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What does your gym do (discipline concerns)

Discussion in 'Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)' started by Madden3, May 18, 2018.

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  1. Hi, sorry for long story- almost since my boys have started on team, we have seen discipline issues at our gym. Our HC is a great guy and has worked very hard to build a solid program, and these issues actually predate him taking over as HC. But he has been HC for many years now.

    There have been at our gym about 5 boys who continuously cause discipline issues and they or several of them have always been in the same training groups with one or both of my boys.

    Mostly the issue is disrespect for the coaches (everything from not doing what they are supposed to do up to openly dissing the coach) and safety things like getting onto tramp or other equipment when they should not be. Secondary are teasing/disrespecting each other, and there have been a few instances of physical violence- the kind where no one is really hurt, but is still clearly intentional and potentially dangerous.

    We are not talking little kids. The boys I am talking about are now all between the ages of 10 and 15.

    Not only does this behavior lead to less productive practices, I believe it also leads to more coaches quitting. I do not know if our turnover is high compared to other gyms, but I do know that while my boys have very much liked and respected every coach they have had, some of these other boys complain about almost every coach. To the other boys, to their parents, and even to the coaches.

    I have long felt the rules are too lenient and I wish there was more immediate suspension for causing problems at practice. I think some of these kids come from a place of entitlement and get away with things that would never be allowed if they were on, for example, a school sports team.

    We just lost another coach- a coach my boys absolutely loved and who got lots of c*** from some of these other boys. Now he did take a position with more responsibility (and I hope better pay) at another gym, so I do not know how much the kid's bad attitudes mattered. But it makes me sick this coach was treated this way by even one kid at our gym.

    In all other ways we love our boy's gym. This is the only problem. But I am getting really sick of this situation.

    Any thoughts appreciated.
    Jard.the.gymnast likes this.
  2. @Madden3 Sorry to hear about this discipline problem. DD's gym has a boys team that is growing and becoming successful. The owner does not allow disrespect from any Athlete no matter the gender. In the year DD has been there I have seen him dismiss a few athletes, one particular girl comes to mind she was his best gymnast. I would think for the environment in your boy's gym to change the atmosphere would have to be changed from the top. What would it take for you to move your boys?
    Jard.the.gymnast and Madden3 like this.
  3. This is a tough one. It is one of those situations where discussing it with someone could cause trouble, but I think you have to. Especially if it is unsafe, you need to discuss it. Is head coach approachable? Maybe just discussing a specific situation that happened and your concern. I ahve done that before without feeling too crazy. Otherwise do your boys just stay away from them? I have had my son do that as well.

    It does sound like a bad situation and like a large number of boys that are involved. Usually, boys like this start to weed out about this age. I would hope that this occurs, as they do not seem to overly focused. This situation does not seem conducive to a productive training environment at all.

    Do you feel comfortable setting up a tiem to talk to the coach? OR maybe less informal if you see something one day just mentioning it?

    I am really just throwing things out here.....most of the coaches D has had have been strict about this stuff an would not tolerate this behavior.
    Madden3, sce and John like this.
  4. I was going to add that as I watch the boys team it is completely different than the girls. The boys are full of tremendous energy and I have seen them take it out on each other from time to time. The younger ones seem to be attempting to establish a hierarchy. There is only young boys 12 and under and returning college gymnasts currently training. I imagine the teen years is hard on some boys teams. I agree with @skschlag that the training environment sounds like it is suffering, and that is unfair to the boys who are wanting more.
    Madden3 likes this.
  5. Definitely familiar with this situation. It was only top-down change that really helped (the situation had gone on for years, and was getting worse). The gym went from a "we need to keep the boys team numbers up, don't be too hard on them" to more of an attitude of "if you are here, you work and show respect and we aren't as worried about numbers". Discipline got tough. Boys team has gone down in numbers, but up in quality. But I think tough discipline isn't for every coach. We have two boys coaches and it's really good-cop/bad-cop.

    As a gymnastics parent, I have a hard time understanding why people keep kids in this sport when it seems like they really don't want to be there (regularly being rude, disruptive, disrespectful, etc). It is such a commitment with time and money. If my kids didn't want to be there I'd be enjoying a sweet, sweet vacation with my new-found time and the money we'd be saving!
    Popcorn, M2Abi, Madden3 and 3 others like this.
  6. My son’s coach is pretty young and is great with the guys. They are between 11-13 and sometimes can get out of hand. One particular boy is usually the instigator. When they start breaking the boundaries, the kids misbehaving are usually separated from the group and made to do conditioning. If they are overtly disrespectful their parents are called and asked to take them home.

