Anon How active should a parent be in their daughter's gymnastics journey?

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Feb 16, 2022
747
My 10-year-old DD is a gymnast starting optionals this year. She's always had great seasons and she was always a hard worker - motivated to go to the gym and always used her time wisely. The past few months (maybe 5 months or so), it's been quite up and down. As we continue to get into these higher levels (7 now), I've noticed a trend that the parents are extremely active in their child's gym journey. By this I mean, they set daily and weekly goals with their daughters, and gymnastics is a huge topic in their home. It is truly front and center for many of these families and for those girls, I've noticed that those gymnasts seem to be the super-achievers who are really going far. From day one, I've always been a more hands-off parent. I volunteer for all the meets, I get her to practice on time, and I'm always there to provide support and a smile so I don't mean that we are totally checked out. Our commitment level is high but I try to stay in my "lane" so to speak and not coach my child or offer advice about gymnastics that could be wrong.

The problem is that my daughter is really struggling with many things at practice. She is distracted a lot, she tends to check out of skills she doesn't want to do (typically the more difficult ones), and I've noticed she doesn't focus on perfecting things the way that some of her teammates do (specifically many of them who have the go-getter, goal setting parent.) In general, there is a lot of "down time" at the gym (aka she finds ways to spend time practicing skills she is familiar and comfortable with while avoiding harder skills) while others are taking time to face the more challenging skills and I feel it's holding her back (but I haven't stated this to her). Quite frankly, it's going to be a tough season if she doesn't start practicing the upgrades.

Am I the problem? Should I be taking time to sit down with my daughter and help her map out goals and a more hands-on role with her by offering advice or tips? Because it sure feels like the more active parents & families equate to kids who are excelling in the gym. I'm genuinely curious what people's opinions are about this (both parents and coaches) And for parents who have been successful with a more hands-on approach, how do you do that without layering on the pressure and creating a kid that is only doing the sport for their parent?

I sense this is a multifaceted motivational issue and there are many contributing factors that I haven't listed here with one of the main ones being that her closest friends are nailing down their skills at warp speed compared to her so I feel that it could be an insecurity issue as well.
I'm struggling - she's struggling. Does anyone have advice?
 

Coach Kate

Coach
Fan
Oct 13, 2021
238
31
I find it interesting that you say the parents seem that involved. My parents knew nothing about gymnastics, and when I was in compulsories, they read a rules book to be better informed, liked watching parts of practice from time to time, and encouraged me to set goals, but they never sat down and mapped out a future for me. I was extremely self motivated and even wrote little home workouts for myself - handstands, beam work, conditioning, stretching, those kinds of things. It was my thing, and they gave rides and of course money but if I wanted to succeed, it was up to me.

As a coach, I really encourage athletes to take ownership for their own gymnastics. Know when your meets are. Pack your own gym bag and snacks. Wash your own gymnastics clothes and wristies, and if you don't know how, ask your parents to teach you. It's not your parent's job to remember a hair tie, it's yours, and you can do a pony tail in the car if you're running late. Set your own goals. If you don't want to get better, then don't. Someone else does, and she will beat you. If you're ok with that, fine. If you're not, take an extra turn. Ask for tips on your new skill. Ask if there's skill specific conditioning you can do at home to help you progress faster.

With your daughter, I think you could ask her what her goals are and what she's doing this week at practice to help her get there, but I honestly wouldn't hover around her. Some kids need to fail a little bit. If she gets lower scores than she expected, if she has to scratch an event she's not ready to compete, it could be the kick in the butt she needs. And maybe she finds out she doesn't really care that much, and that's ok too.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
I don’t think you’re the problem. My wife NEVER goes to the gym (only for pick up) and I every now and then if I pick her up will watch if I get there early. Other then that we ask her and her coach the plan for the year and then just trust the coach. We barely ask her about gymnastics just how was her day and that’s about it
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
I'm not an expert.. just a parent, but I don't think parents should be that involved. Be supportive and act interested, but parents setting daily goals for your child and having life revolve around gymnastics? Nah. I personally think that that is too much pressure on the gymnast. None of the level 10s at our gym have parents like that from what I can tell. I think some of the level 7 and 8s may. It'll be interesting to see how many of those girls stay in the sport long term though..

