Due to the early initiation the sport requires and the high commitment it comes with, a parent's role it's crucial in the gymnast's developments. Parents always want what it's best for their kids, but they also know they cannot protect them of every outcome in every situation. Here are our top tips to support your child succeed at whatever the goal in the sport is.
They Already Have a Coach
Giving them feedback, pressuring the gymnasts to pursue certain goals or giving them extra training hours at home is not advisable. You see, everyone involved in the gym has a different role when it comes to development of a gymnast. The club's Children's Officer looks after the safeguarding, their coach track their progress and plans for short and long term improvement and corrects faults, and parents play a supportive role.
Mixing roles can be confusing for the child. Should they listen to the pointers their coach gave them or the ones their parents did? This may result of the gymnasts not know who the authority/ leadership figure is in the gym, and it can affect the trust a gymnasts has towards their coach.
Coaching your child without proper training can potentially slow their progress down by giving them incorrect feedback or not being able to correct faults that may result in bad habits the gymnast will later struggle to get rid off. In some cases, this can lead to over use injuries.
If you feel your child needs 1 on 1 support or extra training, you can consult their coach first and discuss if they would benefit from private coaching. But remember that your child's body is precious and practice should always be led and/or supervised by a professional.
Be Their Cheerleader
In the gym, the gymnast's coach may need to tell them things they do not want to hear, such as faults they are making, telling them they aren't ready for a certain level or event, etc... This is important to ensure the safety and progress of the child, but for a developing young mind it can also be frustrating. A parent plays a crucial role as not only supporting their material needs (such as driving them to practice, keep track of their events and provide them with equipment and materials they may need) but also as unconditional emotional supporters. This means that the young athlete should know that their parents will always be proud of their performance in the sport no matter what.
Children need to learn that it is okay to make mistakes, and that this does not compromise their self-worth as a gymnast or as their own person.
Let them Set their Own Goals
Every child's goals are different when it comes to rhythmic gymnastics. Some just need a safe and fun space to exercise and be active in, some want to master a specific skill and some others may enjoy the challenge and competitive environment. No matter what the short and long term goals of a child are, they should come from within. Research show that intrinsically motivated athletes (athletes that do not rely on external rewards) do better long term.
It is difficult as a parent to see a potential in your child to do a specific skill, or to be upgraded. But it is important to remember that just because they are physically ready for something, it does not mean they are mentally prepared for it. Pressuring them to achieve certain things may take the joy out of the sport, therefore affecting their motivation.
It's Okay to be Hands-off Sometimes
A big part of sport is responsibility, accountability and independence. These are life skill that can be learned in a gym environment and that can help an individual for the rest of their life.
Gymnasts 3 to 6-Watch How Much You Watch
Let the participants take their own shoes off and place their bags in a designated area. Doing these thing by themselves in the gym can be daunting at first but in the long run it will give them confidence and help them understand that responsibility and taking ownership is key to advance in gymnastics (and in life!).
Interacting with your child during the class will interrupt the flow of learning, and distract the participants from the instructions they need to follow. The child may also fail to see who is in charge of the session and not see their coach and a leadership figure.
Although sometimes it's easier to stay and watch the class rather than going home before having to collect them again in a few minutes, parents do not need to feel as though they need to be there to watch constantly. Sometimes this may add pressure to the participant, or it can make the process of joining the class and having to separate from parents much harder.
Gymnasts 6+ -Let them experience consequences
Let your child develop responsibility by packing their gym bag, water and apparatuses and understand the consequences if they forget something.