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For Parents Threat to scratch event as a motivator

KipWinger

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Hope everyone is hanging in there. Here’s another non-coronavirus topic...

Considering the meet cancellations, this may be irrelevant, but my daughter has been struggling with a mental block on her beam BHS. She’s had several injuries this year, including one that occurred during a beam BHS. She had been making progress recently (she’s been doing it on the low beam ), but this week her coach said he’d scratch her from competing beam at her next meet if she didn’t compete her BHS, and she broke down.

It’s not a required skill at her non-JO level (she only needs 1 B skill, which she already has) and she’s been doing well at meets without it.

I generally don’t like the use of threats as motivators so I spoke to her coach about this, and he thinks she needs a push because he knows she can do it. There have been multiple girls with blocks in the gym and I know he’s used this approach before. What do you think? Would your gyms do this?
 

kendo348

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Just because he “knows she can do it” physically does not mean she can do it mentally. Only she is in charge of that. And if she’s been making progress, let her stay on that path no matter how slow, rather than push and derail! Especially if it’s not even a required skill, I would have a problem with that approach.
 

GreggP

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I have dealt with many mental blocks, and that is rarely an effective approach. I understand coaches and organizations must have standards, but very few athletes respond well to threats or negative reinforcement. Judging by your daughter’s response, all that did is create more pressure and fear, in a situation where she is already being held back by those things. Maybe the coach will recognize that and adjust his approach going forward. With your daughter, it might help if you help her see that this is simply the coaches way of trying to push her, because he cares about her. For whatever reason, he sees that approach as the right way to motivate an athlete who has potential. He obviously sees potential in her. Maybe that can give a more positive perspective for her.
 
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Carly

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I think that threats are a terrible idea for mental blocks. I think that it could make the block even worse by putting even more stress on the gymnast. Even if she is physically capable of the skill, the block will not allow her to do it.

My dd dealt with something similar a few years ago. She was struggling with a bars skill for months after coming back from missing 2 months from an injury. One of the coaches gave her a deadline to get a skill. There was no threat of scratching at a meet, just possibly a lower score. She did not get the skill and the night before the practice deadline day, she told us that she was quitting gymnastics. We had a discussion with her and she decided to finish up the season and then decide what to do. She ended up leaving that gym and switching to Xcel.

I never said anything to that coach but after what I know now from our experience and from reading posts on here, I should have said something.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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I can see scratching a kid from an event due to a mental block as a completely appropriate response, BUT IT MUST BE FRAMED PROPERLY.

There is a huge difference between "I'm scratching you from this event to punish you for not doing the skill" and "you're not ready to compete this event right now; that's okay, we'll keep working and maybe you'll be ready for the next meet." If it's intended as the ladder but your kid perceives it as the former, it may be a good idea to sit down with the coach and discuss the issue.

But if it is intentionally framed as a threat, that's a HUGE red flag for the entire program. Threats are in every way the worst possible way to deal with mental blocks.
 

bookworm

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If my kid can't compete all 4 events in her level , don't enter her in any meets because I won't be taking her. It sounds like your daughter has the requirements for her level so I would be unhappy that she wasn't competing all 4 events. It is a rubbish approach to fears.

One coach once "threatened" to pull one of my girls from an event during a meet because she had a fall on the prior event as "punishment... if you want to compete floor, you need to stay on the beam". She rarely had a beam fall so I was livid when I heard this so I walked right up to the coach when he called me over to "inform me of his new motivational tactic" and I said " if you follow through on this, she is done at your gym tonight. Just because she isn't going to 'win' beam like usual is no reason to pull her from floor" . His rationale was that she "shouldn't win AA with a fall, she'll get lazy" ... I was flabbergastedand repeated if she didn't compete floor, she was done there. She competed floor, won AA and didn't "get lazy" as she went to JOs that year ....we left the next year and didn't need to deal that kind of "coaching" anymore.

Bottom line , I wouldn't go to meets where my kid isn't doing 4 events, period . If she got hurt and needed to scratch , that's one thing but to go in knowing you're scratched, nope.
 

Flicfliclay

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So my daughters gym requires them to do a certain amount of numbers the week up to a competition. If they do not get their numbers on each event they will get scratched for that event. The girls understand this and i have seen very few scratched.
 

KipWinger

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Thanks to all who provided feedback.
And if she’s been making progress, let her stay on that path no matter how slow, rather than push and derail!

I agree. I hope it’s not too late...she tried it on the high beam after her coach made the threat and had a scary fall.
I can see scratching a kid from an event due to a mental block as a completely appropriate response, BUT IT MUST BE FRAMED PROPERLY.

There is a huge difference between "I'm scratching you from this event to punish you for not doing the skill" and "you're not ready to compete this event right now; that's okay, we'll keep working and maybe you'll be ready for the next meet." If it's intended as the ladder but your kid perceives it as the former, it may be a good idea to sit down with the coach and discuss the issue.

