Should Parents View Gymnastics Classes?

Gymnastics Parents Viewing areas
Gymnastics Parents Viewing areas

Gymnastics Parents Viewing areas with WiFi for their computers

Subject: Policy on parents viewing classes

I really like the safety information on your website. What is your policy on parents viewing classes? Back in the day when I taught classes we had the parents outside the room and only had them come in on the last day of a session. We prefer for them to be in the hall. However, I am getting some push back that they would like to be inside the room during classes. What are your thoughts and is there any good information on this kind of liability issue?

Watching Interferes with Progress

There is scientific research to show that parents watching classes every day actually interferes with the progress their child will make if the child can see them or knows they are there. Parents are also much less likely to notice the progress their gymnasts are making if they watch every day of class than if they see them periodically on special show-off days.

Gyms Should Have Open Door Policy

There is a good case for open door policies because parents want to protect their children and to allay any possible parental fears of any type of abuse, physical or verbal, many gyms have both open door policies and direct viewing areas. I think gym owners, instructors and coaches should inform parents that constant viewing may slow their child’s progress but provide viewing access in some form all the time and leave the ultimate decision to the parents.

Parents on the Floor Can Be a Danger

Parents, except in supervised situations like parent-child classes, should never be on the gym floor at any time. It is unsafe for those who are unfamiliar with gymnastics, especially on events like tumbling and vaulting to be on the gymnastics floor. They could easily cause accidents by, inadvertently, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Video Access is a Good Solution

Since I believe in total access for parents, while advising them against it, my favorite technical solution to the problem is to provide video access for the parents, in an indirect (with no open window to the gym) parents’ viewing room and simultaneously on the Internet. Parents can then watch and hear as much as they want whether at your gym, at home or at the office.

Internet Viewing Option

Most any of the relatively low-priced surveillance camera systems now provide four or more cameras and easy Internet access set-up. This should satisfy even the most pushy parents, keep them off the gym floor, and over deliver service by giving them an option to keep track of their child at gymnastics in a way they likely never even expected. It is also a selling point when comparing your gym class program to the other gym programs in the area.

One Way Mirror?

An effective low tech, but likely more expensive, and potentially less safe, solution is to use one-way mirrored glass in the parent’s viewing room. The expense of one-way mirrored glass only makes sense if the viewing room is also in a place that requires mirrors in that same area of the gym, like a dance room or floor exercise mat. Glass of any type used in a gym can break and any glass windows must be placed in a place where there is no danger of gymnasts accidentally running into them.

Parent Viewing Varies by Level

At the preschool and lower rec class levels, the short class time and lack of other activities nearby 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 about allowing viewing?

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.

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.

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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