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When an athlete has a bad attitude

Discussion in 'Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)' started by Jessica, Jan 27, 2018.

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  1. Hello!
    I am looking for some advice. We are struggling with our son who is 9 and his attitude at the gym. He is there up to 16 hours a week for practice. He is very talented and if he could actually focus he would be even better. Problem is he - lately he has been rude to his coaches. When they ask a question he is short and snippy with his responses. He often talks back with a sassy attitude and for the first time was asked to leave practice because of his attitude. Recently he has not been receiving feedback well and not listening when he is told to do a certain routine. I'm beyond frustrated and we have spoken to him with several different objectives. I am looking for feedback and suggestions. The gym is often understaffed so sometimes he is told to do something but does not have the coach to sit by him to make sure he does it.

    Thanks in advance.
    jenjean70 likes this.
  2. That is tough, there could be so many reasons for the change in attitude. He is pretty young to have to work independently. Altogether, I wonder of it it is too much too soon. 16hours is a lot for 9yo. Have you sat down and talked with him? Asked him how he feels about gymnastics, the hours, the coaches etc? Was he upset about getting sent home early?
    l.c.o likes this.
  3. Also, what level is he? How many boys are in his training group, how old are they?
  4. He is L6 and in the Future Stars program. We did sit him down many times to ask if he wants to do gymnastics. I often feel that 16 hours is way too much but then when we skip a practice for whatever reason he asks why he isn't at practice. There is one coach that he doesn't favor and we try not to go on those nights but sometimes that's hard. All other coaches he gets along with. He is with all levels 5-10, though recently he is grouped with 5-7. He is the only L6 so i think sometimes that is frustrating for him. And the boys range from 8-17. So we are all over the place. He was rather upset on the car ride home after being asked to leave. We were hoping for a little bit of a change but he gave his sassy attitude today - even with a smaller group. I think i should scale back the hours maybe for a while and just let him be a kid and see if he improves in the class. i am so torn.
    John likes this.
  5. If you decide to reduce hours before you actually do it can you explain to him the reason? Tell him the attitude makes you believe something is wrong and because he will not communicate what is bothering him that as his mother it is your job to attempt to help him improve. Ask him to help you by talking about it. Let him know what you are thinking, reducing hours to see if the attitude changes. Tell him he controls his attitude and if the hours get reduced it will be by his choice as it is his choice to retain the negative attitude. Take a tiny piece of solstice in the fact that he actually decided to make the change and not you?

    Not saying this will work for your child, just thinking out loud, hoping to help.
  6. I do agree that it is best to find out why he's having the attitude. Does he understand that being sassy and talking back at practice is disrespectful? Does he understand that the things the coaches ask him to do and correct are to make him better at gymnastics? Is he having a hard time with some of the other boys? That is a big range of ages to be all together. It may just that the hours are too much, but it could be more too.
    Jessica and John like this.
  7. Hi, I am sure this is frustrating for you. I hope this does not sound strange, but I am very glad to hear you are looking for ways to address this problem! Misbehavior and rudeness towards coaches by gymnasts hurts the whole team, and sometimes I get so frustrated with that kind of thing when it keeps happening, I start to think parents of those kids just do not care. Your post has made me realize I am being unfair in that assessment.

    So here are some thoughts:

    Supervision: Can you explain what you mean by "understaffed?" What parts of practice are happening without appropriate supervision? When you say there is no one to sit by your child and make him do something, what exactly is he supposed to be doing at those times?

    I have seen at my sons' practices, that when a group of boys are unsupervised, even for things like warming up and stretching, it leads to discipline issues, at least for kids who are not HS age. So that may be a big part of the problem. My boys' team practices has been at times both understaffed and appropriately staffed and there is a noticeable difference.

    Practice hours: Informal conversations here indicate my sons' gym is on the higher side on practice hours, and at Level 6 they were in the gym 5 days a week 3 hours at a time. So 16 hours a week does not sound outrageous to me. On the other hand, it would be challenging for many kids.

