WAG Protocol for competing a kid that is sloppy? Or afraid?

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BeamQueen

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What is your gym's protocol for sending kids out to compete? Our gym requires you to have every skill in your routine, no spot, in order to compete that event. Otherwise, you scratch that event.

This year we're faced with a unique situation. We have two level 4s who are TERRIFIED of bars. They did fine in level 3. Great, even. Low to mid 9s throughout the season. Placed at state.

This year, however, with the transition of low bar to high bar, they are extremely scared. The thing is, they will technically do all the skills. They both have decent low bars. Straight arm kids, decent casts (a little below horizontal), and usually pretty clean squat-ons. However, once they jump to the high-bar, it's like they don't know what they're doing. They'll do a great squat-on, and then jump to the high bar all squatty, rush the kip and have bent arms. Scared to cast on the high-bar so the back-hip circle is all pike-y. They undershoot with there butt dropping (not because they can't do a fabulous undershoot on low bar...but because they're scared of doing it on the high bar), thus their tap swings are super little and their dismount has no amplitude whatsoever.

I don't know what to do. I've tried everything from putting a resi-pit under the high bar. I've hand-spotted them all summer on the high-bar. I've moved the bars in closer together. But now we're a month out from the first meet and I can't give them privates within practice. We have the entire other level 4 team that needs practice and I can't keep a resi underneath the high-bar when we only have two bar sets...and force the rest of the team to use that one bar set.

TECHNICALLY, they can get through a routine. But they hold back so much due to fear that everything is itty-bitty and their form sucks. Despite no falls, I except low 7s or even 6s. Do I still let them compete??? What would they gain from competing? Except being eligible for AA (but with scores that low, hardly so).
 

BeamQueen

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Also, they're terrified even more of strap bar. Because they have more speed. So while the rest of the team is doing full high-bars (minus the dismount obviously) on strap bar...they refuse to do anything but the tap swings. And they're small, at that.

Just frustrated because I've been SO patient with them all summer. I've changed workouts entirely to cater to their fear and have worked endlessly on squat on-jump to high bar when the rest of the group was fine. When the resi is under the high bar, they're fine. As soon as I take it out and spot them, we're back to square 1.

This has been going on since April. It's now October and I literally see very little change, if any. Not sure what to do at this point, but it just seems like getting through a bar workout is a struggle and I always leave feeling guilty that I'm spending too much time with them and not enough with the rest of the group, or vice-versa. Because they're literally on a whole other level than the rest of the group. And until they can overcome this crippling fear of heights...I'm not sure how much farther they can go?
 

MILgymFAM

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I can see how that could be frustrating, especially since you’ve been trying to help for so long. I imagine it’s frustrating for them too. How old are they? Are they old enough to connect their scores to their specific performance? If so, it could motivate them to be a little cleaner. My dd has been at gyms that let anyone compete who was safe and gyms where you were scratched if you couldn’t be reasonably expected to get a particular score. The second could have been motivating for some kids but felt so defeating for mine, and she never did compete some events due to this rule. I guess you have to know the kids temperament and decide if they’ll be more motivated by scratching or by low scores- or if neither than what will keep them progressing the best they can. Have you had a meeting with their parents (or with them if they’re old enough) to discuss the options as their current performance capability stands?

ETA: my girl would probably literally never compete if it was required everything be clean rather than safe, or that she reach something in the 9s. Try as she might (and she really, really does) she just cannot do skills as cleanly as others. Doesn’t seem to apply to your girls here, but it’s something to consider- some people’s best really might be 7s or 8s. It’s their journey and if they can deal with it then it’s truly no harm, unless they aren’t safe or aren’t giving their all.
 

BeamQueen

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Thanks @MILgymFAM. The girls are 9 and 10. So still pretty young. The 9 year old's mom is aware. However, she recently sat in on one of the practices and afterwords made a comment like "Wow...I knew she was scared of the high bar but I didn't realize she was THAT scared."....so she understands. However the 10 year old's parents are never in the gym. I think I've spoken to them maybe 5 times total, and she's been at this gym since pre-team about 3 years ago. So maybe a meeting is due.

Our gym is known to produce scores and we have somewhat of a reputation for being the best gym in our area. HC seems less than thrilled to send them out there knowing the scores they will likely get. Even though we have plenty of other 4s that will still hold up nicely. Part of me just wants them to go out there and compete, but they're also pretty shy and timid, so I don't want them to feel defeated. Esp when they were averaging 9.4s last year on bars and they'll likely get 2-3 points lower this year with their current routine.

I guess I can just flat out ask them in practice if they'd be comfortable competing their routine even though they will likely score low for x,y, and z reasons. Just frustrated because I know they have the ability to do well...but I don't know what else I can do to help them overcome a fear of heights. I've had kids scared of the high bar or the high beam before...but it's usually a passing fear. A few weeks or even practices and they over come it. But nothing to this extent where it's been almost 6 months.

