Have You Met the Crazy Gym Parent, and Is It You?

Gymnastics is an intense, sometimes crazy sport, and it can drive the best of us a little over the edge at times, but no one wants to be on the receiving end of listening to a crazy gym parent (CGP), and no one wants to discover that they are the crazy gym parent. Learn how to read the warning signs and avoid going off the rails.

The CGP is always at the gym

COVID may have temporarily curtailed this behavior in some states, but the CGP will be back and monitoring every practice as soon as possible. The CGP feels the need to keep an eye on every kid in the gym and may well give you an update on your kid’s progress as soon as you walk in the door.

Don’t want to be the CGP? Don’t live at the gym. Sure, watching practice from time to time is fun, and if you have any concerns at all about the gym environment you should get an in-person look at practice. Then there are parents who drive long distances, and it just isn’t practical to go home in between—those parents usually bring a book, or knitting, or a crossword puzzle during practice, and don’t spend hours eagle eyeing every kid in the gym.

The CGP only wants to talk to you about gymnastics

The crazy gym parent’s sole focus is on the success of his or her gymnast and they don’t have much interest in talking to you about anything else. If you try to start a conversation about any other topic, they quickly redirect it to the sport.

You: So, how was your weekend?

CGP: Great! Suzy spent all weekend practicing back handsprings on her beam in the basement. Want to see the videos?

Don’t want to be the CGP? Talk about other subjects. Of course, gymnastics is going to come up—it is a point of common interest, just don’t lose sight of your other interests outside of the sport.

There’s no “Team” in “I”

CGPs often forget that their child is actually part of a team, and the overall team success is just as important as their child’s success. The CGP sees every other kid on the level as competition and desperately wants their child to come in ahead of his or her teammates.

Don’t want to be the CGP? Don’t compare your kid to the other kids in the gym. Everyone is on their own journey, and it doesn’t matter if someone else got their kip first, or someone else is struggling with vault. Don’t worry about anyone else’s scores, and don’t grill your kid on how everyone else is doing at practice. Teach your child to support all of his or her teammates, and cheer for all of them yourself at meets.

Gotta get a scholarship!

As early as level 3 the word “scholarship” comes out of the CGP’s mouth at an alarming rate. I once heard a parent insist that if it wasn’t clear the gymnast was on the scholarship track by level 4, (yes, level 4) they might as well quit the sport! For these parents, the journey isn’t nearly as important as the destination—a DI college scholarship.

Don’t want to be the CGP? College costs a fortune these days, of course a scholarship would be amazing, but it’s a very long road from the early levels to a gymnastics college scholarship, and very few achieve it. Whatever level your child eventually reaches, it is the lessons learned along the way and the joy that gymnastics brings your child that matters. Maybe your child will get a full ride to a DI school, but don’t get so caught up in chasing the scholarship dream that you, or your child, miss all of the wonderful moments happening at the gym right now.

Rub some dirt on it

This is one of the most dangerous behaviors of the CGP—wishing an injury away, rather than seeking out medical treatment. It’s surprisingly frequent to find parents on gymnastics forums asking questions like, “My daughter may have fractured her ankle at practice last night, but she has a big meet on Sat. Should I wait until after the meet to take her in?”, or “My daughter has been complaining of back pain for months, should I get it checked out?”

Don’t want to be the CGP? No one wants their kid to miss a big meet—or worse, an entire season, but if he or she has been complaining about persistent pain for months, or might have gotten hurt during practice, don’t put off the doctor’s appointment out of the hope that the injury will clear up on its own, or can be dealt with once the season is over. The long-term repercussions aren’t worth it.

More must be better

CGPs frequently equate more hours with better gymnastics. Hours definitely do go up as gymnasts move through the levels, but the CGP is convinced their kid would be the best if only they did more, and more, and more. So, they’re lobbying the coaches to add extra hours, or bringing their kid in for privates four times a week, or outfitting the house with a home gym and encouraging their kid to practice as much as possible at home.

Don’t want to be the CGP? Trust that the coaches know what they are doing. Some skills may take your kid longer to get than others. That’s okay. Putting on more pressure and ever more hours in the gym is likely to backfire and lead to injuries and/or burnout.

Did you know my kid is a gymnast?

