Off-days happen, when you can’t quite make your connection, when words of encouragement somehow land in you ears like sand instead of honey, when you can’t believe you ever enjoyed this sport that is so mentally and physically challenging. And those off-days can be enough to make a person want to walk away from gymnastics.
You don’t have to do gymnastics forever if it’s not fun anymore, but as Guest Contributor Laura Battle shares in her story about encouraging her gymnast to keep trying when the going got tough, you can effectively and lovingly help your young athlete to persevere through the off-days and find their love of the sport again.
Thank you for sharing your and Khloe’s story, Laura!
“I’m never going back! I hate gym and I don’t want to do it anymore!”
Now I know Khloe had a tough practice, but quit? I was shocked to hear those words come out of my 8-year-old’s mouth. This little one has been cartwheeling around my house since she was 4 and has been going to gym since she was an infant. Why the adamant change of heart? What happened? How can she hate something she has loved for so long in the blink of an eye?
Well, I got to the bottom of it after a warm shower and some dinner. Recently my little gymnast was moved to optional hours from compulsory and started throwing out some big girl skills and she was on a high! All that came to a crashing halt with a little tumble on beam one wacky Wednesday night.
On this particularly trying day Khloe attempted her connections and stepped off the beam and grazed her hip on the way down. Splitting the beam is a huge fear of hers and in order to prevent that she sometimes will lean a bit to one side to have sort of an escape plan if anything goes wonky and today she did just that. She felt defeated and it hurt a little but physically she was ok. It may have only looked like a little beam burn to the thigh but the hit to her fear factor was far bigger and can’t be seen to the naked eye. I tried consoling, being logical and then firm. All to no avail. She had “made up her mind!”
Expert Advice from Olympian Nastia Liukin
After she went to read for a little bit I did some research online and came across an interview on YouTube from Nastia Liukin. It was about never quitting on a bad day. I clicked the link and watched the interview and listened to what her mom had told her. I decided to let Khloe watch the video and then use the same tactic.
I told her it’s OK to be scared sometimes and it’s OK to try something new, but it had to be for the right reasons. I told her she needs to go back to gym and start over and once she gets her connection again we will reevaluate. She thought about it and said she’d give it a go.
She went back and would only work each skill individually in the beam. Her coaches also switched to working leaps and turns and then one day I saw her try connecting them the low beam, then the medium beam and then boom there she went on the high beam. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t perfect but it was there.
Communication and Compassion Are Key
I have never been more proud of my little warrior. She fought through a fear and she slayed it. I could barely wait for gym to be over. She ran out beaming, literally and figuratively, and screamed, “Did you see that?! I did it!” We had a good hug and walked to the car and turned on her music. After a few minutes she quietly said, “Momma, thank you. Thank you for not letting me give up.” My heart exploded. I knew she would regret quitting on a bad day. Maybe not right away but at some point she would. I’m so happy to say that now, thanks to a frantic Google search and Nastia Liukin, we both gained a little insight that will help both of us through the toughest of days!
Communications with her coaches was imperative. It helped so much during this cautious time. They were so great at being patient and finding ways to work through her fears. They switched their focus on some different skills and touched back on them after she built her confidence back up on the skills individually. Having that open and honest connection between Khloe, her coaches and I will always be a saving grace in this world of gymnastics!