• We recently moved to the “other side of town” in Los Angeles and decided to try a new gymnastics facility, which is a little closer to home.  Our current facility is great but the commute was killing us.  It’s about 30 minutes away in good traffic conditions.  So we decided to try the rival facility, a little closer to home.  The place had a good reputation for producing competitive athletes but had some complaints about being a little rough with the children.  Gymnastics is known for being a very disciplined sport, so I figured it was worth checking out.  I took my two daughters, ages 9 and 11, both of whom have been training for over three years, to see if they would like it.  They weren’t really interested in changing but were open to saving time and money with a shorter commute.

    While trying out the new facility I sat in the gym bleachers to observe.  There were two sessions in progress with an advanced class on the right side of the gym and a beginners class to the left.  My children were isolated in a corner of the mat where an instructor was testing their flexibility, endurance and skill level.  I could tell the atmosphere was different immediately.  It was more tense and the teachers were screaming at the children to try harder and do things over and over again until they could do it perfectly.  For some reason, the instructors just looked upset.  Plus, some of the techniques looked questionable as one of the instructors was pushing down, in rapid cessation, on the torso of a young six or seven year-old girl in the beginners class.  I’d seen assistance in stretching but this just didn’t seem right.  It’s usually a slow and gradual process to prevent tears.  Plus, the girl was crying and pleading with the instructor to stop so something wasn’t right.  I was torn between watching my daughters and watching how they treated the other gymnasts.  I understand there are different schools of thought and that some children are lazy but they were going a little too far.

    They must have noticed that I was cringing as one of the assistants came up to me and told me I had to leave.  I was in shock and wasn’t sure that I heard her right so I asked, “Excuse me, what did you say?”  She lifted her hand, pointed towards the door and repeated in a heavy accent, “You have to leave because parents aren’t allowed to be here during training.”  This was very foreign to me as the other facility not only welcomed parents but even had a observation balcony that promoted transparency.  Then I looked around and realized that there were no other adults in the gym, other than the trainers that is.  “That makes no sense,” I responded. She stood there waiting for me to leave and repeated, “No parents are allowed.  Sorry but those are the rules.”  I got up, gathered my things and responded, “No problem, who’s the head instructor here?”

    After speaking with the lead instructor, she reiterated what the assistant had stated.  When I asked for a reason, she stated that it distracts the athletes and they don’t feel comfortable being observed.  I thought that it was a male thing, but she was adamant that gender was not the issue.  I couldn’t believe that this type of archaic training was going on in this day and age and let her know that some of their training techniques were questionable at best.  Furthermore, I added that and if they weren’t doing anything wrong then they wouldn’t have a problem with having observers.  It’s bad when a sport is more important to the instructors and their reputation than it is for the athletes themselves.

    I looked over at my daughters and could tell that they weren’t happy.  That was more than enough for me, as I sarcastically thanked the lady and pulled my daughters out of the class.  It’s so challenging to find an extra curricular activity for the children that is fun, challenging and nurturing all at the same time.  So, when you do find a good match of extra curricula classes that are fun, challenging and nurturing for your children than their growth and happiness is well worth the drive.