For Coaches Should I be responsible that the gymnasts all get along?

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So, here's my problem. One boy, a 10yo, who just finished his first year as a L4 and has been in the gym less than a year; is a complete pain probably 30-70% of the time. I can never tell. It's been very emotionally draining the past 3 months and I'm pretty sure the other two team boys find it as the former coach did and I know other parents are besides other coaches in the gym and some of the girl gymnasts.

There is only 3 boys on team, 2 10yo and 1 hyper squirrely 8yo. I have 5 other boys who work out with this group but they are considered "advanced rec". I'd call them L2s and L3s as I'd like to invite them to team perhaps before summer but there is still the logistics. 2 are 6, 1 is 7 to 8 and has a 10yo brother and another is a young, squirrely 7yo. The 6yo brother of one of the 3 team boys may join as well and he is a good kid. They stay for only 2 of the 3 hours of practice and come 1-2 days a week typically instead of all 3.

Anyways, "dramatic emo 10yo" constantly complains that the other 2 teammates don't include him all the time. Sometimes they talk to each other or hang out with each other in their own time. So drama-emo 10yo makes a big huff about, stomps off, cries, throws things, the whole kaboodle.

As the team coach, should I be responsible or care if they all are friends in the gym and out? Personally, I think I need to maintain that they respect each other at a minimum but do not need to be involved in how they personally get along.

I've broken up the compulsory or optional girls who get "cliquey" and start gossipping or sassing off other girls. Mainly, because it has annoyed me when they have are too busy yapping rather than being attentive. I've been kinda irked when I have heard them yapping some incessant, somewhat mean spirited things ( such and such girl isn't this or that ) and I may have snapped at them.

Personally, I have never had to deal with this with boys before. I think the small dynamic ( 3 team boys ) is what is to blame as the prior boys teams I have worked with have been at least 5-8. More of a BIG group dynamic.

This kid obviously was in the program before I came on and was grandfathered on. I have been considering asking the parent if they really want to keep coming with this. Drama-Emo boy has complained that in prior sports all his teammates were friends and hunky-dorey.

One of the 10yo is kind of a snide little guy. He is a little trickster and sneakster, especially to his younger brother and of course the other 10yo ( who happens to be gentle and gullible ). He loves playing tricks on the the 15yo teamgirl who babysits him. As well the other 8yo will just follow the other 10yo who is the senior member of team ( been on team 3-4 years, 2 competing? ) As well, he isn't super buddy buddy nice nice to the other 10yo and I think he just is sick of his BS, but I also think he just sees it as a weakness to exploit ( boys imo are like that once they start hitting 10-13 ).

Honestly, I would never have invited said Drama-Emo boy to team but I think he was invited to keep numbers up before I got on. I never invite problem parents or kids.

While I was never a gymnast, I was on many different sports team and I can honestly say I wasn't buddy buddy with all of them. I may have a had a few friends with the others being acquainted. Eh. I know for a fact I rumbled with a few of them as well, especially in HS.

Any suggestions?

My dad thinks this boy is a bit screwed up and it is my responsibility to get him to get his **** together so he doesn't become a complete screwup in life. I'm at wit's end and dunno what to say or do. The days he hasn't come to practice have been godsends.
Sep 19, 2008
I think if these are boys you want on your team I'd take an interest in their friendliness and demeanor. I would in rec too, not all gymnasts will be competitive but they can certainly learn to get along and be friendly to others!

I've not had to deal with this as it relates to boys, but I can share what I've seen from our mens team HC. The older guys (elites) on the team workout largely with each other, only signaling the coach for specific skills or at a specific time. They stick together, watch each other, advise each other, and so forth. He does not sit right next to them or do a large amount of spotting unless the skill is new to them, which is extremely rare. The elites on the team are super friendly to the boys, they encourage them and have little contests with them during downtime and such, but they are focused on their skills otherwise. The reason I mention the elites will come up, the HC works closely with the younger boys at that time, L6-9 I believe.

