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Competitive Youth Gymnastics Gasparilla Classic

Competitive Youth Gymnastics – Managing Expectations as a Father

 

As fathers, many of us want our children to be involved in youth sports. In saying that, I have never seen anything quite like competitive youth gymnastics. 

Our Journey

Competitive Youth Gymnastics Gasparilla ClassicOur family started this competitive youth gymnastics journey with our daughter about 4 years ago. Like most, we started with excitement and joy as we watched our daughter do what she seemingly loved to do and in our eyes, she was good at it. Last season, she repeated level 4. This caught us be surprise because in the previous season, she won 1st place All Around in the State Championships.

Having to repeat a level after that was our first real glimpse into how this whole gymnastic thing goes. To sum it up quickly, she didn’t have some of the required skills to move to Level 5. Although it was a let down at the moment, she started to see that the next steps she would have to take would be pushing her beyond just her natural abilities. 

After a successful second season at level 4, this season, she started at level 6. This season has been the most challenging for my her since the she start of her gymnastics journey. About 6 weeks before the first meet, she hit her foot on the beam which created a small fracture. Although it didn’t keep her out of practice, she had to modify her training for a couple of weeks to give her foot time to heal.

Two meets into the competition season, she moved from Level 6 to Level 7. If you are keeping up with the numbers, that’s a two level jump in 9 months. Moving levels mid season and continuing to learn new skills presents its own challenges but somewhere between the first and second meet, she tweaked a muscle in her back and had to manage the pain and modify to get through.

In the midst of managing her back, she caught the flu which sidelined her for a complete week from school and training and then another entire week to start getting back to normal in the gym. For safety reasons (as she got her strength back) her coach decided to sit her out of their next meet which was the Excalibur Cup in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  After a long two weeks, she was pretty much back to normal, just in time to compete in her FIRST travel meet in Tampa Florida at the Gasparilla Classic.

Competitive Youth Gymnastics Gasparilla ClassicWith this being her first travel/fly meet, we had no idea that this meet is the biggest youth gymnastics meet in the world. It was also the last meet before the State Championships in March. All in all, Logan handled things well. The team placed 3rd place in their category and Logan had a Top 5 finish on both Vault and Bars.

Talk About The Issues

My daughter Logan is one that doesn’t complain. I constantly have to ask her how she is doing because if we leave it up to her, she is just going to try to figure it out. While I love that about her, I understand that she is going to have to be able to talk it out as well be able to mentally navigate things. In the past, I have reluctantly inquired about things because I didn’t want to be the one that put what could be viewed as negative thoughts, into her mind.

In speaking with the head girls gymnastics coach, she explained to me why it is important to have her talk about how she is feeling. There is so much in life that kids already have to figure out. You then add one of, if not the most challenging sports to the mix and you can start to see where challenges could present themselves. There is the physical stress but then there is also the mental stress of working through learning skills and managing injuries (because they do happen). This is definitely the sport that children have to learn the difference between being hurt vs being injured.

School and Gymnastics

As demanding as the sport of gymnastics is, school is still a top priority in our home. With training happening 4 to 5 days a week, 3.5 to 4 hours each session, you can see how maintaining a healthy balance with school work can be tough. I can’t lie, it’s something that we continually course correct each week.

With meets sometimes happening on Friday’s or travel days during the week just to get to a meet, we are learning to plan ahead as much as possible with school work. I sometimes think that while teachers say they understand, being as though gymnastics is not a sanctioned school event, they don’t provide the same work balance as they would for student athletes who participate in the sports offered by their school.

Life Balance

Let’s get this out of the way, there is no life balance in competitive youth gymnastics. When my daughter first got on to the competitive teams, I remember the coach saying that they will definitely lose part of their childhood doing this sport. I didn’t really know how I felt about that and to this day, I still struggle with it. I mean you think about the possibilities of making it to college on a gymnastics scholarship and you also think about how the sport will shape and mold your child to be able to deal with other adversities in life and to cost seems worth it.

