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For Parents What's after gymnastics?

Parker Toliver

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Good afternoon,
I was recently in a short discussion with a doctor and an athlete. This athlete was very young and already having to give up the sport they had dedicated so much time and money into. Career ending injuries don't surprise me however, what came after was the athlete had no other dreams or asperations other than that one single sport...
As a former coach turned doctor I am very troubled by this.
At the end of the day what is Gymnastics to your family and child?
Why do you him or her in gymnastics?
Are you helping them plan for what is after?
At what point are parents prepared for the depression that can fallows after an injury or the inability to carry on the sport in college etc...?

Please post some of the concerns you may have already dealt with and/or how you are currently handling it.
I no longer coach but I am a doctor who treats athlete and would like to know.
 
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raenndrops

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Gymnastics is just an activity that my girls enjoy / enjoyed. Neither OG or YG have any plans for gymnastics after high school.

OG actually "retired" several times, and made 2 legit come-backs and 3 attempted comebacks. She tried other sports as a kid (softball, baseball, soccer, cheerleading, and basketball) but through all of that, she was still doing gymnastics. In 8th grade, she decided to give volleyball a try. She was on the volleyball team for 3 years. She also took up track in 8th grade and participated through 11th grade. She would have been on the track team her senior year, but ... COVID. She is now in college, majoring in nursing (and minoring in Health / Nutrition), with the ultimate goal to be a Certified Nurse Practitioner.

YG also tried soccer, basketball, and cheerleading as a kid, but sees herself as a gymnast. She is in 10th grade this year. She isn't interested in school sports. She isn't really interested in COMPETING in gymnastics either this year. Last year, she was supposed to only compete in 2 meets before Championships, but her stepmom insisted that she compete all the meets that her little step-sis and their friend competed in. Her goal was to qualify for Y Nationals and then spend the rest of the regular season getting her skills more solid so she could actually do well at Nationals ... AND rehabbing her ankle that she had sprained early in 2019 ... and only went to 1 PT appointment for. No Nationals last season. Out of the gym for several months.
She wants to work on her skills this season without the pressure to compete that way she can focus on getting the skills and strengthening her ankle. Not competing will also mean that she can miss practice to catch up on school work or study as needed without feeling guilty.
 
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Muddlethru

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That one single sport likely takes up more time to train than 2-3 sports combined. The number of skills required in each apparatus, and there are 4 for women and 6 for men, is many times more than several sports combined. You have to keep learning new skills to move up to the next level; unlike in other sports where you just try to keep improving on the same skills. I am not undermining any sport as ALL sports have their own level of difficulty. But you have to be “in” gymnastics to understand the level of commitment, blood, sweat and tears these gymnasts go through.

”Plan for what is after?” Not sure what you are asking here. I imagine gymnasts and their parents are no different than other athletes who plan for their future after they play their respective sport.

Why does it trouble you that the gymnast has no interest in doing another sport? How old is the gymnast? How far has she gone in her gymnastics career? Her not wanting to do another sport may have nothing to do with gymnastics.
 
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Tmacs

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Feb 19, 2019
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If the gymnast was just told, "you can't do gym anymore," I think it's totally normal for her to fixate on that being her only interest... it's part of the grieving and mourning process. I'm sure she has other interests but it's going to be hard for her to see anything else besides what she can't do. As a young person, she needs a few months to process and mourn. And then she'll slowly be open to see the variety of activities gym has prepared her to do...swim, golf, track are just a few where gymnasts excel. Heck, when I was 38 my knee doctor said a couldn't run anymore and I wept like a baby (and I was a mediocre masters runner/triathlete). I needed time to process so I can only imagine a kid with great dreams that are ended at a young age will need WAY more time to get over it.

As a parent of a young gymnast, I'm constantly trying to incorporate other things into her life even though gym consumes a lot of it. She enjoys fitness challenges and working on her flexibility outside of gym so I think that will translate into a lifelong pursuit of being fit. Gymnastics has definitely given her so much already.. at age 10. She has a super supportive friend group; she has learned to stick with things even through struggles; she has learned the feeling of great success as well as disappointment. All of those are super great life lessons that I think gymnastics teaches even more than other sports because it is so intense.
She also loves academics and has lots of friends. So, as long as she is spending much of her time thinking about things non-gym related, I'm not too worried. If it becomes her identity, I would worry. Many high caliber athletes (ie. Michael Phelps) go into serious depression when they retire or leave the sport so in a way, if a child/teen can learn at an earlier age to see himself/herself outside of sport, than they are setting themselves up for a much happier, healthier life. I have very few plans for my daughter and her gym career (other than stay safe and happy)... I constantly tell her to do it until she doesn't enjoy it anymore. I often mention other sports/activities she may want to go into in MS or HS... dance, swim, track. I think seeing herself as a future athlete in another sport will help if she does make the transition.
 

