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Curious outsider

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Outsider, Aug 16, 2018.

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  1. Hi there,

    I am a 30-year-old primary school teacher, living in Europe. Ever since I became friends with a former elite gymnast and learned more about the devastating effects life as an elite can have on a person, I am interested in the world ‘behind the scenes’. As a child, I have always done recreational gymnastics and lots of other sports.

  2. You could read "Little girls in pretty boxes " by Joan Ryan or "Chalked Up" by Jennifer Sey for some old time horrifying gym stories...and for a more current take, read Katelyn Ohashi's heartbreaking blog posts about her time as an elite at WOGA, blogs by Taylor Rice are entertaining and enlightening on the subject as well (she does use a lot of colorful language so you're warned), and if they are still floating around on the Internet, Briley Casanova had some blog posts that were chilling as well.....not quite sure why you want this but prepare to be depressed upon reading any/all of these...
  3. This is a pretty negative thing to start with when learning about gymnastics. Every elite sport can have both negative and positive effects on a person. Think of the kids who spend their whole childhood on the football field or baseball field, etc. Gymnastics isn't unique in the sense that an unbalanced life of training any sport can have devastating effects.
    skschlag likes this.
  4. Sorry, It wasn’t meant to be that negative, just sharing how I got interested in the world of gymnastics. Being from a smaller country that is known for happy childhoods, competitive sports is by far not as competitive as in most other countries. Recently, the heads of the 2 biggest team sport organizations (Football and hockey) have made clear statements about not having children train too much at a young age; not selecting them before the age of 10-12 and having kids train at their local club as long as possible.

    In gymnastics however, the intensity of training is really high and starts when gymnast are 6 or 7. The logical answer to the question why, is simple; in order to become a good gymnast, you have to train hard. I always find it interesting to see where the line is between becoming a good gymnast or a well balanced human being. Often we hear the stories about how training and competing at elite level helps gymnast to become successful in the rest of their lives. But we all do know that not all make it to that successful top. Some deal with lifelong injuries, others with mental health problems. Out of the six girls competing at Worlds for my country about 10 years ago, at least three girls had such severe mental health problems, they had to be admitted to a hospital for a short or longer period.
  5. The story of Katelyn was basically what lead me here; after my friend had shared it to tell the world her story through Katelyn, I started reading a bit more about how fast talented children get ‘trapped’ in a system. It also made me start questioning myself as a teacher; If I see a child that has talent in whatever, I always encourage them to join a club. In the last fee years, I have more than once convinced parents to put their child in gymnastics, after noticing how good they were. If parents as permission to take pick up children early for meets or training, I always agree, but so far never really asked the child if missing friday fun would be an issue for them.

    The school I work in does have a lot of talented field hockey and football players. I see the love for the sport they do, the enthusiasm, will to train. But also the crutches and tape; things 8 year olds shouldn’t need. I am not judging, just curious about what is still okay and when do we cross a line, not not noticing we did, since the steps where so little. When I was young, I did way to many sports at the same time, leaving me with painful knees and stuff. Since it did not come from one sport, it was easy enough for my parents to say I had to drop at least one thing (hard for me though). I can image when you train 20+ hours a week in one sport, that is really hard; you’re either in or out.

    I guess I am here to learn more about how to support children both mentally and physically that do train at a higher level.
  6. Children in sports are peculiar to me, yet my daughter trains 20 hours a week, she is 11. I really have nothing to add to this conversation that helps clarify anything, I only have observations that confuse me.

    Three days ago my daughter went to the orthodontist to get spacers. For two days she ate 5 raspberries and one cup of applesauce and had many tears. I asked myself why did she have spacers on? To have straight teeth when she was an adult? Was that really so important that a kid training 20 hours in a 90-degree gym could not nourish her body? I argued with her mother and the orthodontist, the spacers are now out. We will proceed with braces in a year or two when more permanent teeth are present and she is more mature. The goal is a healthy adult, not a damaged child. (my opinion)

    I can equate this to children in sports by using your example of crutches and tape. I agree when a sport is jeopardizing health it is time to evaluate what is going on. It does not mean stopping the sport but maybe change the training and findings ways to keep the reason they started intact. My daughter does gymnastics because (in her words) she loves the sport, she loves the feeling of flying in the air and gaining new skills and my friends. My interpretation is along with her own words she also likes the feeling she gets knowing she does things that only a handful of people get to do, it makes her proud to be her. As the training intensifies and the sport gets harder how do I keep that love and desire for self-satisfaction alive in her spirt?
  7. They don't even need to be training at an elite level to become successful the rest of their lives. Gymnasts are able to transition to other things more easily than some others. We have gymnasts on our team that also run track or do pole vault / high jump / long jump.
    We had 2 gymnasts last year that went to the High School State track meet in Pole vault.
    One of our former gymnasts made her varsity soccer team as a freshman with no previous soccer experience.
    Gymnasts that have graduated went on to college and a few are in the medical field and one is studying to be a veterinarian.
    My OG hasn't found a sport she doesn't do well at... Softball, baseball, soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, track ... but she says that nothing compares to gymnastics.
    GAgymmom likes this.
  8. See, I look at this the other way around. "I ask myself, why can't my child take a few days off practice to deal with the spacers? Is not missing two or three days of training in August so important that I should make a decision that will cause a lot more discomfort later on because the orthodontic work will have to start on permanent teeth from ground zero? Will it matter in December if it took her a week longer to get X skill because she missed three days of practice?"
    CuriousCate, Lisbeth, Jenny and 3 others like this.
  9. @profmom I can agree to some degree. This is a hard topic for me. To your point about missing days, it does not matter to me but it does matter to her.