    Some of this is just the age, but the kids who are the most disruptive are usually the ones who seem to be losing interest and not doing as well.
    Madden3 likes this.
  7. Thanks for all the replies and support, I appreciate it.
    We would never leave the gym over this. It is a chronic issue, not an acute one. I have learned to live with it. If my boys leave the gym it will be for other sports, not another gym.

    I (or my husband) have talked to the coach when there is a specific issue that involved our boys. When we talk, I do feel listened to and my concerns appreciated. I think HC is just flummoxed about what exactly to do. His approach to structure and discipline are imo admirable and work well if you are dealing with kids who have learned respect for authority and are capable of a reasonable degree of self discipline, but not for kids who for one reason or another are looking for any chance to act out.

    I do wonder if it is a matter of wanting to retain paying customers so the entire program can grow/remain solvent. And I get that. I want that too, because I know that the better financed the program the better for coach retention and quality. But I do wonder if the discipline issue may be actually hurting our numbers.

    I do not want to make it sound like it is a free for all at practice. Not at all. The coaches do maintain good overall discipline and I do not see a safety issue except possibly with one particular hot head. So I have taken a wait and see approach, and over the years some of the worst offenders have left the gym, thank goodness. But enough remain that it continues to be an issue and what is frustrating is that year after year it is the same small consort of boys causing problems over and over. My boys do know to avoid their hijinks as best they can, but as they are in the same practice group(s) it is not possible for them to keep away from the troublemakers entirely.

    So what the coaches do when a kid needs to be disciplined is they give them extra conditioning, or, for worse offenses (or they do not do the conditioning) they send them out of practice meaning, off the gym floor. But often only for a few minutes. I know sometimes boys are sent home but that is rare. Suspensions of more than a day happen but are rare.

    I wish that there were more frequent suspensions of at least a few days. My thinking is that this goes back to the parents, who are paying for gym and should be having higher expectations on behavior. Except for suspensions, the parents are never in any way inconvenienced by their kids behavior. I do not know if the coaches even inform the parents of misbehavior. I am sure they do sometimes, but not all the time. If my kids acted up at gym, my plan is they would not be going back to practice for several days and not before writing a letter of apology. But it has never come up because the problem is never my kids. They can be hellraisers at home, but at gym and school etc. they are always very well behaved.

    What I would love to do is give the parents a piece of my mind, but I guess that would be overstepping and in fact undermining the coaches. It is just so frustrating when your own kids are never any problem!
  8. We have a boy who on team who is 13 and just got kicked out of practice the other day for being mouthy and throwing a cube in anger. I guess the coaches want to nip it in the bud early. :)
    Madden3 likes this.
  9. I am surprised to hear so many parents advocate suspension from thengym as a behavioural consequence. The major key to developing great discipline in any group of kids or teens is mutual respect and care. The gymnasts need to feel like their coaches, like them and care for them and they need to enjoy working with their coaches. Discipline then becomes more meaningful as ultimately the athlete wants to be pleased with them and not to dissapoint them. Even kids who suffer from very complex behavioural issues can and do respond to adults when a positive relationship is developed.

    If you suspend the gymnast a lot of adults feel like the message being sent is "that behaviour is not acceptable here". But more often a child (or especially a teen in their heightened social state) feel like they have been rejected, and the coach does not really want the, there. Upon return they may respond with worse behaviour as a defence mechanism "they don't want me here, so why should I try to do the right thing for them".

    I am not saying a kid should never be kicked out, because sometimes it needs to be done and a big needs to leave the program altogether. But if you want the boys to want to work hard and improve their behaviour I don't think suspension is the answer.

    As it has been well proven in schools, it rarely works.
    Madden3 and OwlGalLiz like this.
  10. So at your gym, athletes are never suspended, for any offense? What happens when this:
    IS the culture the coaches instill, but some of the kids simply do not respond and continue to misbehave? Because that is precisely our situation.
    gymyogimom likes this.
  11. That is right, at our gym athletes are never suspended (but on very very rare occasions are asked to leave). If the kids misbehave they are sat out of practice for a while, but always given the chance to redeem themselves, settle down and join back in.

    The key to great behaviour in your athletes does not come from coming up with the most effective punishment, it comes from creating an environment where working hard and doing well are more exciting than playing up. Just like the key to truly motivating a gymnast is not through fear.

    This is especially the case, if there are a large number of gymnasts misbehaving, lack of discipline is probabaly less the problem than lack of engagement. Most kids are not self motivated.