onefineday

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This worries me all the time. The kids start so young and give up everything for this sport that it becomes their identity. I see so many positives from her doing it, but overall I think the sport itself is unhealthy - the time commitment, the pressure, the tough coaching, the stress on her body. It feels hard to jump off the crazy train (both for her and us as parents) but we've tried hard to set other goals, do other activities, make other friends, and talk about gymnastics like it's not a career goal but rather fun along on the way of normal life. I often wonder why so many parents give up so much for this sport when really so few athletes "make it."
 

Stranger.maci

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This worries me all the time. The kids start so young and give up everything for this sport that it becomes their identity. I see so many positives from her doing it, but overall I think the sport itself is unhealthy - the time commitment, the pressure, the tough coaching, the stress on her body. It feels hard to jump off the crazy train (both for her and us as parents) but we've tried hard to set other goals, do other activities, make other friends, and talk about gymnastics like it's not a career goal but rather fun along on the way of normal life. I often wonder why so many parents give up so much for this sport when really so few athletes "make it."
It must have been meant for me to see this reply this morning. I could have written this. I have the exact same feelings about this sport.
 

Tulip811

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It must have been meant for me to see this reply this morning. I could have written this. I have the exact same feelings about this sport.
This worries me all the time. The kids start so young and give up everything for this sport that it becomes their identity. I see so many positives from her doing it, but overall I think the sport itself is unhealthy - the time commitment, the pressure, the tough coaching, the stress on her body. It feels hard to jump off the crazy train (both for her and us as parents) but we've tried hard to set other goals, do other activities, make other friends, and talk about gymnastics like it's not a career goal but rather fun along on the way of normal life. I often wonder why so many parents give up so much for this sport when really so few athletes "make it."

I completely agree with you both. when DD was 7 I chose (I say "I" because she was too young at the time to make the decision herself) xcel for her instead of JO. I felt that Xcel offered all the benefits and little of the negatives of competitive gymnastics. But over the years they have migrated from 4hrs/week to 6 hrs/wk to 9hrs/wk to 12hrs/wk. Last year Bronze and silver were at 9hrs per week (including 3 weekday school nights) and Platinum/Diamond at 12hrs. It was clear the intent of the Xcel program was lost on our gym leaders. With parent feedback they dialed it back this year with Bronze at 6hrs and all others at 9hrs but only two school nights and one weekend practice. The two school night schedule allows (pre COVID) DD to participate in her school cross country, yearbook, volleyball, student council activities etc. Its really a great program if the intent of it is honored by the gym.
 

3cats

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My daughter was ready to retire from gymnastics last year. And she transitioned smoothly to golf and T&T. As well as a regular full day at school with band and after-school clubs. She even made the school cheer team for this year, kind of a moot point with covid and all but still fun.

My husband and I always knew she had it in her to take gymnastics the whole way to college. But we also knew that statistically speaking the odds were that she would tire of the sport or God forbid be too injured to continue.

So we played those cards and kept my daughter in multiple activities throughout her gymnastics training. Especially during the summer, when she had more time on her hands we enrolled her lots of camps that expanded her life experiences and showed her what other things are out there to enjoy. Art and photography, rock climbing, outdoor survivalist, fencing, biking were all summer camps that my daughter participated in throughout her youth.

We had her do swimming and diving lessons for years too. Turns out she actually hates that, lol. But she wouldn't know it if she hadn't tried. :)

We take family vacations when we wanted. And took time off of gym when she needed it.

I think it made her a well rounded girl who realized that life doesn't stop when gymnastics does.

But I certainly don't believe that every child is that way. Especially when their gymnastics career is prematurely ended due to an injury or some other circumstance out of their control. I know that my daughter was not ready to leave the sport even 6 months before she made that decision and would have been devastated as she struggled to define a purpose.

And there are children out there who are so engaged and invested in a sport that no matter what they will always feel that there is very little they want to do outside of their favorite activity.

So to each their own here. As parents we definitely should encourage our kids to expand their interests. But for some kids that will never sink in as they already found their passion.

