For Parents Ugh, the struggles continue. Need help/advice

mommyof1

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The beam coach was absolutely impatient and rude. But that's a whole other conversation about coaching styles...

I think it goes beyond impatient and rude. I would probably not encourage a child to look stuff up in the code of points during a disagreement with her coach, but "do 15 BHS on high beam before you can do anything else" is very, very destructive to some kids.
 

Sk8ermaiden

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I am sorry. Depression and anxiety spelled the end of my DD's gymnastics career this year, and I saw a lot of the same avoidant behaviors. It is so hard watching them struggle and wishing we could carry the load instead.

Honestly if it were me, I would tell her she had two choices - the Xcel team at the gym that sounds like it would be a great choice (and tell her even in Diamond, you only have to have a clear hip or cast 3/4 of the way to handstand) or to take a few months off. I understand she doesn't want to, but I think in your shoes I would feel it was my job to make the decision to let her choose a new environment that might let her grow again (though I would talk to them before about how they handle blocks and how flexible they are with required skills), or give her the space to realize she likes life without gym.
 

Kara

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You've mentioned she has no issues on floor; is there a tumbling program you can put her in. That could keep her in gymnastics while giving her a break from the problem events until she gets things sorted out. Also, as someone with extreme anxiety, therapy in addition to meds is life changing. I also was super resistant to participating, but my parents continued to force me to go, and when I finally decided to give it 100% it was life changing.
 

JBS

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@CLgym Fun is the key. I'm not reading anything that is fun in this thread. I would push her into a new activity or two and see if the new activity is more fun.

I would use caution with Xcel. Much of what seems to be creating anxiety will still be there in Xcel.

Also, we have had gymnasts who have had anxiety in everything in life, however, much of the time the anxiety was all coming from one thing. Sometimes this one thing was gymnastics, sometimes not. The only way to find out is to remove stuff and see what happens.
 

NutterButter

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I have a slightly different take than everyone else but first - WOW! We have the same kid. Your entire post is very familiar. My daughter also has anxiety (and has since she was little). Although my DD deals with anxiety to some extent on a daily basis, twice in her career the anxiety was so bad that I questioned whether she was done with the sport. The first time was actually before she was invited to Xcel when she was in 4th grade. She was in a once a week rec class. The trigger was her 4th grade teacher but the anxiety bled into every other facet of her life. In gymnastics this meant that she became hyper-fixated on how her leo looked and she changed her entire posture to try to hide herself. She looked absolutely miserable. As this was a once a week rec class, she had ample opportunity to quit but she didn't want to. Meanwhile, she started therapy and learned some coping strategies. The classroom situation also improved and so did everything else, including gymnastics. Towards the end of 4th grade she was invited to join the Xcel team.

The second time was during her senior year. The trigger this time was her gym starting when her coach abruptly left (and is now USAG permanently banned so lots of drama). The new HC was a coach that she had always struggled with. The entire gym was in flux and adapting to the new HC. The way the anxiety manifested with my DD was same as you describe - loss of skills, poor self-esteem, 'lazy', borderline insubordinate, would repeat the same drills over and over and over and not make progress, etc. It was nuts because while this was happening, she was also actively interviewing with D3 teams. The feedback she received from the college coaches was all very positive and consistent. Then she'd go back to the gym and have the worst weeks of training ever. She talked of quitting just before the season was to begin. At times I wanted to force her to quit. We thought things would improve once the season began but nope. She went from going to Westerns jr year to struggling to qualify for state senior year. Then she got injured, then the pandemic and during this she STILL wanted to keep trying for D3 gymnastics.

So here's where my advice differs slightly. I think you need to make sure it's not the coaching. I say this because the words your DDs coaches use with her were the exact same ones that my DD heard over and over and eventually she just shut down in the gym. Above all else, my DD needs to feel respected and valued. My DD has a hard time with people if she doesn't know where she stands with them. Related to this - if she feels like the authority figures in her life don't like or respect her, she really struggles. This was at play with my DDs 4th grade teacher and also during her senior year in the gym. My daughter is also very sensitive to non-verbal cues - sighs and eye rolls yes, but also raised eye brows, body posture, side glances, slight tightening of facial muscles etc. She knows when she's either not liked or is viewed as being a nuisance or a pain or 'lazy'. I wonder if this is also what's going on with your DD too. Maybe all she needs is a gym change. And therapy. My DD started therapy too and it helped a lot with new strategies for coping and advice on how to communicate with her coaches.

