As parents, I know you want what's best for your gymnasts.
While it's definitely not a bad thing to want to ensure your gymnast has a positive experience in gymnastics, sometimes I see parents get caught up in having to control their gymnast's entire journey.
This can be detrimental to both you, as the parent, and your gymnast.
A better option, then, is to take more of a hands off approach.
It's not to say you can't be involved in your gymnast's journey. You certainly should be.
But being involved is different than having to take control of every aspect of her journey.
What are some ways you might take control?
Nagging her about doing the things her coach told her to do. While a reminder here and there might be helpful, it's important that you aren't nagging her constantly. It's her decision whether to follow through with the things she was told to do. And if she doesn't, she needs to experience the consequences first hand.
Driving miles just to bring your gymnast something she forgot at the gym. Yes, we all do this. Maybe your gymnast forgot her grip bag at home and needs you to bring it to her. While your first instinct would be to drive home and back to the gym to get it to her, remember that your gymnast needs to know what it's like not to be prepared so she can learn how to be prepared the next time. If you're constantly saving her she won't learn these important skills.
Getting involved in all the drama at the gym. If you're a gym mom who spends hours in the gym and some of that time gossiping with the other moms, then that's an indirect way of taking control. That doesn't mean you can't be a mom who sits in the gym. But getting involved with all the drama sets you and your daughter up for a negative experience. It also taints the way you see her experience. You might inadvertently find yourself comparing your gymnast to another mom's gymnast which is most likely not going to be a helpful scenario.
Talking to your gymnast's coach for your gymnast instead of letting her do the talking. Some younger gymnasts need help talking to their coaches so it's not wrong for you to be there. Just make sure you aren't taking control of the conversation. Your gymnast has to take responsibility for being able to communicate her needs to her coach. You also want to make sure you aren't talking to her coach behind her back about something you feel needs to be changed without getting your gymnast's permission.
Keeping tabs on what's she's eating and not letting her make her own food choices. Meeting what a nutritionist is an important part of becoming a higher level gymnast. But watching your gymnast like a hawk and constantly monitoring her food choices is you taking control. If you're worried about what your gymnast is eating, be sure to provide only healthy food choices at home. And consider having a conversation voicing your concerns. But don't harp on this.
Telling her she should quit when she is struggling or seems not to like gymnastics anymore. While your gymnast might be in a season of hard, chances are she doesn't want to quit gymnastics. And while you might think you're giving her a chance to take an out by giving her permission to quit (or outright suggesting she quit) you are actually making a decision for her that she might not have wanted to make. So even though it might only be a suggestion, keep quiet!
Telling her she should NOT quit when she asks to quit. Again, this isn't your decision. Your gymnast should love what she does and enjoy herself. If she asks to quit, it's not wrong to suggest she stick it out until she has a better day. But don't tell her she is not allowed to quit. That's not your decision to make, regardless of how much time or effort you've put into her journey.
Living your own childhood dreams out through your daughter. Maybe you were a gymnast yourself and never made it to your big dreams. Or maybe you were an athlete in a different sport. Regardless, without realizing it you might be pushing your gymnast because it's a way for you to live vicariously through your daughter's journey so you can realize your untapped potential.
One of the biggest questions I'd like to ask you is: "Can you be ok with how your gymnast's journey pans out even if it's not how you'd like it to pan out?"
Sometimes when you take a step back and realize that it's your gymnast's journey and that it might not go how you imagine, you can then be free to enjoy every part of it.
But a deeper question is asking yourself why you feel you need to control every aspect of your gymnast's journey.
Are you worried that your gymnast won't be successful without your help? If so, then you're not giving your child the faith that she deserves. It means you don't believe in her ability to be successful on her own.
Or did your gymnast hit a bump in her journey? An injury, mental block, poor coaching? If so, ask yourself if you're trying to 'soften' what she's going through. That's one way of controlling her journey by trying to make things better for her.
Does your gymnast have special needs that might prevent her from having the best experience with her coach and her teammates? If so, you might feel the need to make her journey easier. But again, that's deciding what's best for your gymnast instead of letting her figure that out on her own.
So how do you let go of control?
For those of us moms who enjoy a Type A personality (p.s. I'm raising my hand right now), it can be difficult to let go of control. You might fear your gymnast won't be as good as she could be if you don't intervene.
I assure you that a good support system is the most important thing to ensure your gymnast is successful. That means giving her a shoulder to cry on, big warm hugs, and a listening ear.
If you look at many of the parents of successful athletes, most of them had relatively hands off parents. Simone Biles comes to mind and her mom's involvement in her sport. While Simone is arguably the best gymnast that has lived thus far, her mom wasn't a gym mom. In fact, she was a working mom who took a hands off approach.
But here are some key points to remember:
1. By controlling your gymnast's journey, you are taking away potential learning experiences and life lessons. You have to remember that she's living through this journey and venturing down her own path. If things don't pan out how she expects, she'll learn something from it. If she gets disappointed, she'll learn how to cope with her emotions. Her journey is full of learning lessons that she must experience in order to grow. It's a gift to stand back and allow her to go through her journey.
2. Your gymnast needs to develop her own guidance system. Along her journey your gymnast will come into situations that don't feel good to her. A mean coach, comparing herself to teammates, focusing on the outcome. If she doesn't learn how to trust her gut and follow her own instincts, she won't be able to navigate through these situations on her own when she gets older. When you control it for her, it essentially tells her that her own guidance system isn't good enough.
3. Your gymnast is more capable than you realize. While you might feel like you have to control her journey in order for her to reach her full potential, the truth is that your gymnast is incredibly capable of reaching her potential on her own. The key is that it has to be something she wants. Sure, she needs some guidance. But she doesn't need you to take over. Let her find her potential on her own. What an amazing journey that will be for her!
At the end of the day you want to challenge your own thoughts as to why you feel you need to control your gymnast's journey. When you can take that step back and allow your gymnast's journey to unfold without your intervention, you're giving your gymnast a gift. She is more than capable of realizing her dreams. What she needs from you is a support system of loving her, giving her hugs, and being that warm place to turn to when she needs support.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Stick It Girl Academy: For competitive gymnasts who want to live into their potential and need that extra push in mental training
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics