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Kids’ Activities: Gymnastics is No More

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My kids’ activities have been a bone of contention since I began blogging here over 4 years ago. And I will admit as they have gotten older and more talented, the price of those activities has gone up steadily.

As of this month, I have pulled Gymnast from gymnastics completely. This will save me close to $600 a month is training costs and gas alone.

I will admit, the decision was not all financial. There are other things going on in our life that were “the straw that broke the camel’s back” per se. But in the end, it has devastated us both.

Giving Up a Dream

Gymnast has trained for over 6 1/2 years now. Countless hours in the gym, studying video and dreaming. He was ready to move up a level this year. He is floundering now, who is he without gymnastics?

Gymnast Muscles

As a mom, I have had big dreams for my talented son. I have been so proud of his dedication and natural gifts. The sky was the limit for him. This decision has ripped my heart out.

What Now

Now we have to find a new normal.

  • No more 8-10 hours in the car each week commuting to and from practice.
  • No more 16-20 hours a week burning off his energy and emotions.
  • No more regular trips to a larger town with resources and business opportunities we do not have here in our tiny town.
  • An enormous financial obligation has been lifted from my shoulders. We won’t feel that now, but down the road it will make a big difference.
  • Gymnast is lost and angry with me. I don’t think he knows who he is without gymnastics. (I understand, but I’m not sure how to help him.)
  • We now have about 25 hours in our week. How do we fill the time? He needs a new release for his energy and emotions, but the options are limited here.

When I look at my spending for the last year, kids’ activities have cost me at least as much and sometimes more each month as rent and utilities combined. This includes the monthly training fees, uniforms, travel expenses, gas for training and so on.

But I will be honest, if it wasn’t for other factors that are not finance related, I would never have made this choice. And I hate it. It’s breaking my heart to watch my son so lost.

As much as this will help financially, I fear that this decision will send my son spiraling in the wrong direction. Any guidance you have for redirecting a child who has been training so intensely and so focused on one thing only to have it disappear?

 


47 Comments

  • Reply Gina |

    Oh no! This makes me sad because it was such a good healthy outlet for him but I totally understand the cost burden. Is it possible that he can help coach or train at a local facility? That could keep him involved in the sport and allow him to mentor others and maybe trade services for time at the gym. I mean, it sucks, but this is life. sometimes we have to give up Path A towards the big dream and figure out another way to get there but it doesn’t mean we give up.

    • Reply Hope |

      Unfortunately, there is no “local” facility. Our tiny town offers very little in terms of activities unless you are a football or baseball player, neither of which he is interested in.

  • Reply Reece |

    I was one who questioned the elite athletics, given your financial situation. I know it sucks but sometimes when we want to give our kids the world the financial reality is that we can’t and have to focus on the providing the basics. This isn’t to say he couldn’t resume training in the future if you get your income up and/or get a scholarship and/or financial support from his Dad to pay for it.
    It seems like he made friends this past year in school–do any of them play in local sports leagues? Anything through the middle school/high school you could look into? Or through a YMCA branch or local sports club? I know there would still be a cost associated with it but it wouldn’t run anywhere near $600 a month. Maybe more like $600 a season…..

    • Reply Hope |

      There is no YMCA here. The rec dept offers very little in terms of sports in general, and at his age 12, even less. The options are very limited.

      But you are right in terms of finances, a local rec sport will be substantially cheaper. I just have to find or get really creative.

  • Reply Misti Jeanelle Olszewski |

    Gymnastics can translate into track and field events; especially high jump and pole vaulting due to flexibility being a key component in success. Also, his conditioning would be great for running events. Channel his energy and emotions into another sport

    • Reply Hope |

      This is my goal, Misti, thanks! Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any training programs for him locally. The options really are limited here. Going to have to get creative.

  • Reply Ruby |

    For some reason, parkour popped into my head as a possibility. I’ve never done it, but heard people say that they were headed down a bad path and parkour turned their life around (not saying that your son is headed down a bad path). It occupied their energies in a positive way rather than destructive. I don’t know much about the training though. I know a lot of places have parkour gyms to train and learn how to roll and jump, etc. And I guess once people get good, the world becomes their playground. I’m guessing some people are also just self taught off of youtube. Anyways, it’s just a thought I had because costs should be much lower and eventually free to practice. Plus, I think gymnast would be great at it with all his strength.

    • Reply Hope |

      Ruby,
      This is one I hadn’t thought of. I will have to check it out. Unfortunately, there is very little here in our tiny town. And committing to something else a distance away would be counter productive financially.
      I think I’m going to have to think outside the box on this one. But thanks for the suggestion.

  • Reply Laura |

    It was a tough call but needed to be done. I also echo Reece who said look into cheaper options for activities he might be interested in, like the YMCA, school, or your parks and rec department. Our kids aren’t always happy with us when we make tough decisions, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right one to make.

