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Anxiety about Level placement

Cheryl

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Feb 28, 2018
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Today my son who just turned 14 was told he was moving to Level 9. He is an anxious kid and a perfectionist. Our gym does not do Level 7 and Level 8. Boys go from Level 6 to JD1. He was a late starter and practices with boys 1 and 2 years younger. Since he is 14 he will now leave his group and practice with the older group. He has the hardest routines in 3 events and one of the easiest in another event.

Today he came home and said he wanted to quit because he doesn’t feel confident he can do Level 9. I told him that his coach must think he is ready for 9 or or he would not have been put in Level 9. There are also boys who practice with the older group who are still in JD, so I told him that when meet season starts he can can still do JD if his coach doesn’t think he’s ready.

He has always wanted to go to practice and enjoys it. Today he said he doesn’t like practice and he doesn’t want to practice an extra day and practice with a different coach. I know it’s fear of failure which is freaking him out. I want to know the best way to talk him off the ledge, so his fear doesn’t overwhelm him and lead to not getting new skills, which will only reinforce his thought that he can’t do this.

What’s the best way to approach this? P.S. After telling me he was done, he walked a handstand down the hall, so I am pretty sure it’s just nerves.
 

sce

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Level 9 is a big jump. But there is a huge range of ability in the level. Tell him he will be fine. My sonw ent form Level 6 to level 9, he was pretty afraid for his first meet. Then he got there and realized everyone was falling off pommel and just getting it together in general.
 

Gymnast734

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Tell him he has a WHOLE summer to learn new skills, and even a few months after summer to learn and perfect new level skills. Take it one day at a time and honestly trust the process. He might not get the skills right away but that’s okay, work progressions and got back to basics if need be. I would only start stressing a month before competition season.
 
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Cheryl

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I agree with all the above. He will be switching coaches and doesn’t yet have a rapport with the new coach. He had several meets with Level 9’s this year, and I didn’t think the skills they were doing were out of reach for him to get. His pommel and rings are pretty close already. I also told him that his coaches must think he’s ready because otherwise do JD, and if he wasn’t meet ready in 6 month, he could still do JD until he got the skills. I do think some of his anxiety is that he will be practicing with the big boys, but I’m pretty sure at least one other boy from his practice group will also be doing 9 and moving up with him.

And on top of this, he is in the midst of puberty with all the body changes and emotional issues to deal with.
 

sce

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Has he talked to the coach about how he feels? In my experience, I (as a coach) can tell the kid the exact same thing as their parents did, yet they accept it from me and not their parents.
I agree with this. He should tell the coach his concerns, so the coach can motivate him.
 
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wandrewsjr

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So very true. Parents just don’t understand anything.
I am not totally sure if this is snarky or not, but Jared.the.Gymnast is correct(as usual).
A gymnastics coach telling a gymnast they are confident that said gymnast can attain level 9 gymnastics skills holds more weight with a gymnast than a parent telling their child they are confident they will achieve the skills.
 

Cheryl

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Yes, that’s why I told him that his coach thought he could do it. He doesn’t start working with the new coach until summer schedule starts.
I also don’t know who else they are putting into 9. For all I know, they might all be doing 9, which would calm him down. I know there are a few boys that are his age and will be repeating 9, which worries him because they will already know most skills.

If after a week he is still voicing doubts, I will ask his current coach to talk with him about it. Otherwise, I’m hoping it was just a moment of panic over one more sign he’s growing up
 

Cheryl

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Yes, I’ve seen them. This is the progression his coach told him 2years ago, now it just seems much closer and scarier.new coach, new hours and he might not know most boys. I told him he knew nobody when he switched and now at least he knows their names.
They have already started new skills, like Iron cross that they are enjoying. Last night we told him that if he still thought he couldn’t handle it in the fall, we would all meet with the coach to come up with a plan. My expectation is he will get over his initial fears and no meeting will be needed. He is one of those kids that don’t embrace change.
 
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Madden3

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Hi, here are my thoughts, having parented a very anxious kid (former gymnast, now newly devoted to triple and long jump) who is 15.

Simplified, what I have learned is: There are two forms of anxiety - rational and irrational. Rational anxiety acts to save your life in dangerous situations.

It is the irrational kind that acts to impede one’s happiness or progress in life because the anxious person develops techniques for dealing with the fear that limits their life (for example, a boy who quits gymnastics due to anxiety over a new or challenging situation when they otherwise love the sport.)

But the irrational anxiety is just as real as the rational anxiety. It acts on the body/mind the same way. Both trigger the fight or flight response. When anxiety hits, a person’s most natural response is to avoid or destroy whatever is making one anxious, whether it is dealing with a potentially dangerous situation (rational) or going to practice with a new coach at a more difficult level (understandable, but irrational.)

The trick with dealing with a person who is experiencing irrational anxiety is to understand 1) it feels real and truly scary and 2) it is irrational. Consequently, trying to reason a person out of irrational anxiety is futile. I suspect your son knows everything you and his coach might tell him to reassure him, since he has known about this progression for a long time. (Words of encouragement are fine and appropriate and I agree will likely mean more coming from the coach, I just mean they may not do much to alleviate anxiety.) His rational mind knows that going to 9 and (possibly) not doing all that well, and learning how to work with a new coach and a new group, will not harm or kill him. But his anxiety persists because it is a physiological response that cannot be reasoned away- not by you, the coach, or your son. It just has to be endured until it alleviates. It should naturally alleviate once he has worked with the group for a while, and started figuring out his routines.

For extreme debilitating ongoing anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy is proven effective. The propensity for anxiety does not go away so much as the person learns how to face irrational anxiety without running from or fighting it. There are also some good workbooks out there that explain anxiety and contain exercises to teach one how to work through anxiety.

But in a situational anxiety case like this, as long as your son keeps going to practice, his anxiety should dissipate. (He may be a little hard to live with in the meantime.)

Now that both my son and I have a better grasp on the issue, when my son wants to avoid a new or difficult situation or becomes upset over a new challenge, I say little but I might remind him that that is his anxiety talking, and not reality.
 

Cheryl

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Anxiety about his level placement has been relieved. Today, the levels and coaches were posted, so now each boy knows where their practice groups will be. My son, one other boy from his groups and 2 second years are the other 9’s. The rest of his squad, 7 boys will do another year of JD. The good thing is that all the 10’s, 9’s and JDs will all practice the same hours, but have different coaches. Good for carpooling and alleviating his anxiety about leaving his friends.
They also have binders with skills they have completed, skills they can do but not meet ready yet, and skills they will work on getting meet ready during the season. Giving him a road map like this, shows him that yes, he is ready for 9 and will be ready for competition.

I completely get the rational/irrational anxiety thing. He comes from a long line of anxiety sufferers so I can definitely use the lessons I’ve learned in therapy to get him over the hump.
 

sce

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Mar 11, 2014
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Anxiety about his level placement has been relieved. Today, the levels and coaches were posted, so now each boy knows where their practice groups will be. My son, one other boy from his groups and 2 second years are the other 9’s. The rest of his squad, 7 boys will do another year of JD. The good thing is that all the 10’s, 9’s and JDs will all practice the same hours, but have different coaches. Good for carpooling and alleviating his anxiety about leaving his friends.
They also have binders with skills they have completed, skills they can do but not meet ready yet, and skills they will work on getting meet ready during the season. Giving him a road map like this, shows him that yes, he is ready for 9 and will be ready for competition.

I completely get the rational/irrational anxiety thing. He comes from a long line of anxiety sufferers so I can definitely use the lessons I’ve learned in therapy to get him over the hump.
Sounds like a great plan. Hope he has fun learning new skills.
 

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