“I Know I am Difficult to Coach” and Nine Other Things that Fearful Gymnasts Want to Their Coaches to Know
- I know that I am difficult to coach. My fear makes it hard to coach me, I understand this. It makes my progress slower. It makes you feel like a less effective coach. It makes me feel like a less accomplished athlete.
- I worry that you don’t like me. I know that my fear is annoying to you. To my parents. To my other teammates. And to me. And I worry that it is not just my fear that is annoying you all, but it is me that is annoying you. So, in addition to trying to cope with my fear, I am also worried that you don’t like me and don’t want to coach me.
- Being fearful is different than being stubborn. The outcome might be the same: not going for a new skill or not completing an assignment. But the source is different. If I were simply being stubborn or disobedient, this would be me being in conflict with you. I am afraid, which means I am in conflict with myself. This really is not about you. In fact, as I mentioned, I feel terrible that I am upsetting you.
- I can’t just “stop it.” I wish I could. Believe me. But I really have these feelings, and I cannot just make them go away. I need to be taught skills to cope.
- Yelling or threatening me doesn’t solve my fear issues. It’s possible that yelling at me or punishing me for being afraid might make me go for a skill in the short term, but my fear is still there. The only reason I went for the skill is that I am more afraid of being humiliated. And yelling doesn’t always work. When it doesn’t I am still scared and just feel ashamed on top of it.
- My fear is a very real thing. I am not just seeking attention. I am not just being a drama queen. I am not immature or spoiled either. I am scared. Sometimes for no good reason, I understand. It still doesn’t change the fact: I am scared.
- I do love gymnastics and I do want to improve. That is why I keep coming to practice and I keep trying. I do want this. I do care.
- I would give anything not to be scared. I don’t enjoy this either. I am trying to get better at coping with my fear, but please understand that this is a process. Some days I will do better than other days.
- It hurts when you ignore me. I know that you might think that ignoring me is a way for me to “go for it.” But it just makes me feel like I don’t matter. I don’t want you to have to pay extra attention to me but please don’t act like I am not there.
- Please be there for me. Help me work through my fear. Be patient with me. Break the skill down into smaller parts. Find alternative skills for me to do that might be less scary to me. If I am still struggling, get my parents involved. Maybe I do need to see a sports psychologist. Maybe my problem is larger than gymnastics. Pay attention and be an advocate for me, not an adversary. You are my coach, and I need you.
Note: to read a coach’s perspective on this topic, please check out my blog “It’s The Coaches’ Turn”