Anon When does tough coaching cross the line?

Parents... Coaches... Judges... Gymnasts...
DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members See FEWER Ads!
Join for FREE!
Feb 16, 2022
This topic of conversation has come up recently, and I’m curious to know others’ opinions. When does tough coaching cross the line, and is that line subjective based on the gymnast?
Feb 16, 2022
This is something we are grappling with now. We have a coach who can be stern and tough, but lately just feels different. Mean. Making many of the girls cry (ages 9 to 10) frequently. No positive praise, silence has now become positive (because she didn't make a mean comment). It really sucks and we are sadly going to look for a new gym after this season. To answer your question directly, if the mental health of my kid seems to decline because of coaching, but they still love the sport, a line has been crossed.
  • Like
Reactions: SupportingHerDreams
Feb 16, 2022
I do not think the line is subjective although I'm sure all gymnasts perceive coaching differently. I am not a coach and therefore and unfamiliar with SafeSport and my guess is that they have guidelines for this. But my opinion is tough coaching crosses the line when any of the following come into play:
  • Threat and intimidation - "If you do this, then I'll...." or "If you don't do this then I'll...."
  • Physical harm (obviously) or threat of physical harm
  • Resorting to personal attacks rather than focusing on the skills - "You're too lazy, you're too overweight, you're too...."
  • Screaming/yelling
  • Gaslighting - this would be a hard one for a gymnast to recognize though which is scary.
  • Controlling what happens outside of the gym with exception of helping to give helpful advice etc. I.e. forcing gymnasts to stick to a specific diet, controlling their relationships with others, forcing them to do extreme forms of strength outside the gym, not allowing them to date or spend time with family etc.
  • Using tactics like public humiliation or shaming to force a gymnast to do a skill.
  • Saying things like "You're not good enough" or "You'll never measure up to (insert other gymnast's name), etc
I'm sure I missed some but these are the ones that come to mind right away. Curious to see what others say. I've worked a lot of meets and 95% of the coaches from other gyms always seem great but there have been one or two instances that have raised my eyebrows and to your point, have been difficult to pinpoint if it's just tough coaching or something more. I feel lucky to be at a gym where this has never been an issue though!!
Feb 16, 2022
I visited a gym a year or so ago in a different region, and WOW. I was shocked at one of the compulsory coaches. Where I attend and the gyms around me there is a very formal environment- coaches personal life does not get brought up, and coaches are very firm, but kind. Whereas at this gym the gymmies seemed to be involved and in the know about the coaches personal lives, and the yelling/half-insults were insane.

By half-insults I mean:
-"What was that, you are done. Get off bars."
-"You better hit this or else you will condition the rest of the day."
-"Never let me see that again."
-"You are a sloppy mess today, squeeze or else you are going home."
-"You clearly are just being lazy, get back up there right now."

These were yelled across the gym to proficient, clearly hardworking athletes.And then things like singling out one of the girls and making everyone watch if they didn't get a drill perfect the first time, and laughing at attempts of new skills.

Maybe there are regional differences, but that would NEVER fly at my gym, yet no one seemed to care there besides me, the girls didn't even bat an eye. Here though? The coach would get a firm talking to and if it persisted, maybe even let off.

All this to say, I do think that verbal abuse/"tough coaching" is unfortunately, subjective. Especially when it comes to the case of something above, where some people seem to care and some don't.
Feb 16, 2022
I think its a difficult call. I havent always agreed with the coaches approach but rarely thought that it crossed a line. The two times that it did I had a long conversation with the coach afterwards about why what they did was wrong. I think they didnt realize, and or they were treated like that when they went up through the sport so didnt think it was as big a deal as I did. To their credit they never talked like that to my kid again. None of these situations where what I would consider ongoing or abusive though or I would be out of there.

I think sometimes they dont realize that words have weight and these kids are really listening to what they say. One time they told a kid to do something or go home and they went home and they didnt know why. They just said they thought they would do it, and even if they didnt they didnt really need to go home. I dont think they realized that kids take them LITERALLY on a lot of matters.
  • Like
Reactions: JBS
Jan 8, 2023
The question shouldn’t be whether or not a coach’s behavior is abusive. The question is whether the coach is demonstrating the values you want your child to be learning! As a parent, you are hiring these coaches to mold you children’s character. “Not technically abusive” is way to low of a bar!
  • Like
Reactions: SupportingHerDreams