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Is this good coaching or abuse?

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tgc

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Sep 9, 2007
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My daughter just finished her level 4 season and is now starting on level 5. She works out 3 ½ hours 3 days a week. The last half and hour is conditioning. The last thing she does is a pike hold and a straddle hold on parallets with her feet rose over a panel mat. On her 30 second straddle hold her feet dropped at 29 seconds. Her coach accused her of cheating. Then she stayed after to do 10 more 30 second straddle holds and 10 more 30 second pike holds. Her teammates came and got me because she was in the locker room and she could not stop crying. She said her stomach hurt and she could not feel her legs. This is a girl that does not cry.


I am sorry that I am rambling. Please, any feedback would be nice. If this is just good coaching, please let me know. Thanks.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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I'd have to see this coach in action to say for sure, but what you're describing does sound a bit excessive. First off, I'd talk to the coach and/or the owner, and take it from there.
 

bogwoppit

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If you are asking the question you probably already know the answer.

You say she has driven other girls away.

You say your child wants to quit.

You say the coach is punishing your child with extra conditioning.

A young child training 12 hours a week should love gym and be excited about going each time. Occasional tears are one thing, but this sounds a bit to punitive to be constructive.

Speak to the coach and head coach together, not with your child though.
 

Valentin

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Hi

I think bogwoppit said it... you probably know the answer.

From what you describe, it sounds like the typical punisher type coach. It sad to watch, i have worked in clubs with coaches like that, and its just sad, because you can see the kids just get totaly shattered by those comments.
Its one thing if they do cheat, you catch it, and punish it (typical Pavlovian Conditioning).. but to not see it, and dash out the punishment that is just a personal thing. In judging there is a rule that says "give the benefit of the dought to the gymnast", and that is my opinion should be the case in gymnastics. If you didnt see it, give them the benefit (if you know they are a cheater...watch them more carefully, but dont just give out the punishment)...

I would say that yeah she is power tripping on your daughter. I dont know if talking to such a coach will have much benefit.. it could go either way
1- She goes easier on your daughter, and stops paying attention to her all together.
2- She agrees that she has been hard, and appologises and start coaching her fairly (humm... do you see that happening?)
3- Begins to explain to you that she is the coach, she knows best..and gives you a speech about how these kids need to be pushed, and taught not to cheat their conditioning etc...

I guess your only options are
1- Look for another gym in your area..maybe even a better one?
2- Talk to the coach
3- Give it more time, maybe your daughter will forget about this...
4- Don't do anything..
5- Your daughter quits..problem solved or is it?
 

tgc

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Sep 9, 2007
42
Florida
Bogwoppit, I talked to the coach immediately after the last incident. I told her that I felt punishing my dd for the same offence seems excessive. She told me that she only punished her once. She said the doubling of her holds during conditioning is because she is weak there and needs to strengthen. She said it would improve her bars and beam skills. I told her my dd would be fine doing more conditioning if she thought the extra work assignment was coming from a loving place. The coach said, of course. I told her my dd sees it as punishment and asked the coach to explain the extra conditioning is because she just wants her to be a better gymnast. The coach said, “I think she can work through this”. I repeated myself about four more times before she quit saying she can work through this and agreed to talk to her. I feel like she just wanted to get me to leave her alone.

Valentin, leaving for another program would be a huge financial hardship. We are involved in a city program and the private gyms are about 4 times more expensive. There is another gym that has worked with my dd during camps and has tried to recruit her. There owner watches her at meets much closer than her own coaches do. I only realized this when I was reviewing a video and saw him walking back and forth on the floor to follow her entire routine. He says he does not agree with the coaching philosophy of our gym. He believes they hold the girls back. Last spring break he said that she should be getting ready for level 7.

As it turned out she repeated level 4 while able to do all her level 5 skills. This is because they made the decision of levels while she was in a boot with her injury. They said she was an unknown. We expressed concern to the head coach, but were told, "Should the coaching staff feel that it has made an error, we will try to adjust for it." When she had recovered well and could do all the routines okay I asked a coach if she thought they made a mistake. She just said that my dd was in a good place and would score better as a level 4.

I guess my point is that talking to the head coach has accomplished nothing in the past. I have felt that it has actually hurt my dd’s standing in the gym. He does not care if the girls leave. When we did not like that she was being forced to repeat level 4, he said that if we feel too strongly about this we might want to check into other programs in town. When a teammate was struggling with the extreme conditioning demands, he told the girl’s mother that the other programs in town do not require so much conditioning. The girls are often reminded that there are 1800 girls in the rec. program that would happily take their spot. The coach that is conflicting with my dd is one of the senior coaches. We are experiencing a coaching shortage already. I do not think anything will be done, except it will get back to her that we complained and she will be even harder on my dd.