  • Reply Kerry |

    I think middle school/high school is a great time to learn the tool of reinvention. It gives him a chance to think for himself the type of person he is and who he wants to become. As for exercise, if not parkour maybe he’d try climbing or bouldering? Acrobatic clowning?

  • Reply Sarah |

    I forget what grade he is in but what about cheerleading? He could do that in high school and in college. I remember going to college games while growing up. There was one guy who could do so many backflips. We went to the games to watch football but were also there for that guy!

  • Reply margann34 |

    I am a believer in letting children experience disappointment and helping them work through it. This is an important life skill! Help him process this anger/ disappointment then start looking for a new plan. Perhaps it will be a plan to re-enter gymnastics at a later date. Perhaps there is another sport that he would like to try. He is an athlete. Gymnastics is not the only outlet for that. But if he feels like that is what he NEEDS to do, challenge him to find another way! It is always difficult to disappoint our children. But sometimes it is necessary and better for them in the long run.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you for this comment! This is exactly what I needed to hear in the midst of this turmoil for us and massive heartbreak for him. He is suffering and I hate hurting my child. But you are right, helping him work through this is probably the best thing I can do for him right now and then helping him find what’s next.

      • Reply margann34 |

        Have You had a talk about your reasoning for having him quit? I think it is very important for him to know WHY. Also, he is going to be angry that his sister is still in volleyball. You should explain how her situation is different. I assume you are protecting him from some sort of harm. Make sure that you are not over-reacting. ?As our children get older, they need to be able to take on some responsibility for their own safety. Does This have to do with the fact that you said he has been assaulted?

  • Reply OneFamily |

    I feel for you and your son. My son was heavily involved in a sport for all his childhood and early adulthood. I think when he stopped (we couldn’t afford it anymore) was what caused his downward spiral. Granted. he was 22 by then, but it’s still hard to suddenly have to figure out what your life’s focus is when you’ve only known one thing. Hopefully your son will pick positive things to fill his time!

    • Reply Hope |

      Oh, yes, then you know exactly what we are going through, and my greatest fears at this time. He is so angry with me, it seeps into everything. I don’t blame him, he is grieving like he lost his best friend. I guess he kind of did, it’s been the stability in his life for the past 6 years, it’s been his identity and the thing that shaped much of what he sees in himself.
      Thank you for your encouragement. I truly appreciate it.

  • Reply Meg |

    Any pools in your area that have a diving team? Swim team and track, especially distance running like cross country, are great for using up energy and as a social outlet. I bet he would be a great high jumper and pole vaulter too!

    • Reply Hope |

      Funny you should bring that up…he actually got into gymnastics because he was diving off the side of a pool at 2-3 years old. Rather flipping off the side of the pool.
      Unfortunately, there’s not even a swim team here, let alone diving. But track is something he and I have both discussed. Now to figure out how to get him active before the spring season, I don’t think he can make it that long without a physical outlet. (I’m not sure I can last that long without him having a physical outlet.)

    • Reply Hope |

      No. She has made the high school volleyball team and will be practicing all summer. It is free, at least as far as I know now. And I have already bartered for her participation on the same travel volleyball team she played on this spring.
      (The decision to leave gymnastics while influenced by finances, was not driven by finances. There were a lot of other factors that went into the decision to pull him out of gymnastics.)

  • Reply Ashley |

    My hubs is really into Acro Yoga. Like many gymnastic events, Acro requires a lot of upper-body strength. In our area, there is a Facebook group of people who meet up weekly 100% free at a local park to practice. There’s also a gym that does open “Acro Jam” sessions for only $5 drop-in fee. Even if he were to go every week, we’re talking about $20/month. Plus it could help him meet new people/join a new community. Lots of other suggestions above, I just wanted to throw this out as a possibility.

    • Reply Hope |

      This is a great idea! I don’t know if there is a Yoga studio in our tiny town but surely there is one in the surrounding towns (less than 20 mile radius.) I will check into it. I agree, this could be a great outlet for him, and utilize the skills he already has.
      Thank you, Ashley!

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    Can he barter his skill set for some time at the gym pursuing gymnastics? If not many public programs for sports offer scholarships to defray costs. Look and see if your local recreation center offers anything.

    • Reply Hope |

      Tiny town = no real rec department…options are really limited.
      There is no gym closer than the one he was training at. And I think with the turmoil this has caused a clean break is for the best at this time.

  • Reply JayP |

    I would pursue something locally, maybe he can train younger kids. Remember that what seems like devastation now will mostly be forgotten in a couple months. I’m sure its a difficult time.

