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Fear issues - what would you do?

klv8

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Jul 14, 2015
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My daughter (level 2) is cautious. She thinks through everything before she does it, and doesn't take many uncalculated risks. She loves gymnastics and has done well until recently, pushing through her fears bit by bit. It stretches her, and I usually think that's a good thing. Lately, we've had so many tears. She knows (and her coach has said) that fear is holding her back from getting the skills she needs to move up. She's disheartened by seeing other kids moving up who also don't have the same skills - I don't understand why that's allowed, but that's a different topic. It seems that her fear and hesitancy is the distinguishing factor here. I know we can keep encouraging her and she can push through. BUT.....at what cost? When is it time to walk away? I've always maintained that she can walk away from gymnastics any time, BUT I don't want it to be in midst of fear and frustration. She has loved gymnastics and I don't want her to leave on these terms. But sometimes you just have to, I think. And yet, fear tends to grow if you give it the space to, and I feel that's what we'd be doing if we offered to let her quit right now. I clearly need advice from someone who has been farther done this road than we have.
 

klv8

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I just realized I didn't really articulate my question very well. I guess I'm looking to hear stories of kids who may have had similar personalities or fear issues. It's hard to know at the moment whether she's growing and stretching as a result of facing her fears, or whether it's doing more harm than good, mentally and emotionally.
 

M2Abi

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I'm curious as to her age, and what her goals are. If she really enjoys gymnastics and competing, perhaps a different gym and different coaches would be a better fit, or maybe doing Xcel instead of JO. My son is an excellent gymnast, but very cautious. He ultimately decided after competing Level 4 and 5 that gymnastics wasn't for him.
 
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amiandjim

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My kiddo is very cautious by nature, especially in the gym. She was one of the last level 3s on her team to get her bhs, and one of the last level 4s on her team to get the double bhs, and the very last to get a back tuck and a flyaway. You get the picture. The good thing is, when she does get the skills, they are typically very solid and very well executed. What I’ve learned is to just let her get there in her own time. She needs to decide for herself she is ready, and then she will do a skill. She is lucky to have amazing coaches that realizes this as well. She is currently a 10 year-old, level 6 and has recently turned sort of a mental corner and is pushing herself more. She now has been doing a back walkover bhs on beam and some giants by herself. So, I would consider this a success story! My advice is to let her work through it as long as she still loves gymnastics AND her coaches are kind and supportive, not belittling.
 

MILgymFAM

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I have two very cautious, very fearful daughters who were gymnasts. One walked away and one pushed through. You know your kid best and can say where the tipping point is for her- because at some point it really can become not worth it. For my daughter who quit, her tipping point was when we moved and she had to start over at a new gym, but with the same old mental blocks. That was a bridge too far for her, but she honestly does still miss it to this day. For my daughter who stuck with it, it was essential for her to be at a laid back gym where there was no rush, no pressure, and different levels trained together- if other people moved up it had very little notice day-to-day because L6-10 and xcel platinum and diamond all trained together anyway.
 

gymgal

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How old is she? Age plays a role in the advice.

My dd has always been very cautious, though I wouldn't say fearful. Similar to what amiandjim described, she was always the last to get tumbling skills. Would never just "chuck" a skill. She had spotting for much longer than her teammates on new skills but once she was confident enough to do it on her own, she had it well - never lost the skill and never had blocks. Having nurturing coaches that allowed her to move at her own pace really helped her early on. She would not have lasted in a gym that pushed her to fast. We saw a change around old L6/7 when she was 10/11. I feel that is when her body awareness kicked in. That was also around the time that she began excelling on bars, which boosted her confidence and pushed her to get the other skills so she could move up. But she has always remained cautious, just has been able to push through it a little faster.

How did we handle it when she was younger? She was never much of a crier and didn't express her frustration outwardly but we could see when it was bothering her. I always told her things like "you worry about you" and "the skill will come when you are ready. You can't force it". We reminded her that we were proud of how far she had already come. Over time, These helped her to just concentrate on her own path. At the end of each season, I would ask her if she wanted to stay, move to a different gym, or try a different sport. This gave her an out if she was no longer enjoying it.
 

OrchidZ

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My girl was, in the beginning, the last or one of the last to get new skills. She has always been more cautious. For most of the time, once she had a skill though, it would just continue to get stronger. As she got older, there would be some that she got more quickly, but it all slowed down again once she hit level 8/9.

