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I'm trying desperately not to rant so I will try and be as open minded as I can.

QUESTIONS (for those that don't want to read my whole background story):


I've dealt with difficult gymnasts/parents before, and I may be jumping the gun on this one, since we haven't played this out to the end and had a parent conference yet but here's the situation...

At the end of the competitive season we start to work on our all gym spring performance class/team routines. It takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour out of team skill practice time, usually depending on the behavior/attention span of the team on that day. For me it's a nice change of pace. We move from super picky, high consistency, super repetitive, competitive routines type practices to more creative, high energy, fun tumbling with increased conditioning and back to basic skills. This last month we also threw in some fear related challenges into the mix of things in our event training, such as toe fronts into the pit for optionals (even if they just get to their back) or jumping from low to high bar for say a Level 3 gymnast, just to give a range.

Well, we had a raving Spring Performance last Thursday, very successful and super fun, and I'm back to planning Team Practices for the month (my co-head coach and I take turns month to month). This time of year for me, like I said is back to basics, before school ends and I start loosing chunks of girls at a time to summer vacations. Emphasis for this month will be ballet/dance basics (toe point technique, tendu, rond de jambe, develope, grand battemattes, plies for leg strength and landings, arm work, turnout and posture... the basics of the basics. I don't use standard ballet music to try and keep things interesting, after all we are just gymnasts.

For event training and conditioning it will be core strength, leg turnout and quad work (keeping with the ballet), lots of shaping and a few step up skills we are struggling with to keep practice interesting (such as, cast HS on high bar, giants, backhandsprings on beam, and twisiting on floor for the optionals). That should give you some ground work to the atmosphere of practice. I planned on ballet for this week, jazz for next week and then bring the elements we learned in our dance room into our all team warm up that we already have set to music (it already incorporates all this stuff into a warm up setting, but right now everyone is slopping through).

Yesterday, the first day of this, I had a whopping 3 out of 12 Level 5+ show up to practice. (Ooops, out spit some rant.) Two of the three are in depsperate need of posture and toes point work, so this lesson specially applied to them. The third was my teenage Level 7 gymnast who felt none of this applied to her or gymnastics, she felt it was all hurting her knees (all we were doing was tendu at the time, slide foot out, point it to the floor, with leg straight) and without consulting me called her mom to say they weren't practicing anything worthwhile could she go home. We only spent 40 minutes in the dance room! After the dance session they went to beam with the other team coach which she reported all she got from our Optional was excuses about the session of ballet made her legs worthless and she couldn't get through anything, including the backhandspring that she so desperately needs (but that's another story). Same story when she went to bars. Bad attitude, complaints, can't do anything, etc.

Now, these other two compulsory gymnasts look up to her. One was trying so hard to be diligent, the other and younger one (only 9) was following along right in the "not taking practice seriously" category of our optional. ATTITUDE CANCER! Usually we would continue to hash this out with the gymnasts throughout practices, and here is where I might be jumping the gun because we haven't met with the parents yet, but when they called last night and supported her daughter's claim that our dance session had nothing to do with gymnastics and their daughter didn't want to do it... and they've scheduled private lessons even though she won't finish a complete workout with her team. I'M HAVING POTENTIONAL ISSUES!!!!!!

My workout plan is sound for all involved. True, some need it more than others, and this Optional, dance-wise, is fairly decent, but can still benefit from the reminders of posture, soft arms, landing through the feet, etc. Not to mention the plan ends with cleaning up our All Team Warm Up so we are ALL on the same page as to what is expected during the warm up.

Anyhow, I tried not to rant, and rationalize in writing instead. It helps me at least, and I haven't been able to get it off my mind since.

Feb 26, 2007
I would show the parents videos of Team-dads L6 DD who does ballert and kills those routines with so much style. I'll try to find his link for you. Sounds like the kid will be a tough nut to crack, but you need to stick to your guns and calmy explain what you are doing and why, if they don't get it your gym may not be the right one for them. Unless you want to change your whole programme just to make her happy! NOT!!!


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Jan 4, 2008
That is just a complete lack of respect. The problem is that if her parents are backing her up then you know where the lack of respect comes from so it will be very difficult to deal with.

I would not be allowing her to take her privates if she isnt completing her regular training.
Aug 2, 2008
east coast
I agree w/ Aussie coach. No regular workouts + bad attitude= no privates. Keep doing what you are doing, I don't think you need to convince anyone that dance is imperative to gymnastics. Work w/ the kids that are there. If anyone has a bad attitude, give them 1 warning and send them to the corner to stretch, then continue to work w/ who is left w/ lots of fun & praise. I feel like everyone will "get it" soon.

