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Best Guidebook for Gymnastics Parents

Updated on February 19, 2014
krsharp05 profile image

Kristi has been a competitive gymnastics coach for 25+ years, coached levels 3-10 to state, regional, western and national titles.

Spring Into Team Invitational
Spring Into Team Invitational | Source

Welcome to the Team!

As a new parent there is so much to learn about the competitive team and it's going to be a fantastic experience. There are a lot of things you will learn as you go; things that are specific to your team but there are also things that are universal to the sport of gymnastics. This is your guidebook to being a fantastic gymnastics parent.

In The Gym

  • It's important that girls arrive to practice on time every day because if they arrive late they are missing important information. It's understandable if children cannot get out of school or parents cannot leave work. If that's the case, ask your coach what your daughter can do to make up what she is missing. She might be able to attend another workout or stay late on a weekend workout. Keep in mind when she is working out on her own, she's not getting the same benefit of having a coach but it's better than nothing.
  • If your daughter comes home from gymnastics and tells you that she doesn't enjoy gymnastics because the conditioning is too hard, don't worry. She will eventually adapt to the exercising. I used to tell parents that there are actually five gymnastics events: vault, bars, beam, floor and conditioning - and the most important event is truly conditioning. WHY? Because gymnasts have to be strong. Hang in their parents! Help your kiddos to understand that working through the hard times is important. Perseverance is a wonderful quality and you can teach it to them early. I've discussed this topic in other hubs but it's especially true for girls who are moving from recreational gymnastics to competitive gymnastics that they might have a difficult transition because of the increase in conditioning. Kids have to be able to have TOTAL control over their bodies and to do that requires strength.
  • One of the biggest boo-boos that parents make is to call other gyms for the meet schedules. If you are going to attend a meet at another gym and your coach has not given you the schedule, the first thing you should do is check on line. If you cannot find the schedule there, ask your coaches if they've received it. Don't call the other gym for the schedule. Sometimes meet schedules aren't available until a week before the meet. If all of the parents were calling, it would create havoc! Try to be patient. A general rule of thumb is that levels 7-10 compete on Fridays, levels 4-6 compete Saturday and levels 1-3 compete Sunday. This is NOT always the case.

Handstand with straight back.
Handstand with straight back. | Source
Spring Into Team Invitational 2013
Spring Into Team Invitational 2013 | Source

At The Meet

  • When you are getting your daughter ready for a meet make sure that you do her hair in a way that is approved by your gym and that will stay intact for the entire meet. A great way to know if you've found a style that will work is to do her hair for practice and see if it's still nice and neat at the end of practice. Refrain from using gemstones and glue-in buttons that can come out during competition. It's best to stick with bobby pins and tight fitting barrettes. Your team might have a rule about the amount of glitter you can use so it's best to check with them. The best rule of thumb is to minimize when it comes to glitz.
  • Refrain from using make-up for little girls. The last thing your daughter needs to worry about before performing her beam routine is lip gloss. She should be focused on her skills.
  • If you are at a gymnastics meet and your daughter starts crying, allow the coach to handle the situation. Most coaches prefer to avoid sending tearful kids off of the competitive floor to meet with parents because it may exacerbate the situation. Trust your coaches to calm your daughter.
  • If your daughter is allowed to bring an athletic bag on the gym floor at meets, it's a good idea to send an extra pair of spankies (the tight fitting panties that are worn under a leotard), an extra stick of deodorant, extra bobby pins, barrettes and hairspray, a healthy snack and water. Don't send drinks with sugar or carbonation - water is always the best. Send carrots, apple slices or orange slices. Don't send potato chips or candy.
  • If your daughter becomes ill right before the meet, it's important to know that you most likely will NOT get a refund for your meet fees. It clearly states in nearly all meet entries that meet fees are non-refundable usually about two weeks to 30 days before the meet.
  • Make sure that you remove all nail polish and toenail polish before your daughter competes. If you don't, she can get a deduction (lose points) for having the polished nails and toes.
  • Gymnasts are only allowed to have one pair of stud earrings and cannot wear any other jewelry.
  • At gymnastics meets parents are prohibited from being on the competitive floor because of the USAG competitive sanction rules and safety certification policies. If your daughter has a serious injury you may come down to the floor but don't panic, USAG coaches are safety certified and should be trained to handle the injury.
  • As a parent sitting in the crowd make sure that you are always courteous when cheering on your kiddos. Don't ever heckle other teams or speak badly about other children. You should always maintain absolute integrity on behalf of your team.
  • NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEO AT ANY TIME! Check your cameras and video recorders prior to recording and taking photos.
  • If you have an issue with your daughter's score on a particular event, DO NOT approach a judge. Ask your coach after the meet has concluded. If you cannot get an answer from a coach, and you have a video clip of the routine, feel free to send me the video clip and the score and I will critique for you and help you understand the deductions.

