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For Parents Too much too young?

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Sammyd UK

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Hi,

My first post, so please excuse me if it's in the wrong forum, but not coming frm a sporty background, not sure where else to turn.

If I can quickly explain, we live in the UK, and have a 6YO daughter who has been going to gym since she was 3, she currently trains 18 hours a week, and has now been asked too move up to their number 1 squad, which means she will be training 24 hours+ a week, and will be the youngest in the class by over 2 years, personally I see this as too much, but having no sports experience wasn't sure.

She does really love her gym, but I am concerned as her tiredness has already been noted at school, and she is struggling to keep up with the homework. My husband has been of the mind for a while to pull her out, as he doesn't want his duaghter coming home with "hands like a bricklayer", and wants her out horse riding nd playing in her toy kitchen, up to now I have disagreed, but am coming round to his way of thinking.

We are also becoming concerned with what she is learning, she is now doing "giants" and other stuff which I think is too much for her little body to take, I mean for goodness sake she can't even do all her times tables yet. We have spoken to her coaches and they say she has a natural ability and needs to be stretched, and has outgrown the current squad, I just want her to have her childhood back, but don't want to ruin her opportunity.

Some of the, what I would class "pushy mums" say (through gritted teeth I think!) how lucky we are, and how proud we must feel, but the truth is it is all blowing up in our faces, and has turned into a nightmare Please don't misunderstand me, we ARE proud, but at the same time our hearts break when the coaches have a go at her for missing her back flick on the beam, when some of her school friends have just about mastered riding a bicycle with 2 wheels.

At the moment it's 50/50 to whether we pull her or let her stay, but I don't know where to turn on this. I don't want to take something away from her that she really loves, but at the same time I don't want her to train for the next 10-12 years for what amounts to nothing or very little.

Realistically, even if she does well, in the UK we don't have a great record of gymnastics and there is no real career to be had out of it, except to become a coach! which just perpetuates the cycle, and we feel she would miss out on so many other opportunities in life which a good education can provide.

Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.

Samantha
 

snowbound

Member
Jan 2, 2009
179
that's a tough one! My DD is turning 9, and currently at 12 hours (about to move up to 16) and I know there are a few kids on her team that are younger that their parents won't let them stay up as late so they work in with other classes some times to make up the hours. 20 hours is a lot for someone that young, whatever their ability.

is there a way you could arrange with the coaches to have her only attend part of the sessions with the other squad? If she does decide to turn it into a life-long career, you don't want to burn her out. Or make her so tired that she gets injuries.

And ignore those pushy gym moms! You'll find those in any sport!

Sorry I don't have any better advice, but feel free to share/vent any time.
Snowbound
 

Granny Smith

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Jun 21, 2007
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24+ hrs is a lot of time in the gym, especially for a 6 yr old.

The only thing I would ask the coaches about is if she has natural ability, why does she need to be in the gym 24+ hrs a week? :scratchchin:

I would think that she could still flourish in an 18 hr week than bumping her up to 24+. If you want your dd to last in the sport you have to think about the punishment her body will be taking that many hrs a week. I could be totally off base, but I'd be afraid of her body wearing out or her burning out at an early age.

Tough dilemma... :confused:
 
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bogwoppit

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Feb 26, 2007
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Hi there Samantha , Welcome to the Chalkbucket. This is exactly the right place for your question, but I will also copy it and post it in the coaches forum too, they will give advice from the "other" side that will be helpful.

Such a big decision for such a tiny girl. She is obviously very talented and in a club were they have high level gymnasts and a programme to develop gymnasts to compete at the highest levels. Bear in mind Elite gymnasts tend to train 25-26 hours a week at the very top levels, do you seriously think she could sustain that level of training until she is 16.

If she is very talented she should be able to progress well without massive hours, this would take mean the coaches should want her in the club badly enough to compromise on the hours she spends there. With the right focus and plan they should be able to train her in the 18 hours a week she spends in the gym, or even way less than that. Smaller groups and better focus maybe.

She is 6, gymnastics has to remain fun, if gym becomes a chore she will want to quit and she will become unhappy generally. She needs to experience other things, hubby is right that she needs to play with her doll, her pony etc.

Coaches often see one thing and you have to be the advocate for your childs well being. Tough job isn't it.

Another side of it is wear and tear on her body, even if she is well and safely spotted, can her body stand up to the repetitions, if you read enough posts on here you will see injuries are a common topic, and most girls here are not training mega hours. Gym is a very tough sport and looking at the Elites in both the US and the UK you can see that more are inured than not. Remember both Olympic teams changed with injury.

