We all know who they are. You really can't miss one when you see her. She's always in the gym, hovering over her child. She's rolling her eyes when her child is distracted, and shouting corrections from across the lobby. She has no gymnastics background other than one year of recreational classes when she was nine, but she seems to think she is more qualified to teach her child than the instructors she is paying. Does this describe you? If so, you might be one of the resident gym moms in your facility.
From a coach's perspective, gym moms can be very difficult. They have a tendency to be competitive with other parents, and children for that matter, and they have trouble acting as team players. They interject commentary during lessons that is disruptive to the gym's environment. "Point your toes!" one might shout from across the gym. "Your legs aren't straight!" another might add. What these mothers fail to comprehend is the fact that, by contributing their two cents, they're actually undermining the instructors who are working with their children. A coach will always notice bent legs and flexed feet. However, there are times when those types of corrections are less important than others. Excellent coaches expect gymnasts to make their legs straight, but they will address bigger issues, such as technique, before jumping on their gymnasts for making simple errors that are easy to fix.
Many parents shy away from gym moms. When a mother gains a reputation for gossiping about other parents, children, or coaches, most people try to keep their distance, for fear that they will be next on the gossip list. Gym moms love to talk about everything that's going on in the gym, and they will generally share what they know with anybody who will listen. This can bring negativity to the facility's environment, and a good gym is all about maintaining a positive atmosphere for its gymnasts.
Gym moms generally have good intentions. Just like any other parent, gym moms want what is best for their children. That is something coaches need to understand. Gym moms are not trying to be intrusive, or step on anybody's toes, although it may come across that way. They are trying to help their children be successful, and most of the time, do not know how to be supportive from a distance. Essentially, children need their parents to be supportive, regardless of their performance. Gymnasts, particularly competitive gymnasts, tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves. They get consistent feedback from their coaches about how to improve their performances. When they have parents constantly repeating the coach's corrections, it puts additional pressure on them, and can have a negative impact on how well they perform. The best, most supportive parents in the gym, are those who attend every competition, and find every positive aspect of their children's performances, regardless of how they did in comparison to the other gymnasts. These parents are not jealous of the gymnasts that receive higher scores than their children, and they are team players. If gym moms took a step back, and took some pressure off of their children, they might find that their kids are happier, and more successful, as a result of their changed behavior.
So, what is the best course of action when dealing with gym moms? If you're a fellow parent, ignore them! They thrive on drama and the ability to share it with every available person. If parents ignore gym moms, they're taking the fuel away from the fire. If you're a coach, deal with them gently. Do your best to approach them in a non-threatening manner, and make suggestions for how they can help their children. There's nothing wrong with asking a parent to please stop making corrections from the lobby. It's distracting, and inappropriate, and parents need to understand that you are in charge of the class. Also, be aware of who they are talking to, and what they are saying. Many coaches would be surprised at the nature of the discussions that occur while gym moms are sitting together on the bleachers, or in the lobby. If gym moms are creating a negative atmosphere, it's important to address the moms immediately, instead of hoping the issues they stir up will just disappear. Finally, keep in mind that gym moms are not intentionally acting as the thorn in a coach's side. They just want to do what is best for their children, and unfortunately, they sometimes take the wrong approach.