For Parents Trouble in the gym with 5 year old pre-teamer.

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Proud Parent
Feb 12, 2009
My 5.5 year old daughter just began pre-team (4 hours per week) this September. The majority of the girls in her group are 8-9 years old. My little girl was loving her class until recently, when the coaches have begun emphasizing front limbers. She cannot do them, and they have been punishing her because of it. Last week they made the girls do ten front limbers. My daughter could not stand up from her bridge, so they made her sit out during the rest of floor and also during bars. Last night during her class, she was having trouble with standing up from a bridge again, and they sent her to the corner and made her do standing bridges and try to stand back up while all the other girls moved on to different skills. DD was lifting one arm and twisting as she tried to stand, so they put an open shoulder trainer on her and then tied her hands together with an exercise band. Her arms were stuck in the air, and she could not put them down. She was again sent to the corner while the other girls did station work. She must have tried over 100 times, and tears were running down her face (she told me after class that her arms hurt and she kept asking to be untied).

She is not the only girl in class that doesn't have this skill. For some reason she is the only one being punished. Is this normal behavior for coaches?

DD has been trying to stand from a bridge at home, and I really think she doesn't know what muscles to use.

I could move her to a different (lower level) class, but her coach from last year suggested against it. DD has most of her level 3 and 4 skills on all the events, it's just that darn front limber.

Any tips or advice would be much appreciated!
Feb 26, 2007
If a coach put a trainer on my 5 year old and then tied her hands together I would be pulling my kid out of that class instantly. To leave her alone like that is dangerous, open shoulder trainers are iffy anyway, to put her in a postition where she could seriously hurt herself is awful. As for the singling her out over this one skill, that would be red flag number two. You need to talk to the head coach asap, this does not sound like an emotionally beneficial situation. This is not normal behaviour for coaches who want your gymmie to love gym and succeed.

I can hear your Mom radar pinging from here, you know what you know and this is NOT right.
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I'm with Bog! There are many red flags for me in your post. I'd be speaking with someone before allowing my child to attend another class and I'd be staying to observe that class. Gymnastics should be fun! Especially when you're 5!!!!!!!! Good luck!


She's 5 years old. She should never be "tied" in any way! I'd be horrified and would not send my child back again. In fact, I'd be considering leaving that gym altogether.
Mar 5, 2008
North America
I agree with everyone on here. That is appalling behavior of the coaches and I would be pulling her from that gym asap. There are many red flags (as other posters said) and they should not be ignored. I would not stay at that gym--it seems like an accident or injury waiting to happen. Gymnastics should be FUN and tears should be minimal especially at this age. Please--research other gyms and programs in your area. I am sure you can find many other gyms that are a much better fit for your dd and your family.


Proud Parent
Jun 26, 2008
age inappropriate
using equipment in a way that it is not meant to be used

My list could go on. I am so sorry that your dd went through this and I would not let her return.


Having a child on pre-team is not a priviledge. It is a service that you are paying for. Are you happy with the service and do you think you are getting your monies worth?

Obviously she needs coaching on that skill, which you are paying for coaching. Punishing a 5 1/2 year old like that is not something I would pay for.

My dd was recently "sent to a corner" by a coach because he calls her by the wrong name all the time. He was telling her to go, and he was using the wrong name (calls her by a teammates name) and she didn't go because she though he was talking to teammate. She is 11 1/2 and was so upset and was crying when she came home. The owner didn't realize what was happening at the time, and when she found out DD was in the corner, she told him, not to do that, that have them hold a handstand against a wall or something is there is a problem. I talked to her, and told her had husband or I been there to see it, she would not have been back. She loves her gym, but I'm not paying to have my child put in a corner because she can not be called by the right name.

I would check to see what your other options are for other gyms if she really wants to do gymnastics. I would then discuss with head coach/owner to see if this policy is acceptable to them. If this is a philosophy they share, I would definately move my child.

Good Luck.


This post just brings me to tears.:( In no way should a child that young have any type of punishment for not getting a skill. She is there to learn. You are paying for her to learn. I would never take her back. I don't even think you should waste time talking to her coaches. Their methods are wrong.

We were once at a gym that made my 6 year old do push ups for doing skillsincorrectly. We left!!!!

I am so sorry.


Totally agree with what everyone else has been saying. Please, please, please call the head coach asap and have this situation stopped.


Proud Parent
Jun 19, 2008
united states
My first thought: Why in the world is she being sent to work on a skill that she can't successfully accomplish correctly on her own? She isn't there to teach gymnastics to herself. She's 5.

If the other kids in the class are working stations, (many times the stations don't ALL require a coach)...why can't she stay with the group, and when it's her turn the coach can have her do bridge pull up AND take her turn on the station? Or, is there a reason why the coach couldn't set up a "bridge pull up station?" I'm sure that they aren't all pulling up "perfectly"...and at that point, your dd isn't being singled out.

