There are so many aspects to a successful and fulfilling gymnastics career. Whether the goal is learning to hop, to cartwheel or to make an Olympic team, every goal is important & each is individual. So how can parents make sure they are helping and supporting their kids in sport, while still stepping back and letting it be their child’s journey?
We love this blog by Anne Josephson, owner of JAG Gym in the US about letting kids own their sporting experience. Reading on, we found a great piece of advice for parents by former Winter Olympian, Darrin Steele (who also happens to have a daughter who does gymnastics at a high level). So, we have picked 10 ideas we think are great for parents of children competing in a sport (all of which help ensure kids own it & enjoy it – and help parents keep calm & enjoy it too).
Here are Our Top 10:
What do you expect? Expect behaviours from your children, but don’t put expectations on their performances or results. A great trainer who tries their hardest, is a supportive team member and respectful towards their coaches, should be all you ask for. What a great expectation that is!
Watch How Much You Watch! It’s great to watch your kids training from time to time (and when they are smaller, sticking around for the session can be much easier than racing home & heading back). Enjoy watching, but remember to give your competitive gymnast some space to do it on their own as well.
Remember, they have a Coach. When you’re chatting with you child in the car on the way home, talk about how they achieved that skill they’ve been working on; or how great the team is doing. Don’t focus on things which may not have gone to plan or how they can improve. They are no doubt already working on this in the gym!
Keep Calm About Upgrades! Trust the upgrading process at your club. The coaches know what fundamentals are needed to upgrade to more hours each week or to go up a level. While sometimes it may seem unfair that another child has moved and yours hasn’t, there will be a good reason behind it. Coaches want children to feel and be successful. Sometimes an extra year in a level lets children experience being at the top of their level, building their confidence and giving them a leadership opportunity they may not have had if they had moved too soon. Trust the process and don’t compare your gymnast to anyone else.
Lead By Example. It’s the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say…
Enjoy your child’s competition experience – cheer & clap & burst with pride! Remember as parents, it is not our place to comment on the judges (so stay silent if at times you feel something is unfair).
They Hear Everything! We all know you can call your child 10 times while they TV is on and they won’t hear you, but talk about something quietly and their ears prick up! If you have a problem or question, speak directly to the coach. Don’t let your child hear you talking about their coach or teammates and potentially weaken that bond or those friendships.
Let them Set their Own Goals. Let your child and their coach set their goals. As a parent, your goal should be that they are having fun and love what they do!
Dance Moms/ Gym Parents. You are a parent of a child who does gymnastics, not a Gym parent of a gymnast.
Darrin Steele describes this well.“Gymnastics is what she does, not who she is. Make sure she has other areas of focus. Those other areas will be crucial when she deals with injuries or set-backs, and they all deal with those from time to time. A parent of a girl who does gymnastics is proud of her commitment, sacrifices and work ethic. Gym-parents have their identities connected to the success of their gymnast. Research shows that when parents emphasize competition success, the athlete is more likely to lose enjoyment, become averse to competing and will be more likely to drop out of the sport prematurely.”
Don’t Jump to their Rescue Every Time. Let your child experience consequences and develop responsibility. Leave it to them to pack their gym bag, guards, training gear and understand the consequences if they forget something. Littler children (under 8 or 9) might need some help, but being responsible for their gymnastics is a great stepping stone for organised kids, which will transfer to schooling, other activities and adulthood!
Encourage your child to talk to their coaches. Once they are old enough, encourage your children to talk to their coach about the questions, goals and concerns. Being able to speak to adults is a great ability to have and again, it gives them ownership of their gymnastics experience.
Enjoy the journey and have fun supporting your child to be the best they can be in this awesome sport of ours!