Gymnastics: Pushing Addie Right up to the Point of Resentment

Pushing children to work hard at sports, school work, or just plain life without driving them to resentment is tricky. I found myself wondering how hard to push Addie following her trip to gymnastics class this week.

I watched as Addie’s teacher worked with her on the balance beam. He was having her do a cartwheel into a handstand and she was supposed to be able to hold the handstand. The kid’s excellent at cartwheels. She probably does a hundred cartwheels each day just spur of the moment: “Huh, I think I’ll do a cartwheel right here in the living room.” The handstands are a different story, though.

The kid struggles to keep her balance and it’s probably because she doesn’t practice handstands as frequently as she does cartwheels. My fear is that if she hasn’t figured out how to hold a handstand on solid ground, how is she going to learn while on a balance beam?

I could tell as she was working with her teacher that she wasn’t taking the exercise seriously and that we probably needed to have a talk about why we do gymnastics. This caused a flood of memories to rush through my mind as I remembered my time as a kid.

I played all kinds of sports, but the two where my father pushed me the hardest were football and basketball. By the time I hit junior high my dad pretty much admitted I just didn’t have “it” in basketball. Football, however, was a different story.

My father pushed me hard before I started playing high school football. I can remember many times where we went for long drives so we could “talk” about how I was performing in practice — and when I say talk, I mean that I was getting lectured about working harder. We spent many hours in the backyard practicing different plays and certain techniques. By the time I hit high school, I was burnt out, which meant I was pretty darn lazy throughout my high school football years.

Now that it is several years down the road l regret the attitude that I had during high school. It’s not like I have these false impressions that I could have played in college or the NFL, but I regret that I never put the effort in to see where my ceiling was in football.

Recently, one of Michael Phelps’ teammates, who Phelps smoked in a race, criticized Phelps for lacking work ethic. Tyler Clary blasted Phelps for having immense talent, yet wasting that talent by taking it easy during practices. Clary was disappointed because Phelps largely wasted that talent by being okay with just being the best. Sure, being the best is pretty darn good, but how incredible would it be to set records that may not be beaten for decades?

I don’t want Addie to take whatever talent she has and waste it while just going through the motions. However, I don’t want her to resent me for pushing her in gymnastics and I don’t want her to burn-out before she gets to high school. It’s a difficult balance to strike.

I told Addie after gymnastics practice that she needed to start working on her handstands each day, and that she needed to start working on pushups, pullups and crunches each week as well. She gave me a scowl and turned and glared out the window. I promised her I would help her with her pullups and that I’d learn how to do a handstand with her. That seemed to turn her attitude around, but I’m not sure where to go with things once she starts working on the uneven bars.

Nobody wants to see me on the uneven bars — well, maybe the people who watch America’s Funniest Home Videos.

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