So I think you have the right attitude. It's your daughter's sport and she will have to figure it out.
 

gymgal

Gold Membership
Proud Parent
Aug 22, 2008
4,686
Continuing to maintain a positive environment around gymnastics will be the most help for gymnasts who are struggling. Letting them hash out their frustrations and then encourage forward thinking. having the parent attitude of "it will come when you are physically and mentally ready", providing the support and faith in her without the pressure that she is already putting on herself.

Just one more thing to add is that lower optionals is the time where you see a lot of gymnasts struggling and significant decrease in numbers at each level. It is just natural - these skills are getting harder and most gymnasts don't have the strength, flexibility, power, mental confidence (think blocks) to obtain these higher skills. Over involved parents (with bribes and whatnot) may be able to push their child through these struggles for a short while but in the end, the gymnast has to find it within herself to get through these struggles.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
When I started to go to the gym less (as in to watch practices), the more I enjoy my daughter's gymnastics journey. No more seeing what other girls were doing compared to mine. No more overthinking her motivation or skills. I go to meets and support her there, and it's nice to be surprised with new skills. I'm also a listening ear if she needs one. But other than that, pretty hands off. She knows that if she's "stuck" and wants a private to let me know and I'll contact the coaches. And she knows that if there is an issue or problem, I'm here to support her and advocate for her however I can. Otherwise I try to be very hands off and let her lead.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
A couple of things:
  1. Do you live with these other families that give you insight into how "involved" they are? I dislike when folks see something through the lens of their biases, extrapolate out, and come to conclusions that reinforce their biases. Then we get a bunch of tsk-tsk posts about how "I would never...". I just caution in making such observations when we might only know a small fraction of the background of what we are observing. The fact that you know so much about how she is struggling in gym could be construed that you are one of those heavily involved parents.
  2. There are no absolutes or definitive answers when it comes to our children and the best way to do whatever. They are all unique individuals in unique environments, YOU know best your child and the type of person they are, what they respond to, dislike, like. Your family, school, home situation etc. These are all things that can impact your chosen path.
  3. As stated earlier, the struggle with someone new to optionals is real. Yes, some girls seem to have no issues, but plenty do. I do believe it starts the mental side of gymnastics. Learning how to deal with adversity and setbacks. Especially for the ones that were reasonably successful compulsory gymnasts. So some of what you are seeing can be attributed to that and really is transitory and resolves after the optional adjustment period.
  4. Building off of point 2, just having a positive relationship with your child is what I believe is most important. Whether that is sitting down and working out goals, or just giving space. You know your child, and having a loving and positive relationship will elicit conversations with her. These conversations will help her more than anything, in and out of the gym. Talk with her, she will give you ideas on what she needs.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
Of course you're not the problem. Do you want to be involved in your daughter's journey? That's completely up to you. Now, if you want to, do not pressure her. When gymnasts have mental blocks, overwhelming questions can make them feel even more stressed and guilty than they already were. You can slightly ease it into the conversation. Ex:
1. How was gymnastics?
2. Did you have a nice time?
3. I'm proud of how far you've come.
Now, if she seems like she doesn't want to talk much, don't push it. If she does, then once again, it's up to you if you want to keep talking. Just try not to overwhelm her, or yourself.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Jan 21, 2007
4,558
Baltimore, MD
I think it's best when parents are active only as support, encouragement, and emotional cheerleaders.

I do not think parents should be involved in setting goals, tracking scores or progress, or anything like that. I think it is extremely beneficial for athletes to NOT feel any pressure at all from their parents; when they get home from practice, they should get home to parents who they know will love them and support them with zero regard whatsoever to their success or failure in the gym.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
My 10-year-old DD is a gymnast starting optionals this year. She's always had great seasons and she was always a hard worker - motivated to go to the gym and always used her time wisely. The past few months (maybe 5 months or so), it's been quite up and down. As we continue to get into these higher levels (7 now), I've noticed a trend that the parents are extremely active in their child's gym journey. By this I mean, they set daily and weekly goals with their daughters, and gymnastics is a huge topic in their home. It is truly front and center for many of these families and for those girls, I've noticed that those gymnasts seem to be the super-achievers who are really going far. From day one, I've always been a more hands-off parent. I volunteer for all the meets, I get her to practice on time, and I'm always there to provide support and a smile so I don't mean that we are totally checked out. Our commitment level is high but I try to stay in my "lane" so to speak and not coach my child or offer advice about gymnastics that could be wrong.

