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Gymnastics/When to know it is time to quit gymnastics?

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My daughter is 14 and has been competing optional gymnastics since she was 10.  Until recently, she was always quite impacted by a bunch of anxiety/fear issues that held her back.  Lately she has overcome this mostly, but her body type has changed to a 'curvy' one.   For the past three years, with the exception of a couple of flukey wins here and there she finishes at or in the bottom due to mistakes and a general lack of focus or just a lack of skills/strength/endurance.  Sometimes she gets quite upset.  We try to be positive and focus on just doing your best but it is hard sometimes to find the positive.

Over the years, we have always indulged gymnastics because it was something she was competent in and it kept her fit and gave her self esteem.  My daughter loves the gym, the girls and the coaches.  She has few other social activities besides gymnastics.  The coaches have told us and her that the recent lack of improvement and winning on her part is due to her body changes/type and lack of endurance.  When told to work on endurance, she only spent a day or two outside of the gym working on it but then lapsed on this effort. Recently at a major meet she finished dead last.  Endurance was a primary factor.

My concern is that the message we are getting from the coaches (in so many words, kindly to both her and us) is now: you have become too curvy to do gymnastics.  Unless she is going to commit to some serious effort on her own, it isn't going to get better.  Personally, unless given some serious direction with consequences, I know she doesn't have the drive and determination to do what is needed on her own.  Also, I am quite concerned about all the focus now being about body image issues. I am looking for advice on what to do.  Is it worse to have her continue gymnastics (yes, we can afford this) with no success and a continued message of  body type/issues coming from the coaches to us and her as a culprit? Do we set a schedule for her to run or something as a contingency to continuing doing gymnastics? Or do we somehow gently cut the cord and transition  to some other sport/activity (quite hard as she has limited interests)?  Thanks so much.

Answer
Hi Susan,
From your daughter's perspective I can imagine that it is a challenge to keep motivated when body changes are happening that are outside her control and making it more difficult to do a sport that she loves.

However, it might help to review some videos of college women's gymnastics with her (like http://www.gymnastike.org/coverage/250161-2013-NCAA-Season/videos/c/College%2Bgy).  There are few women gymnasts in college who haven't been through puberty already but they are still competing and having fun with the sport.  The difference is that by then they have learned to accept their curves and use them to their advantage (particularly on floor and beam where dance elements are important).

In my opinion gymnastics can be enjoyed by anyone no matter what body type they have, and by helping your daughter to see examples of curvy women gymnasts who are doing well and having fun it might help her to be more confident about herself, that she won't "grow out of" gymnastics.  Yes she may need to put some more effort in with conditioning to keep up with her growth during puberty, but boys have to do that too.

Regards,
Robert

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Robert Davis

Expertise

I can answer questions about technique, strength and endurance training, healing from injuries, and competitions. I can also answer questions from parents of gymnasts, as I have six children of my own now. I plan to write a freely downloadable ebook or guide soon, go to www.LifeTimeGymnast.com to tell me what you want help with!

Experience

I competed in gymnastics for 16 years, from age 8 to 24, the last six of those years on the Arizona State Men's Gymnastics Team (www.sundevilgymnastics.com). After almost a 10 year hiatus I've returned to competition, see www.lifetimegymnast.com.

Publications
http://www.lifetimegymnast.com
http://www.goodfeelingplace.com
http://www.wilycode.com

Education/Credentials
I have a BSE and MS in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University. During those 6 years I was a member of the Arizona State Men's Gymnastics Team as well.

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