It’s that time of the season where the lobby is buzzing and the rumors are swirling. Who’s switching gyms? Who’s going where? What gym is going to have which team? Could the grass really be greener down the street?
Truth be told, there are legitimate reasons to change gyms and as a customer, it is your choice on who you give your business to. However, there are also important things to keep in mind when doing your research as to stay or to go. Every gym has issues and you will never find a perfect gym, a perfect coach, or a perfect team. Often, the lessons that can be most beneficial in the long run are lessons of longevity, growth and development. Nothing in the world, including cheerleading, is a quick fix.
Before deciding to stay or go, here are 3 things to really consider.
The level of training
There is no magic formula or gym size that can create a championship team. Small facilities with the bare minimum essentials can produce the same quality of training as a larger facility with multiple floors and rooms. Regardless of physical size, not all gyms can provide the same level of training needed for all athletes.
I owned a small gym for years and our highest level team was a level 4. I had a gymnast come in and cheer for one season on our level 4 team with a double full. I knew we would be unable to have a level 5 team the following season, so I gave her and her parents an introduction to another gym in our town that had a level 5 world’s team. Of course I didn’t want to lose an athlete, but I also didn’t want to hold an athlete back from being on a team that was appropriate for her skill level. A gym owner has a duty to their athletes to be honest about the level of training and teams that they are able to provide. This does not mean that if your child makes a level 2 team and you think your child should be on a level 3 team that you should switch gyms. This means, that it’s perfectly acceptable to search for a program that can offer your child a team that matches your child’s skills.
Every child progresses at a different pace and comparison truly is the thief of joy. Enjoy your child’s milestones and progressions, even if they seem to happen slower or faster than other athletes. Your child does not need to move up a level every year. Your child does not need to have any skill by any certain age. As long as you are at a program that can provide you with the level of training your child needs, let your child develop through proper coaching.
Not winning is not a reason to switch gyms. Not having the opportunity to win is.
Learning to lose can be one of the most valuable lessons a child can take away from youth sports. Some of the greatest teams in the country, level 5 worlds’ teams, can go an entire season and not win a single competition. Does this negate their skill set? Does this negate the coaching ability or level of training at that gym? No, it means that their athletes are in a competitive division, with a competitive routine and their coaches have given them every opportunity possible opportunity to win.
Now, take a team that is placed in a division that is too high for them- where the skill level of the team is outmatched by competing teams in the same division. Or the level of routine choreography and music are outdated. The skills in the routine aren’t level appropriate and enough to hit the score sheet. This is an example of a team that doesn’t have an opportunity to win.
Every gym has building and rebuilding years. One off season doesn’t equate to jumping ship. However, the coaches should be well educated, up to date on what’s going on in the industry, and setting their athletes up to succeed by placing them in the correct age and skill appropriate divisions.
No gym, no coach, and no program can ever guarantee a win or a winning season. However, every coach, gym, and program should be able to provide an opportunity to win by placing teams in appropriate and realistic competitive divisions that will give them a fighting chance at an opportunity to win.
The greatest reason to consider changing programs and also, the most simple, comes down to your child. Is your child happy? Not you, but your child. This isn’t about you. It’s not about if you like the other parents, if you like the coach, if you want your child on a higher level team, or if you want to win more. You will never find fulfillment in youth sports, for you or your child, if you chase trophies. The fulfillment comes from having a happy child who is growing and learning from a sport that he/she loves participating in.
I once had a mother tell me she was pulling her child from my program because she wanted to go to a gym where they could win and she didn’t think my program ever would. The child was 11. She was happy, she loved coming to practice, she was learning, she had the opportunity to be on a team that would further her skills. They left. A year later, my gym beat the team they left to be on. A year after that, she quit cheer because she no longer enjoyed it.
Don’t ever let winning cast a shadow on your child’s joy. Trophies end up in storage containers, happy memories are the true gift that a parent gets to share with their child through youth sports.
You can always buy a new uniform, but you can never buy back the time you get to spend with your child. 10 years from now it’s not going to matter if it took your child 6 weeks to get a back handspring or 2 years.
It’s not going to matter what name was on the uniform, it will matter what lessons were learned in it. Appreciate youth sports for what they are and hold perspective on what really matters in the long run.