Gymnastics Parent Info
Confessions of a Gym Mom
Gym Mom retiree is a better name because I survived my daughter’s career in gymnastics that ended after 4 years in college. Gymnastics played a major part in our lives starting with beginning classes at the age of 5, competition starting in 4th grade, and then a college career. During this period there were many things I learned and many I wanted to know. I am listing my confessions here for all of the gym parents who might have similar confessions. You might think that these confessions should be about the tons of gymnastics knowledge I now have, but maybe these confessions come closer to your experiences too.
Confession 1: I never totally learned how to feed my athlete. I basically knew what to feed her – read all the articles too. But, putting it together into a meal plan was another thing. My meal plans worked wonders when they were used, but were not used that often. Also, they did not really include the lunches and snacks that a gymnast needs.
Confession 2: I didn’t know how to put the skill name with the skill she was doing. It was easier to do during the compulsory years – increasingly difficult in the optional years. How can you figure out which skill was which when they don’t last but a second?
Confession 3: At the end of my daughter’s career I finally figured out why she did not score higher do her early years? It is something that is easier to do after your child has moved up a level or two and you look back at the films.
Confession 4: Now this may seem like a nerdy confession, but I loved to put on gym meets!! No lie. We had a smooth organization and everyone seemed to know how to do something and it went like clock-work. It was exhausting and at times frantic (one time our scoring program crashed during the middle of the last event! Yikes! We were transferring all the scores to Excel and were able to get the scores to the judges only a few minutes later than usual!)
Now where do these confessions lead? First, I wanted to let you know that there were other parents out there who had questions similar to the ones you have. Second, I wanted to share some of the information that I do have that might help you enjoy your child’s gymnastics career more. This page is not complete, so come back often to check out any new information that has been added.
Benefits of Gymnastics from a Parent's Perspective
There are other benefits to gymnastics besides the ones you can find while googling the topic. These benefits are not for your daughter either. There are some that will benefit the whole family. And these benefits are for life.
A gymnast’s life is hectic and her parent’s help is necessary in order to participate in her sport. This creates an area of her life where it is ok for parents to know her goals, the people on her team, her coach, and all the events surrounding competitive gymnastics. During the teen years there are not many areas where you daughter is communicative. This participation in gymnastics helps keep the channels open.
Gymnastics is a sport where you skill progression is additive. A meet is a spot check to see how far along you are in your skill progression. So, if you do not do well in a particular meet, it does not mean you are not good. It could just mean that you were not as far along as some of the other competitors. This was a personal theory until years later I got the chance to talk to one of the girl’s who had been on my daughter’s team. Her name is Laura Welling and she was paying for college by participating in beauty pageants. She eventually became Miss Michigan and participated in the Miss America pageant. The year before she became Miss Michigan she had finished as first runner-up. When I mentioned this to a friend she commented, “Gee, I do not know how she was able to enter the pageant again. I would have been so devastated at losing that wouldn’t have done it again.” So, when I saw Laura I asked her about my “theory” about competition being the result of skill progression she agreed. Laura also said that most girls quit pageants if they do not win in the first three tries, but she had been in six pageants before she won for the first time.
As you know, gymnastics is a huge investment in time, but that is not all bad. School friends may have more free time and might not always be doing positive things during that free time. Having reduced free time makes your daughter more selective about how they spend that time. Her commitment to the sport can give your daughter focus that she might not otherwise develop until she is much older.
The next benefit is most obvious during the Vault. After the first vault the coach gives feedback on how the first vault went and what to do to improve the second vault. The girls learn to listen and incorporate the feedback instead of just giving excuses which is what most people do when given feedback. Instead of thinking the coach is picking on them, the gymnast realizes that it is feedback and is given to help them improve their performance. We all know how important this can be when we enter the workplace.
