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For Parents Why are you still in gymnastics?

Gymsanity

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Sep 4, 2011
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Please don't flame me as this is not a troll thread, I'm genuinely interested. Over the years I've noticed a huge amount of threads here pertain to all the short comings of every aspect of gymnastics. The physical, mental, emotional abuse, horrible coaches, mean people, the sanctioning bodies, judges, training conditions, costs, etc, etc. just to name a few.
Here is my experience. My son was 7 or 8 years old and I enrolled him into martial arts, seemed like a good idea. At the end of class the kids are paired up with each other and spar for the remaining time. My son was paired with a boy who was bigger and far more experienced than he was and you can guess the outcome. As a parent I was horrified to see my son beat like a pinata, so I talked to the coach after class and explained my concerns. The following week for sparing my son was paired up with a very small child who looked to be maybe 5 or 6. That went about as well as you would expect, as my son now beat the heck out of that poor kid! I felt absolutely horrible afterwards. I then had to evaluate whether this was a sport for him and me, and I quickly decided it wasn't. I didn't try and change the coach, the sport or anything else, it simply wasn't for us. We then pursued several other sports until we found one that was a 'fit' for us.
So my confusion comes from if you feel as strongly against gymnastics as many here seem to, why not just find a sport you and your children enjoy? As most of us know, childhood goes by really quickly, so why waste it 'tilting at windmills' when you could be doing something that you truly enjoy? I feel every child deserves a happy childhood and if gymnastics isn't the road to that then find what is. Thanks.
 
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GymDadWA

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Like most online product reviews, you are mostly going to see parents post about the bad experiences with the occasional five star review mixed in.

Most kids that do well in gymnastics you will never hear about. The athlete (and families) like/love the sport, love their teammates, don't get major injuries, and have great life experiences. As you go towards the spectrum (good and bad) is when you will start to hear more about the challenges they are facing or asking for advice on how to deal with their situations.
 

M2Abi

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I am very happy with where my daughter is currently. She loves her coaches, the gym owners, her teammates, etc. If I thought my daughter was in an abusive environment, I would absolutely leave the gym, and possibly the sport.
 

Ppgmom

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My daughter is isn't willing to quit. It would create another set of issues if I forced her to. It has to be her choice.

She is at a great place now so I don't have to worry abusive coaching or toxicity in general at this point. Coaching is great where she is now and she has made a ton of progress in a really short period of time.

I guess I have continued to allow it hoping she will have at least one season that could be described as a heathy positive experience.
 

Flippin'A

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This sport gets in your bones. I was a gymnast who had a pretty rough experience. But even on my worst day I still loved the sport itself. I just didn't like some of the people in it. My daughter also loves this sport. More than I expected her to when she first started. Honestly I didn't think she'd take to it very well, but here we still are and even though I consider on an almost daily basis whether I'm a bad mom for keeping her in it when I've seen the worst side of what it can be, she is excited to go to practice. I also think that means I need to take reform in the sport seriously. I have to work to better the culture of this beautiful, challenging, frustrating, magical sport that I love for my daughter and all the little gymnasts down the road. Otherwise, yeah, it would definitely be easier to just jump ship and let the dumpster fire burn.
 

kendo348

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Every sport has its bad side. And yes it is most often the extremes that get voiced and the issues needing change that merit discussion.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the sport itself; there are examples of healthy and happy training out there. What needs to change are some of the prevailing practices and attitudes surrounding the way gymnastics is usually approached. That isn’t going to happen if all the wise people just walk away... change happens when people who love something feel invested in it and act accordingly - they demand better and keep believing that it can change, until it does.
 

mom2newgymnast

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Well I don't post too many complaining posts (at least I don't think I do), but my daughter is still in the sport because she loves it and she is good at it and she wants to go as far as she can in it. We've had a good experience overall over the years. Perfect? No, definitely not. But overall, a good experience. Unfortunately, some gymnast and their families have not had as good an experience as we have had, but they also still love the sport. I think complaints about abuse, bad coaches, etc are very valid and I do not at all agree with any implication that parents and kids should just leave gymnastics if they don't like being abused or mistreated. It's not the kids that need to walk away or find a different sport, it's the culture that needs to change.

