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Men's Artistic Gymnastics
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Proud Parent
Jun 25, 2014
Sorry...this is bit long. I have not really been active on this board but I do lurk and post every now and then. I was hoping to get some insight as we had a big blowup at the gym this past week. DS just turned 12 and a 2nd year L5. He has really been struggling with strength. He grew 4 inches and has gained 10-15 lbs over the past year and he is struggling with his kip, mushroom circles and really overall. With the exception of floor which he consistently is placing 1st , competitions have been rough- this weekend he scored a 52.20 AA. His decline also seems to be coinciding with his gyms uptick in taking the boys program more serious (we lost some top students to another gym)- more rules, more practice (we are up to 14 hours) and the overall tone of the program has shifted.

Their coach is young and does not seem to have a lot of patience and does seem to struggle with control 8-13 year old boys. His latest way of handling this is to kick kids out of practice. In the past month, DS has been sent home three times- something that has never happen at all in the past three years. The first time, I honestly don't know what happened as we were so dumbfounded that we just picked him up, the next time I talked to his coach and he said that there was nothing in particular- just that DS and 2 others were goofing around. He told DS that he expects more out of him because he is one of the older boys and that he expects him to set an example and help him keep his teammates in line. At the time, I was frustrated that he was kicked out of class and his coach could not give me a real reason why- it seems like it was really just basic boys joking around and something that could have been handled in class.

Now this past Friday, we get another call from DS, who is hysterically crying, that he was kicked out again- mind you, we have a competition in the morning. My husband and I both go to pick up DS who continues to be hysterical and when we asked what happened he said that his best friend, who happens to be the best on the team, was being annoying and distracting him and he told him to shut up- then he was kicked out. When the boys were on a break, his coach came to talk with us. Admittedly, both DH and I were pretty fired up. Coach confirms that the other gymnast was being very annoying and disrespectful to the gymnasts and even him (blamed it on being nervous before competition), but that when DS told him to "shut up" he had to send him home because he could not tolerate that language. Now, I will agree that "shut up" is not a nice and inappropriate, however, I sort of feel like there are a lot of worse things he could have said-especially since this gymnast is his best friend... This also seemed contradictory to the coach telling him just two weeks ago that he expects DS to help keep his other teammates inline. At this time, my DH sort of exploded! Hearing that another child was being disruptive the class, yet DS was sent home set him over the edge, especially since all of this is going on 12 hours before competition. DH questioned the coach about sending kids home, why he can't control the class, etc... Eventually, DH walked away. I did stay and continued conversation with coach and really tried to explain that DS feels he is being singled out. He knows that he is struggling but that he feels like his coach has given up on him and just wants him off team. I did tell the coach that it does seem like there is a break down in the relationship and that this is how DS is feeling. Coach asked if I wanted him to talk to DS and they did speak- after this he invited him back into practice. DS stayed, went to competition on Saturday and all seemed ok.

Yesterday, as DS was leaving practice, coach told him that he and the gym manager want to have a meeting with us later this week. They wanted to meet following his next practice, but since its his Birthday, we will be doing it at the end of the week. Prior to this, DS heard from a teammate whose parent works at the gym that he is getting kicked off team. He is devastated, I am devastated, DH is angry and our entire house has been in tears for the past 24 hours. DS is frustrated with coach, but this program is really the only mens program in town. If he is kicked off- gymnastics is over. Even though he is struggling with sports, this is the last thing he wants. While I will admit that DH and I were pretty fired up with coach and could have handled things differently, I do stand by the conversation that we had. It needed to happen- probably with more logical and leveler heads, but still the same. I guess I am just curious about if anyone has ever experienced something similar. I have never known anyone to get kicked off team at our gym in the years that we have been there, other than a female optional that no-showed to regionals after the parent association paid for her travel.