The problem is that my daughter is really struggling with many things at practice. She is distracted a lot, she tends to check out of skills she doesn't want to do (typically the more difficult ones), and I've noticed she doesn't focus on perfecting things the way that some of her teammates do (specifically many of them who have the go-getter, goal setting parent.) In general, there is a lot of "down time" at the gym (aka she finds ways to spend time practicing skills she is familiar and comfortable with while avoiding harder skills) while others are taking time to face the more challenging skills and I feel it's holding her back (but I haven't stated this to her). Quite frankly, it's going to be a tough season if she doesn't start practicing the upgrades.

Am I the problem? Should I be taking time to sit down with my daughter and help her map out goals and a more hands-on role with her by offering advice or tips? Because it sure feels like the more active parents & families equate to kids who are excelling in the gym. I'm genuinely curious what people's opinions are about this (both parents and coaches) And for parents who have been successful with a more hands-on approach, how do you do that without layering on the pressure and creating a kid that is only doing the sport for their parent?

I sense this is a multifaceted motivational issue and there are many contributing factors that I haven't listed here with one of the main ones being that her closest friends are nailing down their skills at warp speed compared to her so I feel that it could be an insecurity issue as well.
I'm struggling - she's struggling. Does anyone have advice?
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
I'm surprised that you've noticed increased parental involvement as you move up the levels. In my experience, the most invested parents are the ones getting their 4 year old private lessons to work on cartwheels. By the time of upper optionals, most parents have a "been there, done that" attitude and seem pretty uninvolved.
I agree. I saw way more involvement/obsession at level 2/3 than I do in optionals.
I think it has to be the gymnast who is goal setting and figuring out what works for her. I've never made a single suggestion to my daughter (L6/7) regarding her gymnastics other than forcing her to take days off/rest. She's the one who decides to do extra stretching, journals her goals, takes extra turns etc. She shares a lot of what she's doing and I just listen and ask occasional questions. She's the one driving her improvement and the conversation around gym.
But I know there will come a time in the future where she will struggle and gymnastics might not be worth the effort anymore and there will be nothing I can do besides encouraging her and supporting her as she processes her decision.
All the girls who have had high pressure from parents have quit by L 6/7.
Your daughter is a young optional- let her figure out what's important to her. If she's upset with her progress, you can just ask, "what can you do in practice that might help?" And "how can I support you?"
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
The problem is that my daughter is really struggling with many things at practice. She is distracted a lot, she tends to check out of skills she doesn't want to do (typically the more difficult ones), and I've noticed she doesn't focus on perfecting things the way that some of her teammates do (specifically many of them who have the go-getter, goal setting parent.) In general, there is a lot of "down time" at the gym (aka she finds ways to spend time practicing skills she is familiar and comfortable with while avoiding harder skills) while others are taking time to face the more challenging skills and I feel it's holding her back (but I haven't stated this to her). Quite frankly, it's going to be a tough season if she doesn't start practicing the upgrades.

As a coach I prefer the parents to have a hands off approach most of the time. However I do like for parents to let me know if problems are brewing so we can address it early. It is a team effort and the coach and parent should be able to work together to benefit the gymnast as a person - not just as a gymnast. There definitely seems to be a large correlation between the amount of joy and happiness of the kids I coach and their parental involvement.

The quoted paragraph above to me, potentially highlights more of a gym/group issue. The fact that other parents are micro managing at home only hides some of the training environment/motivational issues. While level sevens should be able to stay on task and follow a program, they still need guidance, structure and clear strategies for what to do to work through struggles instead of avoiding them.

