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Looking for advice - gymnast distracts others

eucoach

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Jun 9, 2013
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I'm posting this here because I'm hoping to get parents' insight as well.

My group of gymnasts is quite heterogeneous. The girls are 10-16 years old and range from about level 6 to 9. Not all of them want to reach their full potential so we have them train 3-5 days a week, depending on what they want. All in all, this arrangement works.

The only issue we have is a 12-year-old who talks (back) a lot. The talking back I can handle but the talking to and distracting of other gymnasts is what's a big problem. She's basically hovering over an 11-year-old who is usually the most hardworking and goal-oriented (talented and has lots of potential) gymnast of the group. She constantly asks what she's doing ("hey, how many reps have you done, i've done x"), chats about OT things or follows her around. We have had a conversation with her and the mother and it got better for a hot minute. I feel childish separating them. Other than that I feel it's very unfair to everyone else that I have to spend a significant amout of my ressources on telling this girl to talk less and stop bothering others. Also, I have to be very careful because girl + mom have a very warped perception of the truth and twist our words. "You need to talk less and stop distracting this other girl" became "I need to respond less to this girl because she distracts me". Go figure......

Suspension or any other super strict measure is not really an agenda because we are not an elite gym.....

Thanks!
 

Jard.the.gymnast

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Seperating them does not seem childish in this case. It seems the best for everyone to put them in a position where they cannot be distracted. Why do you think that is childish?
 

MuggleMom

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I can see the inclination to not want to say...hey you two are seperated from here on out it could draw more attention to the matter which may not be the best. Is there a way to set them up at different stations then if she tries to go talk to the girl you can just say hey you need to stay at your station. Then it becomes less about them being together and more about each staying on thier (separate) tasks. It might also help to have a time when them being together but maybe a bit distracted can happen with minimal impact...like maybe conditioning? just a thought.
 
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JessSyd

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Definitely separate them. It does not have to be a big deal - different stations, different ends of the line for conditioning etc. And if they ask why, you can just say it is because there is too much chat when they are together.

The other thing could be to empower the other girl to say ‘hey, you are distracting me, can we maybe chat later when we are not busy.’

A couple of years ago my daughter’s coach had a few distracting off task kids in her group. She ended up having a discussion with the whole group about behavioural expectations and about what to do if somebody is distracting or bothering you. She also quietly kept apart girls who didn’t work well together (for whatever reason) without most people being aware she was doing it.
 

Flippin'A

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I understand why it seems childish to separate them, but don't lose sight of the fact that they are children. I'd say talk to the group in general about behavior (without singling the problem out) and then keep them apart as much as possible.
 
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NutterButter

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This is a little different I once led a large group of girls that had a similar dynamic. It was crazy how much one girl could affect the entire group! It was pretty bad - we were getting complaints from others about the annoying girl -- one girl even wanted to quit because of her! We ended up having a group meeting with the girls where we discussed behavior expectations. We actually went around the group and each girl talked about which behavior trait mattered most to them. We made a fun poster with all of the reasons that the girls then signed. We did this primarily so the offending girl could see/hear how poor behavior impacts others. For several weeks after this, the girls did a good job policing each other when someone broke a rule and it was almost always in jest and polite.

Meanwhile, we had a separate meeting with the offending mom and girl. We asked the girl to sign a behavior contract. We also came up with a special code word (or maybe it was a hand signal) that the leaders could use just with this girl to signal that she needed to dial it back. This saved her from constantly being reprimanded in front of her peers. We also did what we could to separate the girl from the others who were most bothered by her. The annoying girl had some wonderful leadership qualities and she was very passionate about being part of the group but she struggled with 'reading the room'.

All of this did work a little bit eventually but it was exhausting.
 

Sari

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I asked a very similar question a while ago and got some very insightful feedback on the preteen/teen developmental stage. I'll try to look up that thread for you.
[Found it: https://www.chalkbucket.com/forums/threads/discipline-issues-with-t-w-een-gymnasts.64813/ ]

Our issue kind of revolved itself when one girl quit, however - with the remainder of my older gymnasts - I've learned that looking for the positive rather than the negative is so helpful. Praising hard work, good form etc. on my tweens has definitely improved our workout atmosphere and coach/gymnast relationship for the better.

(However, if she is disruptive to the point of it interfering with your practice, I'd call her parents, no matter how difficult they are, to come pick her up.)
 

ldw4mlo

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This is a little different I once led a large group of girls that had a similar dynamic. It was crazy how much one girl could affect the entire group! It was pretty bad - we were getting complaints from others about the annoying girl -- one girl even wanted to quit because of her! We ended up having a group meeting with the girls where we discussed behavior expectations. We actually went around the group and each girl talked about which behavior trait mattered most to them. We made a fun poster with all of the reasons that the girls then signed. We did this primarily so the offending girl could see/hear how poor behavior impacts others. For several weeks after this, the girls did a good job policing each other when someone broke a rule and it was almost always in jest and polite.

Meanwhile, we had a separate meeting with the offending mom and girl. We asked the girl to sign a behavior contract. We also came up with a special code word (or maybe it was a hand signal) that the leaders could use just with this girl to signal that she needed to dial it back. This saved her from constantly being reprimanded in front of her peers. We also did what we could to separate the girl from the others who were most bothered by her. The annoying girl had some wonderful leadership qualities and she was very passionate about being part of the group but she struggled with 'reading the room'.

All of this did work a little bit eventually but it was exhausting.
This
Then
(However, if she is disruptive to the point of it interfering with your practice, I'd call her parents, no matter how difficult they are, to come pick her up.)
Set the expectations up with everyone. And get all their buy in. This group is old enough to be responsible for their behavior and understand the expectations.

