Nervous Young Gymnast

Subject: Daughter is nervous about crowded class

Hi,

I have a 5 1/2-year-old daughter who just recently joined a new gym, and is now on the pre-competition team for acrobatics. The practices are two days a week, 2 hours at a pop. She has expressed some anxiety of the gym floor because there are what she calls “too many people” on the floor at the same time her practice is going on and she is feeling scared.

When she was at her old gym, it was only her class out on the floor, so she didn’t have to contend with this issue. Now I will have to admit, there are a lot of kids practicing at the same time as her. There is a cheerleading team with about 14 kids on the floor at the same time as she is, and there is also a 3-year-old class on the floor as well. Her coach is really great about keeping her pre team together. But yet she still has this fear or I guess anxiety. How can I help her overcome this?

Also, how can I get her to talk to her new coach about her problems she’s having in gymnastics rather than her coming crying to me every 10 minutes and disrupting the practice?

Thanks for your help.

We have to say, we think your daughter is right. She has at least some good reason to be somewhat scared or anxious in such a crowd. First of all, there are 14 large girls who might land on her. And then there is a whole group of little three-year-olds and who knows when they are going to run out in front of you while you are in the middle of doing a skill.

Many gyms are crowded during certain hours of the day and we know that they are doing everything they can to run a safe program. But we would also be concerned coaching any one of those groups and would spend a fair amount of our coaching time, just looking out for the other two groups, just like your daughter is apparently doing.

Your daughter, being concerned about this, shows good gymnastics and safety sense. We would not make any special efforts to change her feelings about this. We would encourage her to be extra careful and watch out for the other classes.

As you already probably well know, preschoolers do not always adapt well to change. Your daughter has apparently made a number of relatively recent changes – a new gym, a new coach, a different, more crowded, gym environment and perhaps a more intense training program.

It is not at all abnormal for young 5-year-old gymnasts to be hesitant in regards to changes in their lives. If handled with patience, your daughter will almost certainly eventually adapt to the new situation in all respects. We suggest that you (and hopefully, her coach as well) do not pressure her and let her adapt at her own pace and even continue to come to you when she needs reassurance, when necessary.

It will likely not be long until she grows comfortable with the new situation and stays with her class and coach. It is more important at this point that she just has a positive experience and as much fun as possible in the sport. Anything that makes gymnastics more enjoyable (and less stressful) for her is okay and fine.

Your daughter is still very young for any kind of really serious training but evidently also has some talent. She will be in the sport for more than another 10 years before she is even old enough to compete at the highest levels, like the Olympics. All of you should be in no rush to do anything but see that she has the most fun and positive experience possible for her in the sport.

We have had a number of young gymnasts who acted almost just like your daughter (well, not because the floor ex mat was too crowded but who had difficulties adapting to changes), who have done very well in the sport. There is no reason to think that the same will not happen to your daughter.

Relax, she will continue to grow up in the sport and will have plenty of time to improve in every way.

Good luck and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

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