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non-US When it feels like everything is falling apart

Discussion in 'Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG)' started by gymisforeveryone, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. Right now I would need some encouraging words. I feel so powerless in this situation, where one of my gymnasts is going downhill so fast that the speed is killing us. She's getting desperate, I'm getting desperate and trying not to show it, her parents are getting worried and we are in the middle of a hot mess. I don't really know what to do.

    To put it short, this gymnasts is my most talented gymnast. She comes from a small and unknown club and is the first ever gymnasts from our club to be selected in the National Team. She's 14 years old and just started her growth spurt in Spring. The Spring season was very successful, she competed in the event finals in the Nationals etc and because of that she was selected in the National Team. In our country only meet results count when they make those decisions in the national federation.

    She is a powerful gymnast who is good on floor and vault. Beam has always been a struggle but she exceeded herself there too in the last comp of the season (I wrote about this earlier). On bars she's behind the other girls who are her age in the National Team but not THAT much behind. On beam she has skills but not consistency, and she's getting more and more scared to throw ANY acro skills on the beam.

    At the beginning of summer, after getting to know about her placement in the National Team her shin splints started to hurt a lot. She has had pains earlier but they always came away when she just rested a little and iced. But now the pains are bad, even if she ices a lot and stretches and massages daily. She's not been able to do much vault and floor during the summer and that has been a bummer because those are her favorite events.

    She's competing on elite stream and they have Spring optional routines and Fall compulsory routines. The compulsory routines are super easy on floor and vault which is good because she's not been able to do them much, but bars are pretty hard for her (giant half, blind turn, front giant, giant, clear hip, giant, dismount). She COULD do the routine last year very well, then we started from almost zero this summer (lost all those high bar skills during optional season because her routine was so different) and then she was able to do the routine again a few weeks ago 3 times in a row. And that came out of blue, I actually challenged her to do it by giving her an option to not do conditioning that day if she finishes the routine. And she did, 3 times. And then at next practice, it was all gone. Now she's back at doing just giant half turns and says she can't get any further. Refuses to try it spotted, says her head is baffled... Afraid to do the blind, never gets her wrist to turn and just falls over from the handstand.

    She has not done double backs on floor during the summer because of her shin splints. From tramp it's a hot mess, it used to be beautiful. Today she got lost doing back twisting. She says she doesn't know where she is. She could do 1/1 twist from tramp but from floor to pit, she just kept spinning, completely lost in the air. Went back to 1/2 twists, and they looked bad too. She has never had this problem before.

    On beam she has tried all summer to do her BHS-BHS series that she needs in her routine. She's not improving at all. The series are fine on floor and on floor beam. On real beam she has to stack a lots of mats under and use a mat on top of the beam also. She's stuck at this point. She can only make herself go for it for like 3 times max per practice. She's also having hard time with front walkover and RO BLO dismount.

    I've tried giving her time and space, not getting too worried. I have thought that time and patience will solve all the problems. But I don't know anymore. I feel like things are just getting worse and worse and her list of lost skills is getting longer and longer. And of course she thinks so too, she feels so miserable. She says she sucks on everything. Her self-esteem is getting worse and worse. When I try to make her do visualization of the skills she's having trouble at she says she can't do anything in her head without messing it.

    We are both super stressed about the first National Team camp that is only two weeks away. I know that she's anxious about it, she has cried about it once at practice. I know that she worries that she'll lose all her skills before the camp and then the camp coaches and other girls will think she sucks. She doesn't know any of the girls and coaches and she's very introverted and shy.

    And of course she's also stressed about the competition season and the beam and bar routines that are still a hot mess when the season is just 5 weeks away.

    What can we do??? The camp is not coming in a good time! Of course we can't cancel that anymore. I've talked to her and her mother about trying not to stress too much about it, but it's easier to say than do! I feel like her anxiety is causing most of this losing skills thing. And growth spurt and those shin splints and losing the joy to practice because of them are the other big factors. She also says that she's stressing about school too.

    What would you do next? I've never been in a situation like this. I knew that high level gymnastics is a whole new ball game but never thought that we would be this lost even before the first camp!

