Parental Viewing Rights

Subject: viewing

Sex: female
Age: 5
Gymnastics Level: novice

Hi There. I wonder if you can help me. My daughter has been attending our local gymnastics club for about 4 months now, she is really enjoying it & has made lots of new friends. All of a sudden the club has stopped parents from viewing their children? why we don’t no but they keep saying it to do with health & safety? but the club has remained unchanged for over 4 years. My daughter suffers terribly with separation issues & it has taken her a long time to settle in & gain her confidence to leave our side. can you tell me the rules of whether they have the right to not allow you to go in the gym at such a young age? They have now made a larger reception area & all parents told they have to wait in there where there is a window of approx 3ft x 2ft for about 40 parents to see through. I feel this is unacceptable & now my daughter does not want to go, I feel annoyed that they will spoil this for her.

I would be really grateful for some advise. thanks.

First, let’s talk about parental viewing and then we will talk about the separation issues in a separate article.

Slower Progress When Parents View

There are, of course, two sides to the issue. The gym side of this has two primary points. There are studies that show that when parents watch all of a child’s practice, that they tend not to progress as fast. They don’t progress for two reasons – divided attention and performing instead of practicing.

Divided Attention

First, young gymnasts tend not to progress as fast because their attention is divided between their parents and the coach. When parents are present, because of the higher level of familiarity and closer relationship of the child with their parent as opposed to the coach, children tend to look to the parents constantly during a class period for directions, advice and support. This divided attention both keeps the young gymnast from learning as much from the coach. It is also the source of the problem the gym is describing as a safety situation. For example, if a child is on the beam and looks to their parent instead of looking at the beam, they could take a misstep and fall.

Good Coaches Can Handle It All

From a coaching perspective, it is definitely more difficult to keep a young child’s attention if their parents are present than if they are not. Then again, not all gyms restrict parental viewing and those coaches deal with it successfully every day. A good coach can successfully and safely deal with young gymnasts with either scenario.

Gymnasts Performing, Not Practicing

The second reason problem with parents being in the gym all the time is that some children tend to try to “perform” for their parents when their parents are present. Practice, by definition, needs to be a time when gymnasts can try new things and have the possibility to try and fail without pressure. In this situation, gymnasts will tend not to learn as quickly with parents in attendance as when they are not.

Difficult to See Progress

There is even a third reason, but which really is not a real part of this debate, but when parent’s watch every minute of every practice, it is more difficult for them to see progress. When parents watch at spaced, regular intervals, they can much more easily see progress. One time watching every three or four weeks gives parents a much better chance to be able to see and notice their child’s progress.

What Else Can Parents Do But Watch

On the parent’s side, it is often difficult scheduling for them to do anything but remain with their young child during relatively short classes. By the time they would leave to run errands or whatever, they would risk not being back on time which would make both their child and the gym unhappy.

The “Right” to Watch

There is one factor that, in my opinion, does supersede all others. While there are no laws, gymnastics federation directives or any other legal or semi-legal rules about it, parents should have the right to monitor their child’s activities any time in order to protect them, if they so choose. And it is our belief that gyms should not only allow for that, but actually plan for it and enable it. It is a sad commentary on our world, but children are not always safe. Parents can and should feel perfectly within their rights to view their young gymnasts anywhere, any time and any day.

THE SOLUTION

My favorite solution for this situation is and would be for the gym to install video cameras in the gym and TV monitors in the viewing room. There are inexpensive monitoring systems (with 4 – 6 cameras) that are automatically set-up to allow viewing over the Internet as well as in the viewing room. This can be a selling point for a gym and their program. This could satisfy all of the problems of both sides and allow both to have their concerns adequately covered. Coaches would have the attention of their young proteges and parents could monitor their child to their heart’s content.

Perspective

All in all, both sides of this question have some good points. But there is a simple and inexpensive solution readily available. Technology has an excellent solution for the situation for both sides. Parents can watch their young gymnasts, perhaps even on the Internet (so maybe even dad can watch from work or home) and the gym has technology they can market and which has multiple other uses (like using video recordings for TV/video advertisements.

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