But as a father, it’s still something that you will battle on a continuous basis. One thing that we always try to do is to steal as many moments away as we can. On meet weekends that are out of town, sometimes we try to stay an extra day or so to make it into a mini vacation. On “off days” we try to make sure we aren’t just sitting around the house but we are out actively trying to do non gymnastics things so she can enjoy as much of life as possible. All while knowing that she should probably be resting LOL.

But you do what you can and communicate with each other along the way. Some days need to be just rest days and that’s fine. Other days they want to catch up on life as much as possible.

Sibling Impact

Sibling impact has been one of the tougher challenges for me. In order to make a gymnastics schedule work, you and your family have to have a functioning calendar that is up to date AT ALL TIMES! The schedule will impact everyone in the household especially siblings. You only have 24 hours in a day and because of the frequency of training and the time spent training, undoubtedly this is going to conflict with any type of schedule a sibling may have. So what do you do?

You try to make it work in between the hours. My son is the oldest so as a father, I know that I have to spend time with him to make sure he has everything that he needs from me. The last thing I want to do is neglect my responsibility to him because I am so involved with the gymnastics schedule. Kelley and I have always done an amazing job organizing our family’s time. Because there is no sports schedule like gymnastics, often times I can make my sons schedule work within the parameters of her schedule (you can get a lot done in a 4 hour block of time).

During gymnastics training, me and my son will go to the gym and workout together. This is our time to do the “man stuff”. I have to say that he has taken it like a champ. He never really complains but I cannot just take that for granted. His personal development is something that is on my mind every single day.

The Physical Aspect of Competitive Youth Gymnastics

My daughter has always been naturally strong. When she started training for gymnastics, watching her body change and just become more and more muscular was something that I really had to come to grips with. Shoulders, legs, arms, back, abs… everything is developed. But what makes me smile is she takes pride in being a strong girl. Her hands are callused from the uneven bars. It’s nothing for her to come home and say “Dad, I got another rip.” All this means is she ripped open a callus on her hand. She doesn’t even complain about it.

Should You Consider Gymnastics for Your Child

This is really a tough decision to make but it is one that should made with much thought. Competitive Youth Gymnastics is a different animal. It requires sacrifice from not only the gymnasts but the entire family. I would say the biggest thing to consider is the temperament of your child. How well does your child respond to criticism? Is your child adverse to being talked to in a certain way?

While every program is different, the sport itself will test your child’s will and as a parent, you have to be able to allow them to go through the fire without interjecting yourself to much into their situation. It’s just as much of a constant checks and balance situation with you as a father than it is for the gymnast themselves.

Helpful Links:

Sportsplex, Prince George’s County Gymnastics Training

USA Gymnastics

 

How to Connect with Your Kids

How to Connect with Your Kids: Tired of Surface-Level Parenting? Learn How to Connect on a Deeper Level!

Hey there, fellow dads! As a 40+ year old father of a son and a daughter, I know firsthand how essential it is to learn how to connect with your kids. It’s incredible to witness them grow and evolve, and connecting with them on a deeper level can be one of the most rewarding experiences of fatherhood. So, let’s dive into some practical tips on how we can strengthen those bonds and create lasting memories together.

Understanding Your Children’s Individuality

You know, my son and daughter couldn’t be more different if they tried! My son is of course into video games, likes to play soccer and he is super analytical, while my daughter is a gymnast at the junior olympic level, loves arts and crafts and tends to be free spirited. It took me a while to realize that embracing their uniqueness is key to connecting with kids on a deeper level. When we show genuine interest in their passions and engage in activities they love, it’s like a secret doorway into their hearts.

How to Connect with Your Kids

Every year around my son’s birthday, we do some type of event like the circus or here, we went to see the Lion King at the Kennedy Center

How to Connect with Your Kids Engaging in Shared Activities

One of the best ways to connect with your kids is through shared experiences. Because of our crazy schedules, we really value family time. We trying to let one of the kids pick something to do for outings and then we all go all in with supporting them as a family. I also make sure to have my son participate with some of my activities like working out and mountain biking. These outings not only bring us closer but also create unforgettable memories that we cherish.