Maybe making the music more fun would help. I worked w/ a very strict dance teacher once, who would use trendy music instead of ballet music and the kids enjoyed it so much better. Also, keep in mind that even though I believe what you are doing is great- these girls are gymnasts- not ballerinas. Maybe start them w/ 10-15 minutes of tendu work, then work on leaps/ jumps- increasing the barre time 2-3 minutes each week.

By the way, I hope the coach of the L7 told stopped the complaining and made her finish her workout.

It sounds like this kind of crazy behavior has been alolowed to go on for some time.... it will take planning & a lot of work for you & the other head coach to stop it. Make sure you have the support of the owner before you start changing this behavior. This L7 might leave, and it will probbaly be the best for all involved.

Do you have an attendance policy in your gym for team? Maybe its time for a parent meeting, and explain your plan, how important it is to be there, etc. Also, explain your attendance policy at the time. Basically in my gym, kids have to be there, unless they are sick or have an excused absence.

Hope this helps. I love your passion and dedication!


Thank you all. We had our parent meeting last night and while we defended our planning, we listened to her concerns as well and tried not to criticize. We also felt that honesty was the best policy and we were brutally honest with telling mom and gymnast face to face that most of the assignments we write up have been blatantly blown off for one excuse or another. That was a bit of an eye opener for her mom, but she didn't fly off. I will admit our Optional had one good point, mixing things up has made it difficult for her to follow the purposes of some of our practices. She is a VERY mental gymnast. We don't do the exact same conditioning or conditioning assignments every day and that is confusing to her. We write down our conditioning assignment and leave it on the sign in table every practice so if we can finish talking with parents of the class that proceeds them, they can get right to the assignment without waiting for us. Even though we write it down, she feels she continually has to figure out was the purpose/type of conditioning we are doing for the day. Something we will be looking into as we write our assignments out.

We tried as best we could to explain post season training techniques, mix things up to avoid boredom and burnout , that going back to basic dance technique is important across ALL levels. The dance programming is only a brief part of our post season workout plans. Ballet once this week, jazz & isolations once next week, then translate all we nitpicked in the dance room to our pre-existing dance warm-up so we are all focusing on a quality dance/stretch warm up that will continually benefit all. We also expressed that since it is difficult to get parents to buy in that taking a seperate dance class will benefit their child, we have to get that education in somewhere. Out of 36 team girls, I have one, hopefully soon to be two, who take an outside dance class. Some of it is an affordability issue, but we also haven't had a reputable dance studio in town until last summer.

Anyhow, it will be an uphill battle. We have some upper level gym culture to continue to change and influence. It isn't all this one optional gymnast, rather the crew as a whole. We left her with the challenge to step up to the plate, be the leader that leads the troop into self-motivation and discipline rather than complaints and excuses why things aren't what she wants to do or going her way. I hope she takes the ball and runs with it!

This could be a blessing in disguise and she is the proponent of change that we are looking for.
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Jan 18, 2009
This is coming from a bit of a different perspective. I am a coach but another coach is mainly responsible for dance work, I help out where I can but it's not my area of expertise. So my input will be coming from me as a former gymnast. Some of my gyms tried to implement dance training on a weekly basis. Just ballet basics generally. It was always a struggle for me. I was very well aware of the importance of dance, but it was incredibly hard for me. My feet are naturally turned in, my shoulders are constantly tense and up to my ears, and it was just one frustration after another. I would sometimes be given remedial assignments because I just could not do what everyone else was doing. So even though I knew it was helpful, it was still hard for me and I still made little progress. Feeling so frustrated week after week obviously led me to hate dance. Who wants to spend time doing something they are just not good at and not getting any better at? Even when the teachers tried to make it fun, I hated it even more. Practicing silly dances I couldn't even do correctly was just not a practical use of time in my mind. So as much as you want everyone to be on the same level with dance, it's just not going to happen. Some kids are just not capable of it. It doesn't make her negative attitude an excuse, but might provide you a new perspective.
Stressing basics and good positions is an awesome thing and like you said, something all gymnasts can use, but try to keep it fun and gymnastics related. You could do a team warm-up after stretching with lots of basics- forward rolls, handstands, back extensions, back walkovers, turns, jumps, leaps, that kind of stuff and really stress basics in those areas. That way they can still feel how it relates to gymnastics. Mix up the dance workouts, like maybe do ballet stuff one day, gymnastics related dance- leaps, turns, etc. the next, and maybe do a day of flexibility. Doing dance basics every day is certainly a recipe for boredom.
As for her problems with conditioning, a gym I trained at as a gymnast had a conditioning cycle we followed. There was some variety to it to keep it interesting and we had one day which was for game oriented conditioning, but generally we kept a pattern to it. So for example, day 1 would be arms, day 2 lower legs, day 3 plyometrics or endurance, day 4 abs and backs, etc. I don't remember the exact patterns, but that was the general idea. So when the coaches directed us to a certain area of the gym for conditioning, we generally knew what to expect and what we would be working on. Maybe you could look into doing something like that. Of course you could mix around the exercises a little to address weaker areas or to spice things up, but it might help her feel more comfortable with the conditioning and get a better understanding of what she is working on and what is expected of her.
Sep 19, 2008
Attitude cancer, I love it lol. I would be severely irked if I were you too. In the end though, don't bother to let it show since it's done and past. She didn't belong there that day though her method of leaving was seriously flawed. I'd keep it to telling her and her parents that if she doesn't consider it worthwhile for her, don't show up at all. If she does show up, she needs to stay the whole time. Oh and yes, if she chooses not to, no privates. The disruption isn't necessary, and 'opting out' should have a cost. If you stick with a gym, you support the program. Not going along with it fully should have drawbacks.

