Is it Time to Move On?

Maybe your child used to live for gymnastics, but lately they’re talking about quitting, or maybe they insist they still want to do the sport, but it seems like their spark is gone. How do you know when it’s the right time for your gymnast to retire and move on to new challenges?

Reasons to Stay

Like anything in life, your child’s time in gymnastics is going to have its ups and downs. There will be bad days, bad meets and maybe even a bad season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to move on from gymnastics.

“When a kid is struggling parents sometimes assume it’s time to quit, and they jump to ‘We don’t have to do this anymore,’” says Rebecca Smith, M.A., founder and CEO of Complete Performance Coaching and PerformHappy. “What the kid really needs is support and help to process how hard it is to do this sport.”

While it is normal for parents to want to step in and fix things when they see their child struggling, Smith recommends listening without trying to offer a solution.

“Parents need to stay neutral and really listen to what the kid is saying,” Smith advises. “Let them think it through and work it out in their own mind without giving them advice on what to do.”

In working with gymnasts Smith frequently finds that they are struggling with one or more of the following:

  • The fear of disappointing their coaches or parents
  • Perfectionism and not feeling good enough
  • Mental blocks
  • Comparing themselves to others in the sport

However, with the right support gymnasts can address and work through these issues. A sports psychologist can help your athlete develop techniques to manage fears or mental blocks. While it’s difficult to watch your child go through a rough patch in the sport they can come out on the other side and continue to thrive in the sport.

Signs that it’s time to leave

  • The joy is gone. No matter how much your child once loved the sport, sometimes it just stops being fun. Not for a day or for a week, but for months at a time. The high hours, the push to get next level skills, competition stress, or just the desire to have time for things outside of the gym can all contribute to a gymnast wanting to move on. Yes, they’ve put years into this sport, and it once made them extremely happy, but if they’ve hit a point where the bad days far outweigh the good and they come out of practice feeling down more often than not, then it’s probably time to go. “I think the goal is for kids to be happy, healthy, and successful,” says Smith. “If they aren’t happy, then what is the point? Even if you are good at something if you hate it, then why continue?”
  • Staying only to avoid being labeled a “quitter”. Whether they’re afraid to be viewed as a quitter by their parents, coaches, or themselves, the fear of negatively being labeled as someone who gives up can be a powerful force in keeping a kid in the sport long after they are ready to leave. “It’s not quitting, it’s retirement,” says Smith. “I remind gymnasts that you can’t control how other people perceive things, but you get to choose what you want to do with your body and your time.”
  • Fear of losing their identity. Maybe for years they’ve been known among friends and family as “the gymnast”, and many of their closest friends may be from the gym. It’s a hard transition to leave behind something that has played such a huge role in their childhood, but that doesn’t make it a good reason to stay when they are really ready to go. Moving on gives them the opportunity to explore different parts of their identity.
  • Wanting to try something new. As kids get older their horizons open up even more. Middle school and high school offer new sports and activities that they may not have had the opportunity to try before. If your child really wants to join the school play or try out for the volleyball team it’s time to look for ways for them to spread their wings.
  • Injury. Injuries don’t have to end a gymnastics career, but if it’s severe enough that the gymnast is risking long-term damage or is worn down from dealing with injury after injury, it is time to move on. No sport is worth spending years in pain.

Consider taking a break

When your child has been doing gymnastics year-round for years it can eventually feel like a grind, and it might help to have them take a break.

“I love when gymnasts take breaks,” Smith says. “When they come back their motivation is so different. It gives them the feeling of choice, to opt in, and the kids who come back after a break really want to be there.”

If your gymnast is feeling burned out talk to your coaches about the possibility of reducing hours or taking an extended break with the door open to return in the future. Sometimes a little time off is all it takes to rekindle their love for the sport.

When it is the end

Youth sports today are incredibly demanding on parents. You commit a lot of time, money, and emotional energy on your child’s sport, and it can be hard to accept when it’s over.

