Parents Gym switch and focus issues

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Proud Parent
Mar 13, 2014
I could use some advice! My daughter started gymnastics a year ago. She will be 5 in a couple of months. We just changed gyms, because the gym she was at decided to no longer offer any team options and only offer rec. Since we wanted her to be at a gym where she could eventually progress to a team (she really wants to be on a team), we decided it was better to make the move now. She had been taking a one hour a week rec class. At the new gym, she was placed on their AAU Level 2 team, which they also consider their pre-team for USAG. She is in a group with other 5 year olds. She now practices twice a week for two hours. It is definitely a big change, because she is doing a lot more conditioning and the classes are longer. She absolutely LOVES gymnastics, but is having a hard time with this class. The first day was a trial and the end of their summer classes. She had a sweet coach. She was very tired, but still enjoyed the class. When she went back for the second class there were two new coaches, since it was the start of the new season and they had to do some rearranging to accommodate all of the new team members who transferred from her old gym. This was hard for her, because it just added to all of the change she has experienced in the past week, from switching gyms and increasing her commitment. She really struggled with focusing.

I understand this will all get better with time and that she is still very young. I am particularly looking for some suggestions about how to help her on the beam. She has always (including her rec class) gotten bored on the beam. She loves the high energy aspect of everything else in gymnastics. When she is on the beam, she doesn’t always pay attention to the coach and sometimes ends up with one of the coaches helping her individually to get her to participate. It seems worse at the new gym. It could be that she is tired from all of the conditioning. She told us that she wasn't sure what she was supposed to be doing. I’m not sure how true this is. Does anyone else have this issue with your daughter? I’m not trying to force her into liking anything. I just want to make sure she is participating and not stressing her coaches out :) Is there anything we can do at home to help her in class?
My daughter is close to five and is an excellent listener and behaves so well at school and is a pretty good listener at home, and was at the gym even at 3 and that is one of the main reasons she advanced so quickly I think. Well about 2 months ago she got it in her head that she could basically just do whatever she wanted in class and was driving her poor sweet coach insane I think. We had a big talk and I made sure that she was still happy in the class and that she wasn't having any problems causing it and she was still loving class and no problems. So I just had to tell her that she needed to be nice and respect her coach and how exactly that looks I let her know that it wasn't fair to her classmates that she was doing that either. I gave her a week to work on it or else I was going to have her take a break. Well she did and is doing so much better and is so proud of herself for being respectful to her coach.
Well at age 4 I would just leave her alone and let her have fun unless the coach comes and tells you there is a problem. I have a 5 year old who does 6 hours a week and she doesn't always pay attention. It's not a big deal. She's little and that is perfectly age appropriate. So I really wouldn't worry about anything unless the coach comes to you and says there is an issue.
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Yeah, at age 4/5 the focus starts waning when they get bored. There are definitely some 4/5 year olds with amazing focus for all the events and conditioning in long classes, but I'd say those kids are more rare, not the expectation. If the coaches aren't complaining and seem happy with her behavior and progress, then everything is fine. If it stops being fun at this age, she won't progress at all, so the best thing is to just continue whatever positive parental messaging you otherwise do with your children for any type of classes (like school). The "listening ears" reminder a poster mentioned, respectful behaviors like being quiet and looking at the teacher/coach when she is talking, etc. Whatever you would say in general for teaching your children respectful and appropriate behavior and attitude in a class setting in life :). Beyond that, nothing really gymnastic-specific! She'll probably do awesome, but worst case, if her attention does start to get worse over time and she isn't happily adjusting, she might actually be bored with this style of training, and might want to return to a more rec-like class for a while until she matures a little. Seen that happen more than once, and plenty of time for it if so. Whatever keeps the love and fun until they are ready to be dig in more.

But like I said, if the coaches aren't complaining, then she's probably right where she needs to be, and most likely she'll improve on focus as she ages a little and adapts to the new routine. Have fun watching her blossom! :)
I just want to echo that her behavior sounds age-appropriate to me and will likely get better in time. And there's no harm (IMHO) of scaling back the hours at such a young age, if it seems like it's losing the fun.

