Parents How (and when) do you know?

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My daughter is young but talented. I know, we all say that, but she has been added to the 'aspire' program which is a fast track style group. She loves the gym and *thinks* she's working hard... but as a new level 4/5 she just seems to struggle with taking it seriously. It seems (from looking at other children at the gym and talking to other parents) that she isn't showing them she wants to be there or wants to work hard. Her first evaluation was awful, scoring poorly in every event and physical abilities (and came with a warning) and I am worried that she will absolutely bomb this season. She could also risk being moved out of the 4/5 to the other group which trains less hours. That wouldn't bother me, less hours is less money! But she really wants to compete 5 this season if possible.

But, is this something you talk about with your child? I see other parents being very, VERY strict with their kid's training and expectations and their children doing amazingly and I also see children who seem to be strict with themselves working on stretching and skills at home. My child does neither and seems not to want to bother. I don't push her and, it would seem, she doesn't push herself either. I have asked her if this is really what she wants and she assures me that she does - but it's still the same comments from her coaches. I have tried to explain that she could lose her spot and she gets upset. I am not trying to be mean to her - but I know that gymnastics (especially DP) is tough and somewhat ruthless. I am just being honest with her. No one cares if you love the sport. You have to love it AND want to work for it to be in a program like this. My daughter is good, but maybe not... good enough? She says she wants it, but how do I know whether I should be a little stricter or have a serious conversation about her work ethic and effort? Yes, she's still young and I know so many folks who would tell us "just let her enjoy it" ...

Of course, I want her to have fun, but "fun" (on its own) doesn't get skills or win meets. Hard work does. Can hard work be fun? Is she the wrong material? I am questioning everything about this. I want her to be the best she can be, but also not burn out. How do we walk that line? Do we? Is this a "she'll sink or swim leave it be" kind of situation? I just don't know what to do as a mother...

Should I try sitting her down and having a conversation about work ethic and expectations? We haven't had a proper serious stern conversation about it yet where I have laid out the situation in black and white. Yes I've asked if she enjoys it, if she likes it, if she wants to be there and work hard (to which the answer is always YES!) ... but I've never read her the 'riot act' as it were and really explained my frustration with the info I am getting back from the gym. Or should I just let it be and let the coaches try and sort it?

How and when do you know that it's time for "that" conversation?

Anyone have any advice?
 
How old is your daughter? You said young? For us, my daughter wants to do elite path. She's 8, but has been very vocal about it. We've made it clear that there's a lot of expectations when you want to take that on and it also means growing up a lot faster. She's done a great job with the hard work part, but we're still working through the emotional side at times (to be expected at her age). It really is so different based on each kid, as well as their coach.
 
My daughter is not on the elite or fast-track path, so take my response with a grain of salt because she has less pressure on her. However, since she feels less talented than others, it’s given her a chip on her shoulder. The only thing gymnastics-involved that I have to push her on is properly hydrating during the day and eating sufficient calories at meals. Packing her bag, getting ready for practice, and reminding me when we need to leave the house is all her. When she’s at practice she is head-down and working flat-out.

I do see that girls at her gym who are more talented and are seen as the future elite group struggle with things similar to your daughter. I think it’s probably hard because coaches have set them apart as special, and also aren’t as hard on them during parts of practice because they get skills so easily. It doesn’t sound like this is totally your daughter’s situation, but maybe it helps you think through her motivation and current struggles.
 
We has a few kids in our program that are like your daughter: they are underachievers that legitimately believe they are putting in their best effort. This is a tricky situation to navigate because it’s hard to motivate someone to work harder when they believe they are already maximizing their output. Even more tricky is the situation where an underachieving athlete falls behind and develops low self esteem: they feel powerless because they believe they have tried their hardest and failed (when really they could catch up by simply being more disciplined).

Doing gymnastics requires brutal self honesty and continual self reflection. Some kids take longer to develop this skill.

I will never forget the time when I tried removing a young gymnast from the team who would regularly spend half the practice sitting down. I assumed the kid would be secretly relieved to be kicked off the team, considering that she showed very little interest in participating. Instead, I learned that she was devastated by the news and surprised by our feedback. I could not comprehend the magnitude of cognitive dissonance that lead this child to believe that sitting down for 1.5 hours was a productive use of time.

