Big dreams or Realistic goals?

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action

Last week I read a Facebook post where a mother of a gymnast was in a panic because her daughter wasn’t going to move up a level this year. This repetition caused her daughter (and the mother) much frustration. The daughter had set big goals for herself. She started competing in gymnastics in 2014 at the age of ten. This year she was 11 and in level 4. Her daughter’s goal was to become an elite and make the 2020 Olympics.

In the post the mother wrote that her daughter didn’t want to have to repeat a level. Being that the gymnast was already 11, she knew that time wasn’t on her side. The mother said she was willing to do whatever she needed to help her daughter move up. She would do private lessons, switch gyms, send the daughter to camps, and even pull the daughter from school so they could homeschool her and she could spend more time in the gym. This mother was determined to help her daughter do whatever she needed to make her dream of making the Olympics come true.

When I read her post I had one question in mind. If the gymnast was on the Olympic path, wouldn’t her coach know it and instead of holding her back they would have her on a developmental track? I actually knew where the gymnast practiced and I was good friends with the coach. The next time I saw the coach I asked her about the gymnast. The coach thought the gymnast was one of the sweetest and hardest working athlete’s she had ever coached. When I asked if she was ready for an accelerated developmental path, the coach said the gymnast was not on that path. She was a level 4 and wasn’t able to get some of the skills she needed to become a level 5. The coach said the gymnast loved gymnastics, was a great kid, and one of her favorites, but probably wasn’t going to become an Elite.

Later that day I went back onto Facebook. I was shocked when I saw the plethora of comments. Some were nice, but some caused chaos. Many of the people responding to the mom’s post were supportive and helpful, none of those comments mentioned that her daughter was 11 and a level 4. They gave advice and were on the Dream the Impossible Dream Team.

Then there were the others that were on the Let’s be Real and Get Things Done Team. These comments were nice, but focused more on a realistic view. One mother was much more realistic with her comments and respectfully asked specific and perplexing questions. The mom didn’t like these comments so much. These comments spoke about the reality that an 11 year old level 4 may be too old to achieve those goals and the mom shouldn’t change her family’s entire life and spend money on an unrealistic dream.

That sparked a war.

Here is what their conversation sounded like. Of course I am paraphrasing and changing the name of the moms. We will call the mom of the gymnast Clair and the other mom Jane.

Jane asked:

     If she did had the talent to be on the Olympic path, then why would her coach feel like she needed to repeat a lower level? Maybe she is in the right level and she should set goals that are in reach and not the Olympics.

Clair replied:

     How dare you claim that my daughter isn’t talented and to lower her goals. She set her goals on the Olympics and I will do everything in my power to help her get there. She is talented and amazing. Why would you try to crush a child’s dreams? Our job as mothers is to help our children achieve greatness, not crush them.

Jane wrote back:

     I am not trying to crush anyone’s dreams, but maybe set more realistic goals. It seems like you are willing to change your life by homeschooling, moving gyms, and spending money for something that your child may not have a chance of achieving. Wouldn’t it make more sense to help them set a goal and have them feel the sense of accomplishment. To let your child think they have a chance to make the Olympics when they don’t may make them feel worse. To set your children up for failure seems a bit foolish. I would think it would be better to help your daughter appreciate what she can accomplish this year in level 4 rather than panic that she didn’t move up.

Clair replied:

     If your child dreams of making the Olympics than why is it a problem to help her believe she can. I want to help my children be anyone they want to be. If your child wanted to be a Doctor would you tell her she isn’t talented enough? Why would you do that to a child? She didn’t move up because she needs more skills and more time in the gym. I want to help her achieve those skills. I want my child to know I support her dreams.

Jane replied:

     I think you may be scared to be realistic with your child or even yourself. If your child doesn’t have the real talents or the time in gymnastics to make the Olympics that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the talent. It doesn’t mean that she should quit gymnastics if she truly enjoys it, but I wouldn’t sacrifice our family, money, and time for a hobby. If your child loves gymnastics and enjoys it, then that is all that matters. Set realistic goals and have her reach them.

Clair finished with:

     How do you know for sure the future of your children? What if my child is talented enough and just needs more work in the gym? You hear story after story of successful people who have had many people in their lives tell them that they couldn’t do something and then they turn around work 10x harder and accomplish the unimaginable. How do you know that isn’t my daughter’s story. We won’t know until we try. I am not going to be the one in my child’s life that holds them back. 


Other parents gave their opinions and I sat back and watched it all unfold. The main point ended up being, Do you tell your kids the truth and help them set and accomplish realistic goals, or do you let them dream an impossible dream they may never reach?

Making the Olympics is statically against most gymnasts. I was the kind of gymnast that dreamed a big dream. Yet, it wasn’t an impossible dream and I did make the Olympic team. I did move away from home, my parents did change their lives, spend tons of money, and support my goals of becoming an Olympian. Without their support and their belief in me and my goals, I wouldn’t have made the my dream come true.

I know that it is our jobs as a parent to love, inspire, and support our children in their dreams and let them believe that they can achieve anything, but it is also our responsibility to guide them in a direction where they can develop talents and successfully accomplish their goals.

One can not become a butterfly simply because it dreams to. To become a butterfly, one must first be a caterpillar.

Is it bad for us to tell our children the truth and help them refocus on realistic goals? Are we worried that they aren’t strong enough to handle the truth? Or is it worse to support dreams they will never reach? In order to set goals, one must have dreams.

There are two views:
One saying goes “Shoot for the moon, for even if you miss you will land amongst the stars” -unknown

The another says:
“In order to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, You must keep your head out of the clouds.” -Linda Poindexter

This article is exclusively written by our contributor:

Wendy Bruce Martin was a member of the 1992 Olympic team and 5x national team member. She has been involved in gymnastics for 36 years and coaching for 22. She received a degree in psychology and is a certified mental toughness coach. Wendy owns the Mental Toughness Company, GET PSYCHED! She is co-owner of Gold Medal Moms and an Ambassador for Gymnastics News Network. You can visit Wendy at www.Psyched4sports.com , www.WendyBruceMartin.com , or www.GoldMedalMoms.com email at [email protected]

Photo Credit: © Mudretsov Oleksandr | Dreamstime.com

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