Harsh Coaching

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I have a question for parents and I would also like to know what coaches think about this. My daughter is 7 and she has a coach that is pretty tough. I dont mind a little tough coaching, however my daughter comes home about every other week saying how a particular coach is mean to her. I do know that this coach says some encouraging things to my daughter too, and tells her when she does a good job. But i guess when she doesnt do so good a job is when the coach gets kind of harsh. What my issue really is though: tonite dd said her coach pushed her. It wasnt an all out shove, but she kind of ushered my daughter off the springboard, to go try something else, but i guess the "ushering" was kind of like a little push. So I am wondering, do I just speak with the coach that I have the issue with or do I just go straight to the owner? I am just wondering what other parents think and also what the coaches think? Do parents usually go straight to the coach in question or do they go over that coaches head and go to the owner?
I'm sure that I've "ushered" kids off a mat or off the equipment, and if you cornered me the next day, I'd probably have no idea what you (or the HC/owner) was talking about. From how you describe it, I really, really doubt that the "pushing" is anything to worry about.
Definitely talk to the coach. If you have any interest in the coach working with your daughter, do NOT go over his/her head unless absolutely necessary.
It sounds like the coach likes your daughter and gives her positive feedback, So that's a great start. And you're right, some coaching styles are harsh. Is the coach Eastern European? Not that it makes the harshness okay, but I worked with Russians my entire gymnastics career, and that's just the way they work-- nothing personal.
Also something to take into account- is this coach highly qualified? Does he/she coach top elites? Again, not making excuses, but I would be more comfortable with a highly experienced coach than a novice coach being tough. Often times a highly experienced coach knows when to push and when to lay off, and has a good enough relationship with their athletes that they stick around for years to become elites. However, if your coach isn't high level, I would worry a bit more.... they may not have the experience to know when enough is enough. Often times young or inexperienced coaches will thing that being overly harsh is the way to get results, and that is worrisome.

All that said, if you are uncomfortable with the way your child is being treated, speak up. Talk to the coach in an easy, non-confrontational way. Even saying something as simple as, "My daughter really wants to please you, and I just want to make sure you know that she is really disappointed with herself when she thinks you're mad at her" might help. Ask if he/she feels like your daughter is working hard and progressing....that will help you feel out whether the coach is frustrated and taking it out on your gymnast, or whether it really is just their coaching style.

In the end, there are lots of teams out there with lots of different coaches and styles, and you can make a switch if you're uncomfortable.

Agreed. I was not generally considered overly harsh, but I definitely "ushered" kids off of mats, springboards, etc. a few times. I agree with Kat that if it happened the way you describe, it's just not a big deal.
Thanks gymcat and gymalex for your replies. the coach is question is kind of young, i mean she cant be more than thirty. i am kind of new to our gym so i dont know how many elites she has worked with but i know a few girls at the gym have gone elite and some on to get college scholarships and such. she does work with all of the girls up to level 10 though and i know she has worked with the girls who have went on to elite and college. She has probably been coaching for at least 5 years - probably more. i know the toughness is just her style. its just the physical stuff i am worried about. like i know my daughter was doing leg lifts and she said that coach was trying to get her to keep her belly in or something and she kind of - i dont want to say hit my daughter, but just imagine like a chopping motion with your hand - she did like a chopping motion with her hand to dd's belly. and dd said she did it too hard. i dont know if my daughter is being overly sensitive or what? but i was just thinking to go ahead and mention things to the coach, but my hubby was saying just go straight to the owner. i explained to him that i didnt want to do that, that i would rather address the coach first. i mean if i had a problem with her teacher at school i would go to the teacher first, not the principal. i just feel that in most circumstances, the right thing to do is to speak to the coach first and then if nothing changes or dd keeps coming home saying this or that then i may have to go to the owner. i am really thankful for you guys input....
Yeah, that's tough. I might just leave it alone at this point unless it is affecting your daughter's desire to be at the gym. If your daughter just mentions it in passing, or it's a complaint after practice and then forgotten, you might leave it.
If the coach has been at the gym for awhile, has retained athletes for years, and you haven't heard any other parents of athletes complain about excessive force, it's probably okay. Although it's not ideal, what you're describing doesn't sound like abuse. Unless it bothers your daughter enough to where she doesn't want to go to gym, it might not be a big deal. I might suggest keeping an eye on things to see how they go.
Have you stayed to watch practice? Not to dismiss your dd, but she might be being over-sensitive or, like my children, stubborn about corrections. For example, my son (8yo) stubbornly ignored his tennis coach's corrections one day because he was in a bad mood (which also lead to some angrily tossed rackets), so the coach taped his hands to his racket. My son was not happy, but the coach would not un-tape until son had hit a certain number of balls with good form. Now, if I were the type of parent who didn't stay, observe, and get to know the coach I might have found this extreme or abusive. However, because I've watched many lessons, I knew that his coach wouldn't do anything abusive, but that he could be tough when needed. I did ask the coach about it because son was still acting angry after practice, and the coach told me about son's attitude that day and about the warnings he gave, etc, etc. After more talk with my son he understood that his attitude toward corrections lead to a consequence he did not like, but that his coach was not "torturing" him. (at the next practice he asked to have his hands taped on so he could make sure his grip was correct - goofy boy)