    If she was just one of those middle of the pack gymnasts, I would give her at least a week off to clear her head, breathe and try to relax. But now I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place.
  2. Give her a week off to breathe and clear her head.
    I know the timing isn't ideal, but it may be what she needs.
    FlippinPrincess and kayjaybe like this.
  3. I'm afraid I can't do that. The camp is in two weeks and if she takes a week off now, she will definitely struggle hard time to keep up with the camp training schedule which is very intense (4 hour practices 2 times a day). And that would make her feel even more miserable there.
  4. So what about 2 or 3 days off now, and a bit more after camp? Maybe let her come in later/leave early to deal with the stress from school?
  5. Actually she has two days off now, because Wednesday is their day off anyway and on Thursday the gym is closed. So she will have time to do school work at least.

    But I'm afraid that the problems will follow her to the next practice.

    I have informed the camp organizers about her shin splints and her inability to fully participate on floor and vault rotations.

    I hope that the camp coaches will understand the situation and that the camp will not be an awful experience for her. I'm rethinking this whole thing now. I feel like she's under too much pressure, maybe she isn't ready for this kind of training and expectations and our club doesn't have the resources to take her where she should be. I know that some of the camp coaches are not very empathic as it were... Maybe we should have turned down the offer to join the National Team. But on the other hand I think we have to at least give it a go.
  6. Does she want to go to camp? What happens of she doesn't go? And what will that mean in the long run? ( Sorry I don't know the consequences of your system) From what your writing it looks like she really need things to be slowed down.
    FlippinPrincess likes this.
  7. Yes she wants to go, at least the last time I checked. But she's an anxious kid. She worries about everything. When we signed up for this we had no idea about the struggles we would be going through in the summer. Her Spring season was overall great.

    I think that missing the first camp would be a big thing, since all the team bonding stuff, getting to know the coaches and making plans for the upcoming year happen at the first camp. And of course it's not allowed to miss camps without a good reason since she has committed to the team.
    Of course we can get a doctor's note and simply not go, but then going to the next camp would be even more harder for her I think. And I think the camp organizers would still think she should come to practice at least beam and bars since her shin splints are not stopping her from doing those.
  8. All the coulda, shoulda, and have to in the world do not matter if she’s not ready. Being mentally ready is as important as physically ready, and it doesn’t sound like she’s ready. Pushing her to go when she’s not ready will have bad (and probably embarrassing) results for her and your gym.

    Do you think she was rushed into it? Feels like she can’t back out of it? My DD is only training L8, not elite, but she suffers from chronic shin splints and they’re the pits! Before she went away to school she was only training on the floor once a week and vault twice a week. She was still improving and getting skills, but again- L8 is not elite. I feel bad for this girl because she sounds so unhappy and under so much pressure.
    SMH, kayjaybe, PinPin and 1 other person like this.
  9. Can she speak with a sports psych? I think that might really help her process all that she is going through and the pressure she is feeling.
    Flipfloppy, Kipkiparoo and PinPin like this.
  10. We will see... There is a great possibility that she will do just fine at the camp. She's one of those gymnasts who can only push herself out of her own comfort zone when there is some external pressure. She has always done great at camps . She has been in developmental training group for the last 2 years and always done so much of the "scary" stuff for the first time in the camp environment. Those camps have not been so intense though and the training sessions have been a little bit shorter (only 3-3,5 hours). The big problem is that I don't know if it's different this time. Maybe she can find her mental toughness (that I have seen in her) and do just fine. I know she loves learning new stuff, it's just that she's not been able to learn anything new this summer. And as I said she worries about the compulsory routines and the National Team.

    I'm thinking about calling to the National Team head coach and telling about her struggles and asking for help to deal with the situation.

