Is It Worth It?

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Is it worth it?

This is a question that comes to mind in many parents and athletes.

It’s a valid question. Essentially it is a re-evaluation of goals and actions. It’s normal, even a good idea, to re-evaluate your goals in gymnastics. Including the goal to continue for another season.   Re-evaluating our goals allows us to regroup, refocus, refine and recommit to excellence.

But here is a confession: I hate the question “Is it worth it?”   In part, I hate it because of the vagueness.

What is the first “it”?

What is the second “it”?

What does “worth” mean?

Second, I hate it because its vagueness often is referring to an outcome goal that is beyond the athlete’s control and that is singular in the evaluation of worthiness of a pursuit. (i.e. getting a scholarship, making the Olympics)

Finally, the question of “worth” is almost always asked from a place of extreme emotion (usually stress or distress) and often has the unintended consequence of making the athlete feel like there is only one definition of success.

Instead of asking “Is it worth it?” ask the question with the reason and the motivation for asking it.

For instance, “Is spending 20 hours a week at the gym a good use of my daughter’s time and our family’s time and money if she isn’t going to do gymnastics in college?”

Attack the premise. The premise of the question is that the time and money spent on gymnastics is only worthwhile if the athlete gets to do gymnastics in college. Is that true? Are there other benefits of spending these kinds of resources on a sport? Pretend that you knew for certain the outcome of college gymnastics was not an option due to no fault of your athlete (i.e. a law was passed that gymnastics could not be a part of college sports—we are making believe, just hang with me here), would you immediately withdraw your child from the sport or would you have never allowed her to begin in the first place?

Challenge the parameters. In this case: the time and money. If gymnastics is still enjoyed by the athlete but the commitment level has hit the point of diminishing return, can that level be adjusted? If gymnastics were suddenly free, would that change your thinking?

Question the alternative uses of the parameters. What would the athlete do with the time not spent in the gym? (Hang at the mall? Volunteer? Study more? Get involved in another sport?) Would that use be more constructive to her life? Is there a better use of the family resources that would make a significant difference to the family?

Examine your motivations.  Why are you asking the question to begin with? Is it in response to disappointing news or a poor performance? Are you looking for a way to justify a decision you want to make (a rationalization) or are you trying to gather information to make a rational decision?   Are you in a good place emotionally to make a decision?   Are you trying to shield your child (or yourself) from disappointment in the future?

So, is it worth it? That is up to each athlete and family to decide and my encouragement to them is to remember that there is a difference between quitting and ending and to evaluate the decision on more than single outcome goal like a college scholarship or a place on the Olympic team.

Gymnastics is not life, but the benefits of gymnastics are are not limited to earning a scholarship or a place on an Olympic team.