The next part is hopefully a benefit – because it will depend a lot on the personal qualities of their coaches. A coach may spend more time with your child during the week than you do and they can be a valuable role model to them. They see that their coach is only human and they also have faults along with their good qualities. Once in a while the coach can even be wrong. It is good for the girls to see this in another adult than their parents – and although they can see that in their teachers a coach that is more focused on their athlete’s success than a teacher may be. There has also been a few coaches who have not been good role models and this too can provide valuable insight.
Gymnasts tend to be very good students. If your gymnast ends up being on a college team they have something valuable to add to their resumes, and even if they don’t pursue the sport in college it still adds an important point to their resumes. It shows they can be dedicated to a challenging sport and still be a good student. Post graduate programs love to have ex-athletes in their ranks. My son reports that medical schools love college athletes. Obviously, not all gymnasts become doctors, but it is nice to have that extra something to differentiate them from all other great candidates out there.
Benefits of Gymnastics From an Ex-Gymnast
Hubber’s Note: After putting my list together on the benefits of gymnastics from a parent’s perspective I asked my daughter what she thought. The following words are hers that are written after she completed her college career and finished grad school.
First of all you can not do well in the sport if you are not willing to work hard. Gymnastics never came easy to me, so I had to work hard to succeed. Learning to work hard helps a child do well in school, college, or in later life in a job. Along with the hard work you need to learn good time management skills. In competitive gymnastics you typically go to school all day then practice another four to five hours on top of the school day. Somehow we manage to get our homework done and maintain somewhat of a social life.
When competing for grad schools or jobs later in life having the gymnastics experience is impressive to an employer/school because they realize what a commitment competitive gymnastics takes. They believe this will make you a better employee/student. Interestingly enough, when I attend the MSU alumni meet they always introduce the alumni and say what they do now. It is extraordinarily impressive to go down the line and hear what all of those women do now. Every single one of them is successful, and I truly believe it is from their gymnastics experiences that they have been able to achieve so much.
Even if the gymnast does not make it all the way to competitive gymnastics, you can still see the benefits. When the gymnasts are in their younger years they can gain improvements in coordination and strength. They also learn that physical fitness is fun. Gymnastics also teaches concentration and focus. You can not gain new skills in gymnastics without these attributes. At all levels of gymnastics it helps instill confidence.
Lastly, gymnastics is a good way to make friends and learn teamwork. You get to meet so many new people and girls throughout your gymnastics experience - from preschool playmates all the way to college teammates. I have made so many good friends and learned a lot about team work. Even though you compete individually in gymnastics, you also compete and train as a team. This becomes more evident the further along the gymnast goes. You also work out daily alongside these girls so you have to be able to work well together. I think of all of the girls on my college team as my sisters. I went to a very large university and from the first day felt a part of something. There were 15 other girls that had the same interests and similar experiences and they became family. Not only have I met friends along the way, I have also gotten the opportunity to travel all over the country for meets. It is amazing that one sport can do so much!
Competition etiquette will help spectators enjoy the gymnastics meet while maintaining a safe environment for spectators, gymnasts, coaches, and judges. The meet is set up for the benefit and the safety of the competing gymnasts. Here are the rules you should follow as a spectator at a meet.
As a spectator you are a guest of the host gym and should follow any rules they publish. These may be different from gym to gym, so do not disobey these rules just because they are not done at your gym.
If you are bringing younger siblings to watch the meet please make sure that they respect the host facility and do not interfere with the meet or the crowd watching the meet. These can be long events and some children will start wanting to play on the mats and equipment – this can be dangerous for them as they are probably stacked in a manner that is not meant for use.
If you are videoing or photographing the meet, do not use a flash. Also, please do not block the view of the spectators. You cannot stand on the competition floor to tape.
Spectators are not allowed in the competition area.
Spectators shall not disturb the order of the meet, its competitors and its officials. Individuals causing violations shall be asked to leave the competition site.
At no time will any parent approach or speak to any meet official or judge. Any problems should be directed to your Team Coach only. Any parent or spectator will act in a courteous, respectful manner to all officials, competitors, meet host and other clubs. Spectators should support your gymnast and others for their efforts and accomplishments.