    • Reply Hope |

      Agreed, finding something local is the goal.
      And I hope and pray you are right. He is truly devastated. Grieving like someone died, and I guess in one sense, his entire world has changed and his old identity is dying. It is so hard to watch, and even harder to know what to do.
      I really appreciate all the great suggestions and encouragement. I don’t think I’ve ever had to make a decision so devastating to someone else. Nor have I ever felt so helpless in light of someone else’s pain.

      • Reply Shauna |

        I know I’m super late to this conversation, but can he start a club at school and teach younger kids (if he’s inclined to do so). I think seeing his skills translate to helping others it may help with keeping his gymnastics identity in a way that is local and affordable.

  • Reply anon |

    Hope said it’s not just the financial aspect–there must be something else going on.

    I think it is ok for him to be disappointed. Maybe a way to look at it is as if he had a career ending injury–like a pitcher with a bad rotator cuff, or a diver who can’t get past vertigo, a distance runner with disordered eating, and so on. Researching how they cope with that might help you and him right now. The sheer strength and flexibility of a gymnast might make him a competitive wrestler, which is more common at a lot of schools if he decides that he still needs an outlet.

    • Reply Hope |

      anon,
      You are so right. Thank you for acknowledging the “non-financial” aspect of this decision. I think if it was just financial, I could have given him some hope of returning. But in this circumstance, at this time, there is no hope of that. And as a result, he is probably going through the same sense of loss that athletes like you describe go through.
      I also think learning to deal with this disappointment can be extremely character building…if he can get through it without spiraling downward or badly. That is what we are facing now. A
      Any and all suggestions for helping him cope with this enormous loss are greatly appreciated. I will definitely look at it from the sports psychology angle. Thank you!

  • Reply Monica |

    HI Hope – Swimming is a great outlet and a lifelong sport. Just a thought, I commend you. I will praying for you that G-d will give you peace and direction with this big change in your lives.
    Hugs, Monica

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you, Monica. I wish we had a swim team here. That is another sport that lends itself well to the skills he already had. Unfortunately, no such thing here.
      And thank you for the prayers…that is where I am spending a great deal of my time now as I am at a loss for how to help him through this process of grieving and all the anger.

  • Reply Walnut |

    My heart breaks for both of you. I bet most of the high schools have summer weight room programs, conditioning, and possibly summer camps or leagues he can jump into. Doesn’t matter what the sport is – small towns are all about everyone competing in every sport.

    • Reply Hope |

      As far as I know unless he is going to play football there are no summer activities for 12/13 year olds here. But I continue to look and ask around.

      • Reply Walnut |

        Can he work out during open weight room hours even if he doesn’t plan on playing? FWIW, my super small high school (and I mean, super small) started a cross country team a few years ago for the kids who didn’t want to play football. The track coach stepped in to lead the group and they had a great time. It started out with three kids the first year and one of them ended up with a scholarship to run college cross country.

        Starting it up was a great learning opportunity for the students who pioneered the effort. They researched the sport, got buy in from the coach, presented to the school board, designed a team T-shirt, etc. It’s such a positive activity too. The coach brags up each kid’s personal records as well as the individual and team ranks.

  • Reply Megan |

    There have been lots of physical suggestions and I think those are great and necessary. But I also want to chime in that he might find volunteering activities where he is helping others good too. It can be hard to find yourself lacking the direction you felt you had and volunteering and helping others can give your actions alot of meaning.

    • Reply Hope |

      Megan,
      I have thought of this. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anywhere that will let him volunteer without me. (Princess is now volunteering at the hospital 8 hours a week, but you have to be 14 to do that, and Gymnast isn’t 13 year.)
      But I agree, giving back and serving others would definitely be a good outlet for him. Just need to find somewhere that will let him. Evidently teens volunteering is not a big thing here.

  • Reply Shanna |

    Hi, just wanted to note so you don’t get any bad surprises that where we are from high school sports are not free. They are at least several hundred dollars. In our (affluent) district they call it a donation, which it is not. It is the actual working budget of the team (including coach salary, uniforms, etc) but they won’t kick you off for not paying. But it is expected. Additionally they expect constant donations of food items for tournaments and meets and required fundraisers. As someone coming from private school we were very surprised at how much public school actually costs! And I second Parkour. He could watch some videos about it, there are great books about how it started (I think WW2 resistance fighters learning evasion techniques) and challenge himself. Best of luck with the change right now, I am sure it is hard.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you, Shanna, it is very hard.
      I have been disappointed in the lack of communication about the school sports here in general. Thanks for the heads up about possible costs coming my way.

  • Reply Laura in So Cal |

    Have you looked at soccer? Google “AYSO” and see if you have a league near you. Sign ups are going on now for the fall season. Here it is very inexpensive ($100 for the season + cleats/shorts/ball that you buy). All the coaches etc. are volunteer. They have a “everybody plays” philosophy so even if he hasn’t played before, he’ll get lots of field time and pick it up quickly. This is a great way to burn off energy.