Being Present and Involved

As a busy dad, it’s not always easy to juggle work and family life. But trust me, being present and involved is worth every effort. When my kids see that I’m fully present during our interactions, it reinforces how much I value our time together. Putting away distractions, like my phone, and actively listening to their stories from school or their dreams and fears, makes all the difference.

Fostering Emotional Expression

Kids might not always say it outright, but they need to know it’s okay to express their emotions. We encourage open communication in our family, and I try to be vulnerable about my own feelings too. My son is a creator of habit like me. It never fails when the new school year comes around, I can sense the feeling of “the unknown” weighing on him a bit. I always talk to him about it as opposed to telling him to just get over it. The truth is, I remember those EXACT emotions about starting a new school year let alone a new school from my younger years.

Encouraging Independence and Decision Making

As fathers, we naturally want to protect our kids from making mistakes. But learning and growing come hand in hand with making choices and experiencing both successes and failures. Independence is a confidence booster, and supporting them through decisions builds trust.

Communicating Values and Life Lessons

Our role as dads is not just to provide, but also to guide our kids in life. In this world that we live in now, our kids have so many things pulling at them for attention. It’s critical that we instill our values into our kids. If we fail to do this, there will be others that will do it for you and it may not yield the results that you would like.

Addressing Conflict and Challenges

Let’s face it, conflicts are bound to happen, even in the happiest families. When disagreements arise, I try my best to stay calm and patient. I think so many children do not address conflict resolution in their home and when they get out into the world, they struggle to cope and it can often times lead them down a dark path.

Conclusion

Fellow dads, learning how to connect with your kids on a deeper level is a journey filled with love, joy, and growth. Embrace their individuality, engage in shared experiences, and be present in their lives. Encourage emotional expression and independence while guiding them with values and life lessons. Address conflicts with patience and understanding, knowing that each challenge is an opportunity for growth.

Remember, it’s the little moments that create the strongest connections. Cherish every laugh, every hug, and every conversation, because those are the building blocks of the extraordinary bond you share with your children. Happy fatherhood, and enjoy the journey of connection and love with your kids!

Universal Island of Adventure

I started to write an elaborate blog post comparing Disney Parks and Universal Parks but forget all of that LOL. If you want thrill rides, go to Universal. If you want the immersive experiences and are a fan of Disney (and have young children), the Disney theme parks are for you. Pricing for both works out to be about the same so it’s going to come down to how you want to craft your family’s experience. 

My family recently traveled to Orlando, Florida and we visited Universal Island of Adventure. I have to say that VelociCoaster is the best roller coaster that I have ever experienced. It was our first ride of the day and it set the tone for the rest of the day.

Top 5 Thrill Rides at Universal Island of Adventure

  1. Jurassic World VelociCoaster
  2. The Incredible Hulk Coaster
  3. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
  4. Skull Island: Reign of Kong (dark ride, indoors)
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man (dark ride, indoors)

Below are some photos from the day.

Let’s first talk about peoples commitment to Harry Potter in 90+ degree weather!

The entranceway to the VelociCoaster Ride!

The early bird gets the worm! Walking straight to the ride.

Entering the Harry Potter part of Island of Adventure

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventures

Entrance to Skull Island Reign of KONG

We still made our way to Disney Springs at the end of the day to visit Gideon’s Bakehouse

This Red Velvet cake is amazing! But the Key Lime cake (not pictured) was even BETTER!!!

Top 5 Truths About Youth Gymnastics

I am writing this article to hopefully provide some insight into youth gymnastics for any father (and/or mother) that has a child interested in the sport. Maybe your child hasn’t expressed an interest YET, but you are looking to get them into a sport or activity. I hope this article helps you when it comes to making your decision.

So how did we get here?

