Dealing with Mean Moms in the Gym | Live Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic:  Dealing with Mean Moms in the Gym

Hi everyone.  Welcome to Q&A with Coach Rebecca.  I am Rebecca Smith, the founder and Director of Complete Performance Coaching.  Here, you and your young athletes can learn ways to get mentally tough and stay mentally tough, how to overcome fear, build confidence, and ultimately increase your enjoyment in sport a parent, as a coach, and as an athlete.

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Today I’m answering the question from a gymnastics mom who was telling me what her biggest problem is as a sport parent.  She says,

Q: My biggest problem is having to defend my daughter’s mental blocks and struggles to other teen parents who have children that don’t have to deal with this.  It’s been hard to have to deal with the other parent’s reactions and smart remarks.

A little background on this mom.  Her 12-year-old daughter is a level six gymnast.  Her block began at the very first level four meet of the season.  On her floor routine, she just stopped in her last backward tumbling pass.  She was a state champion, a level three, and had no signs of balking, although floor was always her weakest event.

She went through four, keeping her other events scores up, trying to make up for her low floor score, but her tumbling still lacked.  At the coach’s advice, next season she scored out of five so that she wouldn’t have to worry about that back tumbling pass.  She went on to six to relax, not having to tumble backward, that is.

She says she’s repeating level six this season, no biggie, but now there are rule changes, and that’s when she found the Complete Performance Coaching blog.

“Hallelujah,” she says.  “My daughter has learned that she tends to focus on the negative things and we’ll be working on that.  Also, she doesn’t communicate with her coaches like she should and it’s okay to listen to herself and not always be the trained monkey in the gym.”

Confidence Ladder

Those are some really important things.  If anyone is dealing with fear, then check out my confidence ladder download at  This will give you not only the worksheet to actually plot out how you’re going to get through the fear, but then I will send you a few daily videos that will teach you all the little pitfalls that keep people stuck in fear.

It sounds like she’s been working through that, which is awesome because you have to be able to communicate, you have to be able to be nice to yourself, you have to be able to speak up for yourself, which is something really scary, especially for this age.

Feeling Stuck

It’s always the 12-year-old, level six, level seven.  That’s where I was when I personally got stuck.  I was one of those kids that had a hard time speaking up because I really want it to be liked by my coaches.

Going back to the question – her issue is these parents.  This mom now has a little bit of a perspective where she can say, “Oh, my kid actually needs to go slower.  She needs to do things a little bit differently.”  Based on all of my research personally and with my clients, I know the system for getting through fear, and this mom is starting to work through it, but the other moms in the gym don’t get it.  So now what?  How do we get this mom to get it?  I’m going to give you a little perspective on why those bullies bully and then some tips.

Why Bullies Bully

Why do the mean moms bully?  And for any athletes listening, why do the mean girls bully?  Here’s why – they’re looking for power and control.  It’s usually social power and it’s this nasty thing that girls do.  It’s relational aggression. With guys, they just pop each other to get the aggression out.  Girls, we like to be sneaky and slippery, sly, and really nasty and really hurtful.  We do this by excluding people or not inviting people to stuff and then posting it on Facebook.

Personally, because I’ve been the victim of this, I don’t post much on Facebook.  If I have a party and I didn’t invite everybody, I don’t post a picture because I specifically want to go out of my way to not be excluding people, to not have people feeling left out.  Of course, I can’t help everybody with their feelings, but I can at least try my best.

Making You Feel Bad

Then there are people on the other end who are posting tagging and it makes people feel bad.  Then there’s also those snide comments that come in.  They’re saying things like, “Oh, huh.  Your daughter was tumbling fine before.  Well, maybe she’s not cut out for it.”

If your daughter, Amanda, is winning all these competitions and then all of a sudden now her daughter is feeling bad about herself, oh good. Now her daughter can feel better because your daughter’s feeling bad.  It’s this yucky, toxic thing where they want power and they take it from people.  So that’s why they’re doing it.  Sometimes it’s jealousy, sometimes it’s envy, it’s always insecurity, lack fear, those sorts of things that propel this behavior.

So ideally if we, if we could all just be really peaceful, wonderful people, we’d be able to go, “Gosh, that’s got to be so hard for her to be feeling that way.  Oh, poor mom, you know, that’s rough. We know what we’re doing.”

I had a moment over Christmas where my aunt said something about the way that I was teaching my baby to sleep, and I know sleep training is the most controversial thing ever.  My little girl, she’s six months old, I can set her in her crib, and she does a little “don’t leave – I want to hang out with you” cry for about five minutes, then she falls asleep.  We don’t have a baby monitor because our room is right next to her room, and my aunt gasps and says, “You would deprive her of touch, how dare you!”

Triggering Insecurities

She laid into me hard about how I was basically ruining my child.  The reason that hit me so hard was that I secretly had this fear in me.  I’m the kind of person that reads all the books, all the blog posts, talks to all the moms.  I say to myself, “Which moms have kids that are awesome?  I’m going to talk to them about how they made their kids sleep.”

Now, I did my research before we made any kind of decision, especially ones involving my kid.  I decided this is what I was going to do for her. She has to learn how to settle herself.  She does, and it works great.  Everybody’s happy.  It’s fine.  I’m not neglecting my child but, but I had this fear in me that I was.  I was thinking, “Is she ever going to have relationships if I leave her for 10 minutes and let her cry herself to sleep a little?”  I had the insecurity myself and that’s why it triggered in me.