Ideally all gymnasts would be internally motivated, but I think it is unrealistic to expect that from all our athletes all the time. As coaches, practice needs to be structured in a way to develop internal motivation, with the coach providing some external motivation at times. Now if this was happening your daughter may be more focused and achieving or it may be the catalyst for her to see that she doesn't really love the sport any more.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
I find it interesting that you say the parents seem that involved. My parents knew nothing about gymnastics, and when I was in compulsories, they read a rules book to be better informed, liked watching parts of practice from time to time, and encouraged me to set goals, but they never sat down and mapped out a future for me. I was extremely self motivated and even wrote little home workouts for myself - handstands, beam work, conditioning, stretching, those kinds of things. It was my thing, and they gave rides and of course money but if I wanted to succeed, it was up to me.

As a coach, I really encourage athletes to take ownership for their own gymnastics. Know when your meets are. Pack your own gym bag and snacks. Wash your own gymnastics clothes and wristies, and if you don't know how, ask your parents to teach you. It's not your parent's job to remember a hair tie, it's yours, and you can do a pony tail in the car if you're running late. Set your own goals. If you don't want to get better, then don't. Someone else does, and she will beat you. If you're ok with that, fine. If you're not, take an extra turn. Ask for tips on your new skill. Ask if there's skill specific conditioning you can do at home to help you progress faster.

With your daughter, I think you could ask her what her goals are and what she's doing this week at practice to help her get there, but I honestly wouldn't hover around her. Some kids need to fail a little bit. If she gets lower scores than she expected, if she has to scratch an event she's not ready to compete, it could be the kick in the butt she needs. And maybe she finds out she doesn't really care that much, and that's ok too.
Thanks. I love the suggestions on having her manage her own tasks and taking ownership of her own journey. Great tip and a perfect age to start doing that.
 
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Feb 16, 2022
747
When I started to go to the gym less (as in to watch practices), the more I enjoy my daughter's gymnastics journey. No more seeing what other girls were doing compared to mine. No more overthinking her motivation or skills. I go to meets and support her there, and it's nice to be surprised with new skills. I'm also a listening ear if she needs one. But other than that, pretty hands off. She knows that if she's "stuck" and wants a private to let me know and I'll contact the coaches. And she knows that if there is an issue or problem, I'm here to support her and advocate for her however I can. Otherwise I try to be very hands off and let her lead.
I think this is the direction I'm planning to go in - the less I know, the happier I am but as you said, always here to support and communicate with coaches. Thanks for the response.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
I agree. I saw way more involvement/obsession at level 2/3 than I do in optionals.
I think it has to be the gymnast who is goal setting and figuring out what works for her. I've never made a single suggestion to my daughter (L6/7) regarding her gymnastics other than forcing her to take days off/rest. She's the one who decides to do extra stretching, journals her goals, takes extra turns etc. She shares a lot of what she's doing and I just listen and ask occasional questions. She's the one driving her improvement and the conversation around gym.
But I know there will come a time in the future where she will struggle and gymnastics might not be worth the effort anymore and there will be nothing I can do besides encouraging her and supporting her as she processes her decision.
All the girls who have had high pressure from parents have quit by L 6/7.
Your daughter is a young optional- let her figure out what's important to her. If she's upset with her progress, you can just ask, "what can you do in practice that might help?" And "how can I support you?"
Great tips - thanks so much
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
e quoted paragraph above to me, potentially highlights more of a gym/group issue. The fact that other pa
As a coach I prefer the parents to have a hands off approach most of the time. However I do like for parents to let me know if problems are brewing so we can address it early. It is a team effort and the coach and parent should be able to work together to benefit the gymnast as a person - not just as a gymnast. There definitely seems to be a large correlation between the amount of joy and happiness of the kids I coach and their parental involvement.

The quoted paragraph above to me, potentially highlights more of a gym/group issue. The fact that other parents are micro managing at home only hides some of the training environment/motivational issues. While level sevens should be able to stay on task and follow a program, they still need guidance, structure and clear strategies for what to do to work through struggles instead of avoiding them.

