Parental involvement can play a big part in a child’s participation and success in gymnastics. Rosanna Trigg explains how to ensure you’re doing the best to support your son or daughter in this awesome sport.
We love having the parents of our gymnasts involved in their chosen sport. After all, it’s exciting to see your child progress, learn new skills and come home bouncing off the walls because they managed to stick a skill they’ve been working at for months. There’s no better feeling – for the gymnast and the coach!
But there are certainly times when parents’ good intentions can go awry. Some of us coaches are parents ourselves, and we completely understand the desire to get heavily involved in what your son or daughter is or isn’t achieving in the gym. You want the absolute best for your child.
However, there are times when it’s important to step back and remember why your child loves gymnastics so much in the first place. Chances are it’s because they’re learning something new, socialising and most importantly, having fun. In situations when the pressure gets too much for them to cope with, or they feel as though they are being compared to their peers, we often find the development of that child suffers.
So for all the loving gymnastic mums and dads out there, here are a few reminders about what really matters.
1. Understand that children will always make mistakes
As every child grows and learns, they stumble. This is true in all aspects of life and development, and it is certainly true in the gym. As coaches, we never, ever berate a gymnast for making a mistake in their routine at a competition – or on any other occasion. If a gymnast makes a mistake in a competition, they know. They don’t need to be reminded or told.
The important thing is how they recover from these mistakes and tackle the rest of the competition. This is what will ultimately shape them as a great competitive athlete. Rarely does everything go to plan in a competition, and strategy and control of their focus and emotions is as much a discipline in the sport as the actual execution of the skills.
Mistakes are valuable. However disappointing in the moment, they teach gymnasts a lot about maintaining focus, consistency in technical execution and controlling emotions, adrenaline and nerves.
2. Don’t compare children to each other
Every child is unique, and this extends to their abilities in the gym. Some children will be naturally athletic, while others might take longer to reach the same level. This may mean that one child from your son or daughter’s class moves up a level before yours.
Children have differing strengths and weaknesses. Where one may excel on the bars and struggle on the vault, another may have excellent vaulting skills and be behind on their bar development. Each piece of apparatus has very specific physical and cognitive requirements, and all children will differ in how they overcome their fears and developing confidence when grasping the intricacies of moving around the equipment. But rest assured they will get there with positive encouragement from coaches, parents and peers.
Our coaches put serious thought into any decisions about advancing a gymnast to the next level. We weigh up multiple different reasons before doing this, and it never means that one child is ‘better’ than another. Gymnastics is not a just competition – it’s a journey, and every gymnast’s path will be different.
3. There’s no one criteria we look for in children
Despite what stigmas still lurk about gymnastics, we don’t just want tiny, strong and naturally athletic children to consider the sport. This is a sport for everyone, and we want to encourage as many young, budding gymnasts as possible!
As long as your child wants to be there and feel as though they are having a fun and productive time in the gym, we want them to join!
4. Goals are encouraged – as long as they’re not all about winning
Don’t take it upon yourself to set unrealistic goals for your child. Yes, we want to encourage them to reach certain milestones and continue to achieve new skills, but putting the pressure on them to become Olympians is unfair and stressful.
There are many valuable lessons taught in gymnastics that aren’t just about flipping and twisting. Hard work really does pay off – one of our favourite gym mantras is, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” We focus on perserverance, humility, commitment to training, prioritising what is important to you and having a positive work ethic.
Treat goals in the gym as you would goals in the classroom. If your child is struggling in maths, they’re not going to go from the bottom of the class to the top overnight. It’s important to support the goals of your children and help them work towards achieving them from a parental point of view. Be realistic with the number of activities, sports or extracurricular activities they can do in a week.
Ensure their motivations to succeed or achieve are in favour of their long-term development and not for short-term rewards, treats or material things.
5. At the same time, don’t let them give up easily
While gymnastics is a fun sport, it can have its tough moments. Like anything worth doing, there will be challenging days and times when things seem too hard, or situations which might affect your child’s mood.
Part of being a supportive parent is acknowledging the hard times and helping to encourage your child to keep perservering. There will be hurdles, but it’s all about how to help them to get over them that will make a difference.
These skills will not only help them become better athletes, but are also transferable into excelling in school, university and their professional careers.
6. Let the coaches do their jobs
Gymnastics coaches are professionally trained, with years of experience and technical knowledge and qualifications to help young children and adults. They are the best people to help your child progress in the sport in a smart, safe manner. As a parent, you absolutely know what is best for your child. In the gym, the coach who has overseen his or her development feels the same way.
Coaches have gone through an enormous amount of training that not only makes them experts in teaching skills and technique, but also in ensuring the safety of your children, reduce the risk of injury, and helping kids have longevity in the sport. Pushing children too hard and too fast during crucial growth periods in any sport can hinder their athletic futures in any sport. Their bodies need to be fit and strong enough, and their minds confident enough, to execute skills safely. This is not something that can be rushed.
Coaches can and should make sure they have open communication with parents to let them know the details about their child’s progression. As a parent, you can help your child continue to do their best by encouraging them to listen to their coaches, and trying not to interfere with their methods.
7. Remember it’s about fun, not results
At the end of the day, gymnastics should be fun. Even at the most competitive level where things get a bit more serious, the sport should be something that is enjoyed and looked forward to! Gymnastics is a place for kids to explore, develop and achieve some amazing things, but none of that matters if they don’t have fun doing it.
Interested in getting your child started in gymnastics? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options.