Coaches Restarting Coaching, Being Tasked With Hard Topics

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Xcelgymnast_Lynn

Coach
Gymnast
Fan
Sep 30, 2022
139
15
So I'm restarting coaching now after we've moved and the xcel season is over. I've hit my first speed bump. Bit of a trigger warning here because this deals with pretty severe mental health issues. So there's this girl, I'd estimate around 10 years old, who has pretty obvious and fresh self harm wounds. I spoke with my supervisor, and she said that since I personally have experience with self harm, I should be the one to deal with it. So I spoke with the girl's mother, and the girl, and she's safe and getting treatment. I made sure to state that if there's anything I can do differently, all I need is to be told and I will do it. If anything from the gym is exacerbating it, I'm here to help with it. However, the piece I can't figure out, is the family has asked me if there's any good way to hide the wounds and scars. Makeup is not an option, I mean, she's not even in middle school, so I get it. Long sleeved leotards cause her to overheat easily at our 3hr practices, so that's not feasible either. Does anyone know of a good solution? I was thinking possible compression sleeves for forearms but I've got no idea what brands or where to buy them. Not super helpful. Any help would be amazing. Apparently this gym doesn't often deal with this stuff. One of my old gyms always had stuff on hand to help with it, because they had a lot of teenagers and several parents had requested it. I've made sure to tell this family that I"m here to walk along side them, and I'm someone that's safe to talk to. I'm also fully aware that if anything is said regarding active self-harm or suicidal thoughts, I do have to report that to her parents. Anyways, this got really long unintentionally. My point is, has anyone dealt with this in the past and does anyone have good suggestions or solutions? TIA!
 
The family asking you to help her hide her wounds is incredibly inappropriate. They are positioning you to enable the dysfunctional behavior. RED FLAG! You need to have very clear boundaries with this child and her family. You coach gymnastics, you do not coach the sport of stealthy self-mutilation. Do not step outside of your role as a gymnastics coach. She can talk with her therapist about how she wants to cope with the consequences of her behavior.
 
The family asking you to help her hide her wounds is incredibly inappropriate. They are positioning you to enable the dysfunctional behavior. RED FLAG! You need to have very clear boundaries with this child and her family. You coach gymnastics, you do not coach the sport of stealthy self-mutilation. Do not step outside of your role as a gymnastics coach. She can talk with her therapist about how she wants to cope with the consequences of her behavior.
My only thought is, is it possible they are moreso thinking of the younger gymnasts? I'm not entirely sure where they are coming from, but that is a good point about not encouraging stealthy self injury, especially since it could turn into her hiding it from her parents.
 
My only thought is, is it possible they are moreso thinking of the younger gymnasts? I'm not entirely sure where they are coming from, but that is a good point about not encouraging stealthy self injury, especially since it could turn into her hiding it from her parents.
There is nothing wrong with coving the wounds. The issue is them involving you in the process. If she’s smart enough to cut herself she is smart enough to figure out how to cover it up. If self-mutilation means that the child has to feel a bit warm in a long sleeve leotard then, those are the consequences of her actions. When you and her parents try to “save” her from those consequences, you reinforce and enable the behavior. Look up the word “co-dependence”. This child’s illness is a family affair and they are trying to add you to the dysfunctional family. Don't go there. Set clear expectations for her and do not give her special attention for self-harm or emotional outbursts. She comes to gym with her wounds covered and ready to work or she goes home. Do not let her disrupt the training of the other students. Don’t try and be her therapist. Just be a really good gymnastics coach. That is how you help this gymnast.
 
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Difficult situation, but sometimes the best thing you can do is to set boundaries and leave stuff like this to people who are more qualified to address it. For both the parents and your supervisor to try to involve you in the middle is not appropriate, imo. For both your safety and hers, it's probably best to draw the boundary that you're her coach, and that's all. Not her friend, not her parent, not her therapist, etc.

I know it's really really hard to step back from kids that have struggles like this, but you're not in the position to be helping her through these out-of-gym struggles, and getting involved more than you have to is more likely to make things worse than better -- for her and for you as well.

Just do your best to make the gym feel like a positive and happy place. That's all you can really do here.
 
Suggest a long sleeved leotard. One with mesh sleeves would be cooler and leave it at that. Say you will report any issues you see or hear directly to them. I am sure they are desperately grateful to have your support and knowledge but don't let it become your issue. You have done your bit by bringing it out in the open. Well done.
 
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I wanted to post anonymous but did not see the option. This is a growing problem for youth right now with both boys and girls. Cornell University has a website https://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/ dealing specifically with these issues. I highly recommend that the parents and you check this website out as a starting point.

