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The dreaded 13-15 year old hump

Gymmamabear

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Mar 11, 2013
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Anyone else notice how many girls quit between age 13-15? What is the best way to help your daughter over this? It seems to be a combination of many of their friends quitting, the hours being long and tiresome because they are high levels with lots of conditioning, hormones and typical teenage attitude. We have a bunch of girls at our gym that don't want to quit they simply don't find it as enjoyable as they used to. They complain about going. The attitude seems to spread. I know I have read many articles that say this is universal in every single sport for girls in particular.

How do you help your daughter over this hump? It seems from what I see to go away by junior year.
 

Gymx2

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We aren't there yet, so no advice, but I'm also curious. One thing that the head coach at our gym is very big on is having the girls play games on a regular basis- even the oldest girls. He believes keeping it fun all the way through is essential. He once told the girls that playing gymnastics games is just as important as conditioning, and even high school seniors seem to enjoy a good handstand contest or game of waterfall.
 
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Cmumgym

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It’s usually around that age when hormones hit and the naturally talented begin to become less. Usually it’s growth spurts so more strength work is needed to keep up with their skills and alot more harder effort is needed to put in to get further. On top of this their school friends are creating lives outside of sport and school. there are two main times that seperate gymnasts. 1. When they are moving from a development squad to a competition squad and have not competed yet so they are thinking about why their putting all this time and effort into the sport without seeing any medals or ribbons. And two. When puberty hits when their bodies change and what was once easy now takes hard work and dedication
 

Cmumgym

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The best thing to help overcome this is support and also whilst in the gym coach and gymnast bonding. There has been a lot of backlash in the media with coaches getting close to gymnasts however in a respectable amount. Coaches need to have fun with their gymnasts. If gymnasts as they get older just see the sport as working hard continuously for certain competitions. It will become to much. They need to bond with their coaches and team mates. A family environment in the gym is what will help overcome the teenage years. You need a female in the gym. Aside from parents that the gymnast can go to and also need the males in the gym to become less work work work but also fun.
 

Aussie_coach

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There is a LOT going on with kids at that age. They often grow rapidly and it can be disheartening to lose skills and learn skills slower as they adjust to a new body. Hormones go crazy and they often become more easily distracted, less energetic etc.

There is more pressure at school, more homework, more study, more time needed.

Then there are social pressures, kids feel the need to fit in as they learn to become part of society, having to say no to social gatherings can feel very stressful at that age. Then many want a part time job so they can purchase the latest clothes and phone and save up for a car.

Life is a lot more complicated!

But gyms can do a lot to support their retention in the sport. We have a good retention rate for our teens with the following stradegies.

1. Allow them to reduce their hours. This seems counter productive when they have to work harder now to maintain skills, and are reaching a higher level. But a lot of teens want to keep up the sport, and are happy to reduce the rate they learn skills, in exchange for a more manageable schedule.
2. Build a strong social community. If your gymnasts have strong friendships with their teammates, and a strong bond with the coaches and the gym, they will keep coming back because they feel part of the tribe.
3. Give them a sense of importance in the gym. By this age they gym becomes like a second home, they have been there for a long time. Giving them leadership rolls, ie team captain, assisting coaches with younger classes etc gives them a chance to feel that the gym values them.
4. Keep it fun. When they are little, just being able to flip makes it fun. I think teens are even more in need of “games” and fun than the younger ones. That doesn’t mean silly games every lesson. But things like social nights - Team movie night, team dinner, team sleepover. Turn conditioning into an event, break the world record for the most push ups done in a week or something.
5. Coach them as young adults and not kids. Talk to them on a more mature level, have a joke here and there. Let them have some say in their training and their goals.
6. Lots of praise and encouragement. A lot of coaches do this with the little ones, but forget how much the teens need it. The little ones are often alright, it the teens are usually full of self doubt, self conscious, anxious and they feel like everyone is judging them. Let the gym be that place they can come to feel good about themselves and they won’t give that up.
7. Make it social. Teens are so wired to be social, why not use it. Do partner drills more and individual assignments less. Set group rather than individual goals. Instead of saying right everyone has to stick 5 routines, have them work in groups of 3, with the goal being for the group to stick 15, then everyone gets to share their success.
8. Mix it up. Don’t hit your apparatus the same way every day. Change it up, throw in new drills, start with different skills, introduce a new fun conditioning activities each day, don’t make it feel like they are still doing the same thing they have been doing for years.
 