I really feel for you, this is a very tough thing to decide. But If I was in your shoes I would write the pros and cons list and then go and have a proper sit down chat with the coaches, ask about their intentions and ask if there are other paths that can be taken to keep your daughter happy and healthy in the gym whilst still having a childhood.

Hope you stick around the chalkbucket.
 
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gymnut1

Guest
I agree with the above. You sound like very sensible people. Personally I think even 18 hours is unreasonable for a 6 year old. 24 + would be mad. Think of her poor little growth plates. If she is trained 'smart' with good focused coaching she could train much less hours at her age and still be prepared for an elite gymnastics future. If the hours she does now are impacting on her schooling (is she year 1 or year 2?) then they are already too many. She must be very talented and the club won't want to lose her so they should agree to a compromise in her best interest. Perhaps 16 or so hours with the higher squad would be enough (the higher squad will be harder work and more tiring than at present) After all she can't compete even compulsory 4 until the year she turns 9 in Britain and many top clubs now don't come in to compete until compulsory 3 the year after when children are turning 10. So she has a very long time before she even begins her elite journey in the UK.
Being with children 2 years older is not always ideal either as they may 'baby' her and this can affect the way she relates with her peer group at school especially if she is tired.

Listen to your instincts about YOUR child. She needs to grow in all directions not just in gymnastics. I love gymnastics but your situation sounds extreme.

Best of luck and I hope to see your DD at the British in 10 years time!
 

gymch34

Member
Aug 2, 2008
322
east coast
I have coached a long time, and have coached many young "superstars". 18 hrs is too much, no matter what her talent level is, at age 6. It sounds like her coaches are young and excited, which is great. No experienced coach would have a kid training that much at that age.

Keep her in gymnastics, but meet w/ the coaches and tell them its a choice- to cut her hours or you will pull her. Please do it, or she will burn out before 12.
 

mariposa

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Sep 25, 2007
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Just coming from a mom of a 6 year old, I don't think my DD could do 18 hours a week, much less 24 hours a week. She is no where near as talented as your DD, but she loves gym so much. I still think she would get tired of it. Kids need to still be KIDS. They need to run and play and do things that kids do. We homeschool, so for us, gymnastics doesn't take as much of a toll. My DD only does 10 hours a week right now and that is perfect for her.

I agree with everyone else that even 18 sounds like too much, but 24 is definitely too much. Why burn them out or risk overuse injuries so young? I would talk to their coaches about letting her go less hours with Squad 1. They can totally train her to do those harder skills with less time in the gym. Maybe have her go first on rotations so she gets in her turns and then go home.

This is definitely a great place to talk about the joys and challenges of being a gym mom. Hope you stick around and get some support here. It is a tough spot to be in. Good luck making the right decision for your DD, but also following your mama instincts as well. They are usually spot on.
 

Tim_Dad

Member
Nov 3, 2008
414
Region IV (Missouri)
Hi,


We have spoken to her coaches and they say she has a natural ability and needs to be stretched, and has outgrown the current squad, I just want her to have her childhood back, but don't want to ruin her opportunity.


I could say: "Tough spot you're in!"

But I won't.

Q: Give your daughter more time to develop her gymnastic skills, OR allow her the time needed to be successful in life (i.e. school, friends, family). This is not a tough choice.

As far as im concerned, if you don't backoff on her training hours now, she is going to burnout or become injured and all the time and effort she put in thus-far will be wasted. FORGET what the coach says or wants. She's YOUR daughter first! 18 hours of gymnastics training for ANYONE under 12, regardless of talent or skill level is borderline abusive as far as I'm concerned.

Give your child her childhood!! She'll never-ever get these years back!
Gymnastics should be PART of her life. Not ALL of her life. I know you'll do the right thing.

All Gymnasts need Balance. Think about it.
 

gymjoy

Member
Jan 31, 2009
410
Sometimes coaches get stars in their eyes and can't see past them.

Everyone above is right though - she will burn out if she is not paced slower. I've watched it happen a couple of times - a very talented young girl pushed to fast and hard. Eventually she just stops trying or caring, much to the devastation of her coaches and parents who can't do anything to change it because they killed the joy of the sport for the poor girl.

Are there any other good gyms around that you might be able to switch to? If you can't make the coaches compromise with you on your dd's training - I'd leave.

Best of luck.
 

Mom2Gymgirls

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Jul 25, 2008
293
Midwest
I agree with what everyone has said. I have a dd who turned 7 a couple months ago, and there's no way she would practice 18 hours a week. That's too extreme for such a young age. I would definitely do as suggested above and talk to the coaches about reducing her hours.
 