If your daughter is new to gymnastics you will quickly learn that there are different leos and warm ups for different occasions. Here is a Gymnastic Apparel Guide.
Practice leotards are usually sleeveless and can be any color. The number of leos needed depends on how often the gymnast practices and how often you do laundry. Three is a good number to start with, and after your child has been competing for a while they will probably have more than that.
Competition leotards are chosen by the gym club and are the same for all gymnasts from your club in the same level. Different levels may have different competition leotards. These leotards are long sleeve. You are usually required to only have one competition leotard.
Warm-ups are worn at meets and are the same for all the girls from your club in the same level. They are worn during the march-in before the meet and many teams wear them during the awards. Competition warm-ups are only worn at meets and you will be discouraged from wearing them everyday.
Work-out or bike shorts are allowed at some gyms. The shorts are worn over the leotard. Please find out the policy at your gym before purchasing any
Gym Bags are usually the same for all girls from a club. There is usually only one bag per club, so you probably won’t need to replace this as your child goes up a level.
Grips may be worn by gymnasts. For more information on grips please read Get a Grip at Gymnastics Zone. http://www.gymnasticszone.com/GetAGrip.htm
Wrist supports are worn by some gymnasts
Beam Shoes are worn be a few gymnasts.
How to Choose a Gymnastics Coach
Choosing a gymnastics coach is very important once your child starts competing. You may think it is hard to point to the qualities in a coach that will make them the best coach for your daughter, but it is easy if you determine the motivational climate created by the gymnastics coach that you are evaluating.
In the report, "The Implications of the Motivational Climate in Gymnastics: A Review of Recent Research", Dr. Joan Duda identifies two types of motivational environments that are present, to varying degrees, in the sport setting: task-involving and ego-involving. The predominantly task-involving climate is one in which athletes feel like the coach:
· rewards high effort
· emphasizes collaboration between teammates
· makes everyone feel like they play an important role on the team or in the gym
· views mistakes as part of the learning process and teaches athletes to do the same
In the ego-involving climate, athletes perceive the coach:
· gives most of her or his attention to the best athletes
· fosters rivalry between teammates
· punishes the gymnast when she makes a mistake in training or competition
Coaches create the climate in a gym as they design practice sessions, group athletes, give recognition, evaluate performance, share their authority and shape the sport setting. This climate will reflect if the coach is ego-involving or task-involving. An ego-involving climate is characterized by interpersonal competition, social comparison and public evaluation. In contrast, a task-involving climate places an emphasis on task mastery, learning, effort exertion and improvement.
In a recent discussion with several gymnasts they readily identified whether their coach was ego-involving or task-involving. Now here is the paradox: although it sounds like all gymnasts would do better with a task-involving coach- the coaches who tended to get the highest performance from the girls were predominantly ego-involving by nature. So there is not one right answer here for everyone.
So, here are some questions you will need to answer if you are evaluating the emotional environment of a gym:
How far do you expect your child will go in gymnastics? If they are a task-involving type of person and they are not going to the highest levels in gymnastics you should definitely look for a coach who creates a task-involving climate.
If a coach is ego-involving is there some counter-balance in the gym such as another coach who focuses on more task-involving activities?
Is your child happier in an ego-involving or task-involving environment? Where does she stand in the following chart?
Concerned with how able she is compared to others
Perceived ability is self-referenced
Understanding and learning seen as a means to an end rather than outcomes in their own right
Person feels competent when realizing learning, personal improvement and mastering a skill
Perform the skill better than other people on the team
Demonstrate mastery of a skill
270 M. Reinboth, J.L. Duda / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 7 (2006) 269–286 (http://www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/documents/2006_ReinbothDuda_PSE.pdf)
Black and white answers are hard to come by, but this information should add to the inputs you have in deciding what is best for your gymnast.
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