Letting It Go

I could look at my aunt and say,” Ok.  That’s your opinion.”  No big deal.  I read this stuff.  I feel confident, but I wasn’t confident.  That’s why it hit me.  That’s often what’s going on is these parents.  They want control, they want the upper hand socially, they’ll throw comments out at you and it will play on your own insecurities.  If you have done your due diligence and you have done your research, you can think, “This is what I need to do for my kid.  This is how my kid operates, and this is just the way it is.”  So when somebody else has some comment, it’s your job to go, “You know, she doesn’t get it.  And that’s okay.  That’s got to be so hard for her.  I’m doing what I need to do.”

It’s Not About You

It took me about 24 hours to let that go and realize I don’t want what she has, so I’m not going to take her advice.  She didn’t mean any harm.  Something to know is anytime you’re feeling bullied, it is not about you.  Imagine you didn’t exist.  Would this mom pick on somebody else?  The answer is absolutely yes.  Without a doubt.  Any of the girls I work with one-on-one who are dealing with bullies, which is a lot, a lot of the performance issues and confidence issues have some kind of mean girl thing going on and it’s never about them.  I’ll ask, “If you were not at that gym, do you think they’d pick on somebody else?”  They’ll respond, “No, I don’t know.  Well gosh, yeah, probably.  I guess they do pick on my friend, my other friend, and this other girl.”

Be a Boring Target

It’s not about you, it’s not about you at all.  If you can take your taking it personally out of the picture, even though they’re preying on your personal insecurities, it’s not about you.  The best thing to do is to remain calm.  Be a boring target.  That’s another thing I tell these girls who are getting bullied – be really boring.  That’s something my mom did so well.

I’m going to give my mom some props here.  She was a gymnastics mom, obviously, and she had a strict no-bullying, no gossip policy.  She’d bring her knitting and she would just knit, not engaging in any gossip.  If somebody was even talking about someone else, she would remove herself, leave, and come back because she wanted to be so out of the drama that nobody had anything to say to her.

If somebody was coming at her, she would just make up an excuse and leave.  Being calm and not reacting is the best way to get them off of you.  Bullies want a reaction.  That is why they do it.  They get a little hit off of it.

Being a Bully

I’m going to tell you a little mini story about when I was bullying somebody when I was in my early twenties.  There was this girl who really annoyed me, and I ran my mouth about it.  I did not like this girl. She was so annoying.  I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember that I spoke poorly about her all the time.  I had this little group of friends and we would all speak poorly about this girl.

Getting Caught

One day I ran into her out just out and about in town, and she grabbed me.  She pulled me aside and said, “Hey, can I talk to you for a second?  I know that you talk badly about me.  I don’t need to get in a fight and I don’t really need to know why, I just want you to know that I know it and it’s not cool.  That circle of friends that you’re running with, the girls saying that kind of stuff, those are the people who are not going to back you up when you’re having a hard time.”

She was coming at me like, “I want you to know that I will be here for you, but they probably won’t. So maybe knock it off.”

I had this deep pit in my stomach, and I was thinking, “Oh my gosh.  I got caught.”  That was so awful, and my respect for that girl went through the roof, and my respect for the girls who I had been running around with went into the basement.  I quickly realized I didn’t want to be one of those mean girls.  That was so not me.  I was so not popular in high school and I never even had the chance to get to be a mean girl, but all of a sudden in my twenties I  thought, “Oh, I’m cool.  I can talk down about people now.”  But when she called me out, I completely changed my tune.

Set Boundaries

So that’s my challenge for you – actually call them out.   Now, you can do this in a very polite and respectful way.  You’re not trying to argue, you’re not trying to change them.  They probably won’t change.  I like to think I did change, but they probably won’t.  But for you to say, “You know, I really appreciate that you’re noticing my daughter and trying to be helpful, but I actually find it offensive and I’d prefer it if you didn’t.  Thank you so much.”

Let it slide and then also be a boring target.  You’re not there to dig your fingers in, you’re just there to set a boundary.  They might roll their eyes, they might put it back on you, asking, “What are you even talking about?”  They might completely deflect any responsibility, but if you do that, they’re going to know that you’re not the girl to mess with, and that is something that I want to demonstrate to my little girls.

Be a Role Model

I want them to know that you can speak up, you can set a boundary, and it can be respectful, you can be kind. Then you can have a no-gossip policy in your house and in your family so that you don’t play that game.  You don’t have to have the guilt of speaking poorly about somebody else.

The final tip I’ll give you is to be friends with the nice moms.  There are a couple moms in every gym who are talking about everybody and stirring up trouble, but there has to be one or two who are not.  Let those be your respite and let those be the people that you go to.  That’s what I always say to the girls I work with.  “Who’s your buddy?  Use the buddy system.”

Use the Buddy System

Don’t be alone in the observation room with that mom.  Just don’t do it.  Make sure that you coordinate with somebody.  “Hey, I’m staying for practice today, you too?  We can catch up together.”  Something like that, or just don’t be there much.  If you don’t need to be watching your kid, don’t be there if you know she’s going to be there.

Those are my tips for moms.  Next week I’m going to talk to the athletes themselves because I as I was thinking about how to respond to this question, I was thinking, “Gosh, I need to do a little refresher for the girls because we get it all the time in practice and it eats away at confidence, which builds up fear.”

So next week, tune in and I am going to go over some tips for the athletes to deal with those mean girls.  If you guys have any questions, please reach out  You know where to find me if you want any more help getting your mental toughness game up for the season.

Thanks for watching.  See you soon.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.