My 5 1/2 year old started in developmental classes a year ago... at a lower level than AAU level 2 (it's still pre-JO level 1). She's still in the same 1 hour per week class but it's amazing how much more focused she is now compared to last year. Last year she would get distracted all the time, and would stare off into space and miss important things her coaches said. Now she seems to really be listening 90% of the time (though she is a social busybody so it may never be 100%). She's also gone from being one of the kids who had trouble doing many of the skills to being one of the kids who breezes through most of the class. She is different than your DD- I used to wonder if I should put her back in rec because it wasn't clear (to me) that she should be in a team-track environment. But her coaches said to keep her in and she could take her time and get there eventually. And now I see what they were saying, and I'm wondering when she'll move up (but not worried and not saying anything- she's happy, it's her gymnastics and I trust the coaches at this place- I think this may change when her little sister moves up into her class, that may cause some friction. or not.).
This sounds totally normal. I have a 4 1/2 yr old on pre team. She's got good focus, but she's still 4. Sometimes she has trouble waiting her turn and absolutely needs individual help at times. She's 4. I wouldn't sweat it at all. I also have a 7 yr old on team with ADHD, and she was bouncing off walls at 4. Focus! Ha! Her first year on team was kind of rough, but she's doing great now. Form is getting better and better, and she is picking up skills quickly. Give it time!
With 4 year olds, their entire experience can be changed by having a bad nap, not eating a good lunch, having an activity prior, etc. Is the time of day different than her old class? Does she have a good snack prior to class? It will take time to adjust, but even when she does, she will have 'on' days and 'off''s part of being 4. :)
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Thank you all so much for your advice. It was helpful to read. My sister told me I was overreacting. She said I couldn't expect that every day would be perfect. I know I shouldn't expect that. It's hard to watch your child misbehave, as I'm sure you all understand. She is very strong willed and that can be challenging.

We are about to head to the gym. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks!
I will offer a different perspective. Not saying that your DD isn't up to the challenge, I do not know her. :) at our gym, kids have to try out for preteam. Focus and coachability is a huge part of why we do or do not accept kids... Our preteam officially is for girls between 5-10yo but we have a couple of girls who are still 4. In our classes, they are expected to be able to focus and work hard. Goofing around or spacing off isn't allowed. It's a precursor to team style coaching, not an extension of rec classes. We deny many kids every year who have lots of promise but just don't have the mental focus and drive to succeed in a preteam group just quite yet. Now, of course they are kids and have bad days, or we have workouts where quite a few of the girls are having a hard time focusing etc, but the point is that it is expected that they try their hardest and when we do have bad days, the girls get lectures about it.
If a child doesn't know what they are supposed to do, even in rec classes, I call them out for not listening. I explain every exercise beforehand and usually I will make certain everyone is paying attention, but if someone isn't and they don't know what to do, I call them on it. Yes, even at age 4. In a preteam setting, that would probably make me question if the girl was ready (if it happened often).
If it was my kid (and trust me, my gymmie did this in her rec classes up to age 7!) :) I would really stress the importance of paying attention to the coach and focusing. If I noticed she was having a really hard time with that and/or not enjoying it, I would go back to a less stressful track for the time being.
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If she's truly goofing off at every practice, then I'd just talk with her about the importance of paying attention and doing what the coach wants her to do. If she loves gymnastics and wants to be on team, then she'll work a little harder to focus, if she knows that's the expectation. As surprisegymmom said, I would reinforce that she needs to focus, but not stress about it otherwise.

