For any new readers, my youngest son (age 13) has been a competitive gymnast for 6 years now. This would have been his 7th competitive season, and he was slated to move up to Level 8. Level 10 is collegiate. He’s very good.
Up until this year, he has trained year round with very few breaks. But in May, I made the decision to pull him out for a number of reasons.
The Costs of Training
But needless to say, with this level of competition, there are numerous other commitments. He trained 1 hour from our home. Last year, he was going 4x week, and this week he was to go 5x a week. 20+ hours a week in the gym. The costs added up:
- 10+ hours a week in the car = over $100 a week in gas. Compared to $35 a week this summer while he wasn’t training.
- Training 16+ hours a week cost $260 per month. Which is very reasonable in terms of training costs, but when you are struggling already, it’s a large chunk.
- Sit and wait. Because it was so far from our home, I had to stay over there and wait for him every day. This not only affected what my other two children could do at home, but there are costs associated with that. I would often sit at the library, free, but there were times I needed a change of scenery and the weather was not conducive to being outside.
- Competition and travel costs. The season here runs from December to April. And he attended at least one meet per month during that time period. Over the years, the cost for the competitions has averaged around $600 per season. It’s the travel to those meets that could really add up.
The Benefits of Training
Now don’t get me wrong. Gymnastics was not all work and financial pain. Gymnast is REALLY good and thrives in this individual sport.
In fact, you can watch a compilation of one of his meets from his Level 7 season (2018) on YouTube here.
In addition to his obvious talent and love of the sport, there were other benefits based on our current living situation:
- The city where he trains is where I go once a week for grocery shopping, ie Sam’s Club. And the gas in that state is typically $0.20 less then where we will so I always get gas when I’m there.
- Sitting there for 16+ hours gave me plenty of time to focus on work. Even when I was working a corporate job during the day, I was able to keep up with my contract work with this dedicated, uninterrupted work time.
- My 13 year old has always been my “high maintenance” child. He has two energy levels – wide open and asleep. I’ve noticed a significant change in his demeanor with the lack of high energy activity. He has not outlet and he NEEDS that. We as a family NEED him to have that.
Pulling him out was not just a financial decision. There were several other factors that came into play.
My willingness to compromise is the same. And he is aware that his return is conditional on several behavioral factors in addition to the money. His coach is also aware of this and supportive of the situation.
Here’s the plan:
- For the next two months, he will get to go to gymnastics 1x per week for 4 hours. It will cost $100 per month for this. But it should not add to any other costs as I will use the time for my grocery shopping and work time.
- In October, when Princess volleyball season is over, I will consider allowing him to go 2x per week. That will cost $160 per month for the training, and add a little bit to the gas budget.
- At this point, he will not be competing at all this year. We are calling it a maintenance program. (Now his coach did ask that if he is in the gym and working hard, would I consider letting him compete in one of the closer meets, and I said we will visit that when the season is upon us.)
- He is signing a behavior contract that incorporates behavior at home and in the gym. His continued access to gymnastics is contingent on him fulfilling and maintaining some behavioral changes.
Overall, he is very happy with the plan. Which I was surprised at. But I think after 2 1/2 months, he realizes that I am not making empty threats anymore (I have been guilty of that in the past.)
While I am not thrilled with the $100+ addition to my budget as I try to really focus on better decisions. I believe this is the best of both worlds, and a good compromise.
What do you think? Have you had to make this type of gut wrenching decision with your own kids or even for yourself?