“It’s important to have a grieving process,” says Smith. “I often recommend an athlete who is leaving write a love letter to the sport about everything they’ve learned and gained, and parents can do the same thing.”

Take some time with your gymnast to celebrate all of the joy and the memories they had over the years. A few ideas for celebrating the end of their gymnastics career include:

  • A final gymnastics photoshoot
  • Making a blanket or quilt out of old meet t-shirts, warm up jackets or leos
  • A photo book, video, or framed collage of gym highlights
  • A gymnastics shadowbox

If it is time to move on, remember that gymnasts typically excel at whatever sport or activity they try, and now you get to enjoy the next chapter of their journey.

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TELL US YOUR STORY! WAS IT TIME... OR WAS THERE STILL HAPPY YEARS LEFT?​

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I'll try to make this as short as possible lol.

I started gymnastics at the age of 10 in a rec class. My dream was to be on a competitive team, but we couldn't afford that so I chose to stay in the rec class and learn what I could. In a few months I had advanced to level 4 rec and I still dreamed of being on a competitive team, but at one point at an open gym, a team coach told me that I was too old for team and that no gym would want an almost 11yr old on their team, no matter what level I was. When I tell you my heart dropped, like it physically felt like it had collapsed. I was crushed and honestly thought about quitting. But after talking to my coach, I decided to stay and work on what I could, hoping that one day I could prove that coach wrong. So for the next 5 years I continued to work on skills similar to ones in level 6/7, even working on standing back tucks on beam and half pirroutes on bars, which 10yr old had DREAMED of doing on a competitive team.

Now fast forward to 2020. An old coach from my gym had left the gym started their own. After helping out with getting the gym together, the owner offered me a spot to train with his competitive team in exchange for me helping coaching the recreational classes. I'm not going to lie, I balled my eyes out when he told me, and I felt like my younger self was screaming and jumping with joy. I loved the idea of coaching because of what my coach did for me, and anything involving gymnastics had my heart, so it was a no brainer. It was such an incredible experience, and I had learned so much while I was there. Every now and then I would think about what that one coach said, but now I wish I could look at him and go "who said I was too old for a competitive team again?" Although I was the oldest (I was 16, the second oldest was 13) I still made the most of it, and was even able to compete! (albeit, for a highschool team because I thought being a 16yr old level 7 was way too old, which spoiler alert, it is NOT)

Anyways, a year later I started to fall out of love with the sport when I turned 17, and shortly after, the gym eventually closed down. I felt lost for a bit and struggled a lot with trying to find who I was as a person without gymnastics. And if I'm being honest, I feel like that's a struggle a lot of people tend to overlook, and it took a hard hit on my mental health. But Coach S and Coach C had helped me a LOT with my struggle, and although my story was like a rollercoaster, I am still so so grateful for this experience. I learned so many life lessons from my journey, and I'm so glad I hit the lottery with the most supportive family and coaches.

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... no gym would want an almost 11yr old level 5 on their team...

That's a crappy thing to say to a kid. Yes, 11 is older than average for a L5 but it's not so far above average that you would have stood out at a competition.

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That's a crappy thing to say to a kid. Yes, 11 is older than average for a L5 but it's not so far above average that you would have stood out at a competition.

100%. I remember crying to my mom telling her what he said. She wanted to tell him off but I told her not to in fear of being kicked out (which definitely wouldn't have happened, but hey I was 10 and my brain was going haywire). I had told my coach what happened the following practice and she told me, and I loosely quote, to "never listen to idiots like that" and to not let "that type of coach stop you from reaching towards your goals". Since then, she had lit a fire in me I never knew I had lol

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That's a crappy thing to say to a kid. Yes, 11 is older than average for a L5 but it's not so far above average that you would have stood out at a competition.

Level 5 , 11 year old is not that late. Some gymnasts still get a full scholarship for tumbling , just competing level 8 when in high school junior year.

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Besides some homeschoolers do supersenior and you still have time to get level 10 even without supersenior year.

