When people ask me if they should switch gyms, I always ask, "Why?" Being involved in gymnastics for over 30 years as a coach, judge, gym owner and a team parent I’ve heard people talk about switching gyms countless times. To be honest…many times people switch for the wrong reasons.
I do believe there are times when switching gyms can be good. Just like a marriage, you need to have compatibility and trust with your gym and the staff. It is an extremely difficult decision to switch gyms. You have to take into account that for most people their gym is their second home, they have developed relationships, and the unknown of a new gym is scary!
Below are some of factors people mention when considering a new gym:
1. My Gym is too expensive. We all understand that gymnastics is an expensive endeavor. Between tuition, entry fees, coaches fees, leotards, etc. prices can add up quickly. If the financial burden is simply too much for you, it is perfectly acceptable to consider a more affordable alternative. Maybe a gym with a different pricing structure, a booster club, opportunity for fundraising, or even one that offers payment plans may be better suited for you. My suggestion on this front would be to approach your gym and let them know your concerns. It is my experience that most gyms will try and work with their current families.
2. A new gym just opened up. Congrats to them but is that a reason to leave? In this day and age, anyone can open a gym...few are successful long-term. Before I left for a new gym I would wait and see how it does. The last thing you want is to go back to your old gym when the new one closes up. Gymnastics is not an easy business. As much as parents hate to hear this, Teams do not make a gym financially viable. Typically great team coaches are not great class coaches; classes are vital to the success of a gymnastics business. I wouldn’t recommend leaving just because they are new. If you are considering leaving for another reason, that’s a different story. If your athlete is doing well in their current gym, I would stay.
3. Safety concerns. If you feel that the environment in your gym is unsafe, you need to address this with your coaching staff immediately. If your concerns are not addressed, switching gyms may be your best course of action. Safety concerns can encompass many areas; old/broken equipment, lack of supervision, unhealthy training, physical or mental abuse, no background checks, etc. Obviously, safety is paramount to anything else and I would strongly encourage you to find a gym that addresses all of your safety concerns immediately.
4. My Gym is not up to date, or has no pits. Many people have said that their gym is old, has no foam pits or in-ground trampolines. Pits and new equipment can help the training of many skills but leaving a gym because of this is a toss-up in my mind. I would suggest looking into the coaches at the gym with pits you are considering rather than just the pits. Many gyms produce great athletes with no pits. I don’t necessarily think going to a gym just because it has pits is a the way to go. I would first look into the coaching staff and make sure they meet your needs. I would rather have a successful & compatible coach in a gym with no pits than a poor coach in a gym with pits. Keep in mind many gyms with foam pits, in-ground tramps and new equipment have to pay for it somehow, check into their tuition.
5. Logistical Reasons. My Gym is too far or my carpool quit. You may love your gym, the staff and the other athletes but the commute is simply too much. If there’s a closer gym that will give you more time to do homework, eat or do other things, I don’t think anyone would fault you. This is a tough decision. You have to weigh the love of your current gym vs. the time you can gain from proximity to your house.
6. I don’t agree with my coach’s tactics. In addition to safety concerns you have to take into account the behavior of your coaches. If the coaches are abusive or dismissive of athletes, play “head games,” ignores or favors athletes, it may be time to consider a change. Not everyone gets along all the time. It is like a family, sometimes you just get on each other’s nerves. There will always be misunderstandings, extra conditioning or maybe even a ‘time out’ here and there. But there is a difference between friction between athletes and their coaches from time to time and consistent nastiness, belittling or neglecting an athlete. This is not acceptable. Another issue I’ve heard is when parents no longer believe in the coach’s ability to coach their child. I would certainly approach the coaching staff and let them know your concerns but these are all factors to consider.
7. I don’t like my gym’s philosophy or their rules. All gyms have their own set of rules and a core philosophy. Rules may change based on level, age and program but the gym philosophy doesn’t typically change. An example of a rule change may be the way a week’s vacation to Disney World during meet season is handled. A Level 2 may get a “Have fun, tell Micky we say hello!” from a coach whereas a Level 10 may get, “You can’t go, we have a meet coming up. If you miss practice I’m scratching you from your next meet”. An example of a Philosophy of a gym is, “We don’t spot on beam” or “We don’t condition our kids when they fall” or “We only practice ‘X’ amount of hours here.” You have to respect your gym’s rules and philosophies whether you agree or disagree. If the differences are too much for you to handle you may want to consider another gym. A conflicting view on these will create constant tension and switching programs may be your best course of action.
8. I need a different type of gym. Athlete’s have their own goals and reason for doing things. Your child’s goals may change over time. Your child may develop interests outside of gymnastics and want a less structured or relaxed program. Other athlete’s may want to make National Team. You need to have an honest conversation with your child and make sure their goals match up with your gym’s program (and philosophy). If they do not align, you may want to consider another program.
9. I just need a fresh start. I hear this often. Sometimes an athlete doesn't get along with a teammate, gets a reputation in the gym or simply loses motivation. In these cases, sometimes a new gym may be the answer. Starting from scratch and having the ability to build a new persona can make a huge difference. Hearing a different voice or being in a different group can sometimes provide a much needed spark.
There are a host of reasons for wanting to switch gyms. These were just a few examples but everyone has their own experiences they need to draw from. My biggest piece of advice is to have an open and honest dialogue with the gym as soon as a concern arises. Some things can be fixed with a simple easy conversation. A conversation is free, moving gyms can be costly; both financially and emotionally. Why go through that if you don’t have to? The bottom line is simple. Gymnastics is a great sport. Whatever your involvement or goals may be, you should be comfortable with your environment!