I guess at I am just looking for insight or advice. I recognize that when we are so close to something, it is hard to always be logical. On one hand, DS loves gym- he may not be the best, but he loves the sport, competing/performing, his teammates, conditioning etc. It is very much his identity and he will be devastated if it is over. However, as a parent, I do have to wonder how much is too much. I will readily admit that DS is very social and outgoing- I am certain that there are time he is disruptive to class, but never to the point that I would think it warrant being kicked out. He has no problem in school and never had a problem at the gym until now. However, struggling with the sport coupled with be now labeled a "troublemaker" is really starting to get to his head. As a parent, I do start to wonder when it is too much or just no longer a fit. We all really want to make this work, but I am wondering if it is just time for it to be over, be at the gyms choice or ours.
I am so sorry that you guys are having to deal with this. I do see several issues that you have mentioned....

1. Coach is young. We are in the same boat. And yes, he does not know how to deal with the pre-teen, teen age group. And that is so unfair to those boys, who, at this age, actually need more supervision and instruction. Our coach expected our boys to "work independently" We did go to the coach and let him know that his expectations of teens were a bit off, and luckily, he listened.

2. Goofing off.....I struggle with this one, as my kid does it too. And we have a lot of conversations about it. But he insists that he is just having fun and working out.. And honestly, when teens are not being directed well, they goof off.

I do not think that necessarily you guys are in the wrong at all. It was the heat of the moment, and honestly saying shut up should not get a kid kicked out of practice! That is totally out of line.

Can you call and meet with the gym manager ahead of time? I hate to see a boy who loves the sport get kicked off team. Our coach did have to do it this summer, but the boy was not wanting to compete (L8), disrespectful to the coach (like yelling back at him), and would disrupt practice constantly. But that was rare.

Make a list of your concerns, and make them in terms of your son. I would not go in with the thought of attacking what the coach does, and it doesn''t sound like that is something you would do. Let them know how much your son loves it, and how he feels right now. Hopefully he isn't going to get kicked off. And if he does, I would be angrier that a teammate knew about it before you did!

In the meantime, talk to your ds about waht he can do differently in practice too. It sounds like he thought he was doing waht the coach asked, but still talk about it. Have your plan ready as well.

Good luck! Keep us posted. I really hope that this is just a conversation about a plan and not anything else!
Skschlag's advice is spot on. I think a conversation with the coach and probably the owners too is warranted. It's really distressing to hear about a coach cutting guys from a gymnastics team; he may just need some solid advice on how to work more effectively with his athletes.
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We had a situation where the gym situation was just no longer a good fit for my kid. We moved to a new gym and it is MUCH better. I think the fact that they are at the gym 14 hours for level 5 is telling. Our level 5s are only there 9. Now it is nine efficient hours with an experienced fun coach. It may be time to restart somewhere else.
You've gotten lots of good advice here! I agree with the suggestion to have a meeting with the coach/owner without your DS first to talk through the issues. I hope you can get them to reconsider, but even if they don't, you will be better able to support your DS if you have had a preliminary meeting with them before he is told. I really hope you can work things out, please update us!
Yesterday, as DS was leaving practice, coach told him that he and the gym manager want to have a meeting with us later this week. They wanted to meet following his next practice, but since its his Birthday, we will be doing it at the end of the week. Prior to this, DS heard from a teammate whose parent works at the gym that he is getting kicked off team. He is devastated, I am devastated, DH is angry and our entire house has been in tears for the past 24 hours.
This just seems odd to me. If they are really thinking about kicking him off team, why would they allow you to postpone the meeting until later in the week? I just don't see that happening. How has the coach been treating your son? Would the worker/parent really share private gym information with the son? Is this boy a friend of your son's? Could he just be trying to cause more trouble? Just too many strange things here. I would not jump to any conclusions until you have this meeting. The manager may just be wanting to clear the air.

If, in fact, their plan is to either kick him off or make you agree to some sort of ridiculous demands if he stays then I am with bookworm. You really don't want to be somewhere you're not wanted.
To OP, to answer the original question, it does sound to me that your husband went too far. Exploding in the gym always makes you look bad. It also sounds like the coach made several mistakes.

If you want to try to save this, and leave on your own terms, I'd suggest several things. I'd postpone that meeting as long as possible to let things cool down. I'd also rehearse being the calmest, most rational people that ever existed in that meeting. You need to firstly apologize for exploding at the gym; recognizing that that type of behavior isn't ok, is out of character for you, and wouldn't happen again. Then, you could calmly explain why you were so upset, and hopefully the owner would sympathize.