However, I do agree that gymnastics may not be the sport for everyone. I also have told my daughter that if gymnastics is ever not fun anymore or if it becomes something that she doesn't want to do, to let me know. If we can't address the issue or if she just doesn't love it anymore, than she would be done. Personally, I agree that childhood is too short and gymnastics too demanding to do if you don't absolutely love it.
 

Eleven sol

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As others have said, it’s not the sport itself, it is certain people within it. My daughter has been in a less competitive program (Xcel) and has generally had a good experience because the focus is having fun, working hard, getting all the skills you can in 6-9 hours per week. Hard stop. And when it hasn’t been good, I’ve said something about it. I think one difference is that my daughter wasn’t on an elite track, and so I had zero worries about any complaints backfiring on us. Despite my daughter having a good experience, I still have lots of anger about elite athletes, her role models, being afraid and abused. There needs to be more oversight, possibly undercover visitors checking like they do for restaurants.

I don’t think the answer is to just walk away from the sport; the answer is to reform it.
 

momofsushi

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My daughter just love it, never have enough. When I enrolled her at 5 it was just to keep her busy and let her have some challenges. We chose gymnastic because the club is 5 min from ouf house. She is a shy kid and it gave her a lot of confidence.
 

Cheryl

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For me, it’s that my child has never asked to quit. There are some rules regarding age groups I would change but not the structure of the sport. The people who have the most problems seem to be parents who have really emotionally invested in their kids being the best. One of my keys has been to just consider it a sport that my kid enjoys. He has already said he doesn’t want to do this in college.

as for boys, we have 6 events and there is usually a place for them to shine. Nobody gets benched, everybody plays, which is different from most sports once you get to the select/travel league. It’s also a great bonding experience... spending 20 hours a week with the same people once you turn 10 really develops social skills and bonding.
The sport itself gives a lot of life skills development... practice makes perfect, set goals, keep trying. It’s very intense at times for competition, but you get over it and move on. Whatever you do is on you, not your coach or teammates.

my son started out with 12 others in Level 4. He’s the only one left. It’s a long slog, but in the end I think it’s helped him a great deal.
 

Aussie_coach

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We can be strongly against the practices being used in many gymnastics clubs and with many coaches, but not find that experience ourselves.

As a gymnast I never saw any form of abuse in my own gym. But heard of it in the wider sport.

Gymnastics provided me with so many positives strength, flexibility, balance, posture, coordination, agility, courage, focus, structure, wonderful teammates who were such close friends, wonderful coaches and mentors.
 

raenndrops

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Actually, each of my girls has walked away from gymnastics, but never because of coaches, abuse, or USAG. It was ALWAYS family drama.

OG made 2 comebacks and was trying to work on a 3rd comeback, but it wasn't meant to be.

YG was forced to quit ... and then got to come back after a season off. She has stayed with team because she misses it when it isn't there. This season, she is kinda hoping they don't have much of a competition season because she wants to focus on training and learning to coach. If there is a season, she is going to be selective about which meets she is going to compete (right now, she is thinking home meets and Championships and Nationals if they actually have it). She wants to compete through her senior year. This is the only sport she has ever loved.

Their Little Step Sis (LSS) quit before she even got to compete - the year YG was forced to quit ... then came back when both OG and YG came back the next season. She competed for one year and then took a year off. Then she came back and competed again. This will be her 3rd season in a row of competing.
 

MILgymFAM

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For us, my daughter’s love was for the sport. Not for the coaches or any particular gym or any competition or governing body. She just unabashedly loves doing gymnastics. That said, she has walked away from the sport once, when there didn’t appear to be healthy options for her. She went back as soon as those options changed. She has chosen other things over gym for a time, but she always ends up back in gym. Even with covid, she finally broke down and said she needs to go back, so she found a new gym in our new state and signed up to try two months today- she’s been working out at home since February. In the example you mentioned with martial arts, maybe it just wasn’t for your kid.. or maybe it was but you didn’t want to advocate for a fair pairing. I honestly have no idea, but I do know that sometimes change needs to happen and it won’t happen if everyone walks away rather than trying to enact it.
 

