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Top 10 Tips for Parents: Navigating Your Child's Gymnastics Competition Journey

Gymnastics competitions can be thrilling and nerve-wracking experiences for both children and parents alike. As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting and guiding your child through these events. Whether your child is a seasoned competitor or just starting out, here are ten essential tips to help you navigate the gymnastics competition journey with confidence and ease.

Understand the Competition Format:

While it's natural to want your child to perform well, it's essential to remember that rhythmic gymnastics gymnastics is a challenging sport, and not every competition will result in a podium finish (and nor does it have to!).

Parents do not need to be experts in rhythmic gymnastics to be supportive of their child's interests. However, it is important to understand the nature of the sport.

In team sports such as football, if you miss a goal, you have plenty of time to try again during the duration of a match. You also have teammates that can score for your team, not leaving all the outcome up to you. In rhythmic gymnastics, competitors have 1.30 minutes to show the work of the entire season without any re-dos or second tries. This makes the competition results a little more volatile depending on the mental space the young athlete is in, and on a lot of external factors.

Understand how the event is structured, the scoring system, and any rules or regulations specific to the competition can help you understand the challenges your little gymnast may be facing, and understand and track their progress in order to make better decisions. This knowledge will help you better support your child and ensure they are prepared for what to expect.

Arrive Early

Although this is a given for any event, it's particularly important for rhythmic gymnastics. There are many things a gymnasts may need to do before the competition even starts:

  • Due to the high demand of the sport when it comes to flexibility, gymnasts need to warm-up and stretch really well before events, which takes time.

  • Once their muscles are warm after stretch, they may need to change into their competition attire.

  • Having time handling the apparatuses that are going to be using during competition allows for the gymnast's muscle memory to kick in.

  • Many gymnasts have pre-competition rituals that they execute religiously in order to calm the nerves and gain confidence before stepping into the mat.

  • Marches before the competition stars are often required, and it's a great opportunity to take a good look at the judges and get used to the environment where the young athletes will be performing.

  • Fixing the hair is often necessary to ensure gymnasts can execute their routines safely and comfortably.

Be flexible

When receiving a competition schedule parents need to realise these constitute only as a guideline, since nobody can predict exactly how a competition will play out.

There may be a lot of absent or injured gymnasts due to participate that may speed up the process. On the contrary, there may be a greater number of score appeals than anticipated that will slow down the pace of the competition. Technical problems in big venues sometimes may interfere with the original schedule. Injuries during the events can also disrupt the flow of the event.

When possible, it is advised to free-up your schedule for the day or have an additional family member attend should you leave early.

Competition results aren't always an indicator of performance

Natural talent isn't enough to succeed in competition. This will become more obvious as a gymnast matures. Talent may open the door for some people, but at a certain point that talent may make them plateau unless it's accompanied by hard work, confidence and concentration.

Many parents do not understand why after a few years of great competition results the scores are suddenly dropping. But it's important to understand that just like in life, progress in gymnastics is not always linear. Here are a few results that may affect competition results:

  • Dips in motivation: Every gymnast will experience periods of low motivation at some point that may stunt their progress. This is completely normal and it does not always mean they won't gain their motivation back.

  • Performance anxiety: As adolescence approaches, many gymnasts are more likely to experience performance anxiety at training and at events that won't let them perform as well as they could. Just like muscles, mental skills such as concentration and confidence need to be trained and with the right coaching is a hurdle that gymnast can learn to overcome with time.

On the other hand, gymnast without the best results in their start of their career as gymnasts can end up being excellent athletes as they grow up. People that stay in the sport not because they are the best, but because they enjoy it tend to have more intrinsic motivation (the most healthy and reliable type of motivation). This will help them persevere and work hard, which when talent isn't enough to succeed, will become very valuable.

It's also worth noting that as little gymnasts grow, their centre of gravity will also become more stable which may allow them to perform better once their limbs become longer.

Some gymnasts that aren't able to achieve the most difficult skills, can leverage in other areas. Perhaps they are a lot less prone to injury than some of their rivals, perhaps their expression and artistry help them get better scores in those areas.

Be a cheerleader

One golden rule to abide by is to be supportive, not overbearing. Parents should remember that they aren't the sole stakeholders of their child's development or performance. Coaches, team mates and other people contribute to their development as athlete, regardless of the level they are in. Therefore, parents do not need to fill in all the gaps.

Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on them or critiquing their performance excessively. Instead, offer words of encouragement and let them know you are proud of their efforts, regardless of the outcome. Do not focus too much on performance. Instead, positive affirmations and words of encouragement can go a long way in boosting their confidence on competition day. Say things such as:

"I'm proud of you no matter what",

"I love watching you compete"

" It's OK to struggle"

"It's OK to be nervous"

Avoid giving them too much feedback or critiquing how they did at an event. Remember, they will be hearing that from their coach in detail too. It is a coach's job to tell gymnasts what they could have done better and how to improve, but it can be though for a young child to hear. Parents must therefore play a supporting role in order for them to feel confident in their progress and supported.

Attending gymnastics competitions with your child can be both exciting and challenging, but with the right mindset and preparation, you can make the experience enjoyable and rewarding for both of you. By following these ten tips, you'll be better equipped to support your child throughout their gymnastics competition journey and help them thrive both on and off the mat.

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