    Keys are exciting and engaging lessons, where the work are drills are changed up a lot to keep the kids excited. Coaches with a great, positive relationship with their gymnasts. Helping the gymnasts to feel successful in their training, praise, rewards, help them to see how good they are and what great progress they are making. Exciting and achieveble short, mid and long term goals that the kids truly beleive they can achieve. Helping the gymnasts to see the value in what they are doing, ie what awesome result will they get from doing their conditioning well.
    Madden3, John and Jard.the.gymnast like this.
  12. Ok thanks! I am really curious, because it sounds like your gym has found a way to discipline that our coaches might appreciate, because they are not the hard-*** coach type at all. This is a boy's team you are talking about, right?

    Just to be super clear, it is not a large number. I said 5, thinking about a reasonable estimate of the repeat offenders over several years. It is not 5 at every practice or in the practice group at a time. Sorry, that was confusing in my OP and that is my fault. We have a very large MAG team and this is actually a very small percentage of kids who regularly misbehave.

    I believe our coaches create exactly the atmosphere you describe at practice, certainly both of my sons have liked and respected all their coaches, have never feared them, want to work hard for them and do work hard. They always are excited to go to practice, every day, and hate missing practice- even after almost daily gym for so many years! Yet, there are these repeat offenders over many years who are consistently the problem. They cause the kind of atmosphere that drains the positive energy the coaches do all they can to create. I believe that the situation at our gym is primarily a parenting issue, not a coach issue. But maybe there is more the coaches could be doing. But what?

    I am not saying suspension always or even usually fixes the child's behavior. That depends on the child, and a child who has misbehaved to the point they are suspended is clearly showing themselves to be an individual for whom typical discipline has proven ineffective, so whether suspension is going to help THEM is questionable.

    What I think suspension does do is 1) Remove the misbehaving child from practice so the kids and coaches can do what they are there to do without distraction/drain and 2) Alerts the parents of the child in a powerful manner that the kid has severe behavior issues! This is something that the parents need to be dealing with. Certainly they can and should do so in concert with the coach, but it cannot all be left up to the coach.

    So asked to leave the gym? Kicked off the team? And what offense might lead to that happening, and how are warnings before that handled? Thanks.
  13. Hi Madden3, I did get the impression that it was quite a percentage of the boys team, you were speaking of. It is good to hear that in general positive coaching is being practiced.

    One big question for the coaches and parents to ask with these boys, is are the motivated? Do they have solid and realistic goals, do they feel like they can achieve them. Great effort only comes with great inspiration.

    To answer your question about asking kids to leave, we have never, ever had to ask a team kid to leave, we have never had to kick a kid off the team. Generally if they had the sort of problems that were likely to lead to this they would not have been selected for the team in the first place.

    It has only happened with newish rec kids, and only very rarely. Perhaps 5 times in the last 10 years and we have well over 1000 gymnasts, so we are talking about 0.01%. And only a kid that outright refuses to follow any instructions and/or is highly aggressive. I am not saying we put up with any sort of bad behaviour, because we don’t. We rarely have problems that warrant exclusion. In the case where this is likely to happen, we chat with the parents and work together to see if we can find a suction, if no improvement follows we will let them know that if it continues we may need to remove them from the gym. Most of the time if the child does not improve after our efforts to work together with parents, it will be the parents who come to the descision to take them out.
    Madden3 and Jard.the.gymnast like this.
  14. I have seen exactly what you describe with our boys team. They were a menace to the gym for a while there and the other coaches were complaining about the misbehavior. My own boy has been a problem as well. While I believe in positive coaching and athlete engagement, I do have to give my anecdotal experience that, after the one time he was suspended, the misbehavior never reoccurred.
    Now, he is a hard worker and is fully into gymnastics so this was effective in that he didn't want to lose his sport and finally understood that the consequences would be followed through if he misbehaved.
    Other boys who have been suspended have quit as they didn't want to be there and the parents were finally having that shown to them in a tangible way.
    So....suspensions are pretty great, in my opinion, for a team that has behavioral issues. Maybe not for helping every child change, but for helping the team's overall health, which is the aim of the coach.
    Lisbeth and Madden3 like this.
  15. I do believe the problem could be a lack of unchanging and well understood expectations and firm follow through with consequences. I am sure no coach gets pleasure out of suspending an athlete but at some point what else is there? The entire team suffers because of the actions/attitudes of a very few. I have seen the same happen in classrooms.

    It is the lack of respect that really bothers my sons. They are upset when another boy disses a coach.
  16. Just thought I would update the thread. After a year away from the team the owner allowed one of the gymnasts to return to practice last night on a trial base. I hear he asked some of the team leaders and assistant coaches. I only mention this as I find it heartwarming that he is offering her a second chance. She was never able to find a new home gym.
    sce, Popcorn and Madden3 like this.
  17. Thanks for that update. I hope the return works out!
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