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Transition to New Level Challenges and Anxiety

cp13

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Mar 19, 2019
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My DD is 13 and has generalized anxiety disorder. She tends to get into a heightened period of anxiety during life changes, transitions, etc. She recently moved up to optionals (L6) after completing a year at L5. She is struggling with a new coach who is more intense and the increase in practice hours. In May she started making excuses not to go to practice here and there but it was always a physical complaint (headache, stomachache). It took a while to pinpoint it was anxiety and for her to start talking. Now for the past 2 weeks she has refused to go altogether. I have let go and let her have the break and she tried an Xcel practice. She wasn't crazy about Xcel because she likes being well conditioned, strong, etc. and our Xcel team is good but there isn't much conditioning so she will lose some of that. There are other platinum level girls but she is way ahead of others because she is coming out of J.O.. So, she is stuck between not wanting the intensity of optionals and wanting more than what Xcel has to offer. So, she is going to have to pick. I am trying to figure out if there is a way to help her through her anxiety about J.O. practice. If she could reach her comfort point, she will calm down and be Ok, I think. I think the source of the anxiety is this new coach and also the pressure to pick up new skills and of course, the conditioning is hard. In the past she has had anxiety with new coaches but she has always gotten over the hump after some struggling but now at a higher level, I am not going to force a kid into a long practice but if she refuses long enough, she is making her decision to quit or go to Xcel. In the car on the way to the Xcel practice she said 'I am so happy to go to the gym. I have been dying without gymnastics for 2 weeks'. So, she still wants it but is afraid of the intense optional practices and is avoiding the coach. If she was just tired of the sport, it would be easier to let it go but we do not need a year of stress and anxiety. Anyone suggestions or anyone gone through something similar? A gym change is not an option. The other gym in town is known for being intense and so that will not be a good match.
 

MuggleMom

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Dec 22, 2016
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Is there any way to set a meeting with the new coach to discuss the best approach for your daughter? Let them know she is struggling with the transition and while you are not opposed to an intense environment she needs a few positives each day just to help get her over the hump? My daughter had some anxiety last year she got in her head that this one coach didn't like her and was "mean" When I met with the coach she was honestly surprised and I let them know that you can giver her all the corrections you want (corrections are great lol) but she just needs a compliment every now and again or she will only focus on what she is doing wrong. They started doing that and things turned around quickly for my daughter. I feel like a good coach will try and accommodate as long as you aren't trying to totally change their style or get them to treat your kid "special" but treating each kid as an individual should be easy to accomplish.
 

MILgymFAM

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Feb 6, 2014
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Oh man, I can relate so much. My daughter has pretty severe GAD too and some gym environments have just made it so much worse than it is normally. For my girl, who also loves being fit and strong and flexible, she did end up switching from optional to diamond. But- big but- that really didn’t mean anything at her gym at all. They’re all trained the same but she was looking for something that felt less pressured. That said, when the choice was traditional JO or traditional Xcel she’s always chosen JO. I agree with talking to the coach, but also does your DD have a therapist? Mine has to go from once to twice a month during some high stress times. My DD ended up cutting hours/days for financial reasons and she stayed fit by conditioning and stretching at home regularly and thoroughly (she puts her Marine dad through the paces! Ha!). If your DD is motivated and able to keep her fitness level at home, maybe Xcel wouldn’t be so hard for her to accept. As an aside, have you watched any practice? Is the coach doing the right things? You know your kid- is this coach going to be a personality fit at all?
 
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cp13

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Mar 19, 2019
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There are 2 coaches. I have talked to the head coach but the one she has a problem with is the one I have not talked to. I can try to get a meeting next week. I think that's my one concern. She could be quitting due to lack of communication and maybe some misunderstandings can be cleared up which would get her over the anxiety hump. She keeps telling me she doesn't want to meet with the coach but I think I need to get more detail from her this weekend. If she cannot live with the increased hours, optionals is just not going to work regardless of the coach. She has seen a therapist in the past but she hated going. So we have not been back in a while. We saw the therapist for school anxiety (transition to middle school) but the school anxiety cleared up in the 2nd year of middle school but then we hit the 'transition to optionals' (which I did not see coming). I have watched some practices and didn't see anything unusual. I don't think I have witnessed the more intense parts of practice. I typically see the last half hour where they are conditioning or everything is lower key because they are wrapping up. It may be a personality mismatch.
 

CLgym

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Dec 22, 2014
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This is so similar to a post I made just a few days ago in a more private social group! Mine also has GAD. She refused to go to the gym three days this week due to upset stomach. Prior to this week, she would sporadically complain of stomach or headache, but always went. To complicate things, mine does have a history of GI issues so I'm having trouble pulling apart the physical vs. mental. In the gym, mine (age 10, almost 11) is struggling with the move to L8, recovering from a sprain, and a missing her BFF. Unfortunately, I have no idea what's going on in her head.

Yesterday I pushed, and made her go to the gym. She says she doesn't want to quit, so I told her that she needed to try. I talked to the HC at the start of practice (without my DD), who was very understanding and agreed to a low pressure approach. HC talked to all of DD's coaches for us about this approach. DD ended up having a solid practice; one coach even gave her a leadership role with a younger level (which she loved!). I stayed the entire time at her request, and DD popped out twice to say she had stomach ache (first time) and head ache (second time), but was otherwise ok. I guess we'll see how today goes.

I think a break is fine and sometimes needed. However, I think a plan is also important. Going on indefinitely in limbo is not a good option. In addition to Xcel, I would also consider - talking to her coaches, working with a therapist, or repeating a level.

In our case, I think that the gym anxiety is related to skill-acquisition (not a coach change/issue), so my DD and I talked about breaking down skills into baby steps so that she has lots of little successes. She made a sticker chart. I have reinforced the message that repeating is OK. I am also exploring the possibility that there truly is an underlying GI issue -- so we have a doc appt and have been playing with diet.

Good luck. I feel for you! And since I'm living it right now too, I'd love to hear your suggestions too!
 

cp13

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Mar 19, 2019
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USA
CLgym-I am sorry you are dealing with this too. I have a tough time figuring out physical vs mental. The problem in May was she always had a physical excuse and they were all different and some were valid (ear infection, stomach bug,etc.) I wish I recognized the anxiety sooner because maybe I could have spoken to the coaches earlier but it was only last Wed. where I felt I confirmed it was anxiety and it was only yesterday where she started to really give details about what is bothering her. I think this time of year is hard because there are high expectations to get new skills and the kids get pushed harder than they are comfortable with. My DD gets stomachaches from anxiety also. We could probably continue to limp along if she just stopped going one day and will go the next. That's what she did in May and so I thought she was working through it. I told her that next week if she refuses to work through the fears with L6 then we will assume she is doing Xcel. If I feel over the weekend that she really wants L6 but is afraid, I will schedule a meeting with the coach and see if communication helps. If I get the sense that at 13, she just doesn't want the intensity that this requires, then she has to go to Xcel or maybe we look for other activities. She loves diving and is doing that in our neighborhood this summer. It's super fun with no pressure but the only club for diving in town is a longer commute.