For Parents Has anyone ever "forced" a change?

mom2newgymnast

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I don't have any direct experience with this kind of situation, but I wanted to give you some support. It seems like a difficult situation for everyone and I feel bad for your daughter. :( Honestly, I do think that you should force a change one way or the other because it just doesn't seem to be working there anymore. But I do appreciate that you aren't so quick to condemn the gym, which I know would be easy to do and would be understandable. I think it's good that you are willing to look at the big picture. I'm a big believer that gymnastics should be about enjoying yourself and having fun about anything else. Of course it's not always going to be perfect or easy, but if it is making your child unhappy and feeling bad about themselves, then I think it's time to change.. either the gym or the sport.

I know this isn't exactly the same and I am not saying that this is what is happening with your daughter, but we had a somewhat similar situation at our gym last year. There was a girl in my daughter's team that was talented and did well, but she frequently had mental blocks and would just stop doing certain skills and then whole events for days and weeks at a time. And eventually she stopped pretty much everything. The coaches were patient at first. They really did try and work with her. They are human though and they got frustrated at times too. She would cry at every practice. She started going to the bathroom for 20-30 minutes at a time. She'd sometimes hide behind mats to skip turns. She would roll her eyes and complain constantly to her teammates. The coaches spent a lot of time dealing with her at every practice. The coaches were frustrated, her teammates were annoyed, her parents were upset. Her mom would complain about how her daughter wasn't being coached and wasn't treated well, but her daughter really was very difficult to coach and it was impacting the whole team. After months and months of this, I think they ended up giving her a deadline to have at least some of her skills back or they said she would have to leave the team. She ended up quitting and her mom has very negative things to say about the gym and coaches now (not surprisingly). But I personally don't think the coaches or the gym were abusive or wrong. I felt bad for her, because of course no one wants to have fears or mental blocks, but she honestly didn't want to be there and she was miserable and it was impacting everyone else too. She is now doing cheerleading and loves it and is doing a lot of skills that she was completely blocked on before.

Please don't think I am saying that your daughter is the same. I was just saying this because I think there is a tendency lately to label everything as mental abuse and horrible coaching when sometimes it really might just be a difficult gym dynamic or just not the right environment for your child at that exact moment in time. Of course, it could be the coaches are bad and only you /your daughter can really know that... Regardless, I do think that something has to give and it doesn't seem healthy for your daughter to be in that environment anymore, so I would definitely consider making a change.
 

mommyof1

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Everyone handles things differently. I’d be talking to other parents and giving them a heads ups up. But just keeping quiet is what perpetrates bad situations. Multiple people thinking they are they only one.

yeah no, this is exactly what got USAG into it’s mess.
Talking with the other parents is not the same as bringing another child’s statements about the coaches directly to those coaches. Alert the parents of a child who says she is being treated improperly? Yes, absolutely. Report evidence of abuse to the proper authorities? Of course. But nothing good can possibly come of directly confronting the coach who is accused of treating the athletes poorly with a string of text messages written by other people’s children.
 
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Madden3

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I am not going to comment about the gym or coaches. It is unclear to me what is going on there, and presumably if you sensed this was a seriously unhealthy situation you would not be having doubts about getting your kid out of there. So I will just talk about my thoughts as the mom of adolescent athletes who have struggled with mental health issues, have experienced all kinds of coaching both good and bad, and who have had to make difficult decisions about their futures while also living with mental health issues, which can be very hard even for adults.
There are consequences to the parent unilaterally “forcing” a change. What if the new gym sucks? What if she loses her gym friends? What if she stops doing gymnastics? If you have made the decision for her, she can and probably will blame you, and worse, she may stop trusting you.
What you can do is be clear as day why you are concerned. She is not happy at this gym, and she apparently has reason to be unhappy. That much is clear. A kid who is happy with her gym does not call to be picked up early from practice or want to miss practice, unless they are ill. I would suggest, that if she decides to stay, one stipulation is that she must go to every practice and she cannot leave early. By having this “out” of leaving practice when she is upset, she is avoiding facing the issues. Either the issues with this gym are things that can be dealt with and moved passed so she can get back to enjoying the sport, or they are not things that can be solved and the only option is to leave. I believe in most cases, with support, the young person can figure out which it is for themselves.
When my kids have had to make tough decisions, I sat them down and had them write out pros and cons lists. I would help, but it had to be their list, their pros and cons. (If needed, I would make my own list about a situation focusing on MY pros and cons. A long commute may be a con to the parent, but not to the athlete, for example.) It seems so simple, but sometimes just getting all the conflicting thoughts out on paper helps bring things into focus.

Sorry you are going through this. My best to your and your daughter.
 

CLgym

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@Madden3 Thank you for your insights. My DD skipped practice again today (after getting up early to watch team finals, she declared she was too tired to go). I did not handle it well….. I’m not always the best parent! So your post was particularly timely and helpful. Your pro/con list is a great idea. I will try it later today. And I think making practice mandatory is an important next step if she wants to stay.

I am also glad you articulated the “costs” associated with a forced change. I couldn’t quite put my finger on those costs….. But they are what has kept up in a holding pattern for so long, and are not insignificant.

I also am going to start searching for a new therapist….. DD is just not connecting.
 

CLgym

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@mom2newgymnast — The gymnast you described actually sounds a little like mine, minus the tears and bad behavior. My DD has never cried or acted out in the gym, but she does avoid a ton of skills/stations (or barely tries). Coaches are most certainly frustrated (I am too!), and I think they’ve kinda given up.
 

