My daughter is 9 years old and a level 5. In her first year of competition she became a State Champion on floor and consistently scored high at meets. Recently our gym started a TOPs team and she was not selected. While I disagree with the coach’s decision, it is his to make and I respect that.
Our first meet this year has just passed and one of our TOPs girls placed 1st on every event with a 1st place finish overall. My daughter placed second in all events and second overall within hundredths of her overall score. Our TOPs girls receive 4 hours a week of extra training from our coach.
I would like your advice on how this seems fair. I believe it gives the TOPs girls a clear advantage over our other girls at every meet. I would like to address these concerns to our coach but unsure how to do so. I am more than proud of my daughter for her achievements thus far, but how do you continue to compete with another teammate receiving extensive training from the head coach?
You want to be an advocate for your daughter, but are not quite sure how. That makes for a frustrated parent. So let’s GAB about it . . .
WHY NOT MY CHILD?
The first concern I hear is that your daughter was not selected to train TOPs. A legitimate frustration! When our children are not chosen for advancement or an elect group, it’s hard not to feel slighted. But, with a little clarity, we can see logic in the selection process and even feel grateful for “missed opportunities”.
Addressing your situation as a point-in-case:
TOPs requirements are determined by age. Your daughter is required to test as a 10 year-old this Summer/Fall based on her age as of Dec. 31st 2017. This requires that she compete TOPs 10 year-old routines, equivalent to Level 8 in skill level, as well as execute intense conditioning standards.
Related Post: Who, What, Why of the TOPs Gymnastics Program
Your coach had the tricky job of choosing athletes that can handle abnormal skill advancement, without incurring injury, burnout, or feelings of discouragement. My belief is that your coach had your child’s best interest in mind when he chose not to expose her to a situation that risked negative outcomes.
It’s easy to find ourselves wanting to compensate for disadvantages our children have in gymnastics, or life. I’m certainly guilty of this. And yet, there is no guarantee for equality when it comes to either of those things.
Variables such as equipment use, gym space, coach-to-athlete ratios, experience, even a child’s height are factors in creating an “unequal” training field. And that’s okay! No really, that’s okay! Instead of teaching our children “life is not fair” we can help athlete’s choose a “do the best with what we are given” approach.
If we look at the situation from the TOPs kid’s point of view, it’s not fair that she has to master JO routines, TOPs skill routines, and conditioning sequences while other athlete’s can dedicate all of their time to one set of routines – so many ways to look at it.
THE METHOD OF MEASUREMENT
The most common measurement of success I hear in the stands, on the floor, and in social media is that of placement, “My gymnast placed 1st on this, or 2nd on that.”
It’s hard not to default to this rudimentary method of measurement. Placement is easy to understand. It’s usually dolled up with ribbons and medals. You only have to remember one number. And it’s universally understood that 1st place means you’re the best.
Unfortunately, a child’s placement is one of the least accurate ways to measure success, which is far more related to improvement than comparison. Also unfortunate, when used to measure success, placement tends to muddle our ability to celebrate with our competitors – a skill well-worth learning.
So how can we adjust our athlete’s, and our own, perspective on success? A focus on improvement and mastery. Although scores are subjective, and sometimes inconsistent from meet to meet, they are the easiest way to measure routine improvement.
When a child focuses on improving a score or reaching a goal (maybe competing a new skill), her success is no longer dependent on her peers’ performances. In fact, the athlete is liberated to celebrate her teammates’ achievements, as they in no way hinder her own measure of success! Beautiful, isn’t it?
On the flip side, an emphasis on placement can lead to poor sportsmanship. Gymnasts focus on the performance of others in order to secure her spot on top. This can lead to ill-wishes for teammates or other competitors. It also promotes excuses and comparisons, with a focus on elements out of her control, such as workout schedule or athlete size.
Related Post: Reward Jar Motivational Tool
For more ideas on how to use scores as a measure of progress, refer to my Rewards Jar Article. I’ve seen the most amazing friendships, performances and renewed enthusiasm result from this simple shift in measurement of progress.
COMMUNICATING WITH COACHES
The last concern you mention is not knowing how to address your frustrations to your child’s coach. This can be tricky, but very important.
The athlete triad (link) is dependent on communication between all three members (parent, coach, athlete). That doesn’t mean you need a conversation with your coach every week, but if something feels off, addressing the situation is extremely helpful.
Let’s start with universally unappreciated methods of communication.
The Don’ts: (1) Before/After class. Coaches may have a minute or two break between coaching classes. They need this time to grab a snack, use the restroom, or a moment of down time. Please respect their needs. (2) During Class. Absolute worst. No need to explain why. (3) Through other coaches/parents. It’s always best to address your concerns with people who can provide proactive solutions. Start with your coach first. Move on to a program director if needed.
The Do’s: (1) Send a text or an email to schedule an appropriate time to address your concerns. (2) Keep your daughter’s self-esteem and goals as the focus of your communication. (3) Seek first to understand and then be understood. Given a chance to explain, coaches can provide much needed clarity that may save you a rant.
You can find general coach-communication guidelines in my article 5 TIPS for Gym Rat Parenting.
Related Post: 5 TIPS for Gym Rat Parenting
A FOUR HOUR GIFT
The fun part of this predicament is finding amazing, worth-while things to fill the four hours your daughter is not dedicating to TOPs training. Will she develop another talent? Join a school club? Experience more family time? Or maybe 4 hours of “free-time” contribute to her overall happiness and development.
It sounds like your daughter is on her way to a successful gymnastics career! May it be filled with joy, life-lessons and many confidence-building experiences.