    FS: I have always thought 9 is young for the added stress of FS. I mean I understand why coaches would want a kid this age doing it, I just think that gymnastics is hard enough as it is and a kid this age would have to muster up an ton of enthusiasm to want to do that much extra learning of routines/skills etc. Does the FS training mean more overall practice time?

    Kids POV: What does your child say when he is asked about gym? Sometimes it can be hard to get a kid to open up. Side by side talks can be good for encouraging such kids to speak up, for example, when driving somewhere. Or when parent and child are doing some relatively simple task together, like fishing or doing a jigsaw puzzle. It can be hard to simply ask an open ended question and wait, (sometimes endlessly) for a remotely meaningful response, but often that is what works. I personally find it very hard with my less expressive son to be patient enough to give him space and time to open up instead of launching into a lecture. Very hard. But when I do manage it, my patience is usually rewarded with a better understanding of what is going on.

    Other kids behavior: Is his misbehavior linked to that of another child? Is there another kid with an attitude problem (or maybe is simply bored) who eggs him on, or who he might be trying to impress? We have seen that often kids with discipline issues come in pairs or threes, although of course not always. When one of them is not there, the other one has less attitude.

    Only gym?: How is he doing in other parts of this life? Is he respectful of his teachers and other adults? Is this only a gym problem?

    Health: Is he getting enough sleep and proper nourishment? Always a challenge with gymnastics, in particular the sleep part.

    Maybe it is the length of practice that is the problem? When my older son was this age, I took him our of practice early because it was the only way he got enough sleep. Of course he did not like doing this, but I have no regrets. Life is hard enough without having to deal with a growing boy who is not getting enough sleep.

    Media: What kind of media is he exposed to? There is too much encouragement for kids to disrespect adults and authority in much of the media aimed at this age.
    duyetanh, jenjean70, NY Dad and 5 others like this.
  8. At that age, I would also wonder if the attitude is being modeled for him by older boys. I've seen this occasionally where a bad dynamic evolves in a workout group but the ringleaders of the disrespectful talk about the coaches are not the ones getting caught openly being disrespectful and getting into trouble. Everything that Madden said, but I'd also encourage him to think more about his direct relationship with his coaches, regardless of what may or may not be going on with other boys.
    jenjean70, PinPin and sce like this.
  9. My son's coach asked a while back to meet with him, me, and the coach to discuss my son's attitude. It turned out he was afraid of a skill and that's why he was refusing to do the routine or practice that skill. The coach has a very "my way of the highway" attitude usually, but hearing my son's feelings really changed things and they worked out a solution.

    My son has also been sent home for misbehavior. I have a chronically misbehaving child despite many parenting books and heaps of love and boundaries and all the things that are recommended. Some kids are just not naturally compliant. This has been hard to come to terms with!

    Would a meeting with his main coach and yourself be possible? It can be very hard to work things out during training. Maybe hearing each other would start a change?

    Either way, I hear you and I wish you the best. If you find a way to turn him into that kid who is just good as gold all the time, please share!! Then we can write a parenting book that actually works :D
  10. My son is 9 and while he generally would never go so far as to act out with an authority figure around, he does show some of this behavior with me. I find that it's generally related to a few things:

    *Feeling unloved (We have major sibling rivalry and my son often feels like dad loves his sister more and that there's unfair treatment.)
    *Feeling put-down (His old gym was bad about this and I saw an almost immediate change once we switched gyms.)
    *Feeling anxious (About anything.)
    *Not sleeping well
    *Trying out behaviors to see the reaction. This one's rough. It can be anything from "Will I get the same laughs that the other kids get when they do this?" to "Mom's ignoring me, but if I am naughty, she'll see me." to "Will you still love me when I'm at my worst?"