Kara

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I'll put in the perspective of a gymnast who had mental block issues. I was one of those child prodigies; all the natural talent in the world. One day at 12 my brain decided it could not do anything backwards on beam. The coaches were patient, my parents didn't put any pressure on me, we tried everything, therapy, going back to progressions, spotting, private lessons, taking time away from doing the skills. None of it worked and I got more and more miserable. This went on for 3 years. I got more and more anxious and miserable; I couldn't progress without these skills despite having "elite" level skills on the other 3 events. But, I kept saying I wanted to keep going. Unfortunately, back my time there was no event specialist or Excel option. In hindsight I wish my parents would have pulled me from the gym; whether that meant a break, quitting altogether, or trying a different gym; I can't say, but staying in holding mode for so long ended up having horrible consequences on my mental state. At 40 years old I do still love the sport, but I also still have horrible anxiety issues, and nightmares about being perpetually stuck on a beam doing back handsprings. Sorry this isn't the most eloquent post; it's hard to put into words how the situation effected me, but hopefully it's a helpful perspective.
 

PeanutsMom

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Hi there. I am looking for advice regarding a forced change (either forced quit or gym change). Has anyone done this to their child?

Long post -- sorry!! For those who have been following, my DD (just turned 13 a few days ago) is a repeat L8 who has lost most of her skills this year. It has gone from bad to worse. Possibly it started due to growth/normal fears, but has now snowballed into something bigger and I think largely mental.

Yesterday DD texted (again) for me to pick her up early. Said one coach was being mean (coach 1) and another (coach 2) laughed at her. Neither of these coaches are the one coach (coach 3) that DD and others typically have trouble with (who I have mentioned in the past).

When I arrived HC wanted to chat with me about why DD was leaving early. I was honest about DD's text and asked HC to talk to DD (bc DD hates to talk with me about gym problems). HC had a long conversation with DD, who to her credit articulated her experience with the coaches. Unfortunately, it sounds like HC at least partially invalidated DD's perception ("we are not like that here") and made excuses/justified the coaches behavior. HC did express sympathy ("I feel bad for you") to DD. During our brief chat, HC told me that DD isn't working hard and that is why she is losing skills (this is technically true, although I think there is a deeper root cause for why she isn't working). She also told me that she keeps thinking DD will quit. Notably, this was the first time any coach has ever talked with me or DD about what's going on with DD in the gym (except when I requested a meeting last fall and was told it was likely related to age/growth).

On the way home I talked to DD about changing gyms. Long story short, she said no. There are only two nearby options: (1) old gym would probably take her back in Xcel; or (2) a local park district team with few optionals. If we wanted to look at a strongish JO program, we are looking about an hour long drive one way (and frankly, I'm not sure that DD would even make such a team with current skills).

I was prepared to maintain the status quo and let this play out, but then DD's phone started blowing up with texts. I peeked. Here is a sampling of comments made by DD's teammates about the current gym situation:

"Was [DD's] mom there to tell [HC] about what's been going on?"
"You know how [coach 1] has been ignoring us, yeah well it was the worst day yet."
"[Coach 1] walked away when [gymnast] tried to talk to him"
"[Coach 2] didn't care that I was crying..."
"[Coach 1] ignored us and told us we were all lying and had so much attitude."
"We had [event] for like 2 and 1/2 hours today and [coach 1] didn't talk to us for most of it."
"For part of it [coach 1] literally left."
"[Coach 1] got mad cause we r scared to do stuff"
"Maybe if we actually had a coach we wouldn't be in this situation. I mean a coach that supports us and wants to coach us and encourages us and provides a healthy environment."
"It is not normal that everyone is losing everything."
"It's not our fault. It is not fair to blame ourselves. It is [coach 1's] job to help us succeed and the fact of the matter is [coach] isn't doing that..."
We are the only group [coach 1] refuses to talk to."
"At this point [coach 1] isn't even a coach. A coach is someone who is there to spot people and help them get better. Not someone who rolls eyes, ignores their students, and then sarcastically remarks that we will perfect at competitions."
"I think the other thing that's frustrating was today we got assignments that were realistically impossible to finish or even do."
"[Coach 1] refuses to work with people who are scared because [coach] doesn't want to do that."

DD did not comment at all -- these were remarks from several teammates.

After reading these comments, and looking at DD's situation objectively, I am fairly positive nothing will change if she stays at her current gym. But I don't see how I can force a change (I mean, I could force her to quit by not paying -- but that seems cruel).

Thoughts? Has anyone successfully forced a change? And what to do about so few gym options -- and the fact that DD would struggle with a tryout right now.
Wow..this could have been written about the situation on my DD old gym (which she "retired" from in April. We are now at a new gym and she is so much happier. Coaches like that are not interested in how their athletes are doing. They are interested in how their super stars are doing. If you can move DD, I would. My DD is still trying to regain confidence and skills, will be repeating level 7, and is happy doing it. She has done her giant flyaway again (first time since February), she is starting to twist (she completed a half and is working towards her full) and is working double backs into the pit. She was also told she was lazy and didn't work hard enough (even though she was only 1 of 2 level 6s who moved up to level 7 during a horrendous COVID year). Run fast away from that place (and I am serious..we could be at the same gym).
 

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