For athletes like your daughter, I think it’s best to put them on probation and create a performance improvement plan that addresses their problem areas. The plan sets clear expectations for behavior and progress milestones. The consequence for not following the terms of probation is to be removed from team. YOU MUST BE WILLING TO STICK TO THE ULTIMATUM. If you don’t follow through with punishment, you risk reinforcing the bad behavior you are try to fix.
 
Congrats, you have a normal child! That’s fantastic. Since your kid is normal maybe put her in normal DP gymnastics where she can be a kid without everyone tearing her down over it. That’s not failure. Kids in those fast track programs often burn out before they can achieve anything in the sport. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
 
The ownership has to be hers. She is the one who is the gymnast. It’s so painful to watch as a parent! My 9 year old has just recently figured out that if she works hard at practice (more reps, better effort) and makes corrections, she will get better at gymnastics . And some days she still doesn’t- she’s human! I’m in the throes of it with my 6 year old right now. It’s frustrating to see her body ready for more but her brain and attention span variable day to day. she is not moving up levels next season, a lot because of that very “issue”. Kids mature emotionally and psychologically at different rates. It’s maddening sometimes to wait for little minds to catch up with little bodies. I feel that so much! But I firmly believe your job as a parent is to support as in “I love you and I’m proud of you” and let the coaches handle the rest. Although I do throw in an occasional “if you want to be a gymnast like you say you do then make sure you listen to your coaches and do your best to be serious and work hard”

In our culture there’s pressure to “get ahead” or “catch up” but it’s all too easy to lose perspective that is a sport that kids do for fun, fitness, and friendship and they may earn some bling along the way.
 
Maybe the fast track Aspire program is too much for her. Is this the only pathway for participating in DP at your gym? DP is more difficult than say Xcel or non-USAG pathways but 'ruthless' is not an adjective I would use to describe it. Like at all. If you feel this way now, in L4, I would reevaluate where this comes from. Is it the gym? If so you can switch to a less intense program.
 
All these replies have given me something to think about. It does sound like I should gently remind her of gym expectations as part of this program and remind her that it's okay to move to the other team if she cannot meet those expectations. She is only 8, so I do feel she's in that age group where they're all still very much maturing and someone newly 8 may have a different mental maturity compared to a child who is almost 9. Our gym is an elite-focused gym and I do feel that there is a lot of pressure to move quickly and to be like the other families - to push the kids in and out of the gym and to have all the privates and have all the extra coaching. I have so far held off on this, for reasons that some of you mentioned. I don't want her burning out. The culture at our gym seems very much to reward those kids who are pushed within an inch of their little lives and to negate those who are talented, but who are "less committed". There are not many other options for gyms in our area, though, so I am at a loss what to do. I guess, for now, I will remind her of where we're at and that staying on this team is her choice. If she can't meet expectations then it should not surprise her to move to the other team. Which, as you say, may be a better place for her at the moment. I just feel that elite track is so self-limiting sometimes. Either you fall in line at 8 years old or you're done.
 
I think I may have 2 important things to add, perhaps.

I don't know if this is the case for your kid, but sometimes a kid needs more concrete instructions. As in...
Does she feel she's working hard? If she feels like she is, but her gym thinks she isn't, then what specifically do they want her to do differently. Should she do more drills at home, or more reps in the gym, or focus better during instructions? "work harder" doesn't really mean much to some kids, so if you talk to her try and see if you're really understanding each other.

Also, if you talk about this stuff maybe make sure it's clear to her that you're talking about this just so you're both understanding each other, and it's not about saying she's doing something wrong or blaming anybody for anything. It's more just so you're sure she understands what gymnastics at this level means and that you understand how she feels.

Those are the 2 things: maybe use concrete suggestions and make sure it's not blaming but just talking.
 
I just feel that elite track is so self-limiting sometimes. Either you fall in line at 8 years old or you're done.
The elite track isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The college track is more satisfying for many gymnasts and the path is more flexible. But, realistically, the odds of any 8-year-old gymnast sticking with the sport through to college is very low. Focus on meeting The needs of the 8-year-old kid you have right now and don’t get too wrapped up in imaginary futures. This is a child’s hobby, not a career.
 

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