Staying The Course
As this gymnastics season draws to a close, this is the typical time when parents begin to look for other programs for their athletes for a variety of reasons. Also, based on the outcome of the season this is the time where parents start to question if gymnastics is a viable sport for their athlete. Being a coach I have seen time after time parents leave teams hoping to move into a better situation only to find out that is not the case. Unfortunately, most parents opt to live with their wrong decision and the only person that genuinely ends up negatively impacted by a parent’s misguided decision is the athlete. In this blog, I am going to break down the potential pitfalls of leaving your current situation in the hopes of finding a greener pasture. If you are indeed in a bad position, then this blog is by no means meant to be a deterrent to you bettering your and your athlete’s circumstances but many times what is perceived to be a bad situation, in reality, is just a lack of understanding, communication or expectations.
If you are the parent, who is questioning whether gymnastics is the right sport for your child based on how competitive they are currently. Speaking from a coach and parent viewpoint this youth sports thing is a wild rollercoaster ride through the world of complete excitement and utter disappointment. Those parents who survive to the end are the ones who get neither too high with successes and too low with failures. From my experience coaching, those athletes who are on top at the beginning are not always the same athletes on top at the end. Now, I am not going to sell you on the whole gymnastics is an excellent way to teach team sportsmanship, discipline, and commitment because to be honest there are much cheaper ways to instill those qualities, but I will say this. Gymnastics is what I call a foundational sport, meaning the skills you learn in gymnastics apply to every other secondary sport like baseball, football, soccer, basketball, etc. There are only a few sports that fall into the foundational sports category, and those are track, swimming and of course gymnastics. As a track coach, some of my best athletes have had a gymnastics background. What that means for you as a parent is keeping your gymnast in gymnastics will only help her in other sports down the line, so there is no need to cut bait right now.
The price of greatness is responsibility Winston Churchhill
Before abandoning a sport or a program, I like to tell parents to make sure they have done everything in their power to ensure their athlete has the best opportunity to be successful. Everyone wants to win on game day, but the real question is has that athlete, parent, and coach done what is necessary to be able to reasonably expect the athlete to be successful in competition. In project management, there is a term called the triple constraints which refer to the relationship between the limitations of quality, schedule, and budget of a project. For projects as one constraint changes, the other two must adjust to accommodate the change. Similar constraints apply to gymnastics. For an athlete to be successful the athlete, parent and coach must all be playing from the same sheet of music. If one is off, then the others must adjust to maintain consistency but only within reason. Parents often have a difficult time owning responsibility for their actions. The truth of the matter is parents are the athletes first coaches. They are the first people who instill discipline, focus, commitment and follow-through in children. Coaches don’t introduce these qualities in athletes they merely build upon the foundation that was already laid. If there is no foundation laid then coaches don’t have anything to build upon. Many parents have a hard time accepting this responsibility, but these qualities are not qualities specific only to sports, but these are the qualities that define a productive member of society.
Just because it glitters doesn’t always mean it’s gold.
Do not embrace everything gold that shines like gold Alain De Lille
Every gym has its problems. In some gyms, the ownership sucks, in some the booster club sucks, while in others the parents suck but as long as the coaches don’t suck then there is always hope. In sports, the quality of coaching should still be the overriding factor. Parents need to ensure when changing gyms they aren’t swapping one set of problems for another. I have seen athletes leave our gym for another program that is perceived to be better just to end up in a worse situation. Everything that glitters isn’t always gold. Before jumping ship, properly research the gym you are going to. If your current coaches have a history of developing athletes, then I would advise you to stay “put.” Finding skilled coaches is difficult. Finding qualified coaches who are nice is next to impossible. My daughter’s coaches are Russian, and if you have ever had Russian coaches, then you know where I am going. Russians who have English as a second language struggle with what I consider the fluff words. The words that make what they are saying to you not so brutal. Being trained by coaches from Russia is not for the faint of heart. Being direct and not an eloquent speaker doesn’t make someone a bad coach just as someone being kind to your athlete doesn’t make them a good coach, know the difference.
Good coach vs. a good recruiter
Know the difference between a good coach and a good recruiter. Many times parents look at other teams that are doing well and mistakenly believe it is the coaching. What I always tell parents is to not only to study the team’s current stats but also to study their stats historically and research their gymnast individually. Many coaches are recruiters and have the great ability to recruit gymnasts that were developed at lesser-known gyms by offering “perks” outside of the quality of training. Any good coach should have a resume of athletes they have developed over time. Good coaches have a history of developing athletes, not overnight sensations. Often I hear parents “ooh and ahh” about other gyms, but when I research those gyms, I realize most of their gymnasts were developed at different gyms during their foundational years. It is easy for a coach to put his or her stamp on an already established product, but any coach worth their salt enjoys the challenge of building their athletes from the ground up.
Sometimes it takes time.
Not all athletes develop the same or at the same pace. Athlete’s bodies mature faster than others, and their ability to process information also grows more quickly than others. An athlete being able to get their body to handle the instructions that are given to it has nothing to do with maturity it merely is a matter of biology. If you look at world-class athletes across all sports, their bodies can process information much faster than the typical person. When a gymnast is in the air, and something goes wrong that gymnast’s body has fractions of seconds to process the information necessary that will allow them to bail safely. The ability of the brain to handle information and send it to the right destination quickly takes time to develop. Some athletes are born with it, but for most, it is merely a waiting game.
Some athletes are born competitive while for other athletes it takes time to develop. In coaching, I have had runners that seem to come out the womb understanding the emotional difference between winning and losing while others will take an “L” in a heartbeat and think nothing of it. Learning to be successful and developing the desire to win for many takes time. This skill parents can “fast track” by putting their athletes with coaches where athletic success is an expectation. Keep in mind success doesn’t always mean winning but for something to be called competition, there has to be a winner and loser.
If you are reading this blog, then my guess is it is safe to say that at some point you have attended a gymnastics competition. If you have, then you have heard parents yell “Go, Kayla,” “Let’s do this Gabby” or in my case “you got this Triniti.” Parent’s yell all these things while the athletes are in the middle of competing. Being able to block out all the noise and focus is a skill that athletes have to develop. For example, I can call my daughters name several times during a competition, and she will ignore me completely, but many gymnasts brains haven’t developed the ability to block out the external noise yet. In most situations, this is not a bad thing especially for the younger gymnast, but it is a waiting game for parents.
Look, I must admit before I was the head coach and owner of my track club I was a parent, then became an assistant coach on another track club. I wasn’t happy with the quality of training, so I branched out and started my team. Therefore, I sincerely empathize with people in bad situations. Keep in mind my goal isn’t to discourage you from leaving a bad situation but to hopefully give you a different viewpoint for evaluating your case. Being a parent of an athlete in a competitive youth sport like gymnastics is extraordinarily challenging, and often it may seem hopeless but stay the course. If you do have good coaches, who care and are qualified then ride with them through the storm. Always remember this, if gymnastics was easy it would be called football(shade) B-)