~Where The Fathers At~
Excuse me, but we interrupt the regularly scheduled blog for a public service announcement. We are on the lookout for a male species known as Dads. They were last seen at their daughter’s gymnastics competition. We are not sure of their whereabouts, but if you happen to stumble upon these elusive creatures, please have them report to their daughter’s next gymnastics practice. In this blog, I am going to write about the potential negative impact on a young athlete when there is a lack of fatherly support.
Before I get started look at this video.
Dads are like….
Yes, fellas, we are talking about practice. Not the competition, we are talking about practice (this is only funny if you watched the youtube video)
Since becoming involved in youth gymnastics, a disturbing trend I have witnessed is the lack of fatherly support while at gymnastics practice. Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of fathers at the competitions which is great, but to be honest, only coming to competitions is too little too late. Think about it like this, gymnasts spend an upward of 20 hours at practice, but the typical competition is only 3 hours. Where do you think the bulk of the work and the ability to affect change is taking place? By the time a gymnast gets to the meet as the saying goes “it is what it is.” The result of the competition may be revealed at the meet, but the outcome was decided at the practices well before the competition. All competitors hope to win but in practice is where the expectation of winning is established. This is where parents play a critical role. The expectation of winning is established by hard work, commitment, focus, and dedication all qualities that are taught at home but reinforced by coaches. Meaning, athletes can only expect to win a competition if they have trained to win in practice. Coaches teach skills and build upon the discipline established by the parents. Athletes can sense if a parent has a lack of commitment for a sport and more often it will come through in their focus and commitment at practice. As a coach, I have a requirement that for all athletes under the age of twelve, parents must be present at least some of the practices. I have always believed that athletes just seem to practice harder and are more focused if they know the prying eyes of a parent(especially dad) is around. By no means, this isn’t to discount or diminish mom’s value but if mom is the only person watching practice then most likely she is the only parent having the infamous “come to Jesus” conversation like “do you know what we sacrifice” on the ride home after a bad practice. You can quickly see how mom becomes the nagging parent and becomes the proverbial “broken record.” Thus, diminishing her influence to affect change.
In talking to fathers, a common theme as to why dads are not really involved with youth gymnastics fall into two areas. The first one is it is not manly enough, and for the second, it is a waste of time and money. Since gymnastics is viewed primarily as a “girls” sport, many fathers feel it is okay for them to take a back seat and let the mom handle it. Both these lines of reasoning are flawed. First, for the parents who say it is not manly enough. My fault, I didn’t know to support a child’s extracurricular activity was conditional based on how macho it was. For those who say it is a waste of time. Dude, real talk, have you looked at a typical youth football, soccer, volleyball, baseball player. Trust me, most of those athletes are definitely not the model of athletic prowess and fitness. Unfortunately, outside of a few sports most sports put too much of an emphasis on winning to the detriment of the overall development of the athlete. Having the opportunity to play any sport in college or the pros is a daunting task but at least being in a sport like gymnastics where there is a holistic approach to overall fitness gives an athlete the best chance of success. Want to test it? Pull all your kids in a room and see who can do the most push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches…..don’t worry, I’ll wait .
Regardless of the sport, conditioning is a critical aspect of success. The truth of the matter is gymnastics is not sexy enough for most fathers to care. Gymnastics doesn’t have the Little League World Series that gets shown on ESPN. Gymnastics doesn’t have the Friday Night Tykes a tv series about youth football. Gymnastics doesn’t have AAU basketball teams in which Nike and other shoe companies dump millions of dollars in the hopes of finding the next Lebron. What youth gymnastics has is little girls who train an upward of 20 plus hours a week and who will run circles around 95% of boys in their age conditioning wise. Gymnasts are more discipline than athletes in most team sports because they live in a world where the difference between winning and losing can be less than a tenth of a point.
Some dads used the flimsy argument of “I don’t have enough time” but that argument is so weak I didn’t bother to address it. Very simply, if you can’t squeeze out a few minutes to watch your gymnast practice then it is not a matter of time it is a matter of priority. Trust me, the NFL, NBA, MLB, Fortnite and Madden will still be there when you get back.
Competition gymnastics is a considerable investment. Even now I pay my daughter’s gym fee bi-weekly because I just can’t handle the visual of forking out $300.00 a month for a youth sport and that doesn’t include booster club fees, can you say “Sheet sale fundraiser.” Below is an actual picture of me after making my monthly gymnastics payment.
Most competition gymnastics teams cost an upward of $300.00 plus a month during a competition season which is the equivalent to a car note. Most people paying a car note will do certain things to protect their investment. They ensure the oil is changed consistently, brakes changed, and tires rotated regularly. When the check engine light comes on they take the vehicle to the shop to get it serviced. Basically, they are trying to ensure a return on their investment. Those same principles should apply to a sport that is this financially intensive. Unless you just got it like that financially than “do you playa” but for most of us mere peasants, the prospect of sinking the equivalent to a car note into a sport monthly isn’t the most appealing thing unless we are seeking some sort of return on investment.
Parents can fool themselves into saying “I just want her to learn discipline and teamwork,” but to be honest, there are much cheaper ways to accomplish those goals. By return on investment, I am not necessarily talking about a college scholarship (unless you got one handy), but I think it is fair to expect your gymnasts to show consistent growth in the sport. “I am not saying get the W, but heck at least begin advancing in the direction of winning.” I cannot have the expectation that my daughter will be the next Simone Biles, but it is fair for me to expect her to be the best gymnast she can be within her level of ability. Sitting in on practice doesn’t mean you are being a helicopter parent, those are two completely different things. Just as most fathers roam the typical sideline of a youth football, baseball practice chopping it up with other fathers about how their kid is the next Deion Sanders or Mike Trout all the while keeping a watchful eye on the number of reps their athlete is getting in practice. What they are doing is ensuring the money they spent on that pitching coach or passing league is being put to good use. I can’t tell you in my coaching career how many fathers I am approached by inquiring about speed training in the hopes it will help their child be more successful with their other “more popular” sport. I always politely decline with this advice. That pitching coach you have, fire him. That football, basketball camp you are going to signup for, stop. That summer league you are headed to, turn around. Buy your little dude some dumbells, pull-up bars, push-up bars, and a crunch mat and have at it. That will benefit you way more than whatever money-draining event you are going to next. Fortunately, for most gymnast conditioning is embedded in the program itself. The truth of the matter is, most of us don’t know enough about gymnastics to give any helpful training tips, but you can watch to make sure your athlete is being productive, and you are getting the value out of your investment.
~Be Cool With The Results~
Lastly, if you choose to blow me off then be cool with the results. I am always amazed after a gymnast has a poor performance in competition the dad who has barely attended practices is all up at arms because their baby didn’t do well. Whatever, dude, your child hasn’t been doing well in practice. That Full Turn she fell on, yup she been falling on them at practice for the last month. Those bent legs, guess what, her legs were bent at practice also. Her tumbling, “been broke” but you would have known all this if you would have shown up to practice. It is both unfair and unrealistic to expect coaches to be able to give you a breakdown of everything your athlete is weak in. Coaches are responsible for overseeing dozens of girls, but a parent is responsible for oversight of one child, their own. I know everyone is busy grinding away at life but make time to watch the growth in your gymnast, it is a beautiful thing and is a much better investment of your time and resources than most other youth sports except for track and swimming. I am going to write another blog soon about the difference between what I call auxiliary sports like football, baseball and basketball, and foundational sports like track, swimming and gymnastics and why foundational sports are much better at overall development than auxiliary sports.
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Until next time, we wish you peace and….