My DD stuck it out at the gym until she left for college this past January. She loves her new team. It took awhile to get used to new coaching and the way college gymansts train (much of it is self-directed) but this is typical for freshman. She heard a lot of 'I don't like the way you learned that, try this instead'. She got stronger. She learned new skills. She made new friends. She fell in love all over again with the sport. And she decided she would not return to her club gym for summer training.
 

PinPin

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So here's where my advice differs slightly. I think you need to make sure it's not the coaching. I say this because the words your DDs coaches use with her were the exact same ones that my DD heard over and over and eventually she just shut down in the gym. Above all else, my DD needs to feel respected and valued. My DD has a hard time with people if she doesn't know where she stands with them. Related to this - if she feels like the authority figures in her life don't like or respect her, she really struggles. This was at play with my DDs 4th grade teacher and also during her senior year in the gym. My daughter is also very sensitive to non-verbal cues - sighs and eye rolls yes, but also raised eye brows, body posture, side glances, slight tightening of facial muscles etc. She knows when she's either not liked or is viewed as being a nuisance or a pain or 'lazy'. I wonder if this is also what's going on with your DD too. Maybe all she needs is a gym change. And therapy. My DD started therapy too and it helped a lot with new strategies for coping and advice on how to communicate with her coaches.
I agree with @NutterButter. My DD (11) is also very sensitive to non-verbal cues and a negative coaching (or teaching in school) style is completely useless with her. She is the type that will think "stuff you - I don't care anyway" instead of "I will show you that you're wrong". She also has anxiety issues and develops mental blocks or maybe anxiety blocks (right now it's the squat-on of all things) but both Head Coaches (girls and boys) tend to just jolly her along and if all else fails, moves her to a different station or event, if necessary.

Anxiety is a beast and can really mess with your head. I am so sorry for anyone who has to cope with it and lack of understanding from other people can make it so much worse.
 

CLgym

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@NutterButter and @PinPin -- Thank you, thank you, thank you. It is nice to know that my DD is not the only one!

This whole exercise of posting/reading replies has helped me take a step back and look at the bigger picture. One of my daughter's anxiety triggers is illness (worries that something is physically wrong with her - usually through contamination), so living through a pandemic hasn't been easy. Plus, she has had remote school most of the year (our district was way slow to go back - she just recently started 2 days in person) with increased expectations but limited structure. Plus, this is seventh grade, which means her grades and standardized test scores "count" this year for high school admissions (in our big urban district, you apply in fall of 8th grade for admission to the selective college prep public high schools). Plus, puberty has officially started within the last few months (better late than never, on that!). Plus, her gym bestie has been mostly out since March due to injury. Plus, her regular coaches have also been mostly out since March, with the negative fill-in coach. Plus she's had both hip and severs pain most of the season (hip was clear on MRI).

So, yea, lots of reasons for an increase in anxiety.

But yesterday 2 regular coaches were back - yay! (One will be in gym only off/on for awhile, but still...) Before practice, DD and I talked (for like the 100th time) about the importance of at least trying. She made short lists of things that she CAN do on bars and beam, and set a goal of working (on ANYTHING) for the whole practice. I also sent her with a note of encouragement that she could read in her bag if she needed a boost. It's not like skills magically came back or anything, but she looked busy the few times I peaked at the video stream. She even managed to independently cast high enough to do giant-giant-double back on pit bar (had this skill on real bars in the winter but didn't compete it).

The plan going forward is (1) therapy; (2) more gym breaks (we will skip if we know fill-in coach is primarily coaching, and whenever she needs a mental break); and (3) trying new activities (like the rowing camp, tennis lessons and rock climbing). I would love to try a new gym/less intense program, but at this point I think a big change would increase anxiety. And DD wouldn't agree anyway, so it's a moot point. We will reevaluate at the end of the summer and see where we're at. Summer groups and schedules come out this week.

Thanks again everyone!!
 

