Growth vs. Image
What Do Parents Value More
Welcome back to another installment of the Gymnastics Dad blog. Since I last blogged, my daughter has now completed four competitions at Level 8 and let me say, “gymnastics is hard as a mofo.” The judges in Level 8 are heartless. When I say the judges are heartless, I mean like Ice King, White Walker cruel. I saw them give someone a score of 4.6, now that is just cold-blooded. Here is a photo I took of our last competition judges walking into the meet.
So far, this season has been tough, and there are several factors that go into that, but the biggest factor is probably as the old saying goes “you can’t ride the wave all the time, periodically the waves break and you have to tread water until another wave comes.”
Anywho, on to the blog. In this blog, I am going to try to answer a burning question that is always in the back of a coach’s mind, and that question is, “How much do parents value development?” In order to answer that question, we actually have to answer a couple of sub-questions. The first question we have to answer is, which is more important to a parent, is it development, the score, or their image? The second question we have to answer is, “Does a score illustrate competency.”
How Much Do Parents Really Value Development
From a coach’s standpoint, development is always the number one priority. Good coaches will always be end game driven, which, by default, favors development. The real question is, does focusing on growth mesh with a parent’s expectations. Now, as you are reading this, you are probably thinking, “duh, of course, I want my athlete to develop,” so let me ask the question differently. What are you willing to give up for your athlete to develop? What happens if the development requires your athlete to take a step back in performance, are you game? What happens if that development requires your athlete to repeat a level? Are you still game, kinda, sorta, not really. The truth is development is ugly and a rough road for parents. It consists of crashes, falls, terrible scores, WTFs, bumps, bruises and ice packs, lots and lots of ice packs. Development is painful for parents because it consists of parents having to lower and manage their expectations. Growth requires that sometimes parents will have to concede that what is best for their athlete may not necessarily coincide with keeping pace with the other team parents(damn, I really went there). I know this is going to sound crazy, but it is much easier to win than to develop, and that is why winning doesn’t necessarily equate to being good. Winning and losing can be manipulated by several factors. Coaches who want to get better scores will often seek out less competitive meets or meets where the judges tend to evaluate easier. They will water down routines. In general, growth should always be the priority, but the truth of the matter is growth requires patience and trust in your coach. Growth also requires parents to stay in their lanes, which is quite often the most challenging issue.
The second part of this first question is can both those qualities co-exist. Meaning, can an athlete win and show a high level of development at the same time. The answer to that question is that it depends. In the early stages of growth, being able to win and develop can be difficult because their training maturity is already very low. As an athlete’s training maturity improves, then the chances of progressing and winning at the same time are much more likely. The reason is as an athlete matures training-wise, their body and their mind can process information much quicker, which means learning something new is not as severe.
Does A Score Illustrate Competency
Of all the sports I have been apart of. There are specific terms that seem only to pertain to the sport of gymnastics. Since becoming a part of the gymnastics world, I have heard words like “a true level xx” or “that gymnast is doing all level xx skills,” which kinda means the same thing. I always thought that you are an X Level gymnast, or you are not, but apparently, I was wrong. So the question is if a person scores high but isn’t doing true level skills, then does the score illustrate their real competency for that level? You might be asking what does this question have to do with answering the overarching question? Simple, if a parent embraces the fact that their athlete can be considered a Level XX without having to acquire the skills for that level, then can a parent say they honestly embrace development. We all know parents who are more concerned with their athletes being at a certain level than actually being competent at that level. Every athlete can’t be good at everything. I get that. What I am referring to is when an athlete isn’t essentially prepared to be competitive at a level based on their fundamentals, but the parent pushes anyway for image reasons. At the end of the day, if competency isn’t high on a parent’s priority list, then neither is development because the two go hand and hand.
In the end, whether a parent values development or not is not a matter of right or wrong, but knowing what you value helps to level-set expectations with the coach and the athlete. Most coaches already know what you prioritize by your actions. It is effortless to see a parent’s true intentions by the way they react to non-positive news about their athlete.
In closing, I know this may piss some parents off, but it was not meant to be. My goal was to address one of the many “elephants in the room” when it comes to gymnastics. I also want to allow parents to dive into the mind of a coach when it comes to specific issues. Although I am not a gymnastics coach, the principles of coaching are all the same regardless of the sport.
The next blog is already written, so stay tune. No title yet, but in it, I talk about the negative impact on a team when the water cooler talk always revolves around an injury. Here is a quick snippet.
I have a saying on my track team it goes “suffer in silence.” What that means is that if you are hurting or sore, the world doesn’t need to know you are hurting or sore.” An athlete that is always hurt is deemed unreliable by a coach. A parent who is always looking for special treatment for a sore athlete is considered high maintenance. Both can be very draining or an organization.
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Until next time, peace and soul….