Jenny

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There is a LOT going on with kids at that age. They often grow rapidly and it can be disheartening to lose skills and learn skills slower as they adjust to a new body. Hormones go crazy and they often become more easily distracted, less energetic etc.

There is more pressure at school, more homework, more study, more time needed.

Then there are social pressures, kids feel the need to fit in as they learn to become part of society, having to say no to social gatherings can feel very stressful at that age. Then many want a part time job so they can purchase the latest clothes and phone and save up for a car.

Life is a lot more complicated!

But gyms can do a lot to support their retention in the sport. We have a good retention rate for our teens with the following stradegies.

1. Allow them to reduce their hours. This seems counter productive when they have to work harder now to maintain skills, and are reaching a higher level. But a lot of teens want to keep up the sport, and are happy to reduce the rate they learn skills, in exchange for a more manageable schedule.
2. Build a strong social community. If your gymnasts have strong friendships with their teammates, and a strong bond with the coaches and the gym, they will keep coming back because they feel part of the tribe.
3. Give them a sense of importance in the gym. By this age they gym becomes like a second home, they have been there for a long time. Giving them leadership rolls, ie team captain, assisting coaches with younger classes etc gives them a chance to feel that the gym values them.
4. Keep it fun. When they are little, just being able to flip makes it fun. I think teens are even more in need of “games” and fun than the younger ones. That doesn’t mean silly games every lesson. But things like social nights - Team movie night, team dinner, team sleepover. Turn conditioning into an event, break the world record for the most push ups done in a week or something.
5. Coach them as young adults and not kids. Talk to them on a more mature level, have a joke here and there. Let them have some say in their training and their goals.
6. Lots of praise and encouragement. A lot of coaches do this with the little ones, but forget how much the teens need it. The little ones are often alright, it the teens are usually full of self doubt, self conscious, anxious and they feel like everyone is judging them. Let the gym be that place they can come to feel good about themselves and they won’t give that up.
7. Make it social. Teens are so wired to be social, why not use it. Do partner drills more and individual assignments less. Set group rather than individual goals. Instead of saying right everyone has to stick 5 routines, have them work in groups of 3, with the goal being for the group to stick 15, then everyone gets to share their success.
8. Mix it up. Don’t hit your apparatus the same way every day. Change it up, throw in new drills, start with different skills, introduce a new fun conditioning activities each day, don’t make it feel like they are still doing the same thing they have been doing for years.
best post ever.
 

NutterButter

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I love what @Aussie_coach said too! I agree 100%!

I'll offer a slightly different perspective though. Sometimes the best way to help a kid going through the hump is to encourage them to explore other activities and even encourage them to quit if the passion for gymnastics is truly gone. Sometimes when kids grow up in the gym they have no other comparison of 'fun' other than gymnastics. And if they no longer like gymnastics they may not even know they have a choice in continuing because it's all they have known since age 4. I've seen kids stay in the sport years longer than they should have or wanted to because either they thought it was 'expected' of them or the parents simply want them to stay in gym.
 

Flippin'A

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I quit during this age range, as did many, if not most, of my teammates. I know for me there were a number of different contributing factors. Fears set in at a level they hadn't before I started puberty, and my gym handled them through yelling/humiliation. My body started to hurt at a much more consistent level that it used to. As a little kid you'd get an injury and then it would heal, but somewhere around twelve I started having aches and pains that weren't related to specific injuries or really diagnosable, my body just hurt a lot. I know for me and a lot of my friends, coach's comments started feeling more personal. A coach talking about my body just kind of slid off me as a kid, but once I became a teen I took even seemingly innocuous comments more to heart because I was already feeling insecure. I also just got tired. Going through puberty requires a lot of sleep and the grind of wake up-school-practice-homework-repeat just wears you out at that age. In the ended I got a couple semi-serious injuries, but they weren't really career enders if I'd wanted to push through. More than anything I felt relieved that I had an excuse to quit. My DD's still small, but if she's still doing gymnastics at that age my plan is just to make sure we have an open line of communication and she knows that the day she doesn't want to go to the gym anymore is the day she doesn't have to. Gymnastics was never going to be forever and just like any childhood extra curricular, she decides what she wants to put her body through.
 

