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How to Support Your Gymnast

For parents of NDP Squad or Development Programs

Being involved in a competitive sporting program can help children develop in many ways. Aside from learning new gymnastics skills themselves, involvement in the sport can offer opportunities to develop personal skills, which will serve them well into adulthood.

Over all physical fitness and a active, healthy lifestyle, perseverance, discipline, self confidence, social awareness, developing positive tools to deal with ups and downs, disappointment and frustration. To name only a very few. There has been a great deal of research into the benefits of sporting activities for children and adults in todays society.

All of these benefits are there for the taking when children are involved in sport but it largely depends on the approach of the significant adults around them as to whether the child reaps these benefits or not.

The ‘Don’ts in the following list are taken from a popular article “27 Don’ts for Parents of Gymnasts”. The article was written by J. Howard who has been coaching gymnastics since 1980 and has a string of professional accolades in coaching and research. The article has been copied and shared by many coaches and parents and there are a few re- worded, re-jigged versions out there too. Some of the Don’ts might sound shocking (as in you’d wonder why any parent would think that’s okay) but I have included the full list here anyway.

In an effort to provide context, I have added a DO for each one, which is also in the spirit of positivity, and to try to make the article more helpful to parents of gymnasts or children in any competitive sport.

The 26 Don'ts for parents of gymnasts (with some Do’s to consider)…

1) Don’t compare your gymnast’s progress with that of other gymnasts.

DO focus on your gymnasts individual improvement and achievement of personal goals which should relate to themselves, not others

2) Don’t become overly ego-involved with your gymnast’s success or lack of it.

DO remember that this is your childs sport, not yours.

3) Don’t take judge’s scores too seriously, especially at the lower levels.

DO focus on the overall performance and success of the team in the competition as well as the individual goals the gymnast had for the event.

4) Don’t forget the need for fun in gymnastics.

DO remember that your gymnast is still a child.

5) Don’t stand for unacceptable behavior from your gymnast during practice or competitions.

DO discuss any concerns you have about your childs behavior with their coach and stand united on the ways to deal with any poor conduct.

6) Don’t participate in gossip about anyone in the gymnastics community.

DO step away from conversations that involve gossip, unnecessary speculation or criticism of others – its amazing what children pick up on.

7) Don’t interfere with coaches and their coaching duties during practice or competitions.

DO allow the coaches to coach and make decisions about the skills, grades and competitions the gymnast is working for – they have the knowledge and experience and will cater the work for the individual

8) Don’t pressure your gymnast regarding skills or competition.

DO ask your gymnast what his/her goals are when it comes to new skills or competitions or what their coach has set for them.

9) Don’t set unrealistic goals for your gymnast.

DO remember that goal setting in gymnastics is the job of the coaches and gymnasts themselves, not parents.

10) Don’t predicate your love or attention on your gymnast’s competitive success.

DO love your gymnast unconditionally (as if that needs to be said!)

11) Don’t base your own ego or self-esteem on the success of your gymnast’s progress or competitive success.
DO remember that you are a person separate from your child and their success or lack of it in sport does not reflect your abilities as a parent or worth as a person.

12) Don’t lose your long-term perspective about the importance of your gymnast’s participation in the sport.
DO remember that the benefits of participation in sport reach far beyond the sporting career and your attitude can affect that immensely

13) Don’t let yourself care too deeply about your gymnast’s competition results.

DO listen to and acknowledge their feelings and encourage them to recognise the positive aspects of the event and the challenges they overcame.

14) Don’t undercut your gymnast’s confidence in their coaches or coaching.

DO remember that a respect for those who are teaching them is a requisite for them listening, learning and progressing in a happy and healthy environment.

15) Don’t show any negative emotions while watching your gymnast practice or compete.

DO learn to control your own emotional responses for the sake of your gymnast. They do not need to carry the weight of your disappointment as well as their own when things don’t go so well.

16) Don’t try to make your gymnast talk with you immediately after a gymnastics meet, especially if they performed poorly.
DO give them a little time and space to process the events before you share your thoughts. Wait to see what they have to say before deciding what you will say to them and how you can help support them best through any disappointments.

17) Don’t do or say anything to make your child feel guilty for the time and money you are spending on their gymnastics or any sacrifices you feel are making for them to participate in the sport.
DO help them recognise the value of the opportunities you are giving them and that it doesn’t come for free.

18) Don’t badmouth your gymnast’s coaches, your gym or other gymnasts.

DO remember that your child’s relationships with their coaches and peers are important to them and important to their enjoyment of the sport. All relationships have their ups and downs and these serve as opportunities for personal growth for everyone.

19) Don’t attempt to coach your gymnast yourself.

DO remember that if you want to become a gymnastics coach there are courses and training you could do to learn the skills and knowledge – it takes time but is very rewarding.
Also, remember there are many coaches out their but your child only has one of you so put being a parent first.

20) Don’t alienate your gymnast’s coaches.

DO find positive ways to communicate with your gymnasts coaches and remember they are working for your child, not for you.

21) Don’t try to recreate your own career or live out your own sports dreams through your gymnast.

DO give yourself credit for your own achievements past and present.

22) Don’t do anything to make enemies with other gymnast’s parents.

DO enjoy the camaraderie that can come from having children with similar interests and goals.

23) Don’t expect anything more from your gymnast except their best effort.

DO recognise what it takes to get through some of the challenges of the sport and offer praise and respect for these.

24) Don’t ever do or say anything that will cause your gymnast to think less of you.

DO set an example with you own behavior that reflects your long term hopes for your child.

25) Don’t use sarcasm, threaten or use fear to try to motivate your gymnast.

DO maintain a healthy sense of humour within the sport and encourage gymnasts to do the same.

26) Don’t expect anything more from gymnastics than physical fitness, life skills and fun for your gymnast.

DO recognise and appreciate the wider benefits of involvement in the sport and promote them in your attitudes.

Most of all, enjoy the time your child spends in his or her activities – these years will soon pass and right now you are creating memories you and your child will look back on in years to come.  Do your best to help ensure these are happy memories regardless of their results, achievements or the standard they eventually reach.

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