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Sammyd UK

Guest
Many thanks for all your posts in both forums, I think I already realised what I had to do when I was first posting, but as I said we aren't a sporty family in the least so have no experience of this sort of thing, so you leave it in the hands of the coaches and trust their judgement, but it's good to get some other perspectives. To be honest we had been completed blindsided by this so it became a kind of all or nothing option, the thought of compromise didn't even come into our heads!

I'm off to the gym now (for a change!), and will speak to the coaches tonight, although they aren't exactly the most approachable peope in the world, but hey she's my daughter!, I'll drop a line when I get back either later tonight or tomorrow morning.

Samantha
 
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flippersmom

Guest
It does sound like the coach really wants your DD training more.

It's a decision that you have to make. DD is not old enough to understand the training that will be put on her and what she will give up. She also isn't old enough to understand what the end result may be, however good it is.

Just make sure that if it is something that she walk away from at 13 or 14 years old, there will be no regrets. As first, my DD would have spent 40 hours in a gym. Now, 3 years later, she is so glad she doesn't. She's involed in some school activites and loves her free time. She would never have been at the level, but even is she was, I know that we wouldn't have had the financial means to support long term. Also, since DH is not a big fan, she wouldn't have had the emotional support she would need from both parents.

I would do lots of research and try to talk to the parents of the girls already in that level to see how they handle it - school, injuries, etc. They could probably give you the best advice.
 

emorymom

Active Member
Proud Parent
Oct 10, 2008
1,155
One of the possible alternatives is to let her do her studies independently and let the gym be her "school" and peer group. I think home schooling and gym schooling is more popular in the US than the UK. We have found in this country that the home schooled kids can keep up with the group schooled kids in much fewer hours a week academically, because they do not have a lot of waiting and the work is right at their level all the time.

However ... I don't see why she can't train towards elite gymnastics in, say, 12 hours a week and even with home schooling I would be highly reluctant to have a child training more than 18 hours a week at that age. Are they spending time learning routines and competing lower levels? If so I'd find a program that was more ... efficient.
 
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BlairBob

Guest
Hmm, some of the literature I've seen is that competition is actually detrimental for young children under 7. Most are not equipped yet to take on the the pressure of competing and it can be harmful to their psyche.

As for the training hours, so long as it's managed well; I don't have a problem with it. Start looking for overuse injuries and make sure sleep and diet are spot on. Not spot on for a regular child, spot on for an athlete ( more rest protocols need to be in place including quality sleep ).

As for gymnastics not being a good career, if they ever manage to get into acrobatics ala circus ( Cirque ) or stunts, they will make good money. High 5 to 6 digits. They would be hard pressed to make this much coaching unless they owned their own gym.
 

gym law mom

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Dec 23, 2006
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Sounds like there are already some "red flags" regarding the 18 hours/week. You mentioned that teachers notice she seems sleepy at school and having a little trouble getting all of her school work done. That in itself would be a reason to back off on the hours to me----certainly not to increase. Of course, the coaches may have tunnel vision and see only gymnastics.

As many others have mentioned at 6yo she needs some time to be a little girl and explore other interests and just fun time. The gym will always be there---her childhood will not. The toll this time is taking on her body is not good. Many overuse/growth related injuries don't show up for a few years and I'm sure when she's 8 or 9, you don't want to see her either burned out on the sport or in so much pain its no fun at all.

To put things in perspective, Shawn Johnson trained 25 hours/week for the Olympics(and she was 15-16yo). Your little one is being asked to do 1 hour less/week at age 6 and no Olympics for 10 yrs. Something doesn't seem to fit there does it?

Good luck with all of this and hope you post here often!
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
I posted in the coaches forum already, but here I'm going to post as a parent of a DD that turned 6 a few days ago. I honestly think that at 6 they're processing too much to let a sport dominate their life to the extent you're talking about. How they relate to people, how people relate to them, figuring out what they value in themselves and others, and their own little adaptations of school, home, and outside activity mode. It's a lot, and 6 seems to be a milestone in those areas. At 5 it's just 'I should be nice and people will be nice back!' What I see in my own daughter and her friends is more complicated now. Learning to agree to disagree and that kind of thing.

My advice to you would be what I'd do with my own daughter. Rein in the gym hours if just to give her a balanced perspective to develop from. Gymnastics is complicated. There's harsh right and wrong (execution of a skill) combined with subjective judgment (scores). It's a lot to navigate mentally as well as physically. The physical is serious too. Training hard skills for long hours will affect her. Pain and potential injury will be unavoidable. I'd wait for her to make the decision to cope with that when she's a little older and understands what she's undertaking. As others have posted, you definitely have the time to slow down the training even if you and she decide your goal is the Olympics.
 

TnTTaxi

Member
Jan 18, 2009
141
Man, that is a lot for a 6yo. My 6 yo goes 8 hrs a week and I have a heck of time getting through homework and school. I also feel for you on the missing out on life experiences part. They are just kids.