If you can pull that off, then I'd also look for another program, even if there's a bit of a drive. You said you lost some top students to another gym. Can he not go there? It doesn't sound like his current coach has the emotional maturity or patience to do his job.
OP. I have been in your shoes. My son's relationship with his coach fell apart around 12 yo after an injury and the coach had no idea what to do with him. As he became a burden to the coach (no help from my son) it was pretty clear the coach did not want him and basically ignored him. I posted at length about it years ago......don't worry, I yelled at the coach a time or two ;). We left when he was 13. This coach is still considered to be one of the worst people for kids I have ever come across, and I'm not alone in my opinion.......
Flash forward...... The new gym which was the best thing we ever did. Had I done it sooner, I think my son would still be in gymnastics. But I waited too long hoping the coach would change, and hoping my son would change.
After we moved to a new program, my son did enjoy things a lot more and the coaches were great! They totally understood teenage boys. But he eventually decided to stop (I don't say quit, because 8 years of gymnastics isn't 'quitting') when his body stopped cooperating. The time lost from his injury set him back and, as my son said- for him to make it back to form, he would have to train every day for 6 months, 5 hrs a day JUST TO GET BACK to L8...... Add high school to the mix and he was done.

They key here......teenage boys NEED a good role model. They NEED a lot of guidance and they need a good cohort of other boys......They all goof around, they use 'bad' language, they don't seem to take it that seriously.........(my DDs team, all the girls are like heart attacks all the time!)
I suggest you find a different program and FAST. This is not your sons fault. You son is being a kid and it is the responsibility of the teacher to connect. The adult needs to figure out how to do his job. I can remember SOOOOOO many times this coach always blamed my sons behaviour, it always ended at my 12/13 year old......never him!

Now, do not loose this opportunity to use this as a tool for your son going forward.....his actions give direct consequences. But I'm sure you guys are doing that already.....I'm so glad you are sticking up for him, and don't always believe the adults in the room.....go with your gut.
Thank you all so so much for the great advice and support! It is great to hear that I am not the only one to go through this and also that some of you have had some positives come from change. At this time, it is just so hard to think about actually leaving our gym. It feels like DS has grown up there and some of his best friends are his teammates. While I still hope that this is not the case, if it is, I do think it has been a long time coming. In all honesty, things have not been great for the for the past year and half when his old coach left to be an asst coach at a top D1 program- we really do miss him!

I did take your advice and have scheduled a meeting to meet with the gym manager individually tomorrow afternoon, prior to meeting with DS's coach tomorrow evening. Hopefully, we will be able to share our concerns and let her understand things from our point of view. I am fully prepared to apologize for our behavior, but do want to share our concerns. DS did go to practice last night and his coach did appeared to be working well with him one on one while we were there. I thought things were going well until the end of practice. Yesterday was DS 's birthday and the boys always bring cupcakes to share with team at the end of practice. His coach would not make eye contact with us, said he could not stay and walked away. DS chased him down to give him a cupcake and he said he didn't want it. It was really sort of heartbreaking.... Once again, he is coach is young but this just seemed so cold- it is helping me feel more and more like this may not be the best for DS right now. Ironically his best friend, the one DS told to shut up last week because he was being distracting, was not at practice last night. When I asked DS where he was, he told me his coach sent him home! Good to know that it is not just DS, but this is really becoming a regular thing now and just does not feel right.