    I've talked with her mother almost weekly during the summer. I like to keep her informed because her parents are the only people that she talks to openly and without any hesitation. They are very close. I've called or texted her mom about her progress and her shin splints weekly and they have taken her to a PT and done stretches etc together every night. When the gymnast has expressed her anxiousness and stress about the camp, competitions and school, I have always talked with her mother right after and then they have talked home. We are on the same page and the parents are definitely not pushing her or pressuring her. Every time she has talked with her mother she has came to the next practice much happier and made more progress. So I think those conversations have been good. She doesn't want to talk to a sport psychologist, we have tried to recommend that for a long time but I agree with her mother that we can't force her to go if she just simply don't want to go.
    Noideaaboutgym likes this.
  11. This girl sounds like my Daughter. Who is so very shy and has to have everything squared away in her own head and fully understood prior to trying anything. Once she makes a routine, in any aspect of life, she has a terrible time when there are changes. She is learning that new things can be fun if she can relax have a plan and be ready. Is it possible that your gymnasts wants this camp very much? That she wants to perform at her best and impress all at camp? Maybe the struggle with the unknown and the fear of letting others down is failing her at practice, self-sabotage? If she truly wants the camp and wants to be a national team member possibly once at camp everything falls into place? Maybe you could sit with her and get her true feelings and true desires, this is hard because children can be easily led and not truly express their true wants. Maybe truthful interaction about how you feel and what you feel about her and her gymnastics will let her see a glimmer of hope. If she doesn't seem to want camp challenge her to be honest with you letting her know it is fine with you whatever she decides. It is her future do you best to lead her in what you think is the best direction. Nothing wrong with one day of camp and leaving if it doesn't work, at least she can go home knowing she tried.
  12. Sorry this is happening to her. :( Have you read anything about the vestibular system and gymnastics? She has had a growth spurt and is having problems getting "lost" and going backwards? Sounds like her vestibular system has not caught up with her growth spurt. Basically her balance system internal in her ears is not used to her new body causing her to be afraid and feel uncomfortable while spinning and going backwards. Search though the forums and you will probably find a lot of useful information.
  13. It might be self-sabotage and it might be vestibular. Or maybe even both. I have read a lot about the vestibular system and it's effects on gymnastics. It's a thought that has been on my mind all this time. Unfortunately that seems to be something that only time will cure. She's not the first gymnast with this problem for sure.

    Maybe the best solution would be to tell all of this honestly to the head coach and ask if they have any suggestion on how to deal with this all.
    If she still has the problem with twisting at the next practice, I will have a talk with her and explain the vestibular thing. Up until this point I have just explained that her brain needs time to adjust to her new body and it takes time to re-program the brain to process her changing body measurements and centre of mass. This was an "easy" way to explain it to a 14 year old. Vestibular system is something that she's not that familiar with.

    It's always hard to the kids (and us coaches too) when the only cure to something is time. It's much easier to accept and process when there is something concrete to happen, like physical therapy or surgery.

