The Campaign to Keep It Sane
I really didn’t want to know about it. I didn’t want to find out that coaches overtrain little girls, that gyms say they care about athletes and in the next breath encourage them to push through their pain and call them wimps if they do not, and parents that are willing to send their children without education into these places.
I also had heard of sports and orthopedic doctors that regardless of the issue a gymnast comes in for, they give them 3 months rest. These docs know that it might be the only rest these little gymnasts get and might be the only way to save them from a lifetime of injuries.
Gymnastics has brought this upon itself. It’s not every gym and it’s not every program, but a majority is at fault.
I am at fault.
Over the past 3 1/2 years I’ve immersed myself in gymnastics: training, skills, and culture. I have learned many things and I have become an expert in gymnastics injuries. I’ve allowed gymnasts to play through their injury and I’ve propagated this cycle. I’ve had to look an 11 year old in the eyes and tell her it was my fault that I didn’t catch her back fracture in time and I let her continue to compete.
Since this moment, I’ve become a student of what it will take to protect every gymnast that steps into a gym.
I want to share what I’ve learned, and encourage you to become the best coach, parent, and gymnast you can become. I also want to empower gymnasts. I want them to know that they are the only ones that can protect their bodies, both in the gym and outside of the gym.
So let’s get started, we have a lot to do! It is the start of the Campaign to Keep Gymnastics Sane.
Responsibilities in Gymnastics
Gymnasts are incredibly devoted to their sport, and almost more so than any other sport I’ve seen. They’re willing to do anything to develop a skill and they listen to their coach’s word as if it were gospel. I love dedicated athletes, but it puts incredible responsibility on both the coach and the parents.
Gymnasts, your job is to let your parents and coaches know when you’ve been pushed beyond what your body can handle. This is what elite athletes are amazing at…they know their limits and as a gymnast, you need to work on developing this acute attention to your body.
You also need to be prepared to stand up for yourself. When I work with gymnasts, I teach them this one point: YOU’RE THE BOSS! Does that mean you can be rude to people? Absolutely not, but you’re the only one that can take care of your body, both inside the gym and out. No one else will care for your body like you will, and you have to live with your body for a long time.
There are some coaches that completely get what’s going on and they work hard at becoming the best at coaching and helping gymnasts stay safe…but, one thing I’ve found is coaches are overwhelmed and under educated about this profound responsibility that they have as a leader in their gym. I am so very thankful for the coaches that understand their responsibility and give 100% to training and protecting their gymnasts the right way. If you’re one of these coaches, you are an amazing person and worth your weight in gold!
Many times there is a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, instead of a “let’s give our gymnasts the best training possible” mentality. We want you as a coach to understand that you can change things for the better. There’s a better way, and you can discover it and change the way it’s always been done and make it a protected, healthy, higher level atmosphere.
There is also a segment of coaches that think they know everything, and don’t care to learn new and better techniques. They are more concerned with domination than protection. They have a “you will do what I say no matter what” mentality. To them, gymnasts are an asset to either improve their business or increase their standing in the gymnastics community. They speak love out of one side of their mouth but punish your child past what their bodies can handle in the gym.
In the Gymnast Care Community, these actions are unacceptable and we hope the community can start to recognize these bad apples, and help them to see the right way to protect our gymnasts.
As parents, the health of your gymnast falls squarely on your shoulders.
It is not your job to blindly follow someone’s recommendations, and to do this as a parent borders on abuse. Your job is to protect them from injury, both physical and mental.
Stepping up and taking responsibility is not insubordination, it is your duty. Many of our Gymnast Care parents understand this duty and work hard to make sure their gymnasts are getting the best possible training, and they reach out when they need help understanding what is happening to their gymnast’s bodies. We encourage this communication and we are here to help you!
You might be the only lifeline your gymnast has. Listen to them and be the voice in your gym of reason and protection. It’s your duty, even if it makes you less popular than the parents that just go along.
Why Are We Doing This Campaign?
Gymnast Care’s number one goal in doing this campaign is to see gymnastics take its training to the next level, all while protecting its precious athletes.
We want to do this by telling you stories, showing you research, and giving examples on how you can do things different and be a better coach, parent, and performer in gymnastics.
Our gymnasts are our future. They will not only compete now and in college, they will be the leaders of the next generation of gymnastics and in some cases, the world.
This is our chance to change. To give our girls hope and knowledge on what it’s like to not only talk about being strong, but truly become strong.
What This Means to Me
As a dad of daughters, I want to see them become strong. To stand up for what they believe in and to stand up to others that try to do them harm. Their bodies are precious to me. They only get one chance with it.
My daughters are already strong, and pliable….but as Dr. Bill Sands said, “Being pliable does not give you the right to beat on them.” My oldest is already in gymnastics and I want to be able to send her to any gym in the country and know that that gym is doing it right. I want to know that they’re protecting their athletes, and the gym is training with the right principles of gymnastics, recovery, and strength.
The gym should be an environment of open communication where everyone has a voice in protecting each other.
Right now this concept is a fairy tale world, but WE CAN CHANGE, and you can be a part of this grassroots effort. The Campaign to Keep Gymnastics Sane is our plan.
Bookmark this page and come back to this post to find out what we’re doing now with the Campaign to Keep IT Sane. We’ll be composing numerous posts over the summer of 2014.
Make sure you give us your feedback below in the comments so we can know your thoughts. This is a team effort and we can CHANGE this sport!