For this girl you are talking about I'd guess in time she will find something new. She may need to talk with a counselor to help her transition or it may happen naturally as she goes through the mourning process. She may also stay connected to the gymnastics community in other ways such as coaching or judging or just being an amazing teammate who cheers in her friends from the stands. She'll be ok in time!
 

Stranger.maci

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I completely agree with you both. when DD was 7 I chose (I say "I" because she was too young at the time to make the decision herself) xcel for her instead of JO. I felt that Xcel offered all the benefits and little of the negatives of competitive gymnastics. But over the years they have migrated from 4hrs/week to 6 hrs/wk to 9hrs/wk to 12hrs/wk. Last year Bronze and silver were at 9hrs per week (including 3 weekday school nights) and Platinum/Diamond at 12hrs. It was clear the intent of the Xcel program was lost on our gym leaders. With parent feedback they dialed it back this year with Bronze at 6hrs and all others at 9hrs but only two school nights and one weekend practice. The two school night schedule allows (pre COVID) DD to participate in her school cross country, yearbook, volleyball, student council activities etc. Its really a great program if the intent of it is honored by the gym.
[/QUO
I know my DD loves the sport but lately I have been worried about her and the extreme highs and lows she's been experiencing and how a majority of her identity is tied up in gymnastics. She is only 10 and practices 18.5 hours a week. She is so much more than gymastics but I fear she doesn't see that. Lastnight she cried to me, told me her coach picks on her and gives her way more corrections than everyone else. Then sobbing she begged me to tell her if she was a good gymnast or not. Broke my heart. Just 2 days ago she was on cloud 9 cause he gave her a few compliments. Its just tough and yes feels like a crazy train we can't escape sometimes.
 

ldw4mlo

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My daughter has many interests. Always has. She is in gymnastics because she enjoys it and loves her teammates. It is not her "life" She also enjoys, Broadway, lacrosse, track and lately painting.

And if the Covid stuff gets under control. We will be spending time scuba diving together.

After gymnastics will be HS sports, lacrosse and track likely. After HS she will explore whatever interests her in college.

She has never really been interested in sports for college. It strikes her as a job and really doesn't see sports as a job, especially gymnastics.

Not worried at all about what comes after gymnastics.
 

bookworm

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I often wonder why so many parents give up so much for this sport when really so few athletes "make it."

I guess with this type of thinking , why would you enroll your kid in anything....music, sports etc because very few "make it" which I presume you mean , gymnastically, getting to the Olympics so you're right on that , now 4 every 4 years depending on the Pandemic. But I think many of us give up a lot for this sport because it gave our kids so many other things....competing and belonging to a team , time management skills, travelling to different locales for meets , they met some great friends and coaches (and some not so great ones that showed them the other side) so I guess we went into it never thinking there'd be a big payoff. They were decent gymnasts, enjoyed the sport and it also kept them busy.

As for life after gymnastics, to the OP, don't despair....when faced with an abrupt end to her gymnastics due to totally blowing out her knee, my daughter had been a gymnast for 13 years and she was headed to do D1 gym on a full ride but she knew her time had come so she relinquished her scholarship and was done ....was it sad? Hell, yeah but it allowed her to hang out with friends, go to football games and dances at school in her senior year and she even had time to just relax. She even took up diving once she got to college and did well with that but funny thing, her summer job was coaching kids gymnastics classes.

I think like another poster said if the original athlete in the OP's post just found out its over, it's not out of line to see the kid go through the stages of grief until she gets to acceptance and is ready to move on ...and she will, with time.
 

cp13

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Not all girls go into the sport and reach optionals and train 20 hours per week. My daughter started competing around age 9 and trained about 12 hours per week. This still gave her time to do other things. She had school friends and gym friends. She reached optionals around age 12 and she didn't want the increased hours and intensity and she moved to Xcel which kept her training time at 12 hours a week and freed up her weekend time. It is a very serious, time consuming sport for kids who reach the higher levels but a lot of girls never participate at that level or only do it for a short time. I never put her in gymnastics so that she could compete in college. I put her in it for the journey. She loves the sport and has learned a lot of life lessons from it and has formed a lot of close friendships over the years plus lots of fun memories of travelling to meets, etc. My daughter also has been on a summer dive team. She will probably transition to high school diving after gymnastics.
 