    I will have one on one conversation with her at the next practice. I will try to ask, without leading her anywhere, if she TRULY wants to go. If she says no, I will definitely draw a red line right there. If she says yes, we will have a conversation about expectations and strategies we want to use to make the camp a productive learning experience without worrying too much about things we can't have an influence on. And I will definitely give her an option to say that she wants to go home, at any point of the camp. And I will have this same conversation with her parents.
    PinPin likes this.
  14. Sounds like you have a couple of good ideas on how to proceed the next few days. She needs to find some belief in herself and understand that trying and failing is better than not trying at all. She needs to be aware that this time next year she will have feelings about the decisions she made and she needs those feelings to be positive. She needs to feel that she did what was right for her. Future, regret, and consequences are hard things to understand. Please let us know how it goes and the outcome.
  15. Definitely talk to her about vestibular issues. When my daughter was having a really awful backwards block on beam, that knowledge was very helpful, because it made the whole thing less charged. She felt less like she was unconsciously sabotaging herself and was more able to accept that she could work on things wherever it was working for her on any given day. Thinking of you and here -- she is very fortunate to have you as a coach!
  16. It sounds like a lot is going on for her making an already new and potentially anxiety provoking situation even worse. It's unfortunate it's happening after so much success at a time when she should be excited, but remind her that she's made it through hard things before (conquering beam to qualify to this camp!) and that she can do it again.
    I think the growth spurt is definitely part of the issue and explaining that to her, however you think it would make sense can be helpful in making her see it's not her fault or that she's not a bad gymnast because this is happening. Anyone want to write an "Explaining Vestibular Issues to Kids" book?
    Let her know the camp organizers know about her injuries, that injuries happen, and that this opportunity is just a learning experience. That this is new for all of you.
    This next part is just speculation on my part, but I am also a very shy, introverted, anxious person and when I am approaching a new situation- especially one that is sort of high pressure- I build up a story in my head of how things will work out (usually the worst case scenario) and get myself worked up over it days/weeks in advance. Usually it gets to the point where I decide I don't even want to do it because I'm such a mess. Almost always, I get there and realize what I've built up in my head is not how things end up working out and after a little time to unwind and adjust I end up being okay. So I think perhaps part of it, though I don't know how much, is that she's building a script in her head- she will be the worst there, the other girls won't like her, the coaches will be mean, she won't make friends, she will mess everything up, etc. And when you are preparing for that kind of situation in your brain, of course you are going to crack. Any reasonable person would. But hopefully once she gets there she will encounter another girl who is by herself or just friendly or see the coaches just want to help her, something to help her calm down and realize it might be okay after all.
    Do you know any of the other gyms or coaches bringing athletes? I wonder if you could get in contact with any of them and connect your gymnast with another girl who will be attending in advance so maybe they can exchange a few messages of introduction? Or do you know if they have any fun activities planned for the camp outside of gymnastics that she could look forward to?
    You are a great coach and she has a great team behind her!
    Flipfloppy, BachFlyer and rjb123 like this.
  17. Are you me?? ;)
    FlippinPrincess and BachFlyer like this.
  18. Today she had an OK day, thank God. On bars she actually asked, by herself, if I could spot her on her blind. I was super happy that she asked! So we worked on it for a while, and she was frustrated for sure when she could not turn her wrist. But I made everything I could to keep the mood up and atmosphere light and calm. I just kept saying that she just needs the repetitions and then it will click, let's not worry too much. Then she made it! The bars rotation ended but she managed to do 2-3 correctly.

    Then she went on floor. Surprisingly, her shin splints were not hurting either today. I asked if she wanted to do doubles and she said yes. I saw that she was nervous, even on the trampoline, but I just kept giving her positive feedback all the way. And her doubles were just fine. Maybe not as high as her best, but still decent. Then she did some high layouts to the pit and some tuck backs up to high mats and then a double to the pit. I noticed that she was a little bit nervous, but she didn't look anxious. She worked on it on her own and on her own speed when the floor coach was focusing on the others.

    Then she did some fulls from trampoline and they were good. No problem there. We didn't want to make her do them on the floor yet so that will happen tomorrow or Tuesday maybe, if she's ready.

    At the end of the practice I asked her to leave for a while to talk about the camp. I asked her if she's still nervous about the camp and she said yes. Then I interviewed her a little, asked if it's more positive nervousness or all negative. She said positive. Then I made sure that she understands that she doesn't have to give answers that she thinks I want to hear, or that she thinks anyone wants to hear, that she can be completely honest. She just nodded and seemed to listen. Then I asked if she really truly wants to go to the camp, and she said yes to that too. She clarified that she would love to have some of her teammates with her, like she had on the developmental camp, but that she understands that it's not possible. Then we talked a little about how she will definitely make friends there, I explained that they will have time for team bonding activities like bowling and swimming on the camp so she'll hopefully make friends there.

    I also told her that I have informed the camp organizers about her problems with the shin splints and that we will accommodate her training there if needed. Then I tried to ask if the recent struggles at practice have made her more anxious about the camp and her answer was just something along the lines "I haven't thought about that too much, no".

    This time she didn't look sad or anxious during our chat. She looked at me in the eyes and used normal, firm voice when she answered my questions. No teary eyes. So maybe it's just all good, at least for now.
    NY Dad, John, raenndrops and 6 others like this.
  19. just wanted to say that you are an absolutly amazing coach. this kid and all the kids are so lucky to have you!
    Flyaway and Jard.the.gymnast like this.
  20. Seems like you have received some great advice here. Just wanted to add - I assume she has been to a sports medicine/orthopedic doctor who has not just dismissed her pain as "chronic shin splints." My daughter has had stress fractures in her shins more than once - they are much more serious than shin splints and time off is absolutely needed for healing. If they are bad enough, the doctor can feel them, but an MRI will result in a definitive diagnosis.

    Good luck to her!!
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