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Teachable Moments in Gymnastics

Gymnastics is probably the most challenging sport in the world. No scratch that, it is the most challenging sport in the world, as studies by ESPN prove. However, as a former gymnast myself, and a former coach, I would have to say that being a parent of a gymnast is the most difficult spot to be in.

I coached my daughter, Lucy, for more than half her career and in that time span, we had our series of conflicts and joy. We had our fair share of ups and downs. Her friends thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a mom as a coach at her disposal; Lu would beg to differ.

Many times she would discredit what I had to say or wouldn’t even want to hear it. Our relationship became tainted, and I knew it was time to make a change. As life would have it, that decision would be made by fate itself. Lu found out her coach would be relocating to a different gym, she also got hurt and decided that she wanted to quit.

Friends and family convinced her that she shouldn’t and instead she went to a different gym. Different teammates, different coaches different styles of teaching, and no mom as a coach at this gym. I watched her struggles and accomplishments from the sidelines, until the mental block came along.

I will admit, I did everything the books told you not to do; I bribed her, compared her to her teammates, and I frequently spoke about the skill in the car! That’s a no-no. I examined her mental block from different sides and to no avail.  I couldn’t help her and it was frustrating to us both. She, nor I couldn’t understand why I helped others but not her.

That was until last night it hit me…. This is a teachable moment, a life lesson. I don’t know if this conversation will help her overcome her mental block, what I do know is this conversation will help her grow as a person and an athlete. As a parent that is our most important job.

” Lu, whether or not you are a great gymnast doesn’t matter to me, no matter what you do I am proud of you. But the lessons you learn from the inside of the gym will only make you a stronger person outside. And fear is one. People everyday face some fear. The way I see it you can let it stop you dead in your tracks, or you can overcome it. Your largest fear carries your greatest achievements. People never regret the things they did, people regret the things they didn’t do because they were afraid to take the risk. Fear is temporary and regrets well, that’s permanent and lasts forever.”

She then started with the excuses, “but I can’t because….” And with that, I said, “excuses are another roadblock, you can have results or excuses, not both.”

She chimed in “mom, what if I fall? And I replied, ” but Lu, what if you fly?”

Gina Spagnoli is an educator, a former collegiate gymnast, a coach, wife, and a mother of 3. She sent this to Gold Medal Moms because she wanted to share with others her story and the challenge of being a sports parent.

If you have a story you would like to share about your experience as a sports parent and a teachable moment learned, please email us at goldmedalmoms@gmail.com We will happily post it on our blog.

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