Many team parents make big mistakes on the ride home from a gymnastics meet. Here are some hints what parents can do to maximize the competitive experience for their gymnasts.
A Great Meet Is One Where They Stay at a Hotel with a Pool
For a great many gymnasts, their definition of a great meet is a meet where they stay at a hotel with a pool (usually an indoor pool) and get to eat out with teammates after the meet. This is not to say gymnasts are unconcerned with their performance at the meet, but to gymnasts, the meet experience is about more than just about the meet itself.
Don’t Leave the Meet Early
Parents, who grab their kids and immediately leave the meet, are shortchanging their gymnast and forcing them to exhibit poor sportsmanship and break gymnastic tradition. Those parents who take their gymnast and leave before awards (if they think their daughter did not win anything) are actually making their gymnast break meet competition rules (meets are not officially over until after awards). We all understand family emergencies, priorities and schedules, and leaving a meet early may be unavoidable sometimes, but parents who just make a habit of leaving meets early are not allowing their gymnasts to follow the rules of the meet, show their good sportsmanship and support their teammates.
Make It More Than Just the Meet
Whenever you can, make sure your gymnast can participate in whatever after the meet activities are available, like eating out with the team or their best friend(s) on the team, going shopping with everyone, visiting local attractions or taking one last swim in the pool. If no one else is planning anything extra, take that responsibility yourself. Your gymnasts train incredibly hard and they deserve a break and as positive a competition experience as possible.
Gymnast’s Probably Don’t Need or Want Your Critique
Parents are making a really big mistake if they criticize and critique their gymnastâ€™s performance on the car ride (or flight) home from the game. I have seen parents spend the entire drive home giving their unsolicited (and often inaccurate and mistaken) impressions of the meet. Too many parents spend the ride home criticizing the coach, their teammates, the judges, but worst of all their own child. Gymnast may have already gotten “feedback” from their coach, that has given them all they need to know (and perhaps more than they wanted to hear). Adding more to that not only interferes with the coach’s function, but may negatively overload the gymnast.
What Gymnasts Really Need to Hear and Not Hear
Our advice is to not discuss the meet (or practices for that matter) on the car ride home, unless your gymnast brings it up. Parents just need to tell their gymnast how proud they are of them and how much they enjoyed watching them compete. It is easy (and OK) to congratulate your gymnast when they medal and win, but gymnasts (and all young children) need to know they are appreciated and loved unconditionally, especially when they do not win. Tell your gymnast you love them, you are proud of them, their hard work and progress, and you are glad you got the opportunity to watch them. That’s all they need to hear from you at this point.
Want to Have a Great Conversation with Your Gymnast?
If you want to have a great conversation with your gymnast on the way home (assuming they are in the mood to talk), there is one conversation technique you can use, that is virtually always successful. The technique is to just ask your gymnast general questions, about the meet and other things, to get them talking about the meet experience, or whatever, from their point of view. Refrain from making any comments of your own, especially judgmental ones. Listen attentively and, from time to time, ask another question to keep them talking and show them you have been paying careful attention. You will be amazed how much you learn and they will be amazed how great a “conversationalist” you are. Your gymnast doesn’t need any coaching from you, they just want someone to listen to them.
A Noticeably Better Ride Home
If you take this advice, you are going to experience a very noticeable improvement in the ride home. Once your gymnast starts talking, you may very well find they start talking to you more often, and about other things that are important to them. You need to remember that gymnastics is only a small part of your relationship and that you have limited time and lots to listen to them about. Having an adult, especially a parent listen to them, instead of coaching, lecturing and criticizing, is an empowering concept for a young gymnast and child and will good for their gymnastics and your relationship.
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