I think this is part of dd’s problem with this coach right now. After dd came out of the boot, I asked this coach to do a private lesson with my dd so she could learn the bar routine. She declined to do the private lesson. She did not want to push dd to fast after the injury. She said that dd has all the level 5 bar skills and will have no problem putting it together in the routine. We passed this information on to the head coach, along with what all the other coaches told us. After that the coach always yells at dd more than anyone else. She does not let her do anything other than a kip. She lets girls with no kip jump to the high bar. She tells us that when dd’s kip is better she will let her jump to the high bar, but right now she does not want her to fall. However, when she is out for the day and dd gets another coach, she does the entire routine with no trouble.

Thank you for the feedback. The program does have a lot of good warm coaches that my dd holds in high regard, the facility is great, and my dd loves her teammates. I think this coach has a lot to offer, I just think she needs to take some child development classes. I do not think she understands how much she is hurting these girls. (I might talk to the program director in general about the coaches needing more training in child development.) My dd said she will go to practice today. We agreed to start documenting her problems with her coach.
 
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Geoffrey Taucer

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Bogwoppit, I talked to the coach immediately after the last incident. I told her that I felt punishing my dd for the same offence seems excessive. She told me that she only punished her once. She said the doubling of her holds during conditioning is because she is weak there and needs to strengthen. She said it would improve her bars and beam skills. I told her my dd would be fine doing more conditioning if she thought the extra work assignment was coming from a loving place. The coach said, of course. I told her my dd sees it as punishment and asked the coach to explain the extra conditioning is because she just wants her to be a better gymnast. The coach said, “I think she can work through this”. I repeated myself about four more times before she quit saying she can work through this and agreed to talk to her. I feel like she just wanted to get me to leave her alone.

That's what it sounds like to me as well.


Valentin, leaving for another program would be a huge financial hardship. We are involved in a city program and the private gyms are about 4 times more expensive. There is another gym that has worked with my dd during camps and has tried to recruit her. There owner watches her at meets much closer than her own coaches do. I only realized this when I was reviewing a video and saw him walking back and forth on the floor to follow her entire routine.
Actually, this sounds a little creepy to me.

He says he does not agree with the coaching philosophy of our gym. He believes they hold the girls back. Last spring break he said that she should be getting ready for level 7.
He may well be right; a lot of gyms do hold kids back for better scores, and it sounds like your gym may be one of them. HOWEVER, I wouldn't take this other coach's word for it; as you said, he's trying to recruit your daughter, and may say anything to convince you that he could do a better job with her than her current coaches.

As it turned out she repeated level 4 while able to do all her level 5 skills. This is because they made the decision of levels while she was in a boot with her injury. They said she was an unknown. We expressed concern to the head coach, but were told, "Should the coaching staff feel that it has made an error, we will try to adjust for it." When she had recovered well and could do all the routines okay I asked a coach if she thought they made a mistake. She just said that
my dd was in a good place and would score better as a level 4.

This throws up a pretty big red flag to me; this sounds like the gym is more concerned with bringing home trophies than with actually pushing the kid forward. This goes against everything I believe gymnastics should be about.

HOWEVER, I cannot say for sure what level she should be without working with her myself, so take my words with a grain of salt.


I guess my point is that talking to the head coach has accomplished nothing in the past. I have felt that it has actually hurt my dd’s standing in the gym. He does not care if the girls leave. When we did not like that she was being forced to repeat level 4, he said that if we feel too strongly about this we might want to check into other programs in town. When a teammate was struggling with the extreme conditioning demands, he told the girl’s mother that the other programs in town do not require so much conditioning. The girls are often reminded that there are 1800 girls in the rec. program that would happily take their spot. The coach that is conflicting with my dd is one of the senior coaches. We are experiencing a coaching shortage already. I do not think anything will be done, except it will get back to her that we complained and she will be even harder on my dd.
This doesn't sound like the sort of gym I'd want to be at, either as a coach or as a gymnast. Between this and what you're saying about them holding your daughter back at L4, it sounds to me like the gym is more concerned with competing well (ie with their reputation as a strong gym) than with doing what's best for each individual kid.


I think this is part of dd’s problem with this coach right now. After dd came out of the boot, I asked this coach to do a private lesson with my dd so she could learn the bar routine. She declined to do the private lesson. She did not want to push dd to fast after the injury. She said that dd has all the level 5 bar skills and will have no problem putting it together in the routine. We passed this information on to the head coach, along with what all the other coaches told us. After that the coach always yells at dd more than anyone else. She does not let her do anything other than a kip. She lets girls with no kip jump to the high bar. She tells us that when dd’s kip is better she will let her jump to the high bar, but right now she does not want her to fall. However, when she is out for the day and dd gets another coach, she does the entire routine with no trouble.
Sounds like, contrary to what the coaches are saying, that coach is singling out your daughter and treating her unfairly. Again, all I can go by is what you're saying, so I'm not the ideal judge of the situation, but it sounds like your daughter is being treated unfairly.