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gymgal

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Thinking back at my dd and her teammates/friends, I think it is common for high level gymnasts to have very few other interests. They tend to be single/laser focused. Training takes up so much of their time/energy, but also, they often don't want to risk injuries by trying other sports/past times. Imagine working all year to perfect your routines and then a sprained ankle from a fall at the ice rink takes you out of competition season?

When my dd was younger she used to comment that she didn't know what she would do if she had to give up gymnastics - it was her life. She never wanted to play another sport (she experimented before choosing gym solely) or dedicate a lot of time into the arts (though she took classes here/there). She had a serious injury at 15, where for several weeks we seriously questioned whether she would be able to come back. It was a really tough time because gymnastics was her world. Looking back, I feel she would have transitioned to be being a retired gymnast and become involved in other interests but it would not have been easy for her. She is a college gymnast now and the end of competitive gymnastics is inevitable - three more years and that's all, hopefully on her terms. This makes a world of difference in the transition process. She has opened her world to more past times, namely arts/crafts. She also likes weightlifting (something she never did as a teen gymnast but is a part of college gym) and has shown interest in watching (not playing) other sports. I guess my point is that now that she sees the end point and it is on her terms, she is beginning to explore more interests. I think that makes all the difference.

As to how gymnastics is different from other sports, I am not sure that it is when you are comparing apples to apples. Take a high level pitcher who has been playing year round travel ball since he was 6yrs old and suffers a career ending wrist injury at 13/14 yrs old. He is going to struggle just as much as a gymnast who is forced to retired. Of course, the difference is that the pitcher would be able transition his skills to another sport more easily than a gymnast might.
 
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gymjunkie

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I don't think it's necessary. It's a good life skill for THEM to figure that out when the time comes. I was devastated when I had to quit prematurely and it was something I had to mourn on my own. I did other sports and found things I liked, but nothing compared to the high I got from doing gymnastics. For me I discovered a similar high from coaching (something my parents never would have guessed or encouraged), but gymnastics is not my only passion in life. My parents had nothing to do with helping me find gymnastics in the first place or in helping me find my other passions. My older kids all found life after gymnastics and my youngest (L10 with NCAA aspirations) has found other passions that she does not have time to pursue with her training, but she knows she will have time to pursue them when her training ends. I had nothing to do with her finding those other passions, they came from her reading or seeing something fun/interesting on-line or in a movie.

The depression topic is important. As a coach and mom I have seen kids go through depression over an injury as young as 8. It's something that needs to be addressed, but you would have to address it as a parent of a non-gymnast as well. The worst depression any of my kids ever suffered was when a pet died, so to me this is a parenting issue, not a gymnastics issue.
 

alattejavatoo

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I was “that gymnast”. I was awarded a DI scholarship but was told by multiple doctors not to continue if I wanted to walk upright after 40. I cried myself to sleep for six months because I couldn’t do my favorite thing in the world. Then I was scared because I didn’t know who I was without gymnastics. I went to an in state university and found that not doing college gym opened up different exciting doors for me! Hang gliding, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, beat NT and editor on the school newspaper, becoming an undergraduate TA...I was a kid in the candy store!

I tell young gymnasts and their parents to make sure they have interests outside gymnastics so the transition will (hopefully) be less difficult for them. Looking back now, it worked out well for me and I would tell my younger self that although my life life took me down a different after the “forced” retirement, it was an amazing journey.
 

mom2newgymnast

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I think we have been fortunate. My daughter definitely self identifies as a gymnast and she would (and has) said that she doesn't know what she would do without gymnastics. However, she really has a healthy relationship with gymnastics and it's place in her life. She has interests and friends outside of the gym. She is not obsessed. When she was injured and missed almost her entire season last year, she was disappointed but not devastated. She still showed up to practice and worked very hard to recover, but she didn't cry or complain about it. It was what it was. She is a very hard worker and, I think, has been a successful gymnast. I know things can change at any moment, but she is on the college path and wants very much to compete in college. She's 12, level 9 and in 7th grade and, barring injury or mental block is on track for level 10 next year. She's already had a huge growth spurt and is very much in puberty and it hasn't really affected her gymnastics negatively. But I sense that, for her, gymnastics is not her life. I honestly think she would be okay if she wasn't able to continue because of injury or some other unforeseen circumstance. She is very well rounded and I think she will be successful regardless of how her gymnastics "career" turns out. I think it helps that she does not practice huge hours (she goes 20 hours a week - 4 days x 5 hours) and is still in regular school. I am grateful that her gym has a sane approach to training and allows them to have a life outside of the gym.
 
