No Feedback from Coach

Subject: When should I approach the coach about my son’s progress?

Sex: male
Age: 8
Gymnastics Level: Working towards Level 1 boys compulsory (UK) age eligable next year

My son age 8 started at a new gym in October 2010, although he first started at age 6 in a local class. At the new gym it was the first time he trained on all the apparatus as he just did floor and vault before. He trains for 3 hours once a week and a further 1.5 hrs locally (we live quite far from the gym club). He has been doing really well and is one of 3 top gymnasts of his age at the gym. The other 2 at the gym, train with the advanced group and he wants to know when he can move ‘up’. He is clearly more skilled than all the boys in his group and he finds this frustrating. I have never had any feedback from the coach since he started and I don’t know whether to ask about this. They may have very good reasons for keeping him where he is, but I don’t want to appear ‘pushy’. What would you recommend? I would ideally like to know when he needs to start spending more time in the gym (a training plan?). I have also found out that the others train rings on another day, and not on the day that my son attends. In the back of my mind i’m thinking that they may not want to offer any more training because we live a 2hour drive away (and this is the closest club!). One of the other boys his age is training 11 hours a week. I am happy with the club and coaches in every other way except for the lack of feedback. As a parent we all want to know how our child is progressing, I just don’t know whether to start asking, or to wait for the coach to approach us.

I sincerely doubt that the gym does not want to offer you any more training because of where you live. That makes no economic or gymnastics sense for them. Even if they may have doubts that you will be able to manage to drive that far 3 – 6 times per week over the next 10 years of your son’s life and future gymnastics career, I am sure they are not going to restrict him from any training because of how far away you live. Gyms are always happy to have talented gymnasts in their program.

You are the one who really has to measure your long-term commitment in this situation. It is a rare family that can manage traveling over an hour to a team practice for a sustained period of years. This has nothing to do with the gym, but has everything to do with managing family life. Once a week may be no problem, but what about as he progresses and needs to train more and more days. You should be thinking right now about that situation and what you are able to do.

As far as getting feedback, there is a large difference between asking questions and being pushy. Asking a coach’s advice about the future of your son’s gymnastics career is certainly acceptable. Knowing when he might move up, and how many days and hours that will involve, is certainly something any coach will be glad to talk to you about. Telling the coach your son has been asking about moving up lets the coach know how motivated and eager your son is. All of those questions and information are well within what any parent could and should ask and talk about with coaches and coaches will certainly be happy to talk to you about all of those things.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend saying to the coach that your son is “clearly more skilled” than other boys in the class and essentially asking him to agree with your own personal assessment, take sides in that evaluation and, in a way, denigrate the other boys. Limit your conversation to your own son and his training and prospects and you will actually learn more from the coach.

It is never really a good idea to compare your child to other gymnasts. It is not fair to your son or to the other gymnasts and there are so many physical, skill and mental factors involved in men’s gymnastics, with its six events, that any such evaluation is likely not to be accurate and certainly an incomplete assessment. The best way to evaluate your son’s progress is to do just that. Observe if he is visibly progressing, learning new skills and happy. Apparently from your comments, the first two are certainly true. He is progressing and learning new skills and events.

He has expressed a desire to move up and he thinks that would make him happy, so after you have evaluated what that is going to mean for your travel and family plans and decided what you can do, you can and should talk to the coach about that.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

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