Thank you for the feedback. The program does have a lot of good warm coaches that my dd holds in high regard, the facility is great, and my dd loves her teammates. I think this coach has a lot to offer, I just think she needs to take some child development classes. I do not think she understands how much she is hurting these girls. (I might talk to the program director in general about the coaches needing more training in child development.) My dd said she will go to practice today. We agreed to start documenting her problems with her coach.
Documenting the issues is definitely a good idea.

As has been said earlier, the best way to judge anything like this is to ask your daughter. If she consistently doesn't want to go to practice, it's time to look at other options, and consider either switching gyms or quitting.

HOWEVER, going back to what you were saying about the coach from the other gym, the more I reread what you've said, the less inclined I would be to trust this other coach's assessment of the situation. A coach who does not work with your daughter on a regular basis is in no way qualified to tell you she should be a full three levels above where she is now. Also, I've always considered it bad form for a coach to tell a kid or parent that their current gym is doing things wrong; he's not qualified to determine that either, at least not to the extent that he should be sharing his assessment with potential customers. It sounds more like a recruitment tactic than like sound coaching advice.
 
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JBS

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He says he does not agree with the coaching philosophy of our gym. He believes they hold the girls back. Last spring break he said that she should be getting ready for level 7.
If he does not agree with the philosophy of the gym...he should be meeting with the owners about it (not telling customers). If I had a coach (employee) tell a parent this, they would be immediately fired.

That part just really caught my eye. I haven't had time to read this entire thread...but I will.
 
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Geoffrey Taucer

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If he does not agree with the philosophy of the gym...he should be meeting with the owners about it (not telling customers). If I had a coach (employee) tell a parent this, they would be immediately fired.
Agreed. This isn't something that a coach should discuss with customers of another gym (or of his own gym, for that matter). It's extremely unprofessional.
 

ShootingStaRr

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My daughter just finished her level 4 season and is now starting on level 5. She works out 3 ½ hours 3 days a week. The last half and hour is conditioning. The last thing she does is a pike hold and a straddle hold on parallets with her feet rose over a panel mat. On her 30 second straddle hold her feet dropped at 29 seconds. Her coach accused her of cheating. Then she stayed after to do 10 more 30 second straddle holds and 10 more 30 second pike holds. Her teammates came and got me because she was in the locker room and she could not stop crying. She said her stomach hurt and she could not feel her legs. This is a girl that does not cry.

I am sorry that I am rambling. Please, any feedback would be nice. If this is just good coaching, please let me know. Thanks.
IMHO that is extremely harsh!
any coach the punishes their gymnasts for doing incorrect conditioning (especially holds) in most cases are doing more harm than good. for conditioning is about quality not quantity. if i was her coach i would get her to do 2 perfect 15 sec holds than a 30 second acuse her of cheating and make her do 10 more 30sec ones! conditioning one area lots does more harm than good. just remember that you know whats best for your daughter and if something isn't right is to take action !


i also have had this problem with my coach.
i didn't have the ideal shoulder strength but i had enough that i did pretty well in the sport. my coach decided to make us do 3 30sec handstands; stomach against the wall, i struggled with this. i could do the first one but struggled with the other 2. when i came down 2 early she didn't even care and make me get up and do it again. i used to do it finally after about 45mins (sometimes i did 30 or so handstands b4 i got it) but i didn't have much time to learn anything and then not long later i more conditioning to do. i basically came to gym to condition(which was counterproductive) and the gym i went to didn't come cheap either even though it was cheaper than other gyms. i eventually got it then she changed it to 1 for a minute, i again struggled with it but i eventually got it. then i started injuring my self often and i eventually decided enough was enough and i quit. i also know many people hate her and she also made 2 other people quit when we could have had a level 4 team compete this year but because of her it didnt happen
 

gymdog

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Sounds too harsh for what is described particularly at the beginning competitive levels. I would take her out if she is crying, even if there is no other gym, honestly I've been in situations where people were singled out by irrational and bitter coaches, it doesn't get better and the stress it puts the child under is really hard to conceive of. They worry about it constantly and will start to dread gymnastics. I know so many girls with so much talent who were driven away. I know a lot of people will think what I am saying is draconian but please think it out, a break of a couple months, a year, until you can work the situation out will be better than this. Maybe she can try a tumbling, dance or cheer class if there are really no other gymnastics options. She is still young, she could go back. It sounds like these instances are occurring fairly frequently, I would either take her out honestly or give it something like one week (and make either the owner or coach clear of your intentions) and say if things don't improve you will be leaving. Unfortunately with that a coach who is on a power trip might just take it out on your dd more.

