Sunday, July 10, 2016

Supporting a Young Woman in the Toughest Sport

Participating in gymnastics demands a continual intense focus and commitment. It is an unforgiving sport and the opportunity to pause and savor an accomplishment is somewhat limited. Immediately following any competition, a gymnast is right back in the gym for practice and improvement. There is hardly a break before pushing on to achieve the next skill and reach the next level of competition. Expectations from coaches are high and reveling in victory is barely encouraged. There's not much celebrating in the end zone in this sport.

On April 10, 2016 Adah competed at Level 9 Regional Championships in Bourbonnais, Illinois. She placed 4th All Around and qualified for USAG Eastern Nationals.

In my role as gym mom for this young athlete, my responsibilities include, providing high quality meals and education about healthy nutrition, insistence on adequate rest, and continuing attention to academics. Plus, providing the important emotional support for the general overall well being of my daughter. Emotional stability and mental balance is an important factor for athletes. Young athletes need support and guidance to navigate through the intense emotional, as well as physical demands of training and competition.   

Here are a few suggestions for addressing the emotional development of a young athlete while participating in a high demand sport:
  • Do fun things! It's important to do unrelated, just for fun activities on a regular basis.
  • Maintain family activities outside of the sport. Regular family meals, for example, despite the training schedule.
  • Encourage and support other interests outside of the sport. Art, crafts or music can all be enjoyed as a way to take a mental break.
  • Acknowledge the demands of the sport. A tired athlete needs to hear that what they are doing is intense and tiring.
  • Acknowledge participation as an accomplishment. No matter what happens in competition, dedication to regular training is an achievement. Commitment deserves a pat on the back regardless of the results.
I try to remind Adah of her many accomplishments as a competitor and team mate. I remind her that where ever she places at a meet, she has achieved success simply by being there. Like the many young athletes participating in this sport, she has developed an amazing command of her body, she has learned the skills of hard work, discipline and perseverance. In acknowledging to her the value of those skills, I hope to boost her confidence as a young women in all areas of her life. Given the hard work she has done, documenting and sharing her success is an important part of the process of her growth as an athlete and more importantly as a young woman striving for excellence. Above all, we (her parents), express to her our continual joy in her as a young woman, no matter what happens in gymnastics!

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