The CGP is The Parent of a Gymnast, and they need to make sure you know that too. Their kid just never stops being A Gymnast. You’ll see a stream of photos of their kid reading a book while doing a backbend, doing kips on a playground bar, cartwheels in the grocery store, or splits while watching TV.

Don’t want to be the CGP? Hey, we all post pictures or videos of our kids getting a big new skill or having success at a meet. It’s exciting to share their progress. But your kid isn’t just a gymnast, and focusing too much on that one part of his or her life isn’t healthy. Sometimes they’re just a kid swinging on the swings, or riding a bike, or enjoying an ice cream cone like any other kid.

If you find yourself sitting next to the CGP at a meet, or he or she tries to corner you at pick-up every night, just nod and smile and don’t let yourself get dragged into that mess. If you find yourself getting caught up in the craziness, take a deep breath and a big step back, and remember that this is meant to be fun, and that at the end of the day, it’s just gymnastics.

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What's your biggest CGP moment?​

What about the biggest CGP moment you have seen or heard about from another?​

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G #2

I have been the "team mom" for DD's team, and had a parent call me in tears when told their gymnast wasn't moving up to the next level.

Also, many parents at DD's gym arrange for private tumbling lessons at a nearby tumbling gym because they feel that our gym does not do a good job of teaching tumbling to lower level Xcel groups.

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My biggest CGP moment, that I am honestly ashamed of because I let frustration get the better of me, was seeing my kid bail out of every front tuck (run, straight jump… stop) and I got mad. It was the second day in a row, after she’d been doing this skill for a few years and I didn’t realize that the previous day she had landed on her neck bailing in midair because a kid ran out infront of her. I pulled her over, told her to do the damn front tuck or go home. I’m not proud of it, it was a multiple level meet move up season combined with a gym move to a much further location combined with financial difficulty and I was at my wits end.

She did go and do it. And bailed in midair and landed on her back.

I was so shook up, I backed away like a 1000 steps. Her coach fixed what I broke :(

The most CGM behavior I’ve seen? Many stand out. But THE most… there is a little girl who moved to our old gym, her mom wanted her to her more intense uptraining. Nothing was wrong with her old gym (it’s a very good gym), they drove an hour to our new gym and then bought a house next to the gym. But the level 4 season was approaching and she was not getting her kip. Her mom lost her mind. She paid for private after private. 3 privates during the week, 1 hour at a time (on top of 17 hours of practice). Saturday privates - she’d pay for 3 hours of them. Just to work on this kip. And it wasn’t happening.

Every single week, this kid was injured with something. Hurt shoulder, hurt knee, hurt ankles. Her mum pushed forward. She bought a springboard for home because vault was also a weak point. She had all the equipment. She tried to recruit my kid to come to a “play date” to “teach her daughter to kip”. I politely declined, my kid is not a coach and I want play dates for kids to be kids. She was homeschooled and her mom made sure she worked out at home for an hour before practice, because she had fractured her foot and after it healed she was convinced her daughter was weak. That she’d lost so much muscle she’s never get it back (she was 9). 6 months later, she said she still needed to work out outside of practice.

She had an issue with the coach at our old gym and moved gyms. We trialed out coincidentally at the gym she moved to and her daughter cried the entire time we were there about how much she didn’t want to be at the gym. I talked to her mum, gently, about maybe letting her explore new hobbies over summer, even if she doesn’t quit gymnastics, but maybe she could find something else she loves.
She eventually let her quit.

(this does not have a happy ending) 4 months later, we find out her daughter is now doing Xcel at a 4th gym, and we met back up at a competitive camp…our kids are in different groups, but my daughter said at stretch and lunch, she cried the entire time she was there.
I know this is specific enough info that someone might know exactly who I’m talking about but I have needed to vent this to someone for so long, it hurts my heart, and I know I’ve been a crazy person too.

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G #4

I have been the "team mom" for DD's team, and had a parent call me in tears when told their gymnast wasn't moving up to the next level.

Also, many parents at DD's gym arrange for private tumbling lessons at a nearby tumbling gym because they feel that our gym does not do a good job of teaching tumbling to lower level Xcel groups.

I was rushing earlier and didn't get to add this: The parents arranging private tumbling also have trampolines/air tracks at home and encourage the kids (who are just beginning tumbling, mind you) to work on BHS and similar skills at home.