What you described doesn't sound like a healthy situation. Nothing is worth this. A child is only a child more than once. This is too much for them to carry just for gymnastics. If she is coming home crying, saying she wants to quit, it sucks to be driven away but it isn't worth living like this. I would get out, in my experience mismanagement of this degree gets worse before it finally gets better. Been there, done that, I guess I have a chip on my shoulder but I understand how horrible the decision is, to have to give up things you don't want to give up on account of one person, but above all it just isn't worth the stress on the child.
 

Linsul

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I read the whole thread and have one thing to add since all the advice is awesome. I don't think conditioning should ever be used as a punishment, ever. With team or rec. Getting strong to learn new skills is part of the process, not a beat down opportunity. Shame shame shame on a professional who takes what makes the girls strong, healthy and beautiful and turning it into a negative. A coach can teach the crap out of a skill, but in the end it's the gymnasts who puts it together, taking pride in the ownership of the skill is hard to do if a kid is browbeaten to success.

Having said that, I do notice when kids don't condition well. I will encourage them to do better; or name a skill that requires those muscles to be strong that the gymnast is working towards and excited about getting. Usually a kid who is honestly being lazy about conditioning is very young (they think it's boring/painful) or just over the sport. Both situations can be worked out through conversation, sometimes with the parents, not conditioning overkill.
 

gymjourneymom

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Just wondering if tgc could give us an update? This thread was started back in Feb. 2008. I'd love to hear how DD is doing now. Did you switch gyms or working things out with the gym discussed in this thread?
 

gymch34

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Its not abusive but its not good coaching either!

Good coaches will help an athlete work at getting stronger and every exercise done is for a that purpose, not punishment. The difference between a tough coach and one that is borderline abusive is that the tough coach pushes for a purpose, and does not enjoy seeing the gymnast suffer! They know when to push and when to draw the line. This takes common sense, experience and a heart!

This coach needs to mature and become a better coach, undertanding the purpose of conditioning and its intensions. I'm assuming the coach is young and has limited knowledge of a variety of things: including childrens emotional and physical developmental needs, skill biomechanics, etc.

You just have to decide what is best for you and your daughter.
 

iluvgym

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How did documenting the problems with that coach work? What also might be helpful to your daughter is documenting any nice things this coach says. I've seen some kids who have a problem with a certain coach, and since then the coach can say 100 positives, and one negative, and the only thing the child remembers/brings home is the one negative and doesn't even realize all the other things that were said to her that were good.

A coach I was speaking with at a camp had this problem of her gymnast ONLY focusing on the negative, and what worked for them was that they decided that every time the girl made the right correction the coach had to say thank you, and every time the gymnast got complimented she had to say thank you, and in the beginning the gymnast didn't even realize when she was getting complimented 90% of the time.

I think (especially if your daughter was training in a tops group) that conditioning is SO important, that it's not a punishment to do extra at something that wasn't done well. Children sometimes need our help in realizing that it's just gymnastics, not personal!
 

tgc

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follow-up

I did not realize that this tread had been revisited.

My dd is happier now. She is not crying and she is not saying she wants to quit. We put her in summer camp at another gym to help her find her joy in gymnastics. It worked, but at first she just wanted to switch gyms. I told her she had to give her gym another chance. Right now she seems happy where she is.

She still does some extra conditioning during bars. She does not mind except she feels gypped on bars. She says by the time she does the pullovers and leg lifts she does not have any time to do much at bars.

I have not continued with documenting all the negative feedback because I saw it was conflicting with me trying to helping my dd focus on the good at her gym. We did start focusing on all the nice things her other coaches were saying to her. She has also been seeing a sports psychologist. This is done in a group setting with other team members. She has responded really well to the psychologist. I do not think her focus is any better, but she seems more relaxed and happier
 
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Tim_Dad

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Well that's certainly good news!

I don't think I would have been as patient. The sport is plenty challenging as is without the added pressures of an overly aggressive coach. I mean, if just walking thought the front doors makes either your or DD cringe or worry - I'd be looking for a new front door for my DD to use.

This sounds like the coach is one of those 'old-school' coaches that still thinks negative reinforcement "builds character". Being tough is one thing. If s)he had her do 10 more seconds as penence, that would have made his point, and it would be over with. Conditioning as discipline has been proven over and over again to destroy more athletes then it actually helps.

I'm glad to read that hurdle has been passed.
 

GymLyon

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ah sorry did not see your previous post, it made my comments irrelevant, glad to hear everything is working out! =)
 
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JBS

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My dd is happier now. She is not crying and she is not saying she wants to quit. We put her in summer camp at another gym to help her find her joy in gymnastics. It worked, but at first she just wanted to switch gyms. I told her she had to give her gym another chance. Right now she seems happy where she is.
This is great to hear...glad to see things are getting worked out.
 
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