The one who is really disruptive, should get a separate meeting with mom to review and then told if she continues to be disruptive she will be sitting out or picked up. Because as the saying goes, that which you allow will continue.

Having her sit out/go home will either fix it, or she will move on. Neither is necessarily a bad thing for the rest of the gymmies.
 

Mrs. Puma

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This is a little different I once led a large group of girls that had a similar dynamic. It was crazy how much one girl could affect the entire group! It was pretty bad - we were getting complaints from others about the annoying girl -- one girl even wanted to quit because of her! We ended up having a group meeting with the girls where we discussed behavior expectations. We actually went around the group and each girl talked about which behavior trait mattered most to them. We made a fun poster with all of the reasons that the girls then signed. We did this primarily so the offending girl could see/hear how poor behavior impacts others. For several weeks after this, the girls did a good job policing each other when someone broke a rule and it was almost always in jest and polite.

Meanwhile, we had a separate meeting with the offending mom and girl. We asked the girl to sign a behavior contract. We also came up with a special code word (or maybe it was a hand signal) that the leaders could use just with this girl to signal that she needed to dial it back. This saved her from constantly being reprimanded in front of her peers. We also did what we could to separate the girl from the others who were most bothered by her. The annoying girl had some wonderful leadership qualities and she was very passionate about being part of the group but she struggled with 'reading the room'.

All of this did work a little bit eventually but it was exhausting.
These are some great ideas! Great success story.
The annoying girl had some wonderful leadership qualities and she was very passionate about being part of the group but she struggled with 'reading the room'.
This can be Puma Jr. Puma and I struggle with juggling trying to teach her how to “read the room” without making her feel terrible about herself and constantly hounding her. We’re very lucky that I feel the coaches and teammates are pretty patient with her. But she definitely does drive older kids crazy sometimes. She’s very sweet and positive but hyper and overly chatty. It sounds like OP’s offender is a tough kid and there isn’t much parent support. I think that separating them as much as possible without calling attention to it is the key. And making sure that she and the parents have a clear picture of the expectations and the consequences. I like the code word/hand signal idea too!
 

eucoach

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Thanks for the advice!

I will definitely talk to the whole group again. It just feels weird to address an issue that really only of them has (to such an extent) because they all know who this is about...

The reason I hate separating them is because I just hate wasting time building teams. Usually everyone finds a suitable partner. I did separate them today however and it worked fairly well.

I just wished we could have THE one conversation that would put an end to the problem. ;-)
 
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coachp

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I absolutely do not agree with addressing the entire team over one kids problem . I would absolutely pull her aside and have a little talk . Then involve the parent and finally I will call her out in front of the team and ask her “how is this helping the team”. “This is bigger than you and we are all counting on each other , that includes you “. If that doesn’t work give her a week off to think about gym.
 
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ldw4mlo

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I absolutely do not agree with addressing the entire team over one kids problem . I would absolutely pull her aside and have a little talk . Then involve the parent and finally I will call her out in front of the team and ask her “how is this helping the team”. “This is bigger than you and we are all counting on each other , that includes you “. If that doesn’t work give her a week off to think about gym.
Yes and no.

I think it helps to set the expectations as a group. So if it hasn’t been done, that should be done first. Formally. Side note JMO that should be done yearly as new kids are always showing up. My kid and I have to sign her School Code of Conduct, every year, even though she is not and never has been a problem child.

Then address individually.
 
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ldw4mlo

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I just wished we could have THE one conversation that would put an end to the problem. ;-)
Yeah and if they were capable of managing their own business they could move out at 10.... ;)
 

coachp

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Agreed , however the sport is already hard. The last thing anyone wants is some kid dragging everyone down. The flip side (and big problem ) is it is very common for the parents of the kid who brings kids down to complain that others are doing the same to their kid. Keeping that in
Mind , NO I do not address a group over a single problem child . Because this will create problems within the parent circle . They all hear about the talk and openly blame every kid but their own . (And the parents of that kid will be the loudest ). No thanks, I keep it real and I keep myself in control. Been there done that .
 
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mommyof1

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For the sake of the target child, please please please separate them. In elementary school, my kid spent two years on the receiving end of the attentions of a problem kid much like the one you describe. Instead of encouraging her to assert herself or helping her to escape from the problem kid, the teachers actually encouraged her to put up with the constant hounding and be a "friend" to the problem kid. It was awful, and she was so happy when the kid finally ended up in a different class.
 

GAgymmom

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Separate them. I and another mom told the coaches to keep our daughters separate because they were distracting each other constantly by talking and being silly. It’s not childish. Just assign them different stations/tasks/areas, and if she wanders over towards the 11-year-old, tell her to get back to her station.
 

JessSyd

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Agreed , however the sport is already hard. The last thing anyone wants is some kid dragging everyone down. The flip side (and big problem ) is it is very common for the parents of the kid who brings kids down to complain that others are doing the same to their kid. Keeping that in
Mind , NO I do not address a group over a single problem child . Because this will create problems within the parent circle . They all hear about the talk and openly blame every kid but their own . (And the parents of that kid will be the loudest ). No thanks, I keep it real and I keep myself in control. Been there done that .

Addressing it as a group would only ‘drag everyone down’ if it is done in a particularly insensitive manner. Firmly outlining rules shouldn’t really ‘drag everyone down’ unless the rules are particularly draconian!

Otherwise it allows the coach to simply set out all sides of the behavioural equation. Once expectations have been publicly made clear, with everyone hearing exactly the same information, kids can be empowered to politely defend their own boundaries. It’s easier (on everyone) to say ‘shh, Coach X says we’re not allowed to talk during conditioning’ than it is to say ‘be quiet, you’re being annoying’.

Or at least that is how it worked for my daughter’s group. I think all the parents were pleased with how it was handled, and I know my timid little gymnast certainly was.
 

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