Taryn Vanderpool Level 10 (Coached since Level 4)

General Information

  • When your daughter is fitted for a leotard or if you are ordering a leotard don't purchase a leotard that she will "grow into." If it fits like a trash bag (loose and floppy), it will look like a trash bag. Leotards should fit like a second skin.
  • Leotards should always be hand washed, inside out and laid flat to dry. I know that the label instructions say that you can machine wash them however, after 25 years of experience with working directly with the leotard manufacturers, those instructional tags are meant to ensure that you have to purchase a new leotard every year. To keep your leotard looking its absolute best, hand wash, don't dry.
  • If your daughter is interested in getting grips you should speak to the coach that works with your daughter on bars to make sure she actually needs them. If she doesn't need them, don't get them. Gymnasts can compete all the way to level 10 without grips. If however, she does need grips, they should be fitted to your daughter's hand. You can purchase grips based on measurements but it's always better to have them fitted. It's not a good idea to transition from palm grips to dowel grips in the middle of a competitive season. You should make that transition at the end of a season so your daughter has enough time to learn how to use the dowels and learn to work with them.
  • If you have a question about the way your daughter's coach is teaching or if you have an issue about something that is happening during workouts, you should bring it to the attention of the coach or the owner. Don't allow it to fester. You might find that what you believe is a negative situation is a simple misunderstanding and after having a conversation your mind is at ease.
  • If you have questions about gymnastics feel free to ask. I am more than happy to help you understand the wonderful world of competitive gymnastics.

What's Your Opinion

What is the most important quality of a gymnastics parent?

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    • krsharp05 profile image
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      Kristi Sharp 3 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Jim, thanks for commenting. I would have her get into as many mock meet situations as possible: have the coach salute her just like the judge does, have her present like she would in a meet and then perform her vault. Then go back and do her second vault the exact same way. She needs to be totally comfortable in the "competition" medium so the more she can experience that, the easier it will be. Again, I would ask her to identify exactly what triggers the anxiety and then reassure her that competition is a good thing. If she is nervous about the judges, remind her that they are just two regular people who are just there to watch. It may take some time but with enough positive reinforcement she should be able to move past it. Good luck and if you have any more questions, feel free to ask. -K

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      Jim 3 years ago

      RickRjr/krsharp05 -- my daughter has a similar issue. With her it was in the second competition of the year -- she went to do her vault before the judges were ready. Her Coach stopped her. They let her do it again -- really it was no big deal. But she was very embarrassed and started crying. She has been unable to do any decent vaults since - right to the last competition she didn't even post a score. She was able to pull out a bronze in the beam but the vault is on her mind. I never thought about it before reading this article/comments -- she was complaining about her stomach for the entire week leading up to this competition -- I am now thinking this was the issue -- she was so nervous about competing and failing again. Unfortunately -- there are no more competitions this year. Any ideas how to get over this mental block?

    • krsharp05 profile image
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      Kristi Sharp 3 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      RickRjr, After thinking this through some more, have you asked your daughter specifically what triggers her anxiety? You can also email me so we can chat privately. -K

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      Kristi Sharp 3 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      RickRjr, thanks for reading. There are a few things you can do. First, make sure the coaching staff are a calming force and reassure your daughter that competition is a good thing, while at home you're conveying the same message. Getting her into as many competitive situations can benefit her and if it's not an actual competition, setting up any type of mock competition will help. I hope things work out. If you need anything else, let me know. -K

    • profile image

      RickRjr 3 years ago

      My daughter is a level 3 gymnast who recently turned 8. She has some talent. Works hard at practice and also at TOPS training. However, she has extreme anxiety when it comes to the meets. So much so that she complains of a stomach ache a month before a meet if it is brought up in practice or while the coach is talking to the team. What is your opinion of the course we should take to help her deal with the anxiety and overcome her fear?

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      teaches, it was monumental for the US! Their parents are certainly professionals at this! It's a tough job to be a gymnastics parent - that's for sure! Thanks for reading. -K

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      You must be very excited about the US women's gymnastic team winning the gold. I imagine they had advice and coaching as you posted here.