Like if a kid is scared of a SKILL...I know I can go back to progressions and eventually help them through it. But just a fear of heights in general? I really don't know what I can do to help beyond what I've already tried. Not so much frustrating on the kids part but frustrating for me as a coach because I feel like I don't know how to help them.
 

Mommyo2az

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At our gym they would scratch them from bars. Not because they are afraid, or have bad form, because it is not safe for them. With fear like that the coach doesn’t know what to expect from the gymnast and what they might do on the high bar! So if they can’t safely do the entire routine - I would scratch.
 

CLgym

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At DD's gym, I have only seen girls scratch an event if there are safety concerns or (in the case of an older gymnast) new fears have made them unable to complete the required elements. Especially at the beginning of the season, there are usually a couple of girls who are a bit rough, particularly on bars. I've even seen our coaches spot a skill at the first meet of the season if needed. Not sure if there is a safety concern or not in your case??

When is your first meet? My DD was struggling with her BWO on high beam (fear issues caused her to go off the side on high beam, but not low beam). She was age 8-9 and training L5/6. It wasn't looking good. But then, several weeks before her L5 score-out meet, she started to make good progress. She stuck it at the score-out meet. I am pretty sure that knowing her score-out meet was right around the corner helped to motivate her to overcome the fear.

Also, my DD (recently turned 9 years old) is definitely old enough to understand how her scores are impacted by skills/performance, and could definitely have a conversation with her coach about competing but seeing low scores. However, I wouldn't have that conversation with the girls unless you have already decided there is no real safety concern and are 100% sure your HC will let them compete.
 
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duyetanh

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When is your first meet? Sometimes as impending meets loom, confidence gains because of it being now or never....but if they are that petrified, i would think a scratch is in order. Its a safety concern
 
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gymmomx2

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If it's a fear of heights, would it help if they worked a lot on the pit bar? When you put the resi under the bar set it makes them feel closer to the ground so there's a big difference when you remove it. On the pit bar, they would experience the full height but might they would feel safer with the pit underneath. Or, maybe pile landing mats underneath the bar set and slowly remove them one at a time....

To answer your original question - at our gym they would scratch.
 

gymisforeveryone

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I would scratch them until they are more comfortable. They can compete the other events.

Meanwhile, I would just make them used to the high bar. I would let them play on the high bar (do you have a pit bar?), sit on it, squat on it, hang on it, play games and relay races etc. Here are some ideas what they could do on the high bar, this can be their special conditioning assignment that they complete when the others are doing their general conditioning or at the end of warm up. If you have a pit bar, make them start there.

1) pull overs from hanging
2) skin the cats from hanging
3) hanging from knees on the high bar
4) front support walks from side to side
5) pike hang walks from side to side
6) leg cuts on high bar
7 basket wings on high bar
8) going from front support to the other side of the bar to front support, facing different direction
9) hanging hollow and arc holds and wiggles
10) monkey walk from one end of the bar to another
11) sloth walk from one end of the bar to another
12) monkey swings where you turn your hand on the front swing and keep swinging to another direction (like the level 4 dismount but not releasing the bar) and then turn the other hand

You can just tell them that this is something that gets them used to the heights and something that makes them like the high bar more. If they are not comfortable trying something, let it go and ask them try it the next time. When you let them play safely over the pit or with a soft mat under the bar without worrying about form they will start to become more confident. Good luck!
 

thefellowsmom

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I would scratch them until they are more comfortable. They can compete the other events.

Meanwhile, I would just make them used to the high bar. I would let them play on the high bar (do you have a pit bar?), sit on it, squat on it, hang on it, play games and relay races etc. Here are some ideas what they could do on the high bar, this can be their special conditioning assignment that they complete when the others are doing their general conditioning or at the end of warm up. If you have a pit bar, make them start there.

1) pull overs from hanging
2) skin the cats from hanging
3) hanging from knees on the high bar
4) front support walks from side to side
5) pike hang walks from side to side
6) leg cuts on high bar
7 basket wings on high bar
8) going from front support to the other side of the bar to front support, facing different direction
9) hanging hollow and arc holds and wiggles
10) monkey walk from one end of the bar to another
11) sloth walk from one end of the bar to another
12) monkey swings where you turn your hand on the front swing and keep swinging to another direction (like the level 4 dismount but not releasing the bar) and then turn the other hand

You can just tell them that this is something that gets them used to the heights and something that makes them like the high bar more. If they are not comfortable trying something, let it go and ask them try it the next time. When you let them play safely over the pit or with a soft mat under the bar without worrying about form they will start to become more confident. Good luck!


i love this!

our gym would not let them compete. they could compete the other events but not bars until you have all skills safely and with decent execution. this decision. wouldn't be made though until the week before the meet. if you can't show the week of the meet, you don't go.

maybe the play and comfort combined with time will lead to progress before meet season. if not, then not getting to compete can be a big motivator or alternatively it takes the pressure off. either way win.
 