I would have a problem with my 5.5 year old doing unsupervised skills if she can't do them safely on her own - especially if it were happening over and over and over.

I can think of a million options rather than use the open shoulder trainer and exercise bands. Why not "walk up the wall" or perhaps an incline mat...or an octagon...or pull up from panel mats?

...being punished at 5 years old because she's having trouble understanding how to pull up from a bridge? That's ridiculous. Actually, being punished for not having a skill is ridiculous at any age. It shouldn't be about "being punished"...she should be encouraged, not punished. She should be receiving instruction, not working by herself (doing the same thing over and over, when that same thing isn't helping her).

i'm confused as to why she would be punished to the point of having to work on pulling up from a bridge - for the length of time it would take her to "try" more than 100 times. How long was she by herself? If she tried just one time every 15 seconds, it would take her 25 minutes to do 100 pull ups. (i suck at math, but isn't that a long time to be working by herself?:eek: Aside from the fact that she was tied and using the open shoulder trainer???!! :eek:)
Jan 31, 2009
This gets my mom hackles up.
Trust your instinct and talk with a higher power at the gym asap. And I would be looking at other gym options if they are available.
Hopefully this behavior is isolated to this one coach at your gym, and hopefully she will be disciplined herself. (Maybe they could put her in the trainer, tie her hands together and make her do hours of front limbers until she is humiliated and in tears.)
Give your dd a hug and let her know you will not let that happen again. At 5 you can and must be your dd's advocate in such situations.


Proud Parent
Feb 12, 2009
Thank you for all of the kind replies.

I agree that this is inappropriate coaching. I think I will complain to a higher-up at the gym before I pull her out of the class. There are only two gyms in our area to choose from, and most people seem to prefer the one we currently attend. My daughter has been taking classes there since she was 2 years old, and she loves it. Not until this year did she have any complaints.

There have been some other issues with the preteam class too, such as the time when they kept punishing DD with pushups when she was scared to do a forward roll on the high beam by herself.

I don't think the coaches want to give her any special treatment, so they have the same expectations for her as they do for the other girls in her class who are much older. Her maturity level is just not up there with the other girls yet, and sometimes she is a little bit difficult to deal with (sh can be very stubborn).

I am considering putting her in a recreational class where the emphasis is more on fun. I don't want her to get burned out and hate the gym. Unfortunately, there isn't a class for someone of her age and ability.

It's almost like her coaches think she can do a front limber, but that she just isn't trying. I know my child well, and this simply isn't the case.


Proud Parent
Jan 6, 2009
Metropolitan USA
I'm appalled, but not surprised by the situation you posted unfortunately.

I'm one of the members who "lurks" around more than I post, but recently I've been compelled to do more posting because I've been seeing more of these types of situations. Don't ever second guess yourself - "mother's instinct" needs to be your guiding light. If YOU wouldn't do such a thing to your child, you should certainly not expect anyone else to do it either - regardless of what it is, how good the gym's reputation is, how many people prefer this gym to the other, etc. I'm not even factoring in the money because in this case, this is a matter of mental and emotional abuse - a tactic used by coaches who are unprofessional and think that coaching by intimidation will work (and not just in this sport).

Always go with your gut - it won't fail you.

And please give your DD hugs and let her know that the grown-ups were not appropriate in their behavior and that she did not do anything to warrant "punishment." My blood is boiling right now...I hope you decide to move gyms.


Proud Parent
Mar 7, 2008
Region 7
I don't think the coaches want to give her any special treatment, so they have the same expectations for her as they do for the other girls in her class who are much older. Her maturity level is just not up there with the other girls yet, and sometimes she is a little bit difficult to deal with (sh can be very stubborn).

My Little Monkey was the youngest on preteam and team by several years. She was 5.5 yrs old on Level 4 with a bunch of 9-12 yr olds. They did not need to cater to her, but they did have to realize that she was not going to be able to pick up certain things as quickly as others and a GOOD coach should know how to deal with that, both physically and emotionally!
Aug 2, 2008
east coast
I sometimes feel the need to defend my coaching peers when I see posts on the CB. In this case, there is no defense for this lazy, abusive coaching. Unless its the last time your daughter will work w/ this coach, it is not the last time she will be treated in this way. Just like there are bad people who happen to be drs., laywers, etc, there are bad people who are coaches, and this coach is one of those bad people.

You can talk to the head coach, and things might be better for a while, but that coaches cruel nature will not change. I'd keep a very close eye. I'm also sure the head coach is aware of this coach, and I, as the head coach, would 100% want to know that this was going on. Im sure its not the 1st time this coach has acted this way- if the HC seems to condone it- run far far away. If they seem to appreciate the info, then I suggest you try to stay since she is so happy, but keep a very close eye on things. I am very strict & demanding as a coach, but I would NEVER act this way, or let one of my coaches act this way- EVER. There is nothing developmentally beneficial (gymnastics wise) to the way she is being coached/ treated.

