A rant from a frustrated gymnastics coach

In 2004, it was Carly Patterson. In 2008, it was Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. In 2012, it was Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. In 2016, it was Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez.

I’ve heard it again and again in the fourteen years I’ve worked as a gymnastics coach.
“My baby is going to be the next __________!” Choose a name from above, depending on the year.

Usually (but not always) the child has natural talent. Also usually, the child has no discipline, expects to the center of attention, doesn’t like correction, and likes to announce that she is better than the others in her class (one was less obnoxious about it though, whispering to me instead of saying it aloud because, “they can’t help it if they’re not as good, and I don’t want to hurt their feelings”).

The end result in almost every case: the parent complains the child isn’t getting enough instruction, and why hasn’t the child been moved up to team yet?

Occasionally it is possible to explain to parents that just because a child can sling her feet over her head, or just because a boy is seemingly supernaturally strong, doesn’t mean they’re ready for a more advanced class (much less team). They need to learn to listen, develop the discipline to follow through without being babysat and to work independently, and also come to the realization that their skills aren’t fantastic, but need to be honed and built upon for years.

More often than not though, that message never get processed by a parent’s brain. The parents make excuses for their precious future Olympian and cast snide remarks or openly sling accusations that the coach isn’t doing enough for their child, and before long they’ve ragequit (to use a gaming expression). They hop from gym to gym, never getting it, always complaining, and the loser in all this is the child, which saddens and frustrates me.

Some of the kids do go on to become decent gymnasts, but generally they develop an arrogant, superior attitude which isn’t borne out by their actual skill level. Others – who knows? Do they ever go on to excel at anything, or do their parents refusal to see that hard work and accountability are necessary for success hinder the child from succeeding?

= = =

I know most of my posts have something to do with writing or my stories. Even the gardening ones, because one of my characters (Tam) is an avid gardener. But what connection does this have? Um. Well, none I guess. I just wanted to vent because sometimes it gets to me. But – let me give it a go: The same work ethic needed in gymnastics is needed throughout life. Even with writers. We need to work hard at our craft, despite any natural talent we might have. We need discipline, and we need to be able to take criticism, and we need to never, ever give up.



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