vagymmomma

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Love Aussie Coach's above. I would also add that high school gymnastics is a great incentive to keep girls in the sport (if it's an option in your area). It is very much a team focus (like college) and it's nice for them to get recognition in the sport outside the gym. Plus, xcel becomes a great option for many girls.

It's such a tough age. The girls tend to be throwing harder skills, training more hours, and the aches & pains start catching up. I can't emphasize how much the social/friendship component ties in. If they have gym friends that are friends outside the gym, the bond is not replaceable. I also agree with other comments that it's good to let them try other things (especially other sports camps on break and in down time).
 
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duyetanh

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I actually think this all starts at age 12 honestly. And yes, if they can past the initial high school year or so, they seem to stick it out from what we have seen. I thank God that my kid has a gym where the coaches get it, make it fun, and just genuinely truly care about each girl. It’s beyond a blessing.
 

ldw4mlo

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Anyone else notice how many girls quit between age 13-15? What is the best way to help your daughter over this?
Ok, first..... Why is being done with gymnastics something that needs to be gotten over or prevented? And really it’s meant to be food for thought no answer is actually required.

This is my kids 8th year on a gymnastics team. We have seen lots of girls leave gymnastics they hav all gone on to other things and are all thriving young ladies..... All of them have benefited from their time in gymnastics based on the on going conversations I have with their parents, be it IRL or SM drive bys ......

They are doing lacrosse, soccer, track, volleyball, diving. Some are even getting scholarships in these sports. Or they are off dancing, playing an instrument or multiple instruments, doing drama club, science fairs....

Life didn’t end with gymnastics.

That a child/family has gone as far as they are wanting to go in activity is not necessarily a “fail”

In a sport where 22-24 is “old”. 13-15 is a good run.

And this will be the part where folks get cranky with me, but it circles back to hours. And what else the kids have going on because at some point they get tired of missing other things. Teens are wired to widen their world.

High hours increase burnout, injuries and blocks.

And they need time to do other things. So let them take a day off. Go to the sleepover, the school event, run around the neighborhood, get a mani/pedi or just stay home and veg.

Mine will be 14 soon. She is still doing gym because when she says she wants to go to the school play, dance or charity softball game. We let her, even if it means missing practice.

She knows she needs to practice, how important the consistency is to do the skills. Especially now that she is older. She actually asked that we put time to hit the gym in on our vacation this year.

When we added a 4th day when she was younger, I told her she could opt out of 1 a month, her choice, no questions asked. Back then she didn’t want to miss Home Depot craft and lunch with friends. Now she rarely opts out, certainly not during comp season but I think it helps her mentally to know she can.

They are developing humans. They need to have some choices. They need time for other things and people.

I don’t know how much longer my kid will be competing.

But I think that my job is to let her decide when she is done and that she is comfortable and secure in that decision.
 

ldw4mlo

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I love what @Aussie_coach said too! I agree 100%!

I'll offer a slightly different perspective though. Sometimes the best way to help a kid going through the hump is to encourage them to explore other activities and even encourage them to quit if the passion for gymnastics is truly gone. Sometimes when kids grow up in the gym they have no other comparison of 'fun' other than gymnastics. And if they no longer like gymnastics they may not even know they have a choice in continuing because it's all they have known since age 4. I've seen kids stay in the sport years longer than they should have or wanted to because either they thought it was 'expected' of them or the parents simply want them to stay in gym.
This a thousand times
 
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Jules

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There is a LOT going on with kids at that age. They often grow rapidly and it can be disheartening to lose skills and learn skills slower as they adjust to a new body. Hormones go crazy and they often become more easily distracted, less energetic etc.

There is more pressure at school, more homework, more study, more time needed.

