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Frequently Asked Questions Part 2


QUESTION: Would it be detrimental for young girls to spend so many hours a week in training?

ANSWER: All that depends on the personality and temperament of the girl, her age, and the number of hours per week. Limits are set for younger girls, those who are in the lower levels, and girls who are not motivated enough for competition. The book “Pretty Girls in Boxes”, by Joan Ryan will answer this question, and more. What you want to watch out for are frequent fatigue, a loss of interest, stress, crying spells and wanting to quit. These are warning signs of burnout and overtraining and you would like to keep an eye out for that.

QUESTION: Are there any ways to increase upper body strength in a 10-year-old gymnast?

ANSWER: Female gymnasts can do a lot of push-ups and bench presses. Other good options are seated or standing rows, lat pull-downs, overhead presses and crunches. Swimming, particularly in freestyle, can also build good upper body strength. If your young gymnast is not into swimming, try not to push it. It’s more or less the same types of exercises recommended for boys. Do not, however, let children do maximal weight lifting – lifting the heaviest weights they can stand to carry. Try to keep the weights within 80 to 85% of their maximum strength. They should finish one set and be capable of doing 5 more.

QUESTION: My daughter is incapable of executing a backward walkover. Everyone in her level is able to do this, and it’s making her feel left out. How can I help?

ANSWER: Consult with your daughter’s coach and see if he will consent to train with her on this personally. Explain how being unable to do this move is getting your daughter depressed and its holding her back from progressing. If your coach isn’t able to work one-on-one with her, you can look through the special report on back handsprings found in this e-book. You can act as your daughter’s spotter, putting a hand under her lower back to give support. Provide her with a Port-a-Pit and a wide cushioned mat. You need to be aware that a lot of what’s holding her back is mental. Once she feels supported, with your assistance and spotting, she’ll be able to build more confidence to proceed onwards.

QUESTION: Gymnastics is a sport that’s really tough on the body. A lot of people are saying that it’s a bad idea to get into it at so young an age, while others are saying that the discipline the kid gets far outweighs the negative aspects. Do the advantages of gymnastics outnumber the disadvantages of the sport?

ANSWER: Again, it all depends on the child. On one hand, we have Shannon Miller who thoroughly enjoyed the environment of training long hours and lots of stress. On the other, we have kids who can’t take it. Every child has a different temperament and personality. Yes, training strenuously for long hours can take a mental and physical toll on a very young child, and yes, the discipline learned in participating in the sport is beyond compare. But a child can also learn discipline from training only three times a week for two hours at a time. You might want to consider that a 6-year-old child training 5 days a week for 3 hours each is liable to burnout and want to quit.

It’s difficult to quantify all the advantages and disadvantages because it all depends on the child. In general, the advantages are discipline, conditioning, better health, having fun, making lots of friends, learning how to cope with setbacks, the excitement of competing, and eventually, the thrill of victory. Disadvantages can be an early onset of burnout, injuries, overtraining, pushy and over controlling parents who inadvertently hurt the parent-child relationship, and subsequent loss of motivation and interest. Look to your child for the answer. If she says she loves gymnastics and would go everyday if she could, if she looks happy and excited, then she’s probably on the right path. Watch out for a child who looks miserable, cries a lot, and begs not to go in to training. If you’re child is acting this way, they you’re probably pushing them much too early too soon.

QUESTION: Are there good ways to motivate a young gymnast without putting too much stress on winning?

ANSWER: Bring up the positive aspects of gymnastics. Tell her how much fun gymnastics is and all the friendships she’ll be making while in the sport. Do not use reinforcements like food or material bribes. You’re only setting her up for unhealthy eating and shopping habits in the future. Let your child watch Olympic videos, or take them to championship meets and introduce them to the local heroes. All this can motivate them, but the greatest motivation to participating in gymnastics will always be the potential for fun.

