For a number of reasons, many parents have difficulty approaching their child’s gymnastics coach. One of the main reasons is that it is an extremely rare parent who understands enough about the sport to have any opinion at all. Gymnastics is a complicated sport with obscure and ever changing rules that even coaches have trouble keeping current on. Parents have little chance to do keep up.
Beware Who You Listen To
Because of the complexity of the sport, as say compared to basketball or baseball where everyone knows the rules, there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation passed among parents on the sidelines by other parents or “experts.” This may lead to as many “problems” as real situations in the gym.
Coaching is Already a Full-Time Job
Coaches rarely have the time to sit down and explain everything they are doing and why. With practice time and planning time and other coaching management responsibilities, coaching is a more than full-time job with barely time to explain the sport to gymnasts, much less parents. You should not realistically expect a personal consultation for every little thing that may come up.
Beware the “Phone” Game
Gymnastics team practices are usually too long for all but most compulsive parents to sit through and observe. Thus parents only hear second hand what is going on in the gym either from gymnasts or parents. We all know how accurate secondhand information is.
Is There a Real Problem?
So the first thing parents need to consider in approaching the coach is whether the problem is real and worthy of taking the step to approach or confront the coach. Gymnastics coaches and perhaps coaches in general are often known for being arrogant and difficult to deal with.
Avoid Creating Problems for the Gymnast
A major concern with parents and gymnasts often seems to be how to discuss a problem with the coach without creating problems for the gymnast. Gymnasts often are fearful that interference from their parents will lead to retribution from the coach.
Problem Prevention is the Best
We advocate and attempt to training coaches to communicate with parents in advance to avoid most common problems in the gym. Theoretically, your gymnast’s coach provided a team handbook, holds preseason and regular meetings with both the athletes and their parents, together and separately and covers any possible problem situations.
Everyone on the Same Page
The coach should hopefully have discussed their coaching philosophy, goals, methods and training system. This information should help you understand why your gymnast’s coaches are doing what they are doing. Sometimes, however, issues or questions may arise during the year that you might feel have to be addressed by the coach.
Don’t Try to Argue the Sport
It is rarely useful, possible or wise for parents to challenge coaches on anything to do with the sport itself. Parents are not experts in the sport. Hopefully, the coaches are. Realistically, parents may not know if coaches really know what they are talking about because coaches will certainly know more than the parents will.
Parents Are Experts With Their Own Child
This leaves the areas where parents are expert, that is the behavior and feelings of their own child. Parents should definitely approach coaches whenever they detect something in the behavior or attitude of their gymnast occurs that interferes with their gymnast’s progress or continuance in the sport that coaches are not aware of or the coaches may appear to be mishandling.
Donâ€™t Avoid Any Serious Problem
Other problems that require consultation with the coach include things like verbal abuse, frequent injuries, too much pressure, a negative coaching attitude and environment, or problems with teammates that the coach is not handling.
Observe and Talk to your Child
So the first step is to determine if there is a real problem. Your child will be the best indicator of this. Does your child dread going to practices or games? Has your child talked about dropping out of gymnastics or pursuing some other sport or activity? Does your child consistently come home from practices unhappy?
Ease Their Fears
You need to talk to your child and try to determine what the actual problem seems to be from their perspective and evaluate the seriousness and significance of the situation. They may be reluctant to talk about any problem because they may be afraid of what might happen if you go to talk to the coach.
See For Yourself
You may also decide to attend few practices to observe and to determine for yourself what is actually going on. The problem might not be with the coach.
Make an Appointment
If you believe that there is a problem with the coach and if the situation warrants, make a private appointment to meet with the coach, but outside of practice time. You may wish to let a few days pass first if the situation would benefit from perspective or a cooling down period on either side.
Know What You Want to Say
When you meet, carefully and concisely explain the problem to the coach and ask for the coach’s perspective on the situation. Listen carefully to the coach’s response. At his point you may discuss any differences between your perspective and the coach’s viewpoint and try to come to an agreement about how the problem will be resolved or take some time to evaluate the coaches response.
Keep an Eye Out for the Silent Response
Often, even if coaches are negative about a solution during a meeting especially if it is in the least way confrontational, they will absorb and digest the situation and take some action quietly on their own.
Resolve the Entire Problem
If the problem involves more than one athlete, the parents of the other athletes may need to be included in future discussions with the coach.
Take It to the Next Level
If you and the coach are unable to resolve the problem, you may have to take the problem to the owner of the gym (if that isn’t also the coach). Ultimately, the only real leverage parents will have in confrontational situations with a coach is to pull their child from the program. The effectiveness of this threat may well depend on the level and capabilities of the gymnast.
In the Right Gym?
Hopefully, parents will have previously made the right decision and already have their gymnast in the right gymnastics program. If this is so, any problem should be able to be resolved to the ultimate benefit of your gymnast.
Keep your Gymnast’s Future in Mind At All Times
In any of these meetings you must control your emotions and maintain a positive approach. You are trying to improve the youth sports experience for your child and improve their future gymnastics career and experiences as well.