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I've seen several parents move to homeschooling (specifically for gymnastics not for educational reasons) to get more hours and to be with the "better" coaches. Almost all of those kids have since quit. I saw one mom ask the coaches if she should get this $300 split machine to help her daughter with flexibility. I personally enjoy hearing all the level 3 moms talk about their kid going to the Olympics lol....that doesn't happen at gym as much but some of them will post about it on facebook etc.

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Yikes- what is a “split machine”?

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I was rushing earlier and didn't get to add this: The parents arranging private tumbling also have trampolines/air tracks at home and encourage the kids (who are just beginning tumbling, mind you) to work on BHS and similar skills at home.

Me doing privates to fix home tumbling is why my kid doesn’t have any student loans.

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One of the moms from a couple of seasons ago actually called the coach and asked that the team first place trophy be taken away from my daughter and given to her daughter because it meant "more to her."

Back story: Our previous gym did not display team trophies. So if the level 7 team got first place, the coach would usually pick the gymnast that go to take the trophy home. Usually it was first place all around, but in levels when the same kid got the highest all around at each meet, the coaches would choose the girl who improved the most, met a goal, did a skill well they had been struggling with, etc. This particular meet, CGP Mom's child got 1st in the all around in her age group and the highest all around on our 9 person team. She had also had the highest all around the week before. My DD got first on floor, 2nd on bars, 2nd on beam, and 1st in the all around for her age level, but got 2nd highest AA for our 9 person team. Coach chose to give this week's trophy to my DD as the other girl had taken home the team trophy (1st place as well) the previous week. CGP mom called the coach, demanded that my daughter return the trophy so it could go to its rightful owner. She couldn't understand why my daughter had 'earned it" (well because that's the way the gym did it). Never mind that my daughter was a 4th grader and her DD was 13 and was throwing a tantrum about not getting her way. I have not spoken to her since.

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I started a forum a few months after my daughter was born to attract other CGP and have fun conversations... well... look where we are now.

Welcome to ChalkBucket!

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Yikes- what is a “split machine”?

Pure weirdness...

Amazon product ASIN B006UX6R76

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Hehe, I have one of those splits machines. It’s only good for middle splits though!

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I don't know which exact split machine it was I was just politely overhearing what she was asking the coach....my thought is just work on the splits at home its one of the few things you really dont need anything to work on! Her DD isnt in gymnastics anymore so I hope she didnt buy the split machine. She was just an intense mom all the way around, I think she had some personal regrets about not pursuing some of her sports dreams and projected that on her kids so she didnt want them to miss any opportunity kind of thing. She was...interesting

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Thanks to Jen Kula for another great article that you can read at the following link...

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What's your biggest CGP moment? What about the biggest CGP moment you have seen or heard about from another?

Nice article.

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I am so thankful that most of the parents at my gym are down to earth and normal. We did have one CGP on DD1’s team a few years back. This poor girl had been to 3 gyms in 3 years. Mom pulled her out of L3 at their old gym because she didn’t meet the gym’s score requirements for mobility to L4. This was a season where we didn’t have JO compulsory teams, only XCEL. She demanded that her DD be put on Gold, although she could barely do her BHS consistently. She sat through all practices, paid for privates, was the most racist person I have ever met. She was toxic and made our gym look bad at meets. Totally embarrassing.
My DD has friends who are gymnasts at a different gym. Their moms would qualify for CGP status by my gym standards. They do privates routinely to ensure their kids compete at certain levels. They travel all over for private camps- travel by plane, hotel stays, etc. Some homeschool their first graders for ‘better coaching during the day’, have all of the equipment at home for extra practice, etc.

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The main CGP that I see is just the parent that is constantly looking at other gyms to see if the grass is greener somewhere else and if they are progressing kids through the levels quicker. Regardless of how well their kid is doing or what kind of relationships they are building.

Feel bad when the kid seems to have a good connection and making friends and then they have to start all over at a new gym.

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One thing that I have found, at least in my personal gym journey with my child is the CGP seems to be more pronounced for the lower level, very young gymnasts. I hated going into the parent room when the littles (my name) were practicing, so much chatter, scholarship this, olympics that. Most of the time it was was so misinformed I almost spoke up. My theory is that once they hit optionals and then level 9/10, I think a little humility/perspective is gained at how hard and challenging it is and how many great gymnasts are out there.

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