Parents Fears and Not Trusting the Coach

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Jan 24, 2013
I’m wondering if anyone has BTDT and/or has any words of wisdom for me.

At the beginning of the year my DD started having fear issues on bars. She was scared to giant although apparently they are strong and beautiful on strap. Over the next several weeks she lost her baby giant and cast handstand. About 6 weeks into this her coach emailed me to let me know these things. I think we had a pretty good email exchange. My thoughts at the time were to be patient with DD and give her more time. DD is often last in the group to get skills. DD is a very thoughtful/deliberate/mental type of person and I reminded the coach of this too. This was my last correspondence with the coach on this. I trust her and I trust that she will reach out to me again if needed.

It is now 6 months later and things are worse! DD has made no progress on bars. I try not to talk about this with her very much because she can get very wrapped up in herself/thoughts but I also want to listen and be supportive when she needs to vent or has a bad day. I don’t watch practice and from what I gather her coach has taken her back to basics. She is working on getting cast handstand back. Lots of drills. No giants but she did her first baby giant in many months about a week ago. Casts are getting higher again too. So I guess there may be some minimal, slow progress. I am still not too worried about this by itself. I’ve told DD that it sounds like the coach knows what she is doing and she should trust the plan.

What does trouble me is that DD has lost all faith her in coach. She flat out doesn’t trust her. She thinks the coach doesn’t want her to progress. She’s been saying lately that the coach won’t and can’t spot her. Sometimes the coach won’t spot her and I can tell that it’s intentional on the coach’s part. Sometimes though DD tells me that the coach is unable to spot her because she has so much power. The HC has stepped in a couple of times because he is stronger. There has been a few times where DD thinks that the coach wasn’t paying attention when spotting and someone ended up falling or almost peeling. She says sometimes the coach is distracted while spotting and looking away (herself and others).

I think this lack of trust is holding my DD back from any significant progress now. To add another layer this coach has never really gelled with my DD. This coach has favorites and they are all the fun and easy kids. She also does a poor job hiding her frustration and will give DD the cold shoulder or roll her eyes or do a big sigh if she misses a skill attempt (these things have also happened with other kids who are in a rough patch too). DD is so sensitive to the nonverbal communication. I really don’t know what to do anymore or how to support my DD! Mostly I just listen. I remind her that her coach does want her to succeed. I’ve been honest and told her that she needs to be able to set aside the aspects of the coach’s personality that drive DD nuts (eye rolls, sighs, etc). I don’t know what else I can do. I really do trust the coach even if I don't like how she expresses her frustration. I'm a little concerned what DD says about the coach being unable/unwilling to spot. Right now it feels like she will never trust her again and I'm not sure how she will move forward if she doesn't. Fortunately, all other events are going very well for her right now.
There is nothing more frustrating or deflating for a kid (and a parent listening to their kid) than thinking their coach doesn't care if they succeed and has given up on them. Well, one more thing--the coach who has favorites, yours isn't one of them, and your child or you feel that the coach actually wants your child to fail (and leave) to prove they are "right" about not wanting them in their group etc. That is toxic.

But it is very easy to jump to incorrect conclusions if there is a lack of communication. You may think the above is happening when that is not what the coach is thinking at all. You might want to schedule a meeting to hear what the coach is thinking and what the plan is. Sounds like it's been a while since you touched bases.

Eye rolls, etc...ugh, it's really hard when coaches act in ways that you wouldn't allow your kid to get away with at home. That type is thankfully rare at our gym, but once in a while you run across one who doesn't understand how to motivate different types of kids, just don't "get" kids, maybe aren't professional educators or parents..they just don't get it. Once in a while they do something that just takes the wind out of your kids' sail, and it's so obvious to you why that cruel comment was the opposite of what they needed.... sigh. So just empathy for you on that one with regard to the eye rolls. Thankfully it's the exception not the rule since most coaches are coaching in the first place because they love kids and love coaching.