cogymmom2dd

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For us, we have not experienced any of the horrible stories of abuse, injuries, experiences, etc.
Our experience is actually the exact opposite.
We are from a small gym that is surrounded by 2 ‘elite’ gyms that produce nationally qualifying, college scholarship winning athletes within a 20 mile radius. I have heard horror stories from these other gyms (personally from a family member and 2 neighbors with girls who have competed for them and since have either left the sport or the gyms) and it still did not detract us from doing gymnastics, we just knew which gyms to avoid.
Our gym leaders are all females who empower the girls, not bring them down. Our goal was never to have any of our daughters reach elite levels, we just want them to have a solid base to grow from should they want to do any other sports down the road and to and to have fun while doing it. They have formed unique friendships with girls that they otherwise would probably not have ever known and my husband and I have made friends with their parents. Some of their best friends are their gym friends, not necessarily their school friends and I am glad they can have a mixture of both for a little bit of diversity.
I will say that DD1 has been doing gymnastics for 6 seasons, starting at level 2 and will be doing Level 7 this upcoming season. We have avoided injuries thus far because I feel like her coaches know what they are doing and don’t over work her. Her practice hours are right where they need to be and our gym doesn’t really push anything extra like open gyms or privates- and she is still a successful gymnast.
 

ldw4mlo

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My kid has never had abusive coaches. No bad training environments. We have changed gyms once. There was no problem with the first gym they just wanted her to do more hours. We didn't. Found a gym with hours that worked for us. She has had a 3 injuries, could of happened anywhere doing other things. Her coaches aren't perfect but they are well trained, care about the kids and provide them with strong physical foundations and teach them to value hard work that translates to other sports not just gymnastics. They are training girls to become strong women.

She is nearing 15. So over a decade doing gym. Is amazingly strong. An excellent all around athlete due to her gymnastics training. Has a great work ethic. Excellent time management skills. A great core group of friends. And she likes it. Its as simple as that she likes gymnastics. She never expressed an interest in anything else. Many things have been offered over the years. Many things tried. Until recently, when she was going to do both gymnastics and lacrosse/possibly track, unfortunately Covid happened.............

If we had had miserable situations I would of pulled her in a NY minute. But there has never been a need. If there was something else she wanted to do, she would be doing it. Me, I have always been relieved I didn't have to sit outside, in hot or freezing or damp/raining fields watching soccer......... Are meets a drag, yeah. So are soccer games (did those with the stepson). At least at a meet I'm inside.

And bad situations can happen anywhere. Your martial arts experience being one example. Sounds like one of those "bad situations" and perhaps if you had tried a different place you might have had a better experience. Perhaps your kid would still be martial arts and you have a whole different view. Instead you choose to make a long term decision,, write off a sport, based on one very short experience at one place. So why didn't you bother to even consider it was the place not the sport and seek a different place? Clearly you and your kid weren't all that interested in martial arts. Its fine.
 
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Tmacs

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My daughter loves it. We have had virtually all positive experiences in our 2 1/2 years. I know that’s not very long and it could change but I definitely see how you get sucked into a sport because of your kid’s love for it and then all the amazing parents that I’ve met. We have so much fun together at meets!
 

MuggleMom

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You are also describing a situation where you knew at the outset this sport would not work for you and your kids. What if it was nice at first and 1-4 years in when your child is fully invested, loves the sport, loves the friends they have at that sport then there are issues? The kid is all in they dont want to quit but you as a parent now have reservations? Do you just yank your kid out of that sport that you and the child have invested years into or do you work to find a solution (change to a different coaching style, try to work with governing bodies on reform, find a less strenuous avenue in the same sport etc). There is also the fact that there is no perfect sport that will fullfill your child and has no drawbacks. So you pick the sport they love and do your best to make as safe and healthy as you can for them.
 

NutterButter

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You are also describing a situation where you knew at the outset this sport would not work for you and your kids. What if it was nice at first and 1-4 years in when your child is fully invested, loves the sport, loves the friends they have at that sport then there are issues? The kid is all in they dont want to quit but you as a parent now have reservations? Do you just yank your kid out of that sport that you and the child have invested years into or do you work to find a solution (change to a different coaching style, try to work with governing bodies on reform, find a less strenuous avenue in the same sport etc). There is also the fact that there is no perfect sport that will fullfill your child and has no drawbacks. So you pick the sport they love and do your best to make as safe and healthy as you can for them.