In that L6-9 group 3 boys stand out for an incident that was recent. 1 is a super friendly (to the point of being distracted from his workouts sometimes!) helps grab mats for coaches, talks to the rec kids sometimes, that kind of thing. The other 2 are very boy-centric and only acknowledge the other guys on the team. The 2 started calling the other kid names and accusing him of rather hanging around girls, excluding him and such. HC talked to them a few times, and once to their parents. He also told friendly kid he needs to work more and socialize less. Friendly kid gets it, the other 2 don't let it go.

HC arranged for them to stay late after practice later in the week with their parents. It was about 20 minutes. He lectured them on getting along again, in a very calm voice. He never raises his voice, I'm amazed actually. He had them doing handstand holds on the p-bars as he did this. Once they got to the point that they were a little shaky and pretty exausted they didn't do anymore handstands. HC turned them to where the elites were and said 'Look at them, be like them. You will help each other and work hard, because you have no other choice than to be like that. That is how the team is and will continue to be, choosing to be any other way is choosing to not be on this team.'

The only reason I saw and heard this was because it was going down right next to the uneven bars I had a class on. HC wasn't mean about it, he maintained a smile the whole time. He told the boys the handstands weren't for punishment, and explained that since he'd had the conversation with them multiple times and they didn't get it that the only explanation is they were distracted. He wanted them tired, listening, and focused on the words. In the end he told them if they were having a hard time to speak to him or to ask the older guys for help, but that turning on each other is inexcusable and never allowed.

So I was pretty fascinated by the situation and talked to the HC. He laughed about it and said boys will be boys. They don't need to talk about their feelings constantly, but shouldn't bring down their team or be petty. He told the parents beforehand of his plan to deal with this and they were on board. I guess the major clue to trouble for them is if their parents don't show up at the end of practice. They know to turn around report to the HC for some one on one attitude adjustment time lol. He bows down to the boys are squirelly rule and honestly thinks that they don't listen with all their attention unless they are worn out and listening is the solution that sets them free to go home.

For pre-team I don't know how much of this would apply, it's all I have to go off of though since I don't coach boys. All I know is that they are not girls and treating their dynamic the same is probably pretty pointless. I would maybe have your actual team interact with these boys and show them how it's done. Give them an example to follow along with the explanation/expectation. Is there anytime they workout while you have this group so they know what it is to interact with peers acceptably?

I'd tell emo boy that whining isn't the answer to his problems, to work on his skills and ask the other boys to watch or for advice when he's stuck. If he wants attention he'll have to speak to them and be direct instead of whine. Ask snide boy to try and be a little understanding and maybe encourage him if sees something good and ignore him when he's whining. I wouldn't be afraid to reveal your own distaste for whining as long as they know being generally obnoxious is equally bad. I hope that isn't totally 'girly!" advice lol. Sorry this was so long!
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Sep 21, 2008
I didnt get a chance to read all of Linsul's reply so sorry if I go over some of it again...

It sounds like the kid is frustrated in the class. Yes, his personal life and home life may contribute to his current state. However, it sounds like he has too much free time to do as he sees fit.

I know it sounds really harsh, but in my practices that are structured, there is little opportunity for the kids to talk. They are there to learn gymnastics, not socialize. However, I do have "down periods" during the practices that let the kids have a little social time. AFter all, too much activity without social time is just as frustrating as all social and no purpose.

I find that the whole "friends" thing begins when kids can start to compete with and recognize each other for a particular aspect in which they excel.

"Hey! Your bar swing was really good! How did you do it?"

"You picked up fronts so easy. Im jealous..."

Little comments like that lead in.. this kid needs to find something he is good at, and in that respect I think it is your responsibility. Help him feel successful, and his social awareness and self-concept will appreciate. It sounds like he feels left out because he doesn't get it, or isn't able.

If Im totally off base, Im sorry... in my experience, though, it's kids who are extremely afraid or extremely bored who cause the most trouble - in the classroom, and in the gym.

Likewise, it's kids who have little support or structure at home that come to gyms and classrooms and feel it is ok to have similar behavior - they haven't learned how to interact properly with others, and they come off as odd or stand offish or "emo."

Some kids never grow out of it. Some kids break it the instant they get recognition. There are so many factors that play into child/developmental psychology that it's hard to pinpoint the issue without knowing the child. M y best advice - don't give up on him. He will thank you in the future.