So, what's my point - or points? First, dd may be blowing thing out of proportion. Gymnastics needs to be very hands on with coaching. I have seen coaches "slap" bellies to make the girls tighten up. A coach might misjudge how hard that slap feels. Second, you need to have confidence in your coach,your dd, and their relationship. You can do this only by observing practice as often as reasonable. Stay a while after dropping off, come early, or drop in at an unexpected time to watch what happens. Third, talk to the coach. Good communication is always important, especially since we entrust our kids to these coaches for many hours a week.
I would talk with the coach first. Then talk to the owner only if dd keeps complaining or I observed something disturbing.
I think before you speak with anyone, you need to watch a few practices. What a 7yo may perceive as "mean" or "pushing", you as an adult may see as perfectly appropriate given the situation. I have seen a couple of my gymmie's coaches tap her on the belly or back of the legs to remind her to tighten a specific muscle. Coaching gymnastics has to be hands on to make corrections.

How long has your dd been doing gymnastics and what level is she at? Is this a new gym for dd? It may be she is simply not used to a more structured practice and demanding coach. She may not be ready for a coach like this yet and that is something you'll need to figure out. Ask her what the coach says that is "mean?" After watching some practices, if you feel this coach is a little too tough for the age/level then ask to speak with her. She may tend to forget she has 7yos since you said she coaches higher level girls and carries that coaching style over to the younger ones.

Do not go running to the owner saying my dd told me the coach was mean or pushed her unless you're observing this yourself. While you're watching practice, talk to some of the other parents. If you're fairly new at the gym, they might be able to give you good insight on this coach. The plus in the situation is that she does give your dd some positive reinforcement.

Hang in there and hopefully it will all work out.
I think it is fine to talk to the coach in a non-accusatory way. If I was the coach I would want to know how your daughter was interpreting things so I could reassure her that it is not personal or about being mean (which it probably isn't). The coach and your daughter may need that talk to straighten things out.

