Keeping behavior under control

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Proud Parent
Mar 4, 2012
I'm curious to know people's opinions on this one...How much of responsibility do the coaches have (if any), for the behavior of their gymnasts during practice? Currently we have a situation at our gym where one specific girl has been extremely mean to my child for months now. I have mentioned things to the coaches, and they say they will handle it if they see it, but it doesn't seem to ever be handled.

I know the coaches are busy at practice, but my child is coming home literally everyday telling me something new. Some of the actions include "kicking her off" of apparatus, out of lines, making fun of her for not having certain skills, and just general mean girl comments.

My child has developed a much thicker skin as a result of this, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), she doesn't seem to have it in her to "tell someone off" or put someone in their place, even though we have encouraged her to do so at this point!

I just want her to be able to go and do what she loves so much in peace! This has been going on for a while, and it reaches fever pitch during meet season when dd and this girl are often each other's biggest competition.

So, what does everyone think? Is the gym responsible to step in or is it just part of this whole gymnastics thing?
We went through something similar at our old gym. What the girls were told to do if the bullying started was to tell the bully once, "If you don't stop now I am telling the coach." Then if they do it again they were to tell the coach. It was easier perhaps because the bully wasn't just picking on one girl but several of them.

Speak to the coach again and see if maybe she or he will agree to this. If it was a one-time incident or isolated then I could see it to be considered tattling, but this is persistent and ongoing and needs to be adressed and stopped. Good Luck to you and dd.
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yes! that! ^^^^^^^^^ and they need to do it loudly in order to draw attention to it with everyone right at the moment it happens.:) explain to your daughter the old expression "speak now or forever hold your peace". :)
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I think it is absolutely the coach's responsibility to deal with this behavior. He/she certainly wouldn't want you walking into the gym in the middle of practice to address it. If it's an ongoing issue, saying "I'll address it if I see it" is a cop-out. Bullies are experts at not getting caught in the act of bullying. You need to insist that the coach does what Canadian Gym Mom's coach did... set specific rules about how the gymnasts must treat each other and come up with a way that they should handle it if they are being bullied. And then the coach must enforce the rules. If that doesn't happen, I would go over the coach's head, or if this coach is the "head," I would look into other gym options. It is absolutely NOT "part of this whole gymnastics thing" and should not be tollerated.
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You are absolutely right Dunno, and boy have we tried to get our daughter to find her voice! I keep telling her she needs to be more like her momma. ;)
I think Canadian Gym Mom & Dunno have it right. This thread reminded me of a situation my little one had with a gymmie. There was not bullying, per se- just mean spiritedness. I posted on facebook about it back in December- and I just went and grabbed it to share here. (I edited some of the language for an all ages audience.)

I overheard Marilyn and Ryan talking about a particular person at the gym that tends to be upsetting to Ryan. They did not know I was within earshot.

"Ryan, mum wouldn't like me saying this, but there is not other way to say it that would make sense. Some people are just a**holes. Most people aren't, but some people are. Even little kids can be a**holes. When you figure out that one is, you just say to yourself, NOT OUTLOUD, 'yep, that's an a**hole,' and you remind yourself not to let anything they say or do bother you. You know why? Because a**holes are unhappy people, and they want other people to be unhappy too. Mom says this in a different way. She says 'Misery loves company,' but I am telling it to you straight."

So grateful Marilyn is there to tell it straight to Ryan. I could not have explained it better if I tried. I think I am going to overlook the "No potty talk in the house" rule this time.​
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What I have done in a similar situation was to tell my dd that if the behaviour was simply the mean girl trying to get her goat, then she should just ignore her - however, if it was something that was interfering with my dd's training, (such as "that's my beam, get off" or grabbing a landing mat from under the bars while my dd was preparing to dismount) and causing safety issues, then my dd MUST tell a coach. This worked well for us as the coaches were definitely on-side (I had meetings with them about the issue), and taught my dd to ignore the petty stuff and focus on what was important.

Good luck to you and your dd!
"Ryan, mum wouldn't like me saying this, but there is not other way to say it that would make sense. Some people are just a**holes. Most people aren't, but some people are. Even little kids can be a**holes. When you figure out that one is, you just say to yourself, NOT OUTLOUD, 'yep, that's an a**hole,' and you remind yourself not to let anything they say or do bother you. You know why? Because a**holes are unhappy people, and they want other people to be unhappy too. Mom says this in a different way. She says 'Misery loves company,' but I am telling it to you straight."

