There is the question of whether parents should watch their children practice or not. At the preschool and lower levels, the short class time and lack of other nearby adult activities results in a naturally higher percentage of parental viewers. This percentage decreased to near zero at the upper team level. But what is the “right” thing to do?
Should Be Allowed but Discouraged
Coaches are universally convinced that it is usually best if parents not watch their children every class period. Some gyms go so far as to ban parent viewing of team and training team programs. There are legitimate reasons to do this, but we believe that it is best to allow parental viewing at any time, while discouraging it for the benefit of the child’s advancement.
Want Practice Time, Not Always a Performance
Some gymnasts feel extra pressure to perform for or in the presence of their parents and do not progress as well under that pressure. If parents are constantly in attendance, their gymnast may be constantly performing as opposed to the more relaxed, progressive state of practicing. Coaches need to be able to control this balance of pressure and relaxation and the presence of parents can complicate that.
Don’t Try to Coach Your Child
Children are often distracted and pay attention to their parents instead of the coach, when parents are in the gym. This happens at all levels of the sport from preschool to team. Parents sometimes try to do their own brand of coaching from the sidelines which distracts the gymnast, complicates and slows the coaching process and even may be dangerous. A parent who coaches their child to point their toes, when the coach is emphasizing somersault rotation could be distracting the gymnast from a safety point of view.
Leave It to the Pros
Gymnastics is a very complicated sport and constantly evolving. It is a full-time job just to keep up with the rule changes. Even parents who were gymnasts will find their knowledge limited. Coaching is best left to the professionals, especially at the team level. While gymnasts are paying attention to signals from their parents, they are unable to absorb important feedback and information from the coach.
Watching Class vs. Watching Team Practice
It is much more understandable if parents of preschool and recreational class gymnasts watch their gymnast’s whole practice. Since they are likely there for only about an hour, it can be a waste of time to drive back home and come back right away. Watching an entire team practice or the majority of it (most parents don’t have the time) however, is also much more likely to be a bad idea.
Watch If They Ask
While there may be instances where it is not true, in general, it is a good idea to watch your child do their gymnastics if they ask that you do. Try to understand the reason (the underlying need) they wish you to watch. They may have a desire to share something that is important to them with you. You don’t want to miss this opportunity,
Observe Regularly but at Intervals
Parents will find it easier to see progress of they observe at regular intervals, rather than every day. Step by step progress, even on a daily basis, is not as dramatic as viewing progress on a monthly basis, either at practice, exhibitions or competitions.
Insist on Viewing Privileges
In this day and age, it seems more appropriate that any gym be open to parents if they should desire it for whatever reason. Some parents schedules may preclude viewing their gymnasts during normally scheduled viewing times. Parents should also be able to observe the safety and well-being of their children at any time.
Watch Every Meet
Meets are a great way to regularly view your gymnast’s progress. You want to go and watch every meet that you can. The spacing between meets provides a view of the natural progression your gymnast will be making and you will most likely and should see individual progress from meet to meet. Look first for your child’s personal progress, not medals. Progress is more important.
Do What’s Best for Your Child’s Progress
Parents should remember that their gymnast’s progress is likely to be faster if they do not view too often. Viewing once a month is an acceptable amount, either during formal situations or in their regular practice time.
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