Note: My favorite resources for gymnastics parents are found in this post. Really, they are amazing tools for parents who want to make the most of their child’s gymnastics journey!
Perhaps you wanted to provide an active outlet for your daughter or allow her to improve coordination and increase confidence. Maybe you thought she’d enjoy an activity with her friends or benefit from similar experiences you had as a gymnast.
Whatever your reasoning, the motivation I assume as with most parents, was to add value to your child’s life!
So here we are; you, me, and all the other well-intentioned parents driving to the gym, paying the tuition, and supplying the leotards. And although we deserve a pat on the back for starting the journey, we know that signing up was the easy part.
The next step: ensure that gymnastics in actuality IS benefiting our daughter.
Let’s GAB about purpose, perspective, and maximizing our role as parent in this unique, yet amazing sport we call gymnastics.
This post is #1 in a 5 part series about Strengthening the Athlete Triangle.
- Homework for the GYM PARENT-> YOU ARE HERE
- Strengthening the Parent/Athlete Relationship – Coming Soon
- Strengthening the Parent/Coach Relationship – Coming Soon
- Strengthening the Athlete/Coach Relationship – Coming Soon
- Expert advice from coaches, athletes and parents – Coming Soon
The Athlete Triangle
When it comes to sports, there are three main identities involved:
First, there is the athlete – that wonderful daughter of yours who loves gymnastics!
Second, there are the parents – you, your spouse or other supportive adults in your child’s life.
Third, there are the coaches – the crazy ones who wear yoga pants or basketball shorts to work everyday.
All three roles are crucial, connected and distinctly different. The interpersonal relationships between these three roles are often referred to as the athlete triangle. Behold my fancy diagram!
It’s important to note that the direction of the triangle is with the gymnast as the top point. When parent and coach are acting in supportive roles with the athlete’s best interest at heart, the triangle is called a developmental triangle. This of course, is the goal for all youth sports; with the athlete positioned at the top.
This is not a challenging mindset for most of us to grasp. The hard part is knowing exactly how to maximize our role and support our athlete.
Distinct & Different Roles
The following lists are not all-inclusive, but rather examples to get you thinking about the different roles within the triangle.
- Technical understanding of skills
- Understanding of USAG routines and competition rules
- Proficient at spotting
- Provide a safe environment
- Give age & skill appropriate assignments
- Encourage gymnast
- Prevent injury through the development of strength and flexibility
- Incorporate elements of fun
- Protect children’s rights
- Monitor participation
- Fund expenses
- Provide travel
- Ensure proper care and treatment in regards to injury, nutrition, health, etc.
- Support gymnast
- Provide perspective
- Listen to instruction
- Follow gym safety
- Treat self and others with respect
- Try hard
- Have fun
- Be teachable
- Communicate pain or injury
Maximizing your Role as Parent
The first step in making sure gymnastics IS benefiting your child is to get excited about your role as gym parent, acknowledge it’s importance, and delve into information that can assist you in supporting your child. Wait . . . that was three steps.
Second (or is it now fourth?) is to support both coach and gymnast in their distinct roles. This requires open communication and allowing the coach and athlete to own their responsibilities and not attempt to fulfill them yourself.
Educate yourself . . . on the important things!
So you know your role is important, and you’re committed to supporting your child. The next step . . . educating yourself! I commend this approach! But your hunt for information also warrants a warning.
It’s easy to get distracted by information that is most pertinent to fulfilling the role of coach. Don’t get caught in this trap. It leads to an unbalance in the Athlete Triangle.
I love this quote from John O’Sullivan, author of Changing the Game,
The parents of athletes who are both high-performing and happy share a common trait . . . They have opened the door to high achievement and created a positive sports environment. They have shifted their paradigms from “How can I change my kid” to “How can I change so I can be the best parent for my child, and my child can perform his best?”
So where can you start your “parent study”? Well here of course! But don’t limit yourself to one source. I highly recommend furthering your education with a trip to Anne Josephson’s Blog, JAG GYM BLOG.
I also believe the following three books are worth their weight in gold. Really. They are game changers when it comes to creating environments that allow children to perform their best and feel their happiest.
(1) Positive Sports Parenting – quick read and easy application.
(2) Changing the Game – thorough and action oriented.
(3) How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk – advice and assignments that apply not just to sports but parent-child communication in general. This one has become the parenting bible in our house.
Purpose & Perspective
Now that you have reading assignments, why not include some homework to go with it? No one said being a gym parent was easy, right?
One of the most important responsibilities parents have is providing healthy purpose and perspective for the Athlete Triangle. That means defining, remembering, and reminding yourself, athlete, and coach if needed, the reason you signed your daughter up for gymnastics – to add value to her life!
Jim Thompson of Positive Coaching Alliances states it this way,
As important as winning is, Second-Goal Parents let coaches and athletes worry about the first goal of the scoreboard results. Second-Goal Parents have a much more important role to play: ensuring their children take away from sports lessons that will help them be successful in life.
If you embrace your role, it will transform the way you see youth sports. It will help you to seize the teachable moments that will come your way again and again because you are looking for them. – Positive Sports Parenting
Posts #2-5 in this series will offer application and action-oriented information, helping you seize the teachable moments and ensure your daughter takes away values and lessons that will help her succeed in life.
But first you need to define what values and lessons are important to you.
Before you start your list, first read one more great quote by John O’Sullivan to get you thinking . . .
If we are building a solid emotional and moral foundation for our children, we must think long-term. We must think beyond single games [meets] or three month seasons. We must focus not on wins and losses but on core values and principles we want our kids to take from sports. When we think about the long haul, we realize that the purpose of youth sports is not only to develop better athletes but better people. Sports help children build the foundation of becoming a quality adult both on and off the field [floor].”
Okay, homework time . . . When you think of your child 10 or 20 years down the road, what qualities do you hope she possesses? What values are important to your family that you’d like to see passed on to your posterity? What life lessons do you feel will shape your child’s ability to succeed in life and believe in herself? What principals do you hope shape her future? What kind of relationship do you desire to have with your child?
After you’ve made your lists, put your answers somewhere that won’t get lost or forgotten. Read them every so often to remind yourself of the big picture and what gymnastics really is all about!
Want to take it one step further? I’ve included a free worksheet download with questions to help you on your quest to being the best gym parent ever!
Great things are ahead of you.