My wife and I have a son and a daughter. At the writing of this article, my son is 13 and my daughter is 11. What peaked our interest in youth gymnastics was 100% the physical play of my daughter starting back when she was a toddler. She has always been really strong and she loved to climb things, flip, stretch and do other things that constantly had us holding our breath and panicking LOL. We enrolled her at a small gym here in Clinton Maryland when she was about 2 years old. Whenever it came time to go out with the kids, she would cry and cry and just wanted to get back to mommy, so we canned that idea thinking “maybe this isn’t for her”. As time went on and some years passed, she kept climbing and flipping and so my wife decided to enroll her in some gymnastic classes at another gym through PG Parks and Recreation. This was the beginning of the journey. Logan went through each of the class levels from bronze, to silver to gold and then we started wondering if she could potentially get on a competition team. Kelley worked to get her evaluated and for a while, it didn’t seem like they were going to select her for the teams. Honestly looking back, she was a couple of years older than where they typically seem to like to start the kids (more on that later). Logan was finally evaluated and she made the level 3 team in the Junior Olympics program at Sports & Learning Complex in Landover Maryland.

The information I am going to share with you here is from the insight of a father that has had a child in a youth gymnastics program for 3 years (at the time of this article). There are 5 things that I believe every new parent should know. Those 5 things are TIME COMMITMENT, PHYSICAL COMMITMENT, FINANCIAL COMMITMENT, SIBLING IMPACT & EXPECTATION MANAGEMENT. Let’s break these down…

Truth #1: The Time Commitment of Youth Gymnastics

Set up and Tear Down Youth Gymnastics

One of my first realizations that gymnastics was unlike any other sport was the time commitment that it takes from both the gymnast and the parents. Most youth sports will practice 2 maybe 3 times a week for 1.5 to 2 hours max. When it comes to competition gymnastics, that practice time commitment is typically 4 days per week, about 3 to 4 hours each practice. Yes, practice even on school nights. You MUST be organized with your schedule! If you talk to most parents they will tell you how they have to carefully coordinate their time from picking the children up from school and dropping them off at practice. There is also the parental time commitment in attending meetings as well as volunteer time required for all gymnastics events hosted at your home gym. This includes volunteering during the actual meets at the gym as well as setup and breakdown of all apparatus.

Truth #2: Physical Commitment of Youth Gymnastics

uneven bar rips youth gymnastics

As a father watching his little girl train for this sport, I can honestly tell you there were a couple of times I wanted to tell her she could quit. When your child gets on the competitive teams, their bodies will quickly transform from the amount of strength training that they do on a daily basis. The six pack abs come in, their shoulders start to get broader, their arms develop, their legs develop and they tear their hands up on the uneven bars. Yeah dad, get used to your daughter having rougher hands than you. Now, I do believe that when the girls go through this together, it makes their bond even tighter as a group. You would think that after being around each other for 16 hours a week, they would want a break from each other. It seems like it’s just the opposite, they seem to want to be around each other more because if the truth be told, there really aren’t any other kids that can understand their schedule and commitment and it’s just more of a natural friendship fit.

Truth #3: Financial Commitment of Youth Gymnastics

When it comes to youth gymnastics, it’s time to turn your wallet upside down. No seriously, like most youth sports that are on a level of AAU, travel teams etc, gymnastics requires a pretty significant financial commitment. Fee’s for the program, fees for the booster club, leotards, travel expenses for meets, physical therapy when needed and other things. One other thing that we honestly need to put more focus on is the diet of our gymnast. This of course is going to add to the financial commitment but it is so necessary.

Truth #4: Sibling Impact

If you have more than 1 child, and you have a child in competitive youth gymnastics, you have to be mindful of how much time you are taking away from the siblings that are at home. Gymnastics takes up A LOT of your free time but you don’t want to slight the siblings that are not involved. There is a good chance that you will need to sacrifice a good portion of your remaining free time to make sure that your other child (children) can participate in other sports and activities. One thing that we always try to do is extend competition / meet weekends. When Logan has a competition out of town, even if we could go and come right back, we will often try to add time before the meet, after the meet or both so we can spend time together as a family. When Clark has his games or activities that we are involved with as a family, we make sure Logan goes to support him like he supports her. It is a delicate balancing act and you have to be intentional about what you do.