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My kiddo was training level 3 when she was 5 and in Kindergarten, but by January it was very clear she was not ready to commit. I pulled her out and placed her back in rec. Then COVID hit.

Now my daughter is 8 and in third grade, this year she competed Bronze. She competed at State yesterday and she did great!

She still loved gymnastics, she just hadn’t been ready for the commitment when she was younger.

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Level 5 , 11 year old is not that late. Some gymnasts still get a full scholarship for tumbling , just competing level 8 when in high school junior year.

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That is a true story from Jill Nick consultant . One of her clients got accepted to college Acro and tumbling team , only competed level 8 . She almost gave up.

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I know of girls who competed only up to level 8 but had strong tumbling skills who recently committed to A and T. Not unheard of.

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I know of girls who competed only up to level 8 but had strong tumbling skills who recently committed to A and T. Not unheard of.

It's not the comment. It's the poster.

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It's not the comment. It's the poster.

got it

Reply 2 Likes

I'll try to make this as short as possible lol.

I started gymnastics at the age of 10 in a rec class. My dream was to be on a competitive team, but we couldn't afford that so I chose to stay in the rec class and learn what I could. In a few months I had advanced to level 4 rec and I still dreamed of being on a competitive team, but at one point at an open gym, a team coach told me that I was too old for team and that no gym would want an almost 11yr old on their team, no matter what level I was. When I tell you my heart dropped, like it physically felt like it had collapsed. I was crushed and honestly thought about quitting. But after talking to my coach, I decided to stay and work on what I could, hoping that one day I could prove that coach wrong. So for the next 5 years I continued to work on skills similar to ones in level 6/7, even working on standing back tucks on beam and half pirroutes on bars, which 10yr old had DREAMED of doing on a competitive team.

Now fast forward to 2020. An old coach from my gym had left the gym started their own. After helping out with getting the gym together, the owner offered me a spot to train with his competitive team in exchange for me helping coaching the recreational classes. I'm not going to lie, I balled my eyes out when he told me, and I felt like my younger self was screaming and jumping with joy. I loved the idea of coaching because of what my coach did for me, and anything involving gymnastics had my heart, so it was a no brainer. It was such an incredible experience, and I had learned so much while I was there. Every now and then I would think about what that one coach said, but now I wish I could look at him and go "who said I was too old for a competitive team again?" Although I was the oldest (I was 16, the second oldest was 13) I still made the most of it, and was even able to compete! (albeit, for a highschool team because I thought being a 16yr old level 7 was way too old, which spoiler alert, it is NOT)

Anyways, a year later I started to fall out of love with the sport when I turned 17, and shortly after, the gym eventually closed down. I felt lost for a bit and struggled a lot with trying to find who I was as a person without gymnastics. And if I'm being honest, I feel like that's a struggle a lot of people tend to overlook, and it took a hard hit on my mental health. But Coach S and Coach C had helped me a LOT with my struggle, and although my story was like a rollercoaster, I am still so so grateful for this experience. I learned so many life lessons from my journey, and I'm so glad I hit the lottery with the most supportive family and coaches.

Wow! What a great story! Thank you for sharing. Your perseverance is an inspiration ❤️

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Wow! What a great story! Thank you for sharing. Your perseverance is an inspiration ❤️

Thank you!! How kind of you :)

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Never time to QUIT.
It might be the right time to RETIRE

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TELL US YOUR STORY! WAS IT TIME... OR WAS THERE STILL HAPPY YEARS LEFT?​

I started gymnastics at the age of 5 and automatically became completely obsessed and my mum knew it the coachs loved me as i was “a good mix of flexibility and strength” as they used to say and i was pretty much automatically in the competition team and i stayed gym crazy for the next 6 years at 11 i fell out of love and quit but between the ages of 11 and 13 i regretted that decision i went back to a teen class at a new gym and was moved out of it because i still had a lot of skills i moved from that gym early 2022 bc it was emotionally abusive and in less then a year i have passed three levels i think it’s time if someone really loved gym sometimes you need a break to appreciate it

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