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Parker Toliver

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Gymnastics is just an activity that my girls enjoy / enjoyed. Neither OG or YG have any plans for gymnastics after high school.

OG actually "retired" several times, and made 2 legit come-backs and 3 attempted comebacks. She tried other sports as a kid (softball, baseball, soccer, cheerleading, and basketball) but through all of that, she was still doing gymnastics. In 8th grade, she decided to give volleyball a try. She was on the volleyball team for 3 years. She also took up track in 8th grade and participated through 11th grade. She would have been on the track team her senior year, but ... COVID. She is now in college, majoring in nursing (and minoring in Health / Nutrition), with the ultimate goal to be a Certified Nurse Practitioner.

YG also tried soccer, basketball, and cheerleading as a kid, but sees herself as a gymnast. She is in 10th grade this year. She isn't interested in school sports. She isn't really interested in COMPETING in gymnastics either this year. Last year, she was supposed to only compete in 2 meets before Championships, but her stepmom insisted that she compete all the meets that her little step-sis and their friend competed in. Her goal was to qualify for Y Nationals and then spend the rest of the regular season getting her skills more solid so she could actually do well at Nationals ... AND rehabbing her ankle that she had sprained early in 2019 ... and only went to 1 PT appointment for. No Nationals last season. Out of the gym for several months.
She wants to work on her skills this season without the pressure to compete that way she can focus on getting the skills and strengthening her ankle. Not competing will also mean that she can miss practice to catch up on school work or study as needed without feeling guilty.
Wow thank you for commenting here! On the subject of nurse practitioner that is fantastic! We Chiropractors love nurse practitioners. They really help bring the world of medicine and health together. Best of luck to everyone! If yall ever have any questions on the matter, contact me I know a few doctors here in Texas with Nurse Practitioners in their office doing amazing things for patients.
 
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Parker Toliver

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Jan 18, 2015
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USA
That one single sport likely takes up more time to train than 2-3 sports combined. The number of skills required in each apparatus, and there are 4 for women and 6 for men, is many times more than several sports combined. You have to keep learning new skills to move up to the next level; unlike in other sports where you just try to keep improving on the same skills. I am not undermining any sport as ALL sports have their own level of difficulty. But you have to be “in” gymnastics to understand the level of commitment, blood, sweat and tears these gymnasts go through.

”Plan for what is after?” Not sure what you are asking here. I imagine gymnasts and their parents are no different than other athletes who plan for their future after they play their respective sport.

Why does it trouble you that the gymnast has no interest in doing another sport? How old is the gymnast? How far has she gone in her gymnastics career? Her not wanting to do another sport may have nothing to do with gymnastics.
Maybe I didn't explain myself properly. The worry is she was high level working for College slash Olympics. Now that is over. She was relying on gymnastics to get her to the College desired but now that's not happening and supposedly didn't have any potential fallbacks. My worry is not for other sports necessarily but more on the mental break into other desires in life career outside a sport.
I have no problem with an athlete only wanting one sport and one sport only, that was me, however, I had fall backs to get me through the let down of what felt like a failed gymnastic career that just barely began.

One example: is a prior gymnast of mine. We got him going big but then I quit coaching went to school and due to coaching issue he quit but he had always loved watching hockey... now he is doing phenomenally as a goalie in his league thanks in-part to his past gymnastics success. He is now looking for College locations to play for that also has degrees he is interested in even if hockey doesn't carry over he has education. So hopefully this is a good example of what could be after a gymnastics.
 

Parker Toliver

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Former Gymnast
Jan 18, 2015
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USA
This worries me all the time. The kids start so young and give up everything for this sport that it becomes their identity. I see so many positives from her doing it, but overall I think the sport itself is unhealthy - the time commitment, the pressure, the tough coaching, the stress on her body. It feels hard to jump off the crazy train (both for her and us as parents) but we've tried hard to set other goals, do other activities, make other friends, and talk about gymnastics like it's not a career goal but rather fun along on the way of normal life. I often wonder why so many parents give up so much for this sport when really so few athletes "make it."
I get you! To me gymnastics is a drug. It is addictive. Both as an athlete and Coach. Now as a parent of 2 I worry terribly about my kids wanting to do the sport. My daughter is so much like me and you can see the gymnast in her. Fortunately we found a family oriented Jiu Jitsu gym that only cares about fun and hard work with no care in the world for competing only if they ask and make the choice themselves. But I hope at least if and when the day comes we find a gym with the same mentality.