    Somewhere there is a happy balance between what adults think they know and what children want. It is a line I struggle with frequently. Somewhere there is a place where children and parents can educate each other and work together to accomplish life. A place to teach each other about making educated decisions. Crushing spirits and teaching you and your thoughts don't matter is not my preferred teaching technique. In case you are wondering the ortho called me today. Daughter Father and Dentist gathered and spoke. The bottom spacer was put back in, her idea, and a new modified top spacer, a smaller appliance, is being built for a later install. Until she has the skill to advocate for herself it is my job to do it for her not to turn a blind eye but to teach her about communicating and making smart decisions.
  10. Thank you for sharing these stories and opinions. Reading the different ways of dealing with a situation, makes it easier to understand why those decisions are made. Maybe it is not as much the question of ‘why becoming a gymnast at all costs’ as well as how do I, as a teacher, find the balance in what is best for my student or what is best for th child. Cause sometimes, that is a really hard question too. To get most out of my student, I should maybe tell the child to read the text and finish the questions, or it won’t have time for outside play. For the child it might actually be better to go outside and run or talk about what happens yesterday that made him or her tired.

    To maybe clear things up; gymnastics by itself also has my interest, it is not that I am here, just to figure out all the negative stuff. I watch competitions, follow a gymnast here and there on youtube and keep up to date about who might be the next Raducan, Khorkina or even Biles. And I do hope to figure out what MG Elite is gonna do with their WU-leo’s when one day they have a gymnast that has boobs. My boyfriend asked me today if I wanted to tell him something. He got used to me binge-watching gymnastics every now and then, but watching girls do gymnastics in tiny underwear (he saw a picture of Riley McCusker) was making him feel uncomfortable...
  11. When I first read your post I had a gut feeling that we are from the same country. And I was right! It makes me sad too that even if our country is well known of happy childhoods and children rights taken seriously we still have so much to do to root out the inappropriate and damaging coaching methods in certain sports like gymnastics (and not just WAG, I think AGG and rhythmic might be even worse) and figure ice skating.

    I have two friends too who were National Team members back in the day (5-10 years ago) and they tell the same story that you have heard. It makes me super scared to hear those things, because I know that some of the coaches who were in the camps with them are still going to the camps. And we are now attending too since one of my gymnasts made the team.

    But I have also heard more positive things about the culture nowadays. They don't weight girls anymore, they don't go to their rooms looking for "secret" snacks, they don't hover behind them in the cafeteria to see if they are drinking juice or having a dessert. And making kids practice when injured is not so common anymore. And the national gymnastics federation is now trying to consciously lead the way to other direction from the traditional East European / Russian methods that took place for a long time because the majority of the National Team coaches came from those countries. The trend has been that the promising, talented juniors quit before they even reach the adult divisions.

    It's well known "joke" in the gymnastics community that all the coaches seem to be somewhat insane. When young coaches first start they have stars in their eyes and they are willing to do everything they can to get their young girls to the National team or developmental team for kids age 10-12. I have seen this so many times. Some of those coaches have become good and "sane" later on though.

    Our club is not like that. We are following our own path and doing things very differently from all the "top" gyms in the South. We have participated to the developmental camps for younger kids and for the secondary school aged kids and the camps have been mostly good because our coaches always put our own gymnasts' well being first. But at the camps I always notice the difference between coach-gymnast communication, rules and expectations from the coach between those highly competitive clubs with big teams and then us and some other smaller clubs that don't take it so seriously. Those highly competitive clubs seem to treat their kids like a little army.

    I want to give kids (all ages!) the freedom to think on their own, make mistakes and learn from them, participate everything they can in their own coaching and learn to stand up for themselves and each other. I want my kids to always be open with me, but I understand that it doesn't work the way that you just tell them to do so. We really need to be worthy of their trust and always stay humble about that. It's our fault if they feel need to lie to us or not tell the truth. I have to build an environment where they feel safe to tell me if they are not comfortable with something, if they are scared or hurt or if they lack the motivation.

    I have heard zillion times coaches be angry at the kids for not telling they are hurt until the injury has gotten super serious. This makes me angry, because I think the coaches are still part of the problem. They may SAY that they don't want their gymnasts to practice injured, but their everyday actions don't stand by that statement. They might say they are not focused on scores and trying your best is enough but their body language tells another story at meets when the kids don't succeed or win. They may say that school comes first always but if a parents refuse to send their kids to a camp that takes places during the school week they get very upset.

    As you are a teacher of many highly competitive young athletes, I encourage you to read the signs in the kids' behavior very closely. Monitor their reactions and language they use when they talk about food. Ask about their sport and encourage them to tell what was best and what was worst at the camp or competition. A teacher may sometimes be the only person they are willing to tell their worries, because teacher is a neutral adult and usually known to be always righteous. And the teacher might even spent more time with the kid than their own parents.

    BTW, have you read this Aamulehti article about gymnastics culture in Tampere? It makes me sick in the stomach to read that all this craziness was still taking place at least in 2016. I doubt that it has gotten that much better. https://www.aamulehti.fi/kotimaa/vo...mauttelevat-lihomisesta-ja-pepuista-23863512/
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