Words to live by! :)
Esoteric- Too funny! Sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade, even if a kiddo breaks a rule or two in the process (as long as their intentions are good)! Sounds like she's got a pretty good head on her shoulders.
It is definitely the coaches job to at least help keep the behavior of their athletes in check during practice, especially when it comes to an issue of safety and/or bullying. I don't think coaches should be responsible for parenting the children within a session, but certainly should help with keeping behaviors and attitudes in check and reporting problems to parents if more actions need to be taken. And as a coach, if I were made aware of a potential problem by a parent, I would not only handle it if I saw it, but also be very mindful to watch for any signs or indicators that something might be going on beyond the realm of my awareness (in the locker room, at a station away from me, waiting in line). I am very sensitive to bullying/mean girl behavior within the gym (or any setting) and it's something I have very little tolerance for, but not everyone has the same feeling that such actions are problematic, or that they even are occurring right under their nose. Your DD deserves to be at practice just as much as any of the other girls and has earned her place in that class just like the rest of them.
My dd went through this with one of the snr girls who was 16. This girl wasn't training with my dd but she use to walk past her say really mean things. This lasted a really long time which I didn't even know about it. My dd didn't say one word about it to me until her school teacher rang me to ask for a meeting. The teacher had picked up all the signs of being bullied. I couldn't understand why her gymnastics and her school work had gone down going from the top student in the class to nearly failing. I am just so lucky that she had a wonderful teacher that had picked up on it.

When I spoke about it to my dd, she then opened up telling me the person who had been doing this. I went and confronted the coach about it and she basically laughed at my dd when she told her. My dd wanted to give up gymnastics after all this, so I pulled her out for 3 months and lucky enough she really missed it and had said she wanted to go back.

Now if this same situation happened again there would be NO WAY I would allow any coach to laugh at my dd. She had suffered a huge amount emotionally. If I was you I would be going to the coach and getting this sorted out straight away. Because kids start off strong on the outside but on the inside they are not as strong, and I would hate for your dd to have to go through what my dd went through.
The coaches are responsible for stepping in on this kind of behavior. But there is a line. Some of this behavior is normal childhood teasing and it is better for adults not to interfere. Kids learn resilience and negotiating skills by working through some of this themselves. The coaches need to work out where the line is (Sally a 16 year old being horrible to a 6 year old is without a doubt way over the line).
This is wise^^^^^^

For instance I reffuse flat out to be involved in arguments as to who was first in line. I don't care who is first because they will all get roughly the same amount of turns. However if one kid was consistently pushing people out of line I would consider this bullying and stop it.
I just hate this stuff. I think I am the one who needs toughening up. My heart just breaks for kids that get picked on, whether it is my kid or anyone else's. The fellows has mentioned that a couple of the older girls aren't always nice. Mostly cutting in line and telling her to get off equipment so they can use it. She seems to be holding her own and standing up to them, but I still wish there was something I could say to her that would help her make it stop. It doesn't seem like a big enough deal to go to the coaches and she seems to be handling it ok. I am glad she feels comfortable enough to talk to me about it and I just try to give her tools.

I was pleased to see that in a recent instance of more serious bullying (where one girl said really mean things to another gymnast as she practiced a routine but no one would tell who it was and the coaches didn't see) the coach gathered all the girls and said that this behavior would not be tolerated and if they found out who it was or they saw anything like that ever happening again the offending gymnast would be immediately expelled from team. It's just so hard to actually see this happening. This is the only instance of that kind of serious bullying I have heard of at our gym and I am hoping she scared them straight.
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I posted this a while ago so it may be familiar to some.
My 9 year old DD (and several teammates) had the same problem of the "mean girl" at the gym who would not only call her names but tell her what she was doing wrong. We brought the bullying up with the head coach who blew off our complaints (he was kind of mean himself). My daughter came up with the idea of smiling sweetly at her and saying "Thanks X, for making me a better gymnast" then turn around and walk away. Repeat as necessary. The other girls did the same. Not only did the bullying stop but, the "mean girl" quit shortly thereafter.
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Yeah, it is a lot more than just a fight over how many turns she has had in line. It has been going on since nationals last year, and it has been several times a week since then. Most recently my daughter has been "reminded" by this child daily that she has moved up a level and my daughter "is still just a level 5". I have had more than one parent of other children contact me to tell me that their daughter came home saying how they felt bad for my dd because of how mean said child was being in practice.

My point is that this type of thing may not be easily seen by coaches. As someone said earlier, bullies are experts at not getting caught by adults. If you really think about it, how many adults would put themselves in this situation on a daily basis for a year? But yet we expect children to do so and call it "growing pains."
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