  • Reply miranda zetse |

    Could he do his own gynmastic type of training at a park or even teach younger kids at the park the skills that he knows. They can use the equipment there and play structures that are already there. Obviously more complicated ones and some activities all together are not safe to be done at a community park.

  • Reply dh |

    I’m sorry, maybe I’m stupid or dense, but this just seems so wrong to me. This is what made your DS thrive. Despite all the (perhaps wrong) decisions you’ve made over the years (but not him), suddenly it’s gone.

    I’m not OK with that, knowing that your Dad didn’t honor his agreement on the house and that Gymnast’s Dad contributed SO little (if anything) to his upbringing. And that when you DID have money, you opted to pay for crap like paying off his Dad’s car. You should have put that money into savings for the (inevitable next) hard times.

    My heart breaks for Gymnast.

  • Reply dh |

    IMO kids can understand when something bad suddenly happens. When their mom lives in Lalaland and constantly makes bad decisions, and then suddenly decides that what was a major priority for YEARS is suddenly totally expendable, maybe not so much.

    Good luck dealing with his anger, it’s totally understandable IMO. I was wondering if he knew his gymnastics were off the table before you made that decision (singlehandedly?) It doesn’t sound like he was involved.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh but again, my heart is just breaking for your son.

    Would you consider asking your church for contributions, or putting up a “go fund me” page? People can choose or contribute or not, but at least they have the option. Sounds like your son did NOT have that option.

    If the “other reasons” are reasonable, I would have tried to make him understand the issues, and work around them, if possible. Kids, people, face challenges. In an ideal world I would have tried to teach him about those challenges but NOT just yanked him out of gymnastics.

    Also, kids grow up … we don’t/can’t all aspire to home school and work from home doing our favorite job when we feel like it.

    I feel like you have done your son a grave disservice.

    • Reply drmaddog |

      if you aren’t a troll, hush. She can’t feed her kids without taxpayer help and you want her to use her money for luxuries? and I have contributed to Go Fund Me accounts, but for people who have suffered tragedies, or animals who have been rescued from terrible abuse that need extensive treatment. But I would not give to someone who asked for money for gymnastics lessons any more than I would contribute to a go fund me for a wedding.

      Hope, this was a hard decision, but it was the only decision you could have made. I had to quit dance lessons when I was young because we didn’t have the money and I cried and cried. But now I’m an adult and I can afford to take all the dance classes I want. He will grieve but he will also cope. Keep getting yourself back on your feet, and maybe at some point, in some other place, he can get back to it.

    • Reply Meg |

      Wow what a lot of negative energy you are throwing Hope’s way. One would think she withdrew her son from his final semester at Harvard or something! In the final scheme of life gymnastics are an extra.

      I would not contribute to a gofund me for gymnastics either. Also, gymnastics are really hard on a young growing body, at least in the girls I have known. And the other thing I have seen with young athletes and dancers is that they need to spend so much time and energy developing their physical skill that other life skills don’t get as much attention. Things like academics and personal skills, important things for succeeding at LIFE don’t get the same time and attention. Like with most choices in life there are always good and bad.

      No matter if any of us agree with Hope’s choices, she is doing what she feels is best for the current circumstances. It may or may not take a long time for her son to accept this. But when one door closes you can look what is behind others.

  • Reply Stephanie |

    My heart goes out to you and your son. Two years abomination, I took job in a different state and relocated the family, after 18 months of hating the work and 12 hour days due to the commute, I made a hard decision last September to take a transfer to another state. While it meant traveling for work, it was taking me back to work I love. My DH agreed and at least last September, so did the kids (or so they said). Fast forward through the school year and we are now moving. My kids are heartbroken to be leaving friends. I feel horrible but I know they will adjust again.

    So you must have so many things to consider leaving gymnastics. It’s been everything up until now. I think you continue to hug your son, last ve him and listen. But in the end, you are the parent. You make the best decisions you can based on facts known at the time. Maybe this is an interim break, maybe it’s forever. But atleast he had the experience and grew/mature in so many ways.

    Hugs….

    Hang in there

  • Reply Angel |

    One of the best lessons you can teach your growing son is resilience. Sometimes we get knocked down in life and things don’t go according to our plans. It’s okay to feel angry and sad, grief is a part of saying goodbye to those things that don’t end up working out. But in the end, you pick yourself up and keep going.

    A far more valuable characteristic than a gymnastics career. And a good one to learn at 12.

  • Reply debtor |

    I can see we don’t have the all the information so I won’t really comment more than to say – I hope he comes out of this alright and I hope you have a really really really good reason that’s not reactive for doing this to him since you say this is not financially motivated.

    I wish you and your family the best.

So, what do you think ?