She had practice last night. She seemed to be happy for the first few minutes of the class and then she started to get tired. The gym was SO hot. After they ran, they worked on more conditioning and stretching. She looked so grumpy and finally got sent over to sit with us, because she wasn’t participating. I talked to the gym manager about her ideas to transition her into this class more easily. She took her over to the head coach/owner and they talked for awhile. She said my daughter was mainly complaining about it being too hard. The gym manager told us that they thought she has the skills to be in the class but her mind hasn’t caught up with her body/physical abilities yet, since she is still so young. She said the coach said she could come one day a week for awhile. I don’t think going twice a week is the problem. I think the two hour class is the issue, so I don’t think this would solve anything. She also said we could move her back into rec until she as ready, but they wanted to get her back into the AAU L2 class as soon as possible. She said she could take private lessons if we wanted, to work on the routines she would miss, since they are supposed to go to around 5 meets this year. I thought this might help her get used to the coach in a setting that would work better for her. So, here are my options:

1. Attempt the pre-team class once a week, instead of two, for a few weeks.

2. One hour rec class

3. One hour rec class and privates (maybe just a couple of month)

4. Another option would be to put her in a rec class at our gym and a rec class at a gym that is right by the business we own, while we are working. This would eliminate another night driving to our gym, but would get her used to going twice a week. Is it confusing and conflicting to have her enrolled at two gyms? I know the owner of this gym, so I could discuss it with her first.

What are your thoughts?
I wouldn't enroll her at two gyms. How long has she been doing the new schedule again? if it's only been a few days, I'd give her a few weeks to adjust before worrying too much.
This was only her third class. She just seems so unhappy, which is why we were considering easing her into it more gradually, especially since she wasn't participating last night. We don't want to squelch her passion for the sport. We want her to hold up the commitment she made, but she if 4, so that is hard for her to understand.
First, sorry your little one is not feeling great about her class. Sounds like you are on top of it and definitely trying to keep it fun and appropriate for her needs.

Of course I don't know your DD, but from your descriptions so far, it really sounds to me like she's not quite ready for the structure of pre-team/early team (I'm not so familiar with AAU - only JO and Xcel). These classes will be more conditioning and stretching, and more strict in required attentive capacity than a rec class. Not all 4/5 year olds are going to like this very much. I have seen this multiple times that a parent will try out pre-team/team, but ultimately take a young child back to rec for a while until it's clear they not only can *handle* the different structure, but *want* to do this style of class. Otherwise, they just won't be happy and are likely to quit.

The post by @SurpriseGymMom above accurately reflects our pre-team program as well. Young kids are chosen partially on talent, but at least equally on ability to focus and desire to actually do the conditioning and more fundamental, repetitive (i.e., boring to some kids) skills that pre-team/early team requires. No shame at all in sticking with the more fun-focused rec style until a talented little gymmie is ready for, and wants, more.

I'm not sure why your coach is pushing to compete with a child so young who is complaining that training is "too hard". Sounds like she is talented, but that still feels odd to me. I would just be scared of pushing her too hard before she's ready and having her be unhappy. But of course I don't know all the details. Just my one perspective based on what you wrote so far. I'd keep her in rec, either 1 or 2 times a week and see if she is happier. See how that goes, then if she is begging to go back to the other group at any point, then maybe give another go. Hope you can find whatever makes her happy!
Oh poor kid! I wouldn't worry about the commitment thing--while I enforce that with my kids, they are a lot older than 4 yr olds! If she likes pre-team and that aspect, then try the once a week and see how it goes. If she's just not liking it at all--then drop to rec and forget about team for awhile. More important for her to have fun--even if she's incredibly talented!
Isn't she 4? In my opinion, 5 meets is excessive for most four year olds. I currently have a pretty focused 4 year old in a hot shots group (1.5 hours/twice week), and I just do not think they are ready for a bunch of gym meets at that age--at least not any of the USAG JO ones we attended last year. Her hot shots group does not compete at any gym meets, though they learn the level 1 and 2 skills. Maybe AAU meets are different?? I have a talented 7 year old who could do lots of skills at 4 and 5 but they didn't put her on team until 6 because she just wasn't behaviorally ready to handle it. And even then at 6, the 8 USAG meets we did last year (only JO level one, mind you) were a lot for all of the 6 year olds on her team. I just would not be concerned about competing gym meets at 4 years old, but maybe that's just me!
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