Then there are social pressures, kids feel the need to fit in as they learn to become part of society, having to say no to social gatherings can feel very stressful at that age. Then many want a part time job so they can purchase the latest clothes and phone and save up for a car.

Life is a lot more complicated!

But gyms can do a lot to support their retention in the sport. We have a good retention rate for our teens with the following stradegies.

1. Allow them to reduce their hours. This seems counter productive when they have to work harder now to maintain skills, and are reaching a higher level. But a lot of teens want to keep up the sport, and are happy to reduce the rate they learn skills, in exchange for a more manageable schedule.
2. Build a strong social community. If your gymnasts have strong friendships with their teammates, and a strong bond with the coaches and the gym, they will keep coming back because they feel part of the tribe.
3. Give them a sense of importance in the gym. By this age they gym becomes like a second home, they have been there for a long time. Giving them leadership rolls, ie team captain, assisting coaches with younger classes etc gives them a chance to feel that the gym values them.
4. Keep it fun. When they are little, just being able to flip makes it fun. I think teens are even more in need of “games” and fun than the younger ones. That doesn’t mean silly games every lesson. But things like social nights - Team movie night, team dinner, team sleepover. Turn conditioning into an event, break the world record for the most push ups done in a week or something.
5. Coach them as young adults and not kids. Talk to them on a more mature level, have a joke here and there. Let them have some say in their training and their goals.
6. Lots of praise and encouragement. A lot of coaches do this with the little ones, but forget how much the teens need it. The little ones are often alright, it the teens are usually full of self doubt, self conscious, anxious and they feel like everyone is judging them. Let the gym be that place they can come to feel good about themselves and they won’t give that up.
7. Make it social. Teens are so wired to be social, why not use it. Do partner drills more and individual assignments less. Set group rather than individual goals. Instead of saying right everyone has to stick 5 routines, have them work in groups of 3, with the goal being for the group to stick 15, then everyone gets to share their success.
8. Mix it up. Don’t hit your apparatus the same way every day. Change it up, throw in new drills, start with different skills, introduce a new fun conditioning activities each day, don’t make it feel like they are still doing the same thing they have been doing for years.
Love this. Your gymnasts are very lucky to have you as their coach.
 

LJL07

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I actually think this all starts at age 12 honestly. And yes, if they can past the initial high school year or so, they seem to stick it out from what we have seen. I thank God that my kid has a gym where the coaches get it, make it fun, and just genuinely truly care about each girl. It’s beyond a blessing.
I think we are just entering into this phase. My older daughter who has been through a lot and has no intention of quitting is more and more feeling the pull of teen socializing versus practice. Yet wants to go to level 9. Just this week I was trying to sort out how much I should intervene/give her a reality check or let her figure this out herself.

Ok, first..... Why is being done with gymnastics something that needs to be gotten over or prevented? And really it’s meant to be food for thought no answer is actually required.

This is my kids 8th year on a gymnastics team. We have seen lots of girls leave gymnastics they hav all gone on to other things and are all thriving young ladies..... All of them have benefited from their time in gymnastics based on the on going conversations I have with their parents, be it IRL or SM drive bys ......

They are doing lacrosse, soccer, track, volleyball, diving. Some are even getting scholarships in these sports. Or they are off dancing, playing an instrument or multiple instruments, doing drama club, science fairs....

Life didn’t end with gymnastics.

That a child/family has gone as far as they are wanting to go in activity is not necessarily a “fail”
Good points. I think so much time, money, energy goes into gymnastics starting at a young age that it feels like a devastating loss when they quit even though it isn't and life will indeed go on.
 

sce

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Mine quit just after her 13th birthday. She had more than one interest and knew she had to choose as she could not put enough time into all of them. There was some sadness but I was proud of her for making a reasoned decision. Obviously, many girls stick with the sport but at that age it needs to come from within. They see what they are sacrificing to continue and have to choose what us important for them. As a parent you can just provide support to make it as possible as you can - as time management gets tougher. Meals, driving even suggesting a day off when they are exhausted.
 