But usually a lot of people are around gyms. Unless this is happening in some weird "closed" situation, I think it's more likely than not a misunderstanding. I'm not saying it can't happen, but it would be unusual, particularly for it to go unnoticed for a long time if these situations are happening in an open part of the gym (I have heard of abuses in closed areas of gyms, etc, but that doesn't seem to be the case if I'm understanding correctly).
Thanks everyone for all of your input! I talked to the coach today and things went quite well!! I am so glad i went with my first mind and also listened to you guys and just spoke to her. And I think a lot of it was like what you guys are saying. I know the coaches have to tap bellies and legs and what not and maybe dd misinterpreted that. I didnt want to jump to conclusions but i didnt want to just ignore DD either. This was like the 3rd thing she had told me that was kind of "physical". DD has been at this gym for about 10 months and she is only level 3 and on pre-team. Before, she was at the local Y taking classes so yeah, they were kind of lax there. Anywhoo, I am so glad i just talked to her. Glad i didnt go to the owner b/c it would have definately looked like i was overreacting. So thanks again everyone! Yah!!
go to the owner and tell them what you have told us here. We just had a similar issue with the HC of our optional team - she didn't push the kids but many were going home saying the coach was mean etc. She was removed from the optional team and now only does rec classes and the L5 team.

Remember YOU are paying for this and your child should come out happy. There is tough and encouraging which is different from mean
I disagree that you should go straight to the owner. I think mom did the right thing by talking to the coach first. Unless a parent witnesses something first-hand, they should realize that kids can and DO overreact to things. Now, I think it's smart to be concerned, but good to give the coach an opportunity to explain before you start going to the owner. Some kids are very shy or sensitive and might interpret correcttions the wrong way. Other (older) kids can be downright manipulative and exaggerate things, just beause they don't LIKE getting corrections. I'm sure none of your kids would do that, but it happens in schools and sadly I've seen it in the gym also.
I like what gymjoy and gym law mom said the most. Be objective with what your child tells you.

Just to add to that... We parents have a hard time accepting our children is anything but the best and the most behaved. The truth is some kids can be not only over-sensitive but manipulative. Even the most educated (including those in the education industry) can be fooled. Based on what you said, it doesn't sound like your child is one of those.

I have witnessed kids that did things that were disrespectful and totally out of line. When they get in trouble for it they would tell their parents something entirely different.
I agree that speaking to the coach rather than the owner, or head coach is definately the way to go.

As a coach it is often difficult to try to correct a body form problem while the gymnast is moving, say on bars or on floor. I know that on occassion I have stuck my hand in and timed it a bit wrong, or tapped a bit harder than I would have liked. I usually appologise and the kids are fine with this.

I have on occassion ushered kids, especially when I have asked once and they are not listening. Gym sessions often have tight time lines, especially if coaches have to share equiptment with other coaches.

Some kids lack confidence and cannot cope with critisism. These kids need a huge amount of praise with one little critisism or they are devastated. As a coach I often have to change my coaching style with different kids. It can be very challenging coaching this type of child.

Definately worth while watching a few classes.
I agree with this completely. Your DD is pretty young, so watch a practice yourself and see what she's talking about before going to the coach with it. Since she already thinks the coach is mean to her, she may take a gentle shove as a push and it's not meant that way at all.
I think it definitely depends on the child and their personality as to how they react to this "aggressive" coaching style. My dd has a cheer tumble coach that is more strict and aggressive with his coaching technique and will "push or slightly shove" the kids away if they are not getting the skill. My dd has serious issues with this because she always comes home in tears after working with him saying that he is mean and that she doesn't want to do her BHS anymore. Now most of you know there is a LONG history of Dani and her fear issues with the BHS, so in my mind this type of coaching style is very detrimental to Dani's self-esteem, confidence and tumbling progression. Her gymnastics coach is very gentle and patient and very encouraging which is a way better fit for Dani. Her coach knows when and how to push her so as not to overwhelm or upset her. Now, the cheer tumble coach is young and he hasn't really worked with Dani all that much so he doesn't know her personality and sensitivity. Some kids CAN handle his coaching technique, but my dd CAN'T.

I think it was totally ok for you to bring it to the coach and make them aware and just see how things go. Maybe over time your dd will adjust to his style and maybe the coach will also change his style a bit as well.

Bottom line is the kids should be happy and feel good about themselves after gym. Everyone has good and bad days but overall, the gymnastics experience should ALWAYS be positive for the kids.

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