A coach of mine (and later, a mentor) once told me of troubled or difficult kids: If they aren't around, how do you expect to help them?


Thanks all. I reached out to this thread and a few friends/colleagues of mine and parents and got a lot of input on how to handle it.

Last Friday, I decided I was going to sit all 3 team members and have a talk about it. Till March, we were in Competition Mode, so it wasn't the biggest priority to me. I tried to deal with it as I could with mitigating success. Troubled boy was gone, so I only had the other 2 to talk to, in which I tried to tell to they did not have to feel burdened and obligated to hang out with him or all be friends on their own personal time ( something said boy complained about ). I tried to tell that what " keep it on the down lo " meant and how to try to respect and be nice to him for my sake. Ticking me off because they tease him would only result in more burpees for them. I think the other 10yo somewhat snide boy has just written emo boy off a long time before I came on. Really, he is interested in training and less, so, being friends though he is friends with the 8yo.

Yesterday, I finished up having a small talk with troubled boy once he got to practice away from the others while they warmed up on tumble-trak. I stated that one of the reasons kids probably don't want to deal with him is that his behavior pushes them away. They don't want to deal with it or as boys tend to do, they will brutally honest and be little punks about it.

I, believe that this is often how kids interacted with myself from K-12. However, I wasn't very concerned with making friends or being an extrovert nor did I ever cry about it. I'm sure I pushed away many chances of dating in HS with some of my behavior of being verbally or physically aggressive when confronted ( daily/weekly ). I was troublesome as well, but more apt to physically solve my problems than cry about it. In part, I can see quite a bit of myself in this kid especially the anger management issues.

Elite and high level older boys are pretty easy to train especially by that time, even in the HS age. We were all pretty supportive of each other on polevault in HS except for a few times we had our scuffles and then went back to getting along and laughing about it ( which the girls didn't understand much ). In fact, there was 1 guy and I who tussled a lot, but got along and one time stood up to 3 other track team members who were trying to punk us. We rarely got along but got along well enough to take care of them which the girls didn't get at all. This is quite often the male behavior I'm aware of when it comes to male teams. We team and train together to win even if we don't necessarily get along because we want to win so bad.

Long story short, Troubled Kid had a blowout last night which got him sent to the lockers. At one point when we were going to start conditioning, I asked him whether he was gonna condition with us or keep pouting. He didn't answer me so I said," fine, you're done. get your stuff ready to go then." He tried to come back to the group about 3-5 minutes later after we had started, and I told him " you made your decision, it's too late. Go. " He refused to leave the area after which I said " you will leave or I will pick you up and carry you off [ as I did one time before when he threw something at the 10yo and myself when we were reviewing meet video and he was having a tantrum and pout spell ]." Mom had given him a previous warning upon that occasion that if there was another incident where he didn't listen, he was down, FOREVER. She walked out onto the floor where we were ( upon which Team Director started walking toward her as I did ) and stated " she was pulling him out of team " and may have stated that a snipping remark against me of failing to make sure the other boys treated him with respect ( I had intended to talk to her after the workout was done but not during ) or if I was more hard on the team kids like the team girls coaches were there wouldn't be these problems.

I emailed her last night, but more than likely he is done with gym. The door is still open but there would have to be a lot of sitdowns with parent and child ( who is supposed to start counseling ) before I would allow him back. I stated that I think it best he go back to a rec program somewhere ( moot issue in mine since adv rec workouts with team ) where I think he could focus more on having fun and learning some tumbling and flipping which might help his acting ambitions and less on team building with other kids. Any other local gyms around would probably just stem up the same issues and not be willing to deal with them as their coaches are very strict and more boys on the team ( which means they would probably be less willing to deal with his BS ).

So, I've lost 1 team boy having had lost a preteam kid about a month back ( that I was going to put back into the rec program but mom decided with the coach change to pull him out altogether since I had come on and the other guy had left ).

While I know he was asked onto team last year more than likely because of his talent and to get 3 team boys for L4, I'm not sure I would have asked him. It's hard to say. Personally, I never invite a boy to team or promote them within rec if I can't deal with them or their parent.