Truth #5: Expectation Management

Expectation management was one of the biggest adjustments for me. Gymnastics as a whole, especially youth gymnastics is just as much mental as it is physical for the athlete. Sometimes they get their new skills/upgrades fast, sometimes they get them on a regular pace and sometimes it may take a little longer than some of the other gymnast. This was a tough lesson for me to learn at first. Communication with you coaches and the program is VITAL. If you are a parent that is taking a serious approach to gymnastics and you want to see how far you child can go to even include college, you have to approach their training with intentionality. The tricky part is communicating with your gymnast to a point of stressing the importance of them taking it serious without putting to much pressure on them to where it could mentally stress them out and impact their performance. You have to know your child and the best way to communicate with them. Ask questions to your gymnast and coaches and monitor your athletes progress. When we found out the things that Logan needed to work on, it helped us to manage our expectations as well as her expectations and created a smoother journey for the process.

When Should You Start Your Child in Gymnastics?

Earlier in the article, I mentioned the timing of when gyms typically like to get gymnasts started in the sport. Let me say this upfront, I am not a gymnastics coach so this is just my opinion based on what I have seen over the years. I believe that gymnastic programs what children to start their involvement in youth gymnastics around the ages of 5 or 6. I think there are 2 big categories or reasons to look at with this… muscle & tendons and  mentality. The younger that your child is, the more pliable and elastic their muscles and tendons are in their body. There is less stiffness and less resistance to training. The other side of this is the mentality. Let’s face it, some of the moves that these gymnasts execute are scary! But we all know, young children for the most part are fearless. This helps them greatly when it comes to performing some of the skills required to be successful. The older we get, the more we tend to put up barriers to things that we feel may be “dangerous” and in the sport, this can create mental blocks.

So is it Worth It?

The short answer is YES! In spite of everything mentioned above, the discipline that these young gymnast learn is almost world class! I truly believe the mental toughness that they learn will help them all throughout their life. If your child really expresses an interest, they want to take it serious and you have the means to do it, I think it is definitely worth it

Podcast Interview – Shawn Hicks 1st and 10 Barber Shop

In this episode, I sit down with Shawn Hicks, Master Barber and Owner of 1st and 10 Barbershop in Clinton Maryland. We talk about his journey as a barber and even more important, his journey as a husband and a father. I was really grateful that Shawn was transparent! I think his insight into not only being a high performing father in business but also his journey with his family will greatly help any father who watches this interview.

Podcast Interview – Kenneth Hodder of the Salvation Army

In 2022, I had the opportunity to meet Commissioner Kenneth Hodder who is the National Commander for the Salvation Army. I was at their headquarters to shoot new headshots and during my time there, we began to discuss 300 Fathers. Fast forward to 2023 and I had the opportunity to return to the national headquarters of the Salvation Army to interview Commissioner Hodder for the High Performance Fatherhood podcast.

Family Vacation – Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas

We decided to take a cruise from July 3 – July 10 on the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas. This was our second cruise as a family with our first cruise being on the Disney Fantasy in 2014. Knowing that we set the bar high for our first cruise, we were really picky about which cruise line we would go with for our next. I have to say, Royal Caribbean did not disappoint. I am often asked to compare Disney to Royal Caribbean and there are some pretty big differences however, they are both great cruise lines. I believe that Royal Caribbean has more activities to do aboard the ship as a whole. As with the theme parks, Disney is all about storytelling. With that said, their customer service is of course unmatched.

The ONLY thing that I can say about our sailing on the Harmony of the Seas was that as we got close to the end of the cruise, about day 6, it seemed like they were remixing some of the food dishes in the main gallery. I will do a more detailed review at a later day, but here are some photos from our trip. If you are looking to sail with your family, I would definitely suggested, looking into the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Their brand new ship, ICON of the Seas sets sail in 2024.

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