We once spent five days nursing my vomiting, feverish daughter (then 8 years old) through the flu, including a trip to the ER for fluids and an overnight stay at the hospital... Only to return the following week to gym to a coach who said "hey this group of four kids worked better without you here, and you had better do X and X and X this week to stay up to speed with them." Ugh. I wanted to call her up and say, if my kid went to summer camp, came home, and I told them "wow, this family was so much happier without you last week when you were gone," most normal humans would call me cruel and emotionally abusive (and they would be right). Why do you not see a parallel?" My daughter was so excited to be back and feeling better, and needed a "hey great to see you back" not a nasty comment to "punish" them for missing practices when they were ill. That was a long time ago with a coach that I think is no longer coaching young kids, thankfully. And it was a coach with a bad track record of being immature and mean, so my daughter went in prepared to be "punished" in some way. Still made her sad though at the time.

The trust issue with the coach is a big one, maybe a conference will help her understand their plan and what they think she needs to work on to be successful. And maybe one on one they will say some kind encouraging words, those can go a long way with sensitive kids that need to hear their coach believes in them and wants them to succeed.
Oh yes, BTDT! We had similar situations on both bars and beam. The athlete really has to work this out with the coach; the coach has to be willing to work it out with the gymnast. They have to come to a mutual solution. My dd lost her giants on bars going into her level 9 season; they worked it out and came up with a lvl 9 and then a lvl 10 bar set that did not include giants. THEY worked it out and worked thru the trust issues. On beam, she hated back walkovers and back handsprings; so they figured out that a round-off back tuck series would work for multiple levels and perfected that working thru all of the issues and frustration. This sport is SO mental for both the gymnast and the coach - definitely unique people on both sides of the equation.
Tough one. My DD has gone through similar bars fears and has at many times refused any spotting on bars at all. I tend to think that if the fear is really in there, nothing that the coach does can necessarily stop it, but, the deep sighs, etc. don't help. However it can be very hard to judge the situation that's going on with the coach just based on what your DD says. I would say a meeting or conversation with the coach is in order, to get both sides of the story and ask what the coach thinks can be done while waiting for fears to resolve. Glad to hear she is doing well on the other events!
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First, this stinks. I feel for your dd and really don't know if she can overcome her fears with that coach as her coach. Trust is hard to gain back after you have been let down.

Second, CAN you watch practice or are you not allowed? I would stay and watch bars a few times. You need to see if this is really what is going on or if it is just your dds take on it. If your dd is right and this coach is looking away at key times and not effectively spotting this is a huge issue that needs to be brought up because someone will soon get hurt.

Third, it might be time for a meeting with the HC alone and then possibly bringing in the bars coach at the end. Trust is HUGE is gymnastics. Something has to be done to rebuild that trust or your dd will likely not progress at this gym.

Fourth, might be time to look for a new gym if you can't get this resolved.
Trust in the coach is of course very important, but the child trusting themselves can be bigger. How old is your DD? Did all this occur at same time as puberty/growth spurts? The set of skills you describe sound like that may be a player...

My DD is also a deliberate gymnast, and not one to pick things up "quickly" (although that is in comparison to the 12 year olds training L10...), but does them very well once she's got them. Some coaches find kids like her hard to coach - and when the kid hits a rough patch and feels down on themselves, which usually leads to being hesitant to try things (who wants to enthusiastically go for things they used to do and can't now over and over again until they come back?), then its very frustrating for coaches who weren't that kind of athlete themselves. At our gym we are blessed with several ex-elite gymnasts as coaches - the only downside of this is that ex-elite anythings are rarely the type who really struggled, especially at "early optional" stuff that you are describing. That can lead to an occasional eye roll from the kindest coach....DD coaches are great with her one on one and in "official meetings" but understandably have been frustrated over the last year of her "piddling" around with her L7/8 stuff...and believe me, DD is rolling her own eyes at herself plenty - which colors how she thinks others perceive her - when a new coach came she automatically figured he'd think she was "bad" because she wasn't gianting (long story of had - lost - had - lost - has with tiny spot on real bar right now???) - she never thought the new coach would figure out that she, like many kids he's coached over the years, was in a puberty slump...your DD may be projecting her own frustrations to the coach (or not - it could all be bad coaching too). What's more, your DD may secretly want the coach to "fix her" - which of course the coach can't, so your DD may think this means the coach doesn't care/like her. Pushing a kid too hard at this stage breaks many of them - so the coach may be doing the best possible thing by giving it less attention...