    Sometimes what's really hard is that the negative feeling that causes the bad behavior comes from one area of life but the acting out happens somewhere else. For instance, perhaps something bad is going on at school, and then he acts out at gymnastics. Perhaps gym is a "safe space" for him, so he doesn't feel bad about doing this. Perhaps he's jealous of the time that other kids at school get to have while he's stuck in the gym all the time...and thinks that if he acts up, he'll get kicked out of the FS program if not gym altogether. When my son was having a hard time at his old gym, he'd take it out on his sister.

    What I have noticed is that when I take action to fix the problem (often whatever I think the problem might be because a 9yo boy might not even articulate what's going on), my son is always grateful and relieved.

    Perhaps unrelated, but ....I have this totally unfounded theory that kids who are really good at sports may have a hidden learning disability -- even if they're great or average students. Check out the idea of "stealth dyslexia" (but it doesn't necessarily have to be dyslexia). Our pediatrician told us that she had a patient who had an IQ in the 140s and was getting straight As, but had anxiety through the roof. Turned out he had a hidden learning disability and had so much stress from how hard he was working to overcome it.
    I mention this because 9 years old is the time when a kid who's had the intelligence to cover up the disability might start to sink as the academic demands increase in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.
    We're about to go through some neuropsych testing for my son.
  11. So much about this post strikes home with me. My son is also 9 and L6. He lives for gym, but has had a hard time this year for various reasons.

    First we got a new coach, and he had loved the previous coach - so although he likes the new coach fine and concedes he's a very good and knowledgeable coach, he still misses the old one.

    It is also the first level at our gym where they practice with the big guys - it's L6-10, all together. My son is one who readily mimics behavior he sees on TV, for example, so when he sees the 16-year-olds acting a certain way, he thinks it's appropriate for a 9-year-old. Because it's the bigger group, there's also less one-on-one time. (I'm not complaining about the coaching, the coaches are still on top of things - it's just that the boys are expected to work on things on their own a bit more.) The training also goes later, until what is actually his bedtime on other nights. I don't think his main issue is sleep, though, because he has never been a big sleeper.

    We had a really tight L5 group, but many left - and now our L6 group is half "old guys" and half "new guys." But because they are training longer hours now, the parents don't get to know each other (aren't waiting at the gym during practice, for example) and the boys don't get to hang out outside of the gym like they got to do occasionally last year. (We parents are right now actually trying to make some changes there.)

    My son also has issues with impulse control (at gym and everywhere else) so if someone annoys him in the slightest, he thinks it's OK to let his feelings fly and escalate it and act like Mr. Big Shot Teenager I'm So Cool - and he's none of the above. We're also working on those unacceptable behaviors. You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you do have to treat them with respect and be a good teammate.

    And, there's also the simple fact that L6 seems exponentially harder than L5. All the boys are having a tough time to varying degrees, and for someone like my son and I'm guessing for yours as well (if he's doing FS, I think it's safe to assume he's talented), that's kind of a system shock. Whereas last year, working really hard on a skill for x number of hours meant you'd probably get it, this year it seems to be that all the skills require 5x those hours or more!

    Someone told me that this is actually pretty typical of boys this age. I have no clue, and I guess it doesn't matter what's typical, as I'm not dealing with every kid, just mine. I don't know if any of my blathering is helpful to you, but I did want to say that at a minimum, you aren't alone!
    trampolinemom likes this.
  12. I am linking an article that contains ideas and explanations for behavioral changes at this age that I personally found very comforting and helpful when each of my sons were around nine. Please take whatever you like from it (if anything) and leave the rest. I realize that the philosophical origin of these ideas is not going to mean anything to most people, but I have found there is no need to subscribe to everything in a philosophy to receive value from some of it. I have yet to find a better explanation for the changes that so many children go through around age 9. http://www.waldorfinthehome.org/2012/02/parenting_the_nine_year_old_1.html

    Also I know at our gym the HC has changed practice group configuration several times over the years in order to find the right "mix"- this changes as boys come and go or go up a level or stay at a level, etc. In MAG especially where the teams tend to be small so multiple ages/Levels practice together I imagine it can be very difficult.
    M2Abi likes this.
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