My girl's a 10 this year, so it can work for your girl if she wants it to work. The key is that your girl is going to need coaches that are ok with that kind of gymnast. My girl's first coaching team was, and she became a very strong competitor. They allowed private lessons, when needed to help boost her confidence in herself. Her second coaching team was not supportive, resulting in lowered confidence and struggle in all aspects of the sport. Her current coaches are very supportive (no privates but that's ok at this point). She's rebuilding, but it takes time. I'd say that as long as you keep an eye on things and she's supported and still interested.. let her continue with your full support. Put ZERO pressure on her to be 'successful' in meets or advancing levels (that will make it worse). Let her know that if she wants to stop, she can. And make sure that the coaching and environment stays positive and supportive (remembering that this can change if the coaching changes or as the levels progress).

Good luck and have fun :)
 

klv8

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Thank you all so much! All of this was so encouraging. Some of you described my daughter perfectly - takes forever to get the skill, but then when she gets it, it's solid. Unfortunately there aren't many like her on the team, so all she sees is kids "getting" skills, and she's not. I talked with her more last night and it seems this IS something she really does want to do. Hopefully if we just continue with open communication, we will know when/if it's time to walk away.
 

NutterButter

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I also have a cautious gymnast! I discovered chalkbucket because I once googled various combinations of 'gymnast, fear, cartwheel'. A cautious gymnast can go far and be successful in the sport but the athlete, coaches and parents must all be in alignment and work together to create an environment where the athlete will thrive...if one part of this triad is out of whack, it won't work. And even when all three are aligned, it's not all unicorns and rainbows. I'll be honest, I've found it very hard to parent through this. My DD keeps me going though. She has an amazing resolve and determination. She loves the sport and can't imagine her life without gymnastics. Besides being cautious, my DD is also fiercely competitive and a perfectionist. My DH and I have always tried to work with her on not making comparisons to others, focusing on HER journey. Being a cautious individual is not a negative personality trait and we've worked with her to embrace who she is. We've also worked with her on how to decompress after a bad day (or months, LOL) in the gym and we really encourage her to keep a healthy perspective. My DD is a senior now and mostly gets who she is now and what she needs. Until recently my DD's gym has been supportive of her. They don't even fully understand cautious kids/fears/blocks BUT they have always been committed to each of their athletes and are very individualized. Over the years I've sometimes been frustrated with things the coaches say to her or their approach, but I don't doubt their commitment to my DD -- to borrow from another poster -- they are Imperfect Humans which is OK (cuz aren't we all imperfect?).
 

NutterButter

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Thank you all so much! All of this was so encouraging. Some of you described my daughter perfectly - takes forever to get the skill, but then when she gets it, it's solid. Unfortunately there aren't many like her on the team, so all she sees is kids "getting" skills, and she's not. I talked with her more last night and it seems this IS something she really does want to do. Hopefully if we just continue with open communication, we will know when/if it's time to walk away.
Yes! There aren't many on my DD's team who are like her and I have always felt like the coaches don't always know what to do with someone like my DD. It sounds like you have the right approach on how to support your DD! My advice is to keep close tabs on her gym environment. You've already questioned that your DD has not moved up. You'll have to tease out if this is because they don't see a future for her or if they truly think they are helping by slowing her progression. +1 to your gym if they embrace your feedback and suggestions on your DD. I've been fortunate because DD's gym has always considered my feedback and suggestions, but not all gyms are like this (and now there is a new HC at my DD's gym and I'm seeing what it's like when your kid is not in a supportive environment, but that's a different story).
 

mommyof1

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My daughter also has the difficult combination of personality traits NutterButter describes: cautious, competitive, and perfectionistic. On top of all that, she is fiercely independent and extremely stubborn, and hence resistant to all adult advice. She spent several years at a gym that was wonderful in many ways, but appeared to be in the process of trying to build an extremely high-scoring team and thought that applying constant pressure (in a way that could appear kind but was also absolutely relentless) was motivating. We moved her to a smaller gym that takes a much more individualized approach, and she is so much happier. The coaches meet the girls where they are and encourage them to develop on their own timelines. Within a short time after switching, she had acquired skills that had eluded her for years at the old gym, and her attitude had evolved from “I’ll never get this” to “I’m working on it.” It remains to be seen whether her new attitude sticks once meet season starts, but for now it seems to be working for her.
 
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mommyof1

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I will add that moving from a gym where levels were strictly separated to one where several levels train together was also helpful for my daughter. “Moving up” is not really a thing the way it was at the old gym, which takes away a lot of the pressure.
 
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klv8

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Multiple levels train together, but because of how they are grouped, my daughter is on the older/more advanced end of her group. She usually does best when she's the youngest - she'll push through the fear better when she's working to keep up with the older girls. I'm not in a hurry for her to move up other than it will likely change the dynamic of the practices in her favor.
 

klv8

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It's so helpful to hear others' experiences and see more perspectives too!
 

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