If parents and gymnasts need an explanation of dance then give it to them straight. Dance and gymnastics are interrelated whether they like it, are good at it, or not. I can think of about 8 terms and positions they share off the top of my head, if I put actual thought into it I'm sure there's at least 20. Optionals in particular should be VERY aware and concerned with dance. Unless of course they want awesome cookie cutter yawn inducing routines. Really if that's what they want then fine, but they should be made aware that there are girls they'll compete against who value the artistic element of what they do and not only the technical. When it shows, judges tend to notice. Letting them know that is you helping them make an informed decision in regards to future routine choices. Bog's videos are great. Compare some gorgeous dance ones with solid technical skills to those that are simply technical if you have the means to show them what you're talking about.

If seeing isn't believeing then they made their choice, and your choice can be to not let it interrupt the lesson for the other girls or send them to a gym with the same mentality. Frankly they should consider themselves lucky and blessed to have a dance room. I can't even comprehend being set against variety and art. Having an added tool at your disposal to up a score should only be a good thing! It's not like gymnasts don't know what it is to have to work hard at something for pete's sake!

For those gymnasts who think they are bad at it, or are nervous you can offer reassurance. It's not just about being 'pretty.' You can convey other things with dance in a variety of ways. Repetitive dance training WILL show up in their skills no matter what if they take it seriously. A flick of the wrist, a facial expression, or even just conveying the movement of an acro skill and not the tons of effort behind it. When dance is hard, it tends to make you appreciate and fine tune the things that are easier. Spectators notice and appreciate these things. All part of performance and showmanship, which no gymnast can deny they should strive to be good at. Which makes me deaf to the cries of the would be dance haters.

I sort of ranted there, sorry. As far as specific dance advice goes I think you are on the right track. Attendance rules should be standard, followed, and have consequences like anything else. I would recommend a private for each girl at first. Schedule a block of time and have each gymnast come in for 30 minutes or so. That way you can educate them on their goals and why they should want these things without any attitude cancer influence, and once they are together again they all can know what's expected. Also you can identify particular worries or trouble spots for each individual. Send them home with a lesson plan for dance that they and their parents can review. Not to approve of it, just so that there's no surprises and something to reference if they forget why they're doing it!

Turnout is tricky and can hurt their knees if done wrong over a period of time. I would recommend doing anything that is weight bearing and turned out on the floor first, laying down. Emphasize turning out from the hip. The only visible cue that they are turning out from the knee when standing up is that their knee doesn't go over their foot when it bends. If it skews to the side they need to stop, turn out their leg again and start over. It takes a lot of strength to maintain turnout while standing, even for a gymnast if they are not used to it. Allowing prolonged bad turnout will cause soreness or other knee issues. I would also recommend practicing arms without turning out for a few weeks so they can concentrate on that. Focusing on balletic arms and maintaining turnout at once can be a lot, and is not worth the headache or knee hurt it can cause. Just give them a position and don't worry about if it looks too stiff. Besides, if the arm practice sinks in, it will start to show in what they do on it's own. I love seeing that!

One last thing in my wall of text: You have a dance room, but mention no good studios around you for gymnasts to attend. Why not bring the teacher to your dance room instead? Lots of dance teachers will come to you for lessons, they like making money on the side as much as us! Whatever happens, don't let yourself get too much on the defensive. You are not a bad coach or gym for offering an outlet to a pre-existing facet of the sport. If they want to act like it's all new and different and unecessary after it's explained; then they have explaining to do, not you or your program.
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Deleted member D3987

what a shame that more and more of this kind of thing has inervated the gyms across the country. it hurts gymnastics and its child participants more than anyone realizes. it's no wonder that more and more 'customers' are being shown the door. i sincerely empathize with what you have written.
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