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Proud Parent
May 26, 2022
My 7yo daughter is in her first year as Xcel bronze. She is doing fine and enjoys gymnastics, though she doesn’t live and breathe it (which is totally fine!). My question/concern is that she has a lot of fears. She is already pretty shaky doing her routine on the high beam, and she is scared about the next level of skills. Learning a BHS sounds scary to her, and when I asked her whether she wanted to continue next year she said only if she’s bronze again. I asked her why and she said because she doesn’t want to do a cartwheel on beam. I explained to her that she doesn’t have to do a cartwheel on beam in silver. And I know her coaches won’t have her do anything she isn’t ready for, but I guess my question is whether it’s normal to have a lot of fears at this age/stage or if this is a sign that maybe this isn’t the right sport for her, since it’s only going to get harder and scarier moving forward. I am fine with whether she continues or decides to switch to a different sport—I just want to help her make an informed decision that she feels good about. My inclination is to let her keep going until she says confidently that she wants to quit, but I’m curious what others’ thoughts are on this. Anyone have a child who outgrew fears like this? Or where it only got worse?
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I’ve seen it go both ways. Some kids start out timid and just always have to fight their own fears. But for other kids, once they start to get more of a feel for gymnastics and an understanding of what they can do, things improve.

I’ve had lots of gymnasts start out scared then get to about 11-12 and just move past their fear and start to fly.
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When my DD was 6 she was scared of the "high" beam (meaning the one at 4ft vs the one she was normally on at 2ft. She was also fearful of the high bar - that was "too scary to jump to". And apprehensive of leaning down to touch the beam like in a handstand, cartwheel etc.

She is now 10. She loves beam. She'd rather do a press to handstand or a BHS on beam than stand on the ground! She now wants the High bar farther away in practice so she can "really jump".

Kids change. Their fears as a younger child are sometimes wrapped up in how difficult they think something maybe. They also don't always understand there is a progression in gymnastics. DD started to be more comfortable when she realized a cartwheel on beam was first a cartwheel on a line on the floor, then a fat beam on the floor, then beam on the floor then a beam at 12" etc.

My DD outgrew her early fears and now prefers to be flying through the air. Confidence and proper training got her there.

I can say that being a tad more cautious has helped DD in her skill development. Rather than 'throwing a skill' just to see, she waits to learn it through the right progressions. Coaches don't have to spend a lot of time un-training bad habits b/c she is patient and listens.
I think your plan on letting her lead the way is a good one, provided that you are keeping an eye on her overall mood toward gymnastics and let her know you are ok with her moving on. I would have this talk with my dd each year. As for the fears, I think that's pretty common. Those skills look really scary to many kiddos until they are actually learning the drills for them and realize it's not so bad. The beauty of Xcel and then optionals is that you can tailor routines based on the gymnast's strengths. My dd hated cartwheels and roundoffs on beam so she found other skills to fulfill the requirements
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Early fears

1- remind her of some fears/difficulties that she had that she has overcome.
2- stress that her coaches are not going to let her do something they don’t feel she isn’t capable of.
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I’m not a parent, but I do have something to add.

When I was little and teaching myself gymnastics on floor and it was fine. But then when I started rec classes and when I had to do beam and vault I was *terrified*. I eventually got over it. I needed a loooooot of pep talk from my coach’s and reassurence from them that, no, I would not crack my skull and die a painful death if I fell off beam. That was when I was 8. By the time I was 10 I could confidently do a cartwheel on it- but it took me a more than a year to get over the fear. Weirdly enough, I never got scared on floor. Like, EVER.

Unfortunately, I never really got over vault. I always need a really heavy spot to do a handspring on vault and I haven’t gotten it for the past 4 months. I always chicken out on vault and you know what? I have stopped caring. I know that sounds bad, but I don’t want to injure myself. I was in literal tears after doing a FHS on vault without a spot and not from physical pain- but the fear I had felt. My coach understands and since I’m in rec classes she lets me do conditioning while we’re on vault, or just use the soft practice vault (no idea what it’s called). So does fear go away? Yes and no. That was just my experience as certified beam and vault scaredy cat.

Good luck to your daughter!
Try working with her to find things that will make it less scary. Figure out what is scary about each skill and ask the coaches (or you could) work through her fears.

When DD had to move silver to gold, she was terrified of her cartwheel on the high beam. Would do it fine on low and medium, just not the high beam. I talked to her about and she said it wasn’t the cartwheel per se, it was the mats they had stacked next to it so if they missed, they be ok. The gym we were at didn’t have the best equipment or mats, so we had to make do, but The mats were shaky and unstable. (DD said it was hard to even stand on them) We told the coaches and they worked with her with smaller, more stable mats and more of a spot.

with her squat on, completely different thing. She had everything she needed to get the skill. Had done countless drills, could do it on a floor bar. Wouldn’t do it from a cast. The coaches talked to her and she said she was afraid she was going to fall over when she actually went for it. (She said that the ‘fall feeling’ came one she had done the cast and gotten her feet mostly up) They worked with her on that, and got her to do a “modified squat on” (a straddle on) first because it wasn’t as scary.

The trick is just to ask you kid what’s the scary part is. Is it the height of the beam? Is it the things near the beam that she could fall off and hit? Is it that the coach isn’t standing there? For the BHS, is it going backward? Is it being blind? Is it the lack(or problems ) of mats? Does she want a heavier spot?

Does she trust her coach to spot her? This was really big for my DD (she’s 15 and heavier than most of the girls in her team group - most are 10-12 and skinny). When she first joined, one of the team coaches was a parent who had had kids in gymnastics and knew basic basic deductions. DD trusted her until she was spotting her on a BHS down a cheesemat and she fell, and then the coach fell on top of her. Two of the other coaches she’s had did gymnastics and had solid backgrounds but were super young (fresh out of high school) coaches who were tiny. She had to watch her spot a few things and had some things be double-spotted if she was really uncertain.