Canadian Gym Mom

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Sending your daughter loads of positive vibes! Because that's what I think will help her get through this. Fun, positivity and wins, however small they are. Have her focus on what skills she IS good at. Put less attention on the skills she is struggling with. My daughter once lost her BWO on beam and fear started to set in quickly enough. It started to affect her other skills as well. The coaches did not want to spot her at all. I told her to start over. Go back to basics to gain confidence again. I spotted her at home, and made sure she did baby steps. The spotting really helped! Every small session needed to be a win. I also asked her coach if they could practice other skills that she is good at during practice so she could gain confidence. Like in any sport, confidence is everything! Letting your daughter quit when she is at a low might just make her feel worst. Tell her it's ok and normal to lose skills. Most gymnasts do. You are doing an amazing job at supporting her! Don't lose hope :)
 

mommyof1

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Plus, this is seventh grade, which means her grades and standardized test scores "count" this year for high school admissions (in our big urban district, you apply in fall of 8th grade for admission to the selective college prep public high schools).

I think the academic pressure can actually be worse in middle school than in high school. There are so many more available options for college than there usually are for high school, and kids who are smart about the college admissions process will always find a good fit even if it's not their top choice. That's not always the case with public high schools.

Sending good thoughts to you and DD!
 
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CLgym

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I think the academic pressure can actually be worse in middle school than in high school. There are so many more available options for college than there usually are for high school, and kids who are smart about the college admissions process will always find a good fit even if it's not their top choice. That's not always the case with public high schools.

@mommyof1 - Amen to that! Our high school process is this brutal matching system of sorts. Kids are placed in tiers based on zip code, and then ranked based on a purely numerical formula using grades and standardized test scores (no recommendations, essays, etc. -- just numbers). Kids rank their high school choices, and will get either one or zero offers depending on their rank/tier. Kids with no selective offers still have a neighborhood option. For my DD to have a shot at a good offer, she needs straight A’s this year and should hit at least the 95th percentile on average across all the standardized tests (hopefully higher). Middle school test prep is a huge industry here. Talk about stress for 12-13 year olds!! And the teachers are not shy to remind kids how important this year is for them. I've been through the high school process twice before, and the college process once. I agree college is way better!
 

PreciousJ

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OK, that high school matching process description is bonkers. Wow! That sounds more difficult than when I applied to undergrad AND grad school AND nursing school - at least recommendations & essays were part of the process for that. :/
 
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Mish

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Wow, so different in other states. Here on Long Island you go to the school that is closest to where you live. Typically each town, or every few towns, have their own district (there are 125 school districts on LI) and you attend the HS within it. The other alternative is to apply to a Catholic HS which is slightly competitive, or a private school, which is rare.
 

CLgym

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@Mish -- This type of system is unique to huge, urban school systems (think NYC with Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech) -- not at all the norm in our state overall. Suburbs and smaller communities usually just have neighborhood schools based on attendance boundaries.
 

Mish

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@Mish -- This type of system is unique to huge, urban school systems (think NYC with Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech) -- not at all the norm in our state overall. Suburbs and smaller communities usually just have neighborhood schools based on attendance boundaries.
Yep, aware of that for NYC, I guess I wasn't thinking she was in that part of the world for some reason.
 
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MILgymFAM

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One of my daughter’s anxiety triggers is also illness, so I just wanted to give you hugs for how hard this past year must have been. I feel like I could get “you’re fine” tattooed on my forehead and I’d still have to say it again and again and again. My daughter has anxiety meds, a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist.. and it’s still been rough. That she finished the year successfully and with a 4.0 is a minor miracle. I just wanted to say I understand what it’s like to have a kiddo with severe anxiety.
 

MuggleMom

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We have academies where we are that you can apply to and are pretty competative so you go to your neighborhood school or apply to the more prestigious academies, which are focused on what your major will likely be in college (international studies, pre-med, law etc), so 8th graders please determine your college major now so you can apply to the right academy...sigh. The pressures start so much younger than when I was growing up.
 

MILgymFAM

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We have academies where we are that you can apply to and are pretty competative so you go to your neighborhood school or apply to the more prestigious academies, which are focused on what your major will likely be in college (international studies, pre-med, law etc), so 8th graders please determine your college major now so you can apply to the right academy...sigh. The pressures start so much younger than when I was growing up.
I’m not sure my age compared to anyone else’s, but high schools like this were around when I was a teenager as well. A good number of my friends chose them, while I chose a different but still specialized magnet school path. Most of my friends went on to major in something entirely different in college.
 

sce

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Along with her therapist, connect with a mental trainer. Likely one-on-one season would be best for her. I wi see if a gym change would still be best. Negative coaches are not going to make this better for her.
 
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