Frequently eating disorders are also part of the mix in combination with self-harm. Add in the stress with gymnastics which already is very demanding, and you have a prime atmosphere to generate anxiety and then self-harm, disordered eating and other mental health issues. I highly recommend the parents get the book that is suggested on this website. I think a lot more coaches are going to be dealing with these types of issues.

Personally, I would not try to cover the scars. It you cover the scars then the problem does not have to be dealt with. I agree completely that the parents need to take charge, but I suspect they are unprepared to deal with how to move forward. I am not a mental health professional but speaking from what I have learned over the years. In many ways the coaches need to be part of the equation since the gymnast is representing the gym at meets etc. Does the gym want an athlete who has obvious issues representing them? With summer coming up it would be a perfect time for this gymnast to get into some counseling and try to get to the bottom of what is causing the self-harm. I would say to the parents that they might want to make their daughter go to counseling in order to continue gymnastics. The thing they should be aware of though is that the gymnast could just comply with the required counseling and just tell the counselor what they want to hear in order to stop counseling but not really fix anything.

The problem with counseling now is that it is very difficult to find a good one especially if you are in a smaller town. It is also very expensive if they do not take your insurance. I hope you can work with the parents to find help and that the gymnast you are coaching can find peace and get healthy. Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
 
I wanted to post anonymous but did not see the option. This is a growing problem for youth right now with both boys and girls. Cornell University has a website https://www.selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/ dealing specifically with these issues. I highly recommend that the parents and you check this website out as a starting point.

Frequently eating disorders are also part of the mix in combination with self-harm. Add in the stress with gymnastics which already is very demanding, and you have a prime atmosphere to generate anxiety and then self-harm, disordered eating and other mental health issues. I highly recommend the parents get the book that is suggested on this website. I think a lot more coaches are going to be dealing with these types of issues.

Personally, I would not try to cover the scars. It you cover the scars then the problem does not have to be dealt with. I agree completely that the parents need to take charge, but I suspect they are unprepared to deal with how to move forward. I am not a mental health professional but speaking from what I have learned over the years. In many ways the coaches need to be part of the equation since the gymnast is representing the gym at meets etc. Does the gym want an athlete who has obvious issues representing them? With summer coming up it would be a perfect time for this gymnast to get into some counseling and try to get to the bottom of what is causing the self-harm. I would say to the parents that they might want to make their daughter go to counseling in order to continue gymnastics. The thing they should be aware of though is that the gymnast could just comply with the required counseling and just tell the counselor what they want to hear in order to stop counseling but not really fix anything.

The problem with counseling now is that it is very difficult to find a good one especially if you are in a smaller town. It is also very expensive if they do not take your insurance. I hope you can work with the parents to find help and that the gymnast you are coaching can find peace and get healthy. Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
They aren't wanting to cover the scars, rather the open wounds/scabbed over wounds. I did state that if the search for a counselor does not begin soon, per the HC's instructions, the gymnast will not be allowed to continue training with us for the time being. We live in a large area where there are 5 towns within 20 minutes driving range. Most schools are multi-town schools. I did also suggest that the school be made aware so they can help to deal with it. As of right now, I'm having to take time off. I got pretty badly injured in an accident, so need to take at least 3 weeks off. I'm planning on going back next week though, which will mark two weeks, to just say hi to all the girls. My HC brought over a pile of cards from all the girls I coach which was super sweet, and this girl wrote that she was thankful for me helping her because she wasn't sure how to tell her parents. Going off that, I thing she wants help. Could all be a ruse though, having been in her situation.
 
. However, the piece I can't figure out, is the family has asked me if there's any good way to hide the wounds and scars. Makeup is not an option, I mean, she's not even in middle school, so I get it. Long sleeved leotards cause her to overheat easily at our 3hr practices, so that's not feasible either. Does anyone know of a good solution? I was thinking possible compression sleeves for forearms but I've got no idea what brands or where to buy them. Not super helpful. Any help would be amazing. Apparently this gym doesn't often deal with this stuff.
So while I know it seems wrong that the parents are asking you to help "hide" the cuts/scars, most parents feel at a loss when their child is self harming. I have coached different sports and worked with kids for over ten years and this situation has come up only a few times for me and from my experience almost all of the parents of the kids have felt slightly helpless in these situations, personally I feel like they should have her take a break from gym, while it may be something she loves, they need to take the time to help her work through her problems. I have seen way to many times parents and their kids use their sport as a way to "hide" from the problem rather than taking the time to confront it. (also speaking from personal experience)

So on the topic of what you can use to "cover" up the open cuts, Nursing cooling sleeves have been helpful, keep your arms cool while covering up what you need them to, and tend to stay in place while moving around.