There are some parents at my daughter’s club who worry that their daughters will get big and bulky from too much training. What intensity-level will build all those muscles in young children?

ANSWER: You have nothing to fear. Females don’t have enough testosterone in their bodies to build up those huge hulking muscles that you see in boys. Even if they lifted weights everyday, they won’t be able to attain this type of mass. Young gymnasts use up all the protein they consume for their bodies to repair all the worn-out muscles caused by strenuous training. Even if they had abnormally large doses of testosterone in their bodies, they’d need to eat 20-ounced steaks at every meal everyday, in order to get all bulked-up! To build a lot of muscle mass, a person would need to do an extremely high intensity work-out in a very short period of time. If you take a look at Olympic gymnasts, they’re not big and bulky at all, and yet their training has the highest intensity compared to any other sport in the world.

QUESTION: How do I help my daughter improve her performance several degrees better in less than a year?

ANSWER: Try not to force your daughter to do anything. The best way to motivate her to be better is to offer your suggestions, support and guidance. Your loving support will go a long way in helping your daughter be the best she can be, that and making sure she get to practice and competitions on time. You would also want to make sure she doesn’t push herself too hard and over train. If she starts to appear tired and really stressed out, let her take a break. Let her know you believe in her and that you’ll always be there for her to help her achieve her goals. Remember they’re her goals, not yours.

QUESTION: My daughter decided she wanted to skip the regionals and attend her prom – just one week before the regional championship qualifying meet. The gym owner who had no gymnastics background, said yes to this. This has caused a whole year’s worth of her coach’s planning and preparation to go to waste. Does this seem fair to you?

ANSWER: Is it fair to whom? You will rightly think it’s unjust on your part, considering the amount of time, money and effort you’ve invested in your daughter’s training. But you also have to ask yourself if you want a highly driven and motivated child who’s unhappy and rarely smiles, or do you want a cheerful well-rounded teenager who’ll cherish the wonderful memories of her prom for the rest of her life. Try and remember when you went to your prom. Would you have traded that in to go compete in a sports competition? It seems like your daughter burned-out and wanted to experience the life of a normal teenager for once. Even if she does eventually regret the decision she made, then it will serve as a good life lesson about accepting the consequences of a decision. The most important thing here is, you support her decision to live her life.

QUESTION: What does one have to do to become a gymnast?

ANSWER: The first thing to do would be to find a good program to enrol in. Ask around. Talk to other parents and find out if their kids are in gymnastics and if they’re pleased with their child’s program. Chose the programme that seems best suited to your child. You need to prepare yourself to invest in lots of time and effort – to drive your child to and from practice, and lots of money – several hundred dollars in a month in program fees, as well as uniforms and travel expenses.

QUESTION: What’s the best way to push your child to do his best without upsetting him or making him want to quit?

ANSWER: The solution to that is not to push at all. Motivate your child lovingly and gently. Take a look at the difference in these two scenarios: “Mary, its time to go to practice. Run and get your things ready. What? You’re tired? That’s not a good enough reason. You need to tough it out. Now hurry up and let’s go.” This would be considered pushing.

Being supportive and positively motivating your child would sound more like this: “Mary, let’s get ready for your practice today, it’s nearly time to go. What? You don’t feel like it? But you’re usually so excited. Alright, if you feel that way…you might just be feeling overtired. Let’s skip practice today and see how you feel next week, ok?” Pushing your child too hard will result in distress, crying, resentment, and an eventual erosion of the parent-child relationship. And that will be awful. So be supportive and never push.

QUESTION: I have a talented child who’s had an injury. She’s also into other interests like cheerleading and another sport. How do I keep her interested in gymnastics?

ANSWER: Keep on motivating your daughter by reminding her about how fun gymnastics can be. If she’s been injured, bring her videos of Olympic gymnasts in action to encourage her to heal and go back to the sport. However, don’t discourage her from all her other outside interests. A well rounded child is a happy child. The most important thing is to keep everything balanced by reminding your child of the positive aspects of all her interests, including gymnastics.