Its really important to have good communication with the coach in this situation. My DD previous coach tended to only talk about the positive - and wanted parents to stay out of the gym - both of those approaches have their merits, but it led to me not being able to support DD as well as I might have - and as she was able to overcome her fears at meets (the only time I saw her do gym as a Level 7), I didn't know that she was struggling so much with fears/vestibular stuff - when she was forced by circumstances to change gyms and new coaches only knew how successful she'd been as a L7 and what nice form she had on everything she was doing, there was a period during which she completely unraveled emotionally as she was asked to do things that she "could" do but hadn't been because of the above issues that I and her new coaches were completely unaware of...and although she did most of the L8 skills well at new gym, she became more and more unhappy - to her credit, the new HC recognized that this was occurring and stepped back - DD ended up quitting completely for about 3 months then slowly coming back over the next 3 - now basically skillwise almost where she was a year ago - but instead of coming into summer as a winning 11 year old L7 ready for L8, she's a returning, 4 inches taller, more curvy, - took a year to figure it all out and now carefully choosing skills that I know I can learn and compete without panic/dizziness because I do gym for me, not for my mom or my coach - just turned 13 year old. Her HC is infinitely patient in theory, but I know she'd like to see her do the gymnastics she's "capable" of....and that comes out occasionally...

I would strongly recommend you have a chat with your DD coaches - either with or without her - not in a "what are you going to do to help her move on" way, but in a way that clearly shows your wish her to continue to learn and thrive with gymnastics and realize she's struggling, want to be a united team on helping her through this patch in gym/life whether it takes a month or a year or will either feel better about how the coaches are dealing with it, or not, but I would take the kid out of some of the conversation - as they color everything with their emotions. Not to say don't believe your DD, just get the info yourself.
Thanks everyone! Your comments have been so helpful. I do think it's time for a conversation with the coach but was hesitant because I wasn't sure how to communicate this and well, I do have a tendency to not word things in the most appropriate way in person :oops:. I also believe as MeetDirector says that BOTH athlete and coach need to work it out. Not that I can't/don't have a hand in that just that ultimately the two of them need to work it out. I have many times tried to provide my DD with perspective on the motivations/intentions of her coaches when she is frustrated. Just as I have many times provided the coaches insight on my DD's temperament. Although I am sometimes frustrated with things DD tells me, I can tell her coach is trying.

This all started with a growth spurt at the end of the year (DD is almost 13). Overnight her long-sleeved shirt sleeves were too short. At this time she also had a minor injury that kept her from normal training for a couple of weeks. For a little while all tumbling, vaulting and bars felt "funny" to her. DD also has a typical teen mindset. She will tell me stories of whatever injustice is going on in her life and if I provide a counter perspective I'm met with a comment on how I just don't understand or how I sound like whoever she feels wronged her. So I pick and choose what to say and when to say it. I get that she needs to vent a lot. I think the frustrations I'm sensing now are resulting from pressure over what level DD will compete next season. The giant will keep her from L7. L6 may be the best fit but I don't think it was the plan for her. DD is also the oldest in her group. Most are 2-3 years younger than her although she is the same size as the rest of her teammates.

@gracyomalley - Yes! I do think my DD secretly wants the coach to "fix her". And for sure this "failure" is a statement that the coach doesn't like her. And I had to chuckle at your story on your DD thinking the new coach would think she was "bad". Two weeks ago I heard an identical story from my DD and a new coach. My DD is a pleaser and still has a tendency to tie her worth/likability to how "good" of a gymast or how good of a student she is...but this is a whole other topic.:cool:
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