Competitive Youth Gymnastics – Managing Expectations as a Father

28 February 2024
Posted in Youth Sports
28 February 2024 300 Fathers


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



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