QUESTION: My daughter has been in this gym for the last five years, and she conditions at levels 7, 8 and 9. There are two girls who’ve recently joined the gym and at every practice they cry on the phone begging their parents to pick them up so they won’t have to do their conditioning exercises. It’s both frustrating and irritating for me and my daughter to watch these girls not taking their training seriously. How can I stress to my daughter the importance of doing conditioning exercises when she sees these two girls who constantly complain of doing it and try to get out of it, and yet perform at same level she is and with the same skill as she does?

ANSWER: Liken doing conditioning exercises to building the foundation of a house. The house can get away with no foundation for a time, but when a storm hits, there goes the house. Explain to your daughter that those two girls may have talent, but without doing the conditioning exercises, they’re liable to up their risks of injury more than your daughter is. Also, try to compare conditioning exercises with having an insurance policy. Your daughter and these girls won’t need it as of now, but when the time comes, only your daughter will be protected. Additionally, doing conditioning exercises gives a calming effect, which makes it quite a surprise why those two girls are crying about doing them.

QUESTION: Is there a way to find the best qualified local coach our area to train our child?

ANSWER: Go by word of mouth. Don’t trust advertisements as some of the worse gyms put out the really splashy ads. Ask around at your kid’s school and talk with other parents who have kids in gymnastics programs. Ask them if they’re satisfied with the training given their kids. The next step will be to visit the likeliest gyms and observe the kids training there. Do they look happy? Are they having fun? Don’t try to judge the gym or a coach by the results of his training, but by whether the kids under his care look like they’re happy and having fun. Bela Karolyi, that infamous coach who trained Nadia Comaneci and other talented gymnasts did not care about the health of the girls under him, but only for the results they could give. Statistics show that only 1% of all those who undergo gymnastics training make it to the Olympics, so make sure that your child will get the most fun and enjoyment out of participating in gymnastics, as well as learning discipline and making lots of friends.

QUESTION: Is there a good diet and exercise regiment for a small child who wants to become a gymnast?

ANSWER: As a general rule, it is not advisable to put very young children on diets unless they are obese. There is a special report on this in this book. Let young kids eat all they can have, they’re liable to burn it off during training anyway. However, avoid lots of junk food, candy and soda as these contain sugar. Feed your child nutritious home cooked-meals with the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and some fat for fuel.

QUESTION: My daughter goes crazy every time she get a small contusion. How do I condition her to accept that she’ll get the occasional bump and bruise in gymnastics?

ANSWER: You would want to make sure that what your daughter has is just a bump or a bruise. If it continues to give her pain and discomfort for more than a couple of days, she will need to see an orthopaedic specialist.

Explain to your daughter that bumps and bruises are part and parcel of participating in gymnastics. When she gets used to them, she’ll realize that they’re not something much to go on about. Tell her to try and keep a still upper lip and to accept these injuries with grace. She wouldn’t want competing gymnasts to think she’s a wimp, would she?

QUESTION: Can an ordinary gym produce an Olympic or elite-level gymnast? Or do you have to enrol in those famous gyms that have big-name coaches?

ANSWER: Big-name coaches and famous gyms it is. Once your child gets to a certain level, she’ll need to train with the coaches who have experience in the high-level meets and who know what the judges are looking for. These coaches have the knowledge of how to help gymnasts reach the very top. It’s an unfortunate reality, but that’s how it really works.

QUESTION: How can one prevent young gymnasts from burning out, and how does one deal with gymnasts who go through phases of low motivation?

ANSWER: To prevent burn-out, observe your child at all times to make sure that she’s not under so much pressure. A parent’s role is to motivate and support, not push. Look out for signs of fatigue, loss of interest, and low energy. These are signs that your child needs to take a few days’ rest to recover all the lost energy and motivation. They have this saying among old runners: “You don’t get better while you’re working out – you get worse, because you’re tearing down your muscles.” Take wisdom from that. Allow your child to take a break and allow her body to rebuild all those worn-out muscles to be able to make them work better than before.