On the other hand you obviously have a very talented dd. It sounds like a tough decision.

I would try talking to the coaches and explainig where you and your husband are on this.

GOOD LUCK
 
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Sammyd UK

Guest
Well....

Well, I promised an update so here it is, apologies it's so long.

As I said, I went to the gym last night, explained the situation and asked to see our daughters coach, but was told she was "too busy" this evening, (she coaches the b squad then carries on to the a squad), and besides I should raise my issue with the parent representative on the committee. I did manage to grab a couple of minutes with her, when she popped out for a "nature break", but was told that I shouldn't question her judgement, as I'm not a coach, don't know gymnastics, and they know what she is capable of. Anyway called my husband to explain as he had just got in from school and he was fine with that, or so I thought...

We live about 15 minutes from where my daughter trains, but it must have been less than 10 minutes later he appeared at the gym! Now he is the quietest most chilled out person you will ever meet (even being a teacher!), and I have never seen him so fired up.

He walked straight through the gym and marched our daughters coach into the office where a "heated discussion" took place (I didn't dare go in). Whilst this was going on the head coach of the gym turned up and went into the office and about 5 minutes later I got called in as well, in 2 years at the gym apart from the odd "hello" we had never really spoken to the head coach so it was a bit daunting, especially as although he must be over 60 he is still a big bloke.

Husband was calmed and I explained our situation, the fact our daughter was just shattered and even if she turned out to be the most talented gymnast in the whole world we didn't care, we just wanted her to have a happy childhood, we didn't want her burning out, hating gym, getting hurt etc (all the things you had raised here and in the coaching forum), and if something wasn't done then we'd pull her out simple as that. (I think my husband had told them we where pulling her out anyway), her coach started to object, but to my complete surprise (and yes it was probably a little unprofessional) the Head Coach just told her to shut up, and go back to training!

It turns out he hadn't even been consulted on moving our daughter up to Squad A (which was his squad), and said it was patently ridiculous for someone of her age, as even if she could cope with it physically (which he said she probably couldn't) she definitely couldn't mentally, and that there was no point in training her to do such advanced moves at such a young age when she isn't even able to start competing until she is 8, and that she really needed to master the basics before all these more difficult moves. To be honest he apologised so much I started to feel embarrassed.

Anyway he went through all of our concerns one by one, and agreed on almost every point and is going to raise some of them with the committee at the next meeting. But until he talks to the owners he has put in a rule with immediate effect that no child between 6 and 9 is allowed to train more hours than 2x her age, with a cap of 14 hours a week.

Apparently this was already an "unwritten" sort of rule which should have been enforced already, but kind of got stretched by the development squads, so whereas they do have 4-5 classes a week, our daughter should not have been attending them all.

He has also given us his number so we can always contact him with our concerns and has offered to drop our daughters hours down to as low as 4-6 hours a week or whatever we think she needs to really rest her and make up the rest of the time by him giving her 1 - 1 coaching, however we said that was great but with 3 other children and only a teachers wage coming in we couldn't afford that, but he said "no you don't understand, she has a great talent that needs nurturing slowly, I mean I'll train her for free, for as long as it takes", well, I nearly fell off my chair!

Husband obviously mentioned that he would now be concerned about any animosity our daughters coach would now feel towards her after this, but he reassured us this would be monitored very carefully, and would tell the assistant coaches to keep an eye.

To be honest by now I was almost in tears, as I really couldn't have wished for more, even my huband was happy with the situation. Exit 2 very happy parents who feel they have got their daughter back, and just as importantly theire daughters childhood, and in such a short time frame!

So thanks for all your advice on this, I think I just needed a little bit of reassurance that the action we were taking was right, and for raising so many useful and valid points.

Samantha
 

bogwoppit

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Feb 26, 2007
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Wow I think you actually had a moment most gym parents could only wish for!!! Congratulations on stepping up and taking care of business, your daughter will thank you for it in the long run.

Glad you and your hubby managed to get it all together and present a strong united front to the gym. Best of luck for the future with your little gymmie.

As I said before, stick around the members here are a very useful bunch, sometimes a little dippy, but that just adds to the fun.
 
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flippersmom

Guest
I am so proud that as parents, you didn't get the "stars" in your eyes and saw to it that your daughter's needs are taken care of first!

It sounds like you have a wonderful head coach. He sees the talent in your daughter, and is willing to work with you to keep her best interest at heart. The fact that he addresses all of your concerns is wonderful. I would keep an eye on the other coach, just check in with your daughter from time to time and make sure she is happy still with her as coach.

Good luck to your daughter. It sounds like she will have a long future in this sport!
 
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