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Aussie_coach

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I would suggest you scratch them on bars. If they are that afraid and they know they have to do bars then they may spend the whole meet stressing about the bars and it may impact their other apparatus.
 

coachmolly

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I think I would probably have them scratch bars, not for score reasons but rather from a safety standpoint. That first year of jumping to the high bar is tricky for little ones with full confidence, when you add fear and the stress/nerves of competing to the mix, you get a pretty unpredictable combination. They could compete it better than in practice, but it could also go the other way and a fall or near miss could send the fear spiraling even more out of control. Keep working at it! Like others have said, sometimes the looming deadline of meets gives kids the boost they need to get past a certain roadblock. I have one kid who takes it down to the wire every single year with at least one skill (this is year 3 of this :confused:) and somehow I've never actually had to scratch her from an event.
If it were a different skill or event, my response would be different. Like I've had a number of kids scared of handstands on beam, they are small and sloppy but very little likelihood of them getting injured while doing it so I let them compete. It might not produce the score we are accustomed to, but 1-2 low scores on an event likely aren't going to kill your team score.
Talk to the parents and kids, let them know it's a safety issue and explain what you need to see from them in order to allow them to compete. In the meantime, keep working at it!
 
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Let's not get concerned with scratching , let's get them the trick. For starters I wold separate them. Is that an options ? Of course they need to take turns alternating out of the group. Next step is to teach how to fall on backs without reaching
Back . We can get into that on
PM.
 

CoachAlex

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I would scratch them only because if you add in the nerves from competing it sounds like there is a safety issue. But I would sit down with the parent AND gymnast and explain WHY they can't compete bars yet and come up with a plan together to work through it.

You mentioned they were small - that could have something to do with it - yea, the bars don't seem that thick to us as adults, but imagine how it is for smaller gymnasts with tiny hands - they may feel like they are going to fly off the bar. That being said, it's just numbers - they can DO the skills, they just have to continue to work it. In some ways it may work out better since there are two girls with the same issue (I know, not for you as a coach), but chances are, when one of them starts to get more comfortable, the other may follow suit.
 

eucoach

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What sounds a little concerning is that they have issues on the strap bar as well. Are you able to lower the strap bar so that they almost touch their toes to the floor? Or make it even lower so they can swing with slightly bent legs? If a gymnast is not comfortable enough to swing above horizontal on strap bar with good form and technique, I doubt they will become comfortable doing the skills that you listed on a high bar without straps.

I don't know how you run your practices. But maybe you are able to break down the high bar part for these girls and only let them move to the next step if they've completed the previous one well.
- 3 good squat on - straight jumps
- 3 good squat on - jump to high bar - 2 swings
- 3 good squat on - straight arm kip
- ...

Whether you should let them compete or not is IMO mostly a question of safety. Do you feel they will peel because of their fear or do you feel they can complete the routine safely even though it's ugly? Because if it is truly fear that holds them back, not letting them compete the event might put a lot of pressure on them and make the problem worse in the long run. At 9 and 10 they are old enough to understand why their score will be very low if it is explained to them.

Just to make you feel better: We had a girl at our gym who it took 3 (very tearful) years to jump to the high bar. Every single coach at the gym tried various methods, spotted and used tons of mats but she pretty much always "refused" to touch the high bar. By the time it finally clicked she could do all the skills needed for a US Level 6 routine. :-D
 
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mommyof1

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My kid has been afraid of the jump to high bar ever since her coach started setting the high bar higher than it had been. Her coach had the brilliant idea to measure the distance of the jump to show her that it wasn't nearly as far as she was perceiving it to be, which really helped.

She also likes working tap swings on the trench bar because it doesn't feel as high.
 

Jard.the.gymnast

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What sounds a little concerning is that they have issues on the strap bar as well.

Why is this concerning? I could never swing high on the strap bar and I still hate it.

For Op, have you tried hanging on the bar and moving from hollow to arch? You can start this off slow and let them move faster when they get better. You could also try to record them, because it usually feels like you are doing them big when you aren't.

Maybe there is useful stuff in this video. I don't know what you have tried already...
 

Mom2G&D

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My daughter's current gym would not let those gymnasts compete those events. However, we came from a gym that was more laid back. On that team, there was a couple of girls who displayed fears on events. For example, over the years one girl had issues every practice with the jump to the high bar... and then later the flyaway dismount. Another had issue with back hand springs on beam. Often, these fears had both girls in tears at practice. That said, when they went to a meet... they nailed the skills EVERY time. The adrenaline rush must have kicked in or something. Both girls have moved with my gymmie to a new gym. While fears still come up, they know they will not compete if they can't get through the routines in the practices leading up to the meets. This makes for much less tears being shed and more actual practice on the skills themselves.
 
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