I am also going to start exploring what other gym options may exist for DS. Tumbling and trampoline is not big in our area, but I did just learn about a program in our area from a co-worker whose daughter is on a WAG team at another gym. Apparently, their T and T program is quite good and they had a couple of gymnasts on the National Team. I know nothing about T & T, but DS is a very powerful tumbler and seems worth exploring. We do also have one other mens program in our area- it is really "The Gym" in our area and where the best train. Last year, half of our girls optional team walked out and landed here and we have lost 2 boys to this program. One boy was a 14 year L5 with DS last year...this year he is completing L8. While he was very good with us, he seems to be doing amazing at this gym. The other was a close friend of DS and is his same age. He is also repeating L5 this year, but is consistently taking 1st place AA with at least a 62. While both boys are doing well, I always said I would never go to this gym because of how demanding it is. His old teammate who is still a L5 is practicing 20 hours a week! That is right- 4 hours a day, 5X a week. As a L5, this just seems insane! They get results but this seem like too much. The only reason I am now even remotely considering this is that brother of DS's former coach is now leading the boys program at the other gym. DS is familiar with this coach and really does like him. Honestly, I think he is just thinking he may be able to capture something similar to what he had with his old coach. For this first time ever, I have heard him say maybe we should look at it this other gym. It may be worth exploring and see if there is any flexibility on the hours- realistically given our current custody arrangement DS could not ever do 20 hours a week even if we wanted to. I am curious to get others thoughts on this though- 20 hours is really excessive at level 5, correct? If DS ever really wanted to seriously advance in gymnastics, most likely at some point he would have to end up at this gym. However, given his recent struggles and drop in strength, I just don't know if this is best for him at this time.

I will keep you all posted on how things go- I really hope that we can still work things out...
No, it's not excessive......a bit on the high side, but in reality, by L7 they will be doing 20+ anyway so.......
I'm sure you could opt to 'miss' a day because of homework of something.......that is common practice at our gym where 6 days a week is common.
Don't be afraid of a good demanding program. At least you know your son will be challenged and pushed.....he will be too busy for nonsense. And another way of looking at it, 16 hours at a very intense efficient good gym is better than 18 or 20 at a lower quality, time wasted gym......

Suggestion, explore ASAP.....make a move. 12 to 15 is way too critical to waste.
My son's 12 and is now going about 19 hours a week. He was a L6 last year and is competing (with some bumps) L8 this year. His coach recognizes that the time commitment is significant and works with the boys who can't make it to every practice to ensure they get what they need. I think it's worth checking out the other gym if it doesn't seem like the managers are going to exercise oversight over the coach. That just is not a good and healthy coaching situation -- that kind of authoritarianism might get by with the 8 year olds, but it will never lead to happy outcomes for teenagers.
I also don't think 20 hours is excessive for L5. That is about equivalent to our L2 here and all the boys programs in our area train at least 20 hours at that level. The boys at my DS gym train 24 hours at that level.

I would ask about doing a reduced schedule due to custody arrangements - the coach may surprise you and agree to it. I find that gyms in our area are much more open to alternate arrangements for boys than they are for girls. Mainly they just want to attract and keep the boys in the gym!
If you have a problem with higher hours, trampoline and tumbling might be a good fit - usually it is less hours than artistic gymnastics. Just a note. I would definitely encourage you to check it out based in what you said. Just leaving aside the things with your gym, it sounds like from what you've said about DS it is probably a better fit for him athletically.
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I do think 20 hours at level 5 is excessive for boys. Very much so. Most boys don't hit 20 hours until optionals. that is too mcuh at level 5. Our level 5s go about 12, and do ok. They are all first years, so I expect next year willbe better. Level 6 does 15, and level 7-9 do about 20.

I hope things improve :( I am glad to hear there is a potential option. I hate to see boys chased out of the sport by poor coaching!
hope things went well.

I do think 20 hours a week for L5 is excessive - unless all the older boys doing that are being set up to go to L8/optionals next year - in which case it makes sense.

My 11 year old L6 does 14 hours (4 days a week) and that is plenty for strength work, drills for optional skills and working routines - but we now have a very experienced coach who knows how to train for the future. He'd love the boys to have more hours as optionals (they only have the option of 17.5 and that includes paying extra for the 5th day, but its more than they used to have available and frankly none of the teenage boys can really get there for full practices all the time with AP classwork, other activities, etc...) but for compulsory boys not needed. Only one other level 6 boy does all 4 days - and he is training future stars also - my younger goes because older goes (when able) and because he is seriously lacking power as he waits for his testosterone to kick in....

That being said, I wouldn't count an hours heavy program out until you speak with them - it may be that this is their ideal schedule but that many families do less...for reasons such as yours. And if they aren't open to that then they will have a hard time keeping high school age athletes - esp. boys who tend to not be as good at time management as similar aged girls, in my experience - LOL!
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