When I spoke to him, it seemed like he was framing his approach somewhere between the two approaches described above. Given that she’s been successfully competing beam at her level for a year now, it’s hard to make the case that’s she’s not ready to compete the event now, but I don’t think she is ready to compete the event with the BHS. He apparently thinks she is. Regardless of his intentions, my daughter interpreted it as punishment.

I think I was looking for confirmation that this was a red flag and that I wasn’t missing something. While I think it’s unlikely that he’ll follow through, bookworm, I appreciate your experience regarding how to proceed if he does. I’m not thrilled with the gym for several reasons lately but my daughter has no interest in looking at other gyms and may prefer to retire. I think the stress of her mental block has really affected her interest in the sport. Sigh....
 
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Carly

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Thanks to all who provided feedback.


I agree. I hope it’s not too late...she tried it on the high beam after her coach made the threat and had a scary fall.


When I spoke to him, it seemed like he was framing his approach somewhere between the two approaches described above. Given that she’s been successfully competing beam at her level for a year now, it’s hard to make the case that’s she’s not ready to compete the event now, but I don’t think she is ready to compete the event with the BHS. He apparently thinks she is. Regardless of his intentions, my daughter interpreted it as punishment.

I think I was looking for confirmation that this was a red flag and that I wasn’t missing something. While I think it’s unlikely that he’ll follow through, bookworm, I appreciate your experience regarding how to proceed if he does. I’m not thrilled with the gym for several reasons lately but my daughter has no interest in looking at other gyms and may prefer to retire. I think the stress of her mental block has really affected her interest in the sport. Sigh....
I'm sorry to hear that she had a scary fall which I guess would now make the situation even worse.

Would she consider doing Xcel? It sounds like your dd is in a similar situation that mine was in a few years ago. She loved gymnastics and had many successful years in JO but the stress of doing a few skills and the large increase in hours that was coming was just too much. We found a new gym with a flexible Xcel program and she is so happy that she did not quit. She goes about 6 hours a week but has the option to do more if she wants.
 
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KipWinger

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I'm sorry to hear that she had a scary fall which I guess would now make the situation even worse.

Would she consider doing Xcel? It sounds like your dd is in a similar situation that mine was in a few years ago. She loved gymnastics and had many successful years in JO but the stress of doing a few skills and the large increase in hours that was coming was just too much. We found a new gym with a flexible Xcel program and she is so happy that she did not quit. She goes about 6 hours a week but has the option to do more if she wants.
It's strange...we don't have too many Xcel programs in our area. She's is a USAIGC gymnast so her hours aren't overly demanding at the moment (9-12 hrs/week). I have a feeling that more teams in my area may be moving towards Xcel so it may be an option in the future.

Thanks for sharing your daughter's story...I'm glad to hear that she's happier in less intense environment. Our gym does seem more intense than other USAIGC programs so if she wants to continue in the sport there may be a gym nearby that's a better fit.
 
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coachp

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Hope everyone is hanging in there. Here’s another non-coronavirus topic...

Considering the meet cancellations, this may be irrelevant, but my daughter has been struggling with a mental block on her beam BHS. She’s had several injuries this year, including one that occurred during a beam BHS. She had been making progress recently (she’s been doing it on the low beam ), but this week her coach said he’d scratch her from competing beam at her next meet if she didn’t compete her BHS, and she broke down.

It’s not a required skill at her non-JO level (she only needs 1 B skill, which she already has) and she’s been doing well at meets without it.

I generally don’t like the use of threats as motivators so I spoke to her coach about this, and he thinks she needs a push because he knows she can do it. There have been multiple girls with blocks in the gym and I know he’s used this approach before. What do you think? Would your gyms do this?
We scratch kids all the time on events but not as a motivator to get over a mental block. (mental block being baulking , freezing in skill etc.. not just scared).
 

Hana

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I think it's unfair to not let her compete beam if she has all the skills she needs. Once I almost had to scratch vault because I couldn't make in over the table without a heavy spot from my coach, but that was because I would be getting a 0 for my vault anyway. She should be allowed to compete her beam routine if the BHS is not required.
 
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LasseKjus

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I've only twice not let a kid compete an event and that's because of safety and not because of a punishment. Usually we have a backup-skill or just compete the routine without the skill and take the start value and other deductions that come with it (hoping the lower score serves as a motivator). Our theory is if they get to a point where they are comfortable not competing, then the effort stops. I'm sure we're in not typical portion of that process, but it's what we do. We compete all four events even if the kid isn't ready and has to do lower level skills. A) Parents paid for it. B) Still gives the kid needed competitive experience. c) Lets her continue to be part of the team. We had a Level 9 who got injured right away at the beginning of the season (not gym related, fell down her stairs and sprained her ankle pretty badly). She had to miss our home meet, but then she did Level 9-ish (more like Level 8) because that's what she was ready for.