Gymnast_ish

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Anyone else notice how many girls quit between age 13-15? What is the best way to help your daughter over this? It seems to be a combination of many of their friends quitting, the hours being long and tiresome because they are high levels with lots of conditioning, hormones and typical teenage attitude. We have a bunch of girls at our gym that don't want to quit they simply don't find it as enjoyable as they used to. They complain about going. The attitude seems to spread. I know I have read many articles that say this is universal in every single sport for girls in particular.

How do you help your daughter over this hump? It seems from what I see to go away by junior year.
I think it would be beneficial for you to sit down with them and talk about what you could do to make them want to stay in gym, whether it is taking one day off of their training schedule a week or taking a day or two off every now and then to spend some more time with their family.
 

Jfjfure

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I’m a gymnast now and I remember when I was that age. I was already fairly tall, so skills were a huge challenge because I was taller and therefore weighed more than the tiny girls who could just fling themselves into skills. 13-15 is a huge growing age where many different things are going on. I grew more when I was about 12, I think, and I remember losing some easy skills just because sometimes I was slower or faster or heavier or taller. This was very annoying and i started getting bored. I hated practice and wanted to quit. I only kept at it because if I quit I would never see many of my friends again. But then I got used to my body again and got more and more consistent. I moved up a level and was getting challenged again, but not with skills that I lost, but with new skills that I was learning. I enjoy practice now, and I think most of my friends (who were in the same boat with me earlier) do too. My coaches are also wonderful. When I’m struggling, they help me, as all coaches should. They challenge me enough, but they don’t let me do things I’m not ready for. They keep me safe but also help me learn new skills. I now enjoy practice for several reasons: my friends, my coaches, the fun of it, and even the conditioning.
However, as gymnasts get older and progress, practice hours usually increase. This can create stress and less time spent with friends outside of the gym. Its now really hard to spend time with my non gymnast friends because of my practices as well as their schedules, which is definitely frustrating. But, we always work around it.
 

Gym Geek

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Mine quit just after her 13th birthday. She had more than one interest and knew she had to choose as she could not put enough time into all of them. There was some sadness but I was proud of her for making a reasoned decision. Obviously, many girls stick with the sport but at that age it needs to come from within. They see what they are sacrificing to continue and have to choose what us important for them. As a parent you can just provide support to make it as possible as you can - as time management gets tougher. Meals, driving even suggesting a day off when they are exhausted.
I did the same thing. It was hard but now I’m moving on to other sports. That age seems to separate the super-dedicated gymmies from the less serious or burnt out ones.
 
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coachmolly

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Love Aussie Coach's above. I would also add that high school gymnastics is a great incentive to keep girls in the sport (if it's an option in your area). It is very much a team focus (like college) and it's nice for them to get recognition in the sport outside the gym. Plus, xcel becomes a great option for many girls.

It's such a tough age. The girls tend to be throwing harder skills, training more hours, and the aches & pains start catching up. I can't emphasize how much the social/friendship component ties in. If they have gym friends that are friends outside the gym, the bond is not replaceable. I also agree with other comments that it's good to let them try other things (especially other sports camps on break and in down time).
What Aussie Coach said, but also this. When I coached in Virginia high school gymnastics was huge and it was an amazing incentive to keep kids in the sport. My gym actually had the problem of kids NOT quitting at the expected ages and not being able to take on as many new team members. I think the opportunity to do high school gym and be a star among their peers really excited a lot of them. The gym made a big fuss over the high school gymnasts, hosted high school meets, posted about team gymnasts that also competed in high school on social media, allowed the local team to practice in the gym a few days/week and that enabled the younger kids to really get excited about the opportunity. Sometimes I would even ask developmental level parents if they were interested in team and they would say, "I don't know, she really just wants to do high school gym some day."
This was also combined with a really good awareness of the home/school/gym/life balance needed for teens. Kids were allowed to try other sports at different commitment levels, allowed missed practices for other activities, days off for big school/community events, a periodic Saturday off mid-season just because the kids looked like they could use a break. There were also Friday night games or open gym times, ice cream parties for reaching a certain team goal, and other little incentives to keep it fun and engaging.
Obviously there were kids who were just ready to be done and they were invited to stay involved, come back and coach, or stop in for tumbling classes or open gym and many went on to be successful at other activities and maintained contact with their teammates.
 
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