kids scoring?

Some kids take longer to come into their body awareness. Sometime coaches DO write off kids, to an extent. Sometimes there's a personality clash.

I think I get some of your thoughts. My DD did not have a great first season of gymnastics, and often didn't place. It killed me to see her disappointment. Kudos to you for at least rationally discussing this and thinking of your child's best interest.

For what it's worth, my DD first started rec almost 8 years ago. Made pre-preteam just about two years later. She's four competitive seasons in, and while some of this is gym preferences (mandatory move up scores/length of time at level at one gym, and don't compete 5 and often don't compete 6 at current gym), she has so far competed: old 4, new 3, new 4, new 4. First season of old 4, she usually scored 35s or so, even with two years of preteam. She looked very... not so graceful... compared to some teammates at the beginning of that first season. Then coaches stated she was ok, but would never be great, and left us feeling a bit discouraged since she loved this sport so much. We actually left the gym largely due to location and a school switch.

By the end of the second season of level 4, she was scoring at or near 38, and her dance is quite pretty. Now, that was four seasons in and you could question whether it has been worth it, could say she just isn't progressing (definitely not fast track)... But she would 100% answer that "yes", it's worth it right now.

Anyway, she scored out of L5 right after L4 season with one meet (and a score in the 36s), and will do optionals next spring. Next year, already knowing multiple girls in her age group, I know it'll be rough! At this point wer'e all in supporting her 100% as long as she continues to love it so much, regardless of level/scores. She loves gymnastics for gymnastics sake. Yes, she also likes to place well, but practices are the day-to-day, and she's been loving it.

I say if it seems like coach is right, I'd sit her down and discuss options. If coach seems to be wrong, and your DD does seem to be trying, then I would suggest considering some additional options, like nearby gyms, if she truly is that passionate about it.
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Well, I would surely go and watch a couple of sessions of practice and don't tell your dd. Try to talk to her after you have seen the practice. Ask her questions about her day, my dd was a chatter box about gym and school until about age 11. My dd also has some fear issues(and she doesn't talk about her fears for some reason, I just let her work it out, but I can always tell), which takes her a bit longer to get skills, but once she's got them....she's got them.
I had a similar situation with the coach telling me my dd wasn't motivated(to be honest I could tell myself) and that she would never do x or y skill we moved gyms and dd is like a different kid also gaining the x skill in her trial at new gym
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Sometimes it is not even a fault of the gym or the programme, the coach or the gymnast but that it is the 'same old, same old'. So they say a change is as good as a rest? I would make a change and see. I would trial at a new gym and make sure it does both xcel and JO. See what they offer and take it from there. She might just need a fresh start to take her out of a rut.

But can I point out that it is entirely possible for her to be hard working and motivated at school but not at gym. Gym could be the counter balance of her day to her focus and hard work at school. She may push herself all day and get to gym and (subconsciously) relax into her familiar gym surroundings, friends, coaches and routines. Just a thought.
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If she is not unhappy and you can afford the time and money I would keep her in it- either at your current gym or another. Always ask yourself if not this for 10 hours a week- what else? This is a great sport, great exercise, great for the mind, great for life skills. And to be honest I think about 50% of the kids are not intrinsically motivated but just there because as Jenny said they like the environment, they are comfortable its a safe place. I think all of that is worth the time and energy. I would still check in with her and confirm she is good with it- but progressing thru levels at light speed is just not for everyone and if she enjoys the sport and is happy where she is- let her stay.
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Alot of moving parts here, but the first thing I would tell you is you should be really proud of your daughter for her dedication to gymnastics. She sounds like a great kid.

Based on what you have described, I would echo others here by saying a few days watching practices might help you figure out the picture a little clearer. You indicate your current gym is more relaxed, the girls do not typically score well, and the coach is young and inexperienced. Those things do not add up to having your daughter in the best position to unlock her potential. So a move to another gym might be in the cards. Having said that, if your daughter is happy in her current gym, has made lasting friendships with other teammates, then moving to a new gym has some added complexities.

Finally, good communication between you and your daughter will go a long way towards the right path to follow.

Good luck.
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You indicate your current gym is more relaxed, the girls do not typically score well, and the coach is young and inexperienced. Those things do not add up to having your daughter in the best position to unlock her potential.

This is exactly what stuck out to me from the original post and what I was going to say.

OP, your daughter is only 8 - though she isn't a 'fast track' (few are, and many who are fall off), she has sooooo much time to build her gymnastics if she loves it. I would put my money on the need for a more experienced program who has the proven ability to take the 'average' gymnast and help them blossom.

I'll bet you a steak dinner the program is not a fit.

I have first-hand witnessed at least half a dozen 7-9 year olds who came from a so-so program doing "meh" score wise in level 3-4 come to our gym where there is better conditioning and coaching, and RISE so quickly. Their moms had all along thought "well, my daughter must not be that talented/good." Wrong. Our gym is not a super powerhouse and doesn't train elites. But they have a solid and meticulous, average-paced program to build strong foundations and score well, permitting the average gymnast to have a successful and competitive experience.

Assuming your daughter does claim to still be in love with gymnastics, I suggest you explore an option like that.

Good luck!
What I have seen in this sport is that the most important piece is that the athlete has to want it. Second to that they have to be able to communicate - both ways, accepting constructive criticism/correction/teaching and articulating issues. Lastly, they have to have some level of innate talent. Gymnastics is at least as grueling mentally as it is physically. Anyone can start gymnastics, but the vast majority will cap at some point in their career, repeating the same level because they love it or dropping out because one or more of those things attributes has reached its limit. As the levels progress the vast sea of unfamiliar faces at meets becomes a gathering of the same familiar folks as attrition quickly thins the ranks. That said if she is happy doing it, she flips around and uses furniture like its gym equipment when shes not at the gym, and she brings gymnastics up in conversation on her own - then she is probably in the right place and something just needs a small tweak, not many kids have the focus, drive, and desire to do anything that requires even a quarter of the effort of gymnastics - so being where she is now puts her miles ahead of most 8 year olds.

Does your DD feel comfortable talking to her coaches about her performance? She may be putting a lot of pressure on herself to perform, she may have a skill fear, or she may feel overwhelmed with seeing other girls and questioning how she will get there. I watched one DDs teammates go through a wicked coaster of emotions because she wanted to make the State Team (missed it by .005 - second alternate) - the pressure you put on herself affected her practices and her mood at the gym for the weeks leading up to the meet - but didn't impact school or friendships...

The XCEL program is as good as the way each gym implements it and to some extent it can be personalized (biggest benefit no more compulsory floor music!) Honestly the first time I really experienced any negativity expressed about the XCEL program in general was on the forums here - DD went through Bronze, Silver/Gold, to 6 and it felt seamless for her because our gym used the program wisely - as a feeder into the optional program and leverages 6 as bridge, although we have had one go Gold -> 7. Other girls stay in and go up into Platinum/Diamond.
That's a tough one. At 8 years old I probably wouldn't be so quick to give up on the JO track for a talented kid who is just lacking some motivation. I'd wonder most if she's physically able to do the skills and just isn't trying, versus finds the skills too hard physically and the coaches just think she isn't trying? Also, are her scores in the low 8's because she's missing skills and falling, or because she's doing things like bending her legs, flexing her feet or maybe even forgetting routines.

If it's that she doesn't have the physical capacity to do JO, then I'd probably back off and do Xcel or try something else.

However, if she has the physical traits to be a good JO gymnast, and just lacks the motivation then I'd probably investigate other gyms to see if you could find one that can get her progressing.

Now if she doesn't want to do gymnastics at all, then that's a different story.
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