We will probably have a higher workout efficiency and I won't be so stressed 3 days a week. I had been thinking of sitting down said parent in a few weeks and asking her if she really wanted to continue with team and the future given his problems and all of his other interests (acting).

Again, thanks all for your input.


It's hard when what truly is the positive solution for you as a coach and the team, isn't the positive solution for one. However, an eye opener that his actions have repercussions could be just the eye opener he needs to help him realize he needs to learn how to rationalize his behavior.

Don't be too hard on yourself and second guess your decision. My co-coach and I had to kick out a team girl last night (Level 7 with the natural talent to be a Level 8/9 easily) because she had an unhealthy/irrational fear of doing a rec level skill on beam, with a spot and the beam band aid, and rather stubbornly told us she was refusing to even try. Arms crossed, stomping and everything. We've been tolerant all season of her mental issues (understandably on a few, such as backhanspring on beam) but now that season is over we are being firm on her taking the initiation to open and strengthen her mind to overcoming unsettling situation. For heaven's sake all we wanted her to do was a jump on forward roll mount... not even on a high beam! It's hard to be firm, but it's in the best interest of the child at that point.

Good luck!


During the competition season, since I took over right before the first meet basically it was more about polishing very rough routines and surviving the meets. That was my focus.

Now that the old coach is gone and it's my regime , things are a bit different. When I was only going to be temporary, I wasn't always going to fight with the kid. I couldn't sit him out sometimes or he'd have a fit. However, placating him wasn't gonna work in the long run. My patience started running out after a month and was gone after 3. No more allowing him to go hide behind a mat and having another team girl or coach ask me if I knew one of my boys was crying behind a piece of equipment ( yes, I was ignoring him ). It was either be in the group or go to the lockers ( where I might go talk to him if I had the time ).

I talked to my dad about it last night and he basically said, sometimes there are the kids that we can't reach and that's just how it is. In this case, Mom had gotten really sick of it to the point of asking the other team boys why they were picking on him who in turn asked me if they were.

One kid can't bring the whole group down or delay me from working with them because I have to have a long drawn out talk with him.

I really dislike having to grandfather some kids in when I come into a program. I like fresh kids of my own choosing. Don't we all?

I noticed from where we had one girl in optionals a few years back create a domino effect within the ranks of all kinds of fear issues. Can't have that.


I think your last comments I could really relate to.

I have had a number of boys I have coached who have had a variety of behavioural and psychological problems (ADHD, AS, Autism, depression/manic). Some of these have been comp kids.

Boys in general do tend to argue and get over it pretty quick. As a women I sometimes don't get this. Its great for the class though!

The senstitive/challenging kids I have coached can often take offence from a small poke, a snear, a laugh between two other kids, or a laugh at something done wrong. I even had a major blowout from a kid because another kid flicked a peice of fluff at him. It doesn't have to be something big to trigger them off.

When this results in a tantrum, hiding in the corner behind a mat episode I usually go over and make sure nothing major (injury, someone was physical, someone really did say or do something nasty) if not then I leave them to cool down. If necessary they may need to do this off the floor if they are still angry/might hurt themselves or others. I can ignore the pouting in this way but angry violent behaviour needs immediate removal from the floor and will not be tolerated.

There has to be a balance with time wasted dealing with these issues as the other kids suffer because I cannot coach. This is why I prefer to ignore.

I find in general that my boys 10,11,12 yo work better separated as they get along too well!

Certainly sounds like your kid had problems, and that the mother maybe should have been more proactive finding out from professional sources what the problems are from a medical/psychological point of view.

I have been really lucky as I have been able to maintain a really good relationship/communication from parents of any of the kids I have had problems with. All of the parents have been very switched on about their childs medical/psychological problems and they have kept me really well informed. When the child is having a bad day, they don't bring the child, and this is the best outcome.


Thanks for the late post as we tend to see eye to eye.

In the future, however, I simply won't be taking any kids like him and putting them on team. It's not the most fair policy, but it works for me. I would prefer not to deal with problem parents or problem kids from the beginning. If necessary, I will just defer them to another gym.

Life is pretty simple without him. It's unfortunate but now I'm only dealing with the usual boy issues like them goofing off and being boys ( spacing out, being distracted by their new favorite thing ).
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