Ideally all gymnasts would be internally motivated, but I think it is unrealistic to expect that from all our athletes all the time. As coaches, practice needs to be structured in a way to develop internal motivation, with the coach providing some external motivation at times. Now if this was happening your daughter may be more focused and achieving or it may be the catalyst for her to see that she doesn't really love the sport any more.
Thanks for your insight - it's an interesting observation and one I hadn't thought of before.
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
Of course you're not the problem. Do you want to be involved in your daughter's journey? That's completely up to you. Now, if you want to, do not pressure her. When gymnasts have mental blocks, overwhelming questions can make them feel even more stressed and guilty than they already were. You can slightly ease it into the conversation. Ex:
1. How was gymnastics?
2. Did you have a nice time?
3. I'm proud of how far you've come.
Now, if she seems like she doesn't want to talk much, don't push it. If she does, then once again, it's up to you if you want to keep talking. Just try not to overwhelm her, or yourself.
Great advice - especially #3 - I'm really trying to push that here to try and instill some confidence!
 
Feb 16, 2022
747
A couple of things:
  1. Do you live with these other families that give you insight into how "involved" they are? I dislike when folks see something through the lens of their biases, extrapolate out, and come to conclusions that reinforce their biases. Then we get a bunch of tsk-tsk posts about how "I would never...". I just caution in making such observations when we might only know a small fraction of the background of what we are observing. The fact that you know so much about how she is struggling in gym could be construed that you are one of those heavily involved parents.
  2. There are no absolutes or definitive answers when it comes to our children and the best way to do whatever. They are all unique individuals in unique environments, YOU know best your child and the type of person they are, what they respond to, dislike, like. Your family, school, home situation etc. These are all things that can impact your chosen path.
  3. As stated earlier, the struggle with someone new to optionals is real. Yes, some girls seem to have no issues, but plenty do. I do believe it starts the mental side of gymnastics. Learning how to deal with adversity and setbacks. Especially for the ones that were reasonably successful compulsory gymnasts. So some of what you are seeing can be attributed to that and really is transitory and resolves after the optional adjustment period.
  4. Building off of point 2, just having a positive relationship with your child is what I believe is most important. Whether that is sitting down and working out goals, or just giving space. You know your child, and having a loving and positive relationship will elicit conversations with her. These conversations will help her more than anything, in and out of the gym. Talk with her, she will give you ideas on what she needs.
Thanks I really appreciate your insights. And I agree that positive relationships are the main thing so that DD feels comfortable expressing her feelings to me without judgment. About living with these other families - no. But one of the Moms lives in our neighborhood just a few doors away and the girls are together all the time. Daily for carpools, school, gym, etc. so yes we interact with them daily. And they are lovely people - very kind but my daughter has mentioned to me that all of their car rides from the gym (daily) are focused around the other child and did she hit her goals and they do play by plays on all the details. Her Mom attends the power hour (I guess you could call it a fun gym hour for all the girls each week) and spots/coaches her child throughout that, and that same mom actually shares quite a bit with me about the goal setting she and her daughter do together - again they discuss all the details daily and set goals together. Her daughter is an exceptional gymnast but it feels like the more my daughter is around that setting the more she struggles. Maybe it's feelings of inadequacy on her part but she's shared quite a bit with me about how she feels that their skills are being compared to each other and that this Mom asks her pointed questions about her skill development when she is at their house for playdates or doing car rides home from the gym and she really isn't at the same level as her friend in terms of picking up skills. Said mom is also an ex-coach and former gymnast too. So yeah, there's more to the story as you can see and I didn't necessarily mean it in a judgmental kind of way although it does rub me the wrong way and I can't pinpoint why since quite frankly, it's none of my business and not my own kid. It's more of my child feeling compared that bothers me the most. Sorry for the long explanation - there are many factors at play so it's hard for me to even pinpoint the source of my daughter's struggles sometimes. Thanks again for your thoughts though and it's a great point that this adversity may actually lead to a stronger and more motivated gymnast on the other side of it. I hope so!
 
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Feb 16, 2022
747
I think the goal setting with the kid seems a little over the top, but it might be done in a fun way. My daughter tells me everything about practice to the point that I basically relive her practice on the drive home. She has been doing this for the last 8+ years, and we really enjoy talking about gymnastics- but it happens bc she wants to share. My son is also a gymnast and tells me nothing. He has no interest in discussing practice, skills, upcoming meets, goals etc. And that is also fine. I think it just depends on the kids' personality if talking through things about the sport is helpful or not- if the parent isn't demanding it or pushing them to give every detail then it's probably healthy.