Yes, this. The first 5 years were great. Sure there were occasional issues like minor injuries, teammate squabbles, short-lasting coach miscommunication stuff but all-in-all pretty good. I agreed with the mission statement of the gym and loved the HC and didn't have to question things. Then she hit upper level optionals and the difficult skills came with fears and mental blocks. Injuries, while still mostly minor, took longer to come back from. Expenses went up too - more for tuition and a lot more for travel. At this point things start to take a toll on ME - seeing my kid struggle is hard and for the first time I'm realizing all that my family is missing out on because of this sport. Still worth it though. Then my daughter experiences a major, potentially career ending injury. The comeback is long and hard. There are changes within her gym too - a new HC who changes many of the aspects of the gym that I valued the most. And also all the Nassar stuff and tone deaf attitude of USAG. After almost a decade in, I REALLY question the sport. My daughter though remains committed. This is her passion. She loves her teammates. She loves the daily challenge. She's almost an adult and remaining in this sport is her choice which I support.

Most long-hauler parents will identify with much that I wrote above swapping out sentences here and there with ones that pertain to their child's experience in the sport. The sentiment is the same. Our kids still love the sport even if us parents are weary. This is why we stay.
 

Sk8ermaiden

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So my kid's martial arts studio would never do that. Your kid had a crappy instructor and you decided that was just how the sport was and walked away. And that's kind of the same. A lot of people are going to walk into crap gyms and decide that gymnastics is just abusive, so it must not be for them. But there are some of us who know better, and know that if you shop around, you can find a gym that cares about kids and tries to train healthy based on up to date science. I bet if you had talked to some experienced martial arts moms from other studios, you could have found one that was better.

The other thing is you assume the kids don't enjoy gymnastics? Most of the parents grappling with these issues have kids who not only love, but eat, breathe, and sleep gymnastics. All the kid wants to do is gymnastics. The kids love gymnastics so much that they will put up with some pretty appaling conditions to do it. All the parent wants is to find a way for them to do gymnastics that won't break them. This also isn't a situation like the one you posted where a family is new to a sport and immediately realizes it's not for them. Pretty easy to switch gears from that standpoint. Most people grappling with issues in the sport have kids who have been invested in it for years. If your son had been in martial arts for 3/8/10+ years and loved it and had progressed pretty far, but a new instructor came along and changed training so it wasn't healthy anymore, you would literally just walk away instead of trying to figure out what was normal and maybe trying out another studio?

Over the years I've noticed a huge amount of threads here pertain to all the short comings of every aspect of gymnastics. The physical, mental, emotional abuse, horrible coaches, mean people, the sanctioning bodies, judges, training conditions, costs, etc, etc. just to name a few.

Physical, mental, emotional abuse, training conditions, sanctioning body and horrible coaches are listed as 6 different things, but they all fall under the heading of bad coaches and/or sanctioning body. The gist I am getting from your post is that when you see a situation that is horribly abusive you should just wash your hands of it and walk away? Because I am of the opinion that child abusers shouldn't get to be in charge of children. Right now in gymnastics there is a loooot of child abuse going on, and there are far more cases of harmful coaching practices that may not actually be abuse. And much of it is hidden from parents. You just have to listen to the athletes that are coming forward to know that there needs to be sweeping, systemic change.

I don't know what "mean people" is supposed to refer to, and I haven't seen any complaints about judges or cost that isn't also echoed in every other sport, so that's not a gymnastics thing and would be the same on every sport-specific forum.

You would see the same trend with posts about issues no matter what, because people turn to groups like this when they need help with an issue. It's one of the functions of topic-based forums. People don't usually check in to be like, "Yep, everything's cool again today." It's the same in every topic-specific group I'm in.

But there is this added thing going on of finding out that the sport's governing body has been covering up and enabling child abuse of all kinds for decades. And that absolutely needs to be a major topic of conversation, it needs to stay at the forefront of conversation, and USAG's feet need to be held to the fire until they fully fix the problem or burn up. If good coaches and parents of gymnasts don't do that, who will?