Low motivation is a natural phase each gymnast goes through. Ask your child about the original reasons she went into gymnastics in the first place. Remind her of the fun she’s had and show her videos of Olympic champions performing to get her enthusiasm back. If that doesn’t work, you may assume she has burned out. Let her rest until she’s recovered.

QUESTION: Can you give me examples of new training techniques to acquire skills, and build flexibility and strength conditioning to help with a gymnast’s long-term joint and spinal health?

ANSWER: You would want to look into PNF, or pro-prioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. For these stretching exercises, you will need a partner to help with providing the resistance while you stretch. To find out more about it, look at this website:

For strength conditioning, periodizing is still the popular choice. Developed under the principle that repetitive monotonous exercises can build resistant muscles and result in bored athletes, periodizing changes the phase and mode of the work-outs regularly for variety and improved performance. For example, do 3 sets of 20 reps for each exercise, two times a week for five weeks, then 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps twice weekly on heavier weights, then 4 sets of 5 reps twice weekly on even bigger weights. Take a one week break to rest, and then begin the cycle all over again.

QUESTION: What’s the best thing to do when a child has injured an arm or a leg?
ANSWER: If the child is severely injured, take him to the emergency room as soon as possible. Get the doctor’s advice about any rehabilitative exercise or therapy. If your child needs to undergo rehabilitation exercises, make sure he doesn’t overwork himself but does enough of it to promote healing. Give your child emotional encouragement and support.

QUESTION: Can you balance all the training needed in gymnastics while allowing the child to be a child?

ANSWER: That’s a tricky question. You would want your child to have all the fun he can have and be as happy as he can be. If he’s all enthusiastic about training and enjoying himself, then he’s doing ok. But when he starts resisting practice and would like to try doing other things, allow him to. Your child’s happiness should be a priority. He’ll only be a child once. Allow him to enjoy himself to the fullest without having to regret not having done something he would’ve liked to do.

QUESTION: What ways can I assure myself that my child is having fun in her gymnastics programme?

ANSWER: Observe your child closely. While you’re at it, why not attend some of her practice sessions to see if she’s really having fun. Afterwards, listen to how she talks about it. Is she enthusiastic about going to the next one? Or does she sound like she’s dreading the experience. One thing you can do is ask. She’ll most likely tell you what she’s feeling.

QUESTION: My child has quit going to her gym, but still does gymnastics at home. How can I get her to go back to training in the gym again?

ANSWER: Don’t push her to go back. You’ll need to find out why she quit going to the gym in the first place. Did she have some problems with the coach? A fight with some of her fellow gymnasts perhaps? If the problem is social in origin, try to talk her back into going. If she still refuses but professes to enjoy gymnastics, you may have to consider finding another gym.

You care about your child and you want him or her to have fun – that’s why you signed them up for the gymnastics program. At least, those are the reasons we’re aiming for. Most importantly, it’s wise to keep in mind that your child’s gymnastics training isn’t about your and your goals; it’s about him or her.

You would like to allow your child to have fond memories of this time spent with a caring coach, great teammates, and supportive parents. This wonderful experience will build in them the long lasting value of discipline, get them in terrific shape, and develop a life-long affinity for sports, exercise and fitness.

Know that a terrible experience will mark them for life. They may end up avoiding sports altogether, and girls may develop life-threatening disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Remember, your role here is to support, not to push. Pushing is the coach’s job. Be present for your child, whether they are triumphant and winning, or down in the floor in tears. Listen to them, hold them, and wipe away those tears. A scoop of ice cream and a sympathetic ear will do wonders. Send the message that whatever happens, you will always be there.

With your help in building that strong foundation of confidence, your child will stride tall and conquer the world!







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