Its the coaches job to do whatever it takes to teach this skill, or if its not appropriate at this time, give the child an appropriate station to develop the necessary strength & flexibility to do this skill. Punishment is NOT appropriate for not getting a skill.


Proud Parent
Mar 20, 2009
I agree with what everyone is saying. A 5 year old should never be left alone to practice a skill that they are having problems with. I am so sorry that gymnastics has become tearful and not fun for your DD. Please look into another gym as I don't think this is the norm. There are many great programs out there and I would be very angry if my DD were being singled out and seperated from the rest of the group. I would not only pull my child out i would make sure that the owners of the gym knew why so this can be addressed with the coaches. Best of luck to you and let us know how everything works out!


Proud Parent
Proud Parent
Sep 25, 2007
I would RUN, not walk away from this gym. That is not how you train little girls. I am so sorry your daughter has had such a bad experience with pre-team. It doesn't have to be this way. The pre-team program that leads to team at my DDs gym is very fun and positive and they still get to team with their skills, tons of strength and still loving gym. At this rate, your DD will want to quit within a few months likely.

At 5 1/2 she doesn't need to be doing front limbers that many times and it shouldn't be expected that she can do them perfectly. Developmentally, she shouldn't have even started doing bridges until she was 5, so front limbers would take awhile to learn after that. Punishing her for NOT being able to do them is just so wrong.

Tying her hands above her head is abusive, cruel, dangerous and just NOT necessary. She could have seriously injured herself if she tried to catch herself from a fall and couldn't.

Unless there is 100% turn around with this coach (or they fire her/him), I would not let my DD stay in this class. I don't care if she lost skills. Her spirit is much more important than team or any gymnastics skill. She WILL be able to get her skills back. I have seen it with girls coming back from injury and from girls who took a break.

This really is just wrong on every level and if it is any indication of the type of coaching they have at the team level, then it is not a gym you want your daughter in. Trust your gut. This is not how girls should be treated, period.

Also, there is a HUGE difference between a 5 year old and 8/9 year olds on so many levels. Sure, they shouldn't treat her like a baby, but she is much younger and is going to need to be coached a little differently.

Good luck talking to someone. The coach should be disciplined (fired in my opinion) and I would stay and watch and make sure that they follow through. If the higher ups aren't as appalled as we are, RUN to another gym, regardless of whether they are not the "better gym" in the area and check them out.
I speak first as a parent and second as a pre-school coah - what your daughter went through is reprehensible. As others have said, she should not have been made to go work on a skill that she obviously was having trouble performing. And the idea of her hands being tied together even if it was only with a band, just sends shivers up my spine. I coach a lot of 5 yr olds and I can not imagine employing these techniques with them. I have a philosophy that I keep foremost in my mind - these are children who ACT like children. Guide them but do not ever forget that they are young children.

You mentioned that you are considering putting her into a rec class because it is fun. In my mind, pre-team should still have a good amount of fun in it. At our gym, even the team practice is heavily peppered with laughter, smiles and a positive environment. And our girls train hard and do well. The gym and coaches just remember that these aren't little adults training for the biggest event in their lives but that they are young minds (and bodies)

I too think that you should leave that gym if at all possible. I feel for you and your daughter!
Sep 19, 2008
Maybe I'm old and insulated, but I don't even know what an 'open shoulder trainer' is. If it's an external device used to shape or contort then I already don't like it. A five year old does not need any device that forces her body to conform to anything. She shouldn't be doing any movement or position that she can't initiate herself. Lord knows there are plenty of drills to get her to the point where it's possible. Also, she is 5! Of course she won't get all things right away! Most kids her age (I say this with humor through having 2 kids of my own) are still perfecting getting their finger from their nose to their mouth still! Okay well maybe they're perfecting their kleenex toss to the trash can, but still you get the idea! Being 5, driving her away from the group and expecting her to work is asking too much. 5yr olds need supervision period, being in a gym doesn't make them suddennly 25.

Tying up any kid is a whole lot of bad in my opinion. I can think of a few times I've heard of it done as a drill and it always sounds too risky. The fact that it was tried unsupervised is inexcusable! Back to the open shoulder thing, my coach used to stand back to back with us while we stood with our arms up, he'd grab our forearms or wrists and lean forward (a little or a lot depending on who he was stretching) to create an open shoulder so we'd get the feeling. Easy, simple, and quick. Compulsories and preteam kids are still learning what spatial awareness even is; and what it means to control the speed and height they themselves initiate. Adding external forces or shapers that early is scary at worst and confusing at best in my opinion. Optionals are more experienced with speed and height, but most importantly control, self awareness, and communication with their coaches. I will love Therabands for them until the day I die probably!
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