What Gymnast’s Parents Can Do To Help

Subject: What Can Parents Do to Help
Dear Coach, The confirmation I received after a purchase of the level 4 e-book asked for feedback. So here goes.

I am a parent of a current level 3 gymnast who is moving to level 4 in the next cycle. The level 4 e-book was so much more informative and helpful than anything else I have purchased. I did not grow up with gymnastics so have been trying to educate myself about how to help my daughter. Your books are much more helpful and specific than others. I have ordered now the level 5 and the balance beam e-books since I have been so pleased. I have not received these yet but they may answer my questions. But what I really would like is information specifically for parents. What can I do SPECIFICALLY at home to help my child? I would like to see something with an exact layout of a home strength/flexibility/etc. program with pictures/diagrams to assist us parents. Would also love definitions with illustrations. What is a 3/4 cross handstand and what should it look like? A salto, etc?

Love the e-book and plan on continuing to order as she continues.

Thank you for the compliments. We appreciate the kind words. We wrote the books for exactly the reasons you mentioned. There were no books or other information available for gymnasts and parents that covered what they would want to know about each of the levels and other aspects of the sport.

There are really only three things (maybe four or five) that we can recommend that parents might help their gymnasts with. Gymnastics is a highly specialized sport with four events for girls and thousands of skills and an infinite number of possible skill combinations. Good coaches have to work full-time to keep up with the required specialized knowledge, rule changes, new equipment, etc. that would be virtually impossible for parents to keep up with.

Most coaches don’t have the time to explain everything they should (and want to) to parents and that is what we try to put in the books – what coaches would tell parents and gymnasts if they had time.

In general, we believe and likely so do your own coaches, that gymnasts should be trained and coached by professional coaches. Parents are not likely to know enough to safely and effectively coach their child in gymnastics. At times, their coaching advice could literally be dangerous (telling them to point their toes when they really need to concentrate on not falling on their head). There are a few things that parents might do, however.

The three things that parents might help with are gymnastics strength training and conditioning, increasing flexibility and basic beam skills (like handstands). The possible fourth and fifth things parents might help with at home are gymnastics related sport psychology and gymnastics education.

We have included in each Level book a list of strength and conditioning items that gymnasts can and should be doing and an entire plyometric strength training program. Those lists should provide plenty for parents to work with their children at home on.

There is a problem with implementing your own strength-training program at home. If the gym is already running an intense strength training program (where the gymnasts are working to failure, the program is varied and is progressively and increasingly harder and harder) then doing more strength training will not result in an increase in strength. In fact, it can lead to injury or overtraining and/or an actual decrease in strength.

If the gym does not have an intense strength training program, then parents are usually competent to help with a strength training program at home. It is not that uncommon, especially at the lower levels for gymnasts not to have enough hours in the gym long enough for coaches to have time to do everything that would be ideal.

As is covered in the books, gymnasts progress best if they are already strong and flexible enough to be able to perform the skills they are trying to learn. Unlike strength training, flexibility training is difficult to overdo. It is also a function of the time spent working on it. Coaches often do not have the time during practice to spend on extra flexibility work and partner stretching.

If gymnasts do not have all three splits down and/or 180-degree splits in jumps and leaps, then extra work at home can be beneficial. Split work can be done alone or a partner (parent) may help. Shoulder (and lower back) flexibility often requires help from a partner to improve quickly and/or significantly and partner shoulder stretching can be done at home. The Level 5 e-Book lists partner-stretching exercises.

We also feel obligated to mention that parents need to be very careful that they do not overly push young lower level gymnasts (and even older teenage gymnasts) in any way that may interfere with a good parent child relationship. “Forcing” them to work at home may not be a good idea in the long run. Gymnast burn-out and teen rebellion is already enough of a problem without bringing gymnastics into the picture as well. Go easy.

We completely agree that a gymnastics glossary with pictures (and videos) would be a very helpful for everyone in the sport. We are working on that and our early efforts are already on our web site. We do not yet have illustrations, pictures or videos (we haven’t even finished even the whole list of words and definitions), but we do have plans to ultimately do that.

As far as pictures of the specific Compulsory level skills and routines, we have really tried to provide additional value added information since USA Gymnastics already has complete descriptions, illustration and a video of each Compulsory routine. We cannot reproduce them in our books because of copyright restrictions.

We do make sure that every one of our gymnasts has (or has access to) the routine descriptions, illustrations and the video. Your coach should be able to do the same for you.

USA Gymnastics has a copyright on the videos and music and they are the only ones who sell it and are allowed to sell it. Your coach, of course, has a copy of it. Our suggestion is that you speak to your coach or it can be purchased from USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics publishes a Compulsory book with illustrated pictures of the actual Compulsory routines. They also produce a video with gymnasts doing the routines exactly according to the official text (actually the text is rewritten to match the video). We may not duplicate or sell either of those because of copyright restrictions and contractual restrictions, so our books concentrate on providing more than just those basics and on professional coaching and learning tips, hints and innovative “secrets.”

USA Gymnastics produces its own book (and video) with extensive descriptions with sequence drawings of all of the routines. The video shows the official version of how all of the Compulsory Level routines are supposed to be performed.

Your gymnast’s coach, however, will most certainly have both the Compulsory book and the video. Many coaches allow their gymnasts access to their book and video. Our suggestion is to check with your coach before ordering.

Because both the Compulsory book and video cover all the Compulsory levels, parents sometimes purchase them together, split the cost and share them. We generally recommend that you contact your coach first to see if they will allow you to borrow theirs.

We know that we need to improve the pictures in our e-Books to more specifically address the skills and training techniques described. It is more difficult that one would think to get pictures of the “ideal” technique for each and every skill and requires thousands of shots for each book and then careful editing. We are planning to make a concerted effort to shoot photos this summer when the gymnasts are out of school and have some free time. It is too difficult and not particularly wise to keep our gymnasts in the gym during the school year just to get photos.

Hope this helps and thanks for your insightful requests for improving our products and offerings to the gymnastics community.

Thanks again for the suggestions. We appreciate feedback (and compliments).

P.S. A cross handstand is a handstand on beam in which the hands are placed side by side (with the thumbs together) on the beam (the narrow way). The handstand refers to the fact that the handstand does not go all the way up to a handstand but only is kicked up of the sway to a handstand.

A salto is a front or back somersault done in the air without the hands touching the ground at all and also commonly called a flip, somie, a tuck or pike.

Good luck to you and your daughter.

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