Did you know that according to a 2014 research study conducted by George Washington University, the number 1 reason young athletes quit their sport is because it is no longer fun? Did you know that 75% of young athletes will quit by the time they are 13? As parents, what can you do to prevent that for your gymnast, who right now still loves the sport?
When kids start gymnastics, if they start early, most of them love it. Really love it, to the point where they put on little shows in the living room and insist on sleeping in their leotard. This is the first stage of sport. It’s the Fun stage. They love learning new skills, flipping around, and the feeling of flying through the air. They love gymnastics because it is fun.
As time goes on the gymnast moves into stage 2. The parent and coach discover that the gymnast may be talented. They add more classes. The gymnast focuses their attention on not only learning skills, but perfecting these skills.
Gymnastics becomes more detailed oriented. This stage is the Technical stage. The better the gymnast gets the more time in the gym they will spend, the more time in the gym they spend, the more the gymnast’s life is consumed by the sport.
It is in this area of sports when some gymnasts lose the fun. Parents can also add pressure. Some parents see the potential of their gymnasts and can get caught in the whirlwind of what could be. It is common for parents to want to help their gymnast in every way they can. They take on the role of coach, judge, agent, and manager. When parents take control over the gymnast’s career it can cause a lot of chaos.
For young gymnasts to make it past this stage there are some things that parents can do to help relieve pressure and help their athlete keep their love of gymnastics strong.
Be Their Biggest Cheerleader
Gymnasts want to know that when a practice or competition becomes difficult, they can always run back into the non-judgmental arms of Mom or Dad. Athletes do not want their parents to give their opinion, critique, or advice about the situation, they just want hugs and kisses.
Gymnasts need to know that they will have a bad day and go to their parents for unconditional love. As they progress as athletes kids already feel pressure from their sport, adding pressure from parents can create a fear of failure, usually because of their belief that if they have a poor performance they will disappoint parents, coaches, or even their teammates. Make sure your gymnast knows that’s not the case and you are proud of them, no matter what.
Leave the Coaching Up to the Coach.
Once the parent feels comfortable with the athlete’s coach and gym, then they need to leave their gymnast in the hands of the professionals. Trying to coach a child when a parent is not a coach can create tension, and confuse the gymnast themselves. They are supposed to listen to both coach and parent, but who’s right? If you have a concern address it with the coach by all means, but do so away from your gymnast to avoid this.
Help Them Find Their New Fun Level
Once gymnasts reach a competitive level, the fun they have is very different to that they had when they were just starting out. Now the fun is overcoming difficult challenges and mastering new skills. If you can help them understand that they are less likely to get frustrated and want to quit.
You should also ensure that they still have a life outside the gym. That they still hang out with friends – and not just team mates, kids who aren’t athletes too – that they still get down time to hang out and do whatever they want and, perhaps most importantly, they still have time to be a kid.