5 Benefits of Daytime Training For Competitive Gymnasts (And Other Sports)

Is it okay to miss school for training? If so, how much? When is the best time to incorporate that type of schedule? Should they be of a certain age or level? These are questions I hear all the time from new coaches and also parents trying to learn about gymnastics or other competitive sports. My personal experience is with gymnastics but I know coaches in dance, skating, and other time consuming competitive sports who have the same issues. I am a strong supporter of missing half days of school for training but I always base it on how many hours they train or what kind of program the athlete is in. For example, if the athlete only trains a few hours or days per week I would not have them miss school. If they are training in a program that is 4-5 days per week I would strongly consider it. Daytime training is very beneficial for competitive gymnasts especially if they are in an intense program that requires many hours of preparation.

How Is It Benefical?

#1 – Better Focus & Concentration

First and foremost, kids as well as most people are more focused in the mornings or daytime. In the evenings our minds start to get tired after a long day at school or work. I find my athletes to be more alert, less tired and able to focus better during their daytime training. I noticed the same thing when I worked in an elementary school. The students were more alert and able to focus on longer tasks in the morning over the afternoon. I also found that some teachers tried to put the most difficult or time consuming subjects during the times that their students were most focused.

#2 – Increased Time Management Skills, Organizational Skills & Responsibility.

When athletes start missing school for training, their time management skills tend to increase. They start to understand better that projects or tasks need to be completed on time in order for them to go to training.

Their organizational skills unconsciously improve to be able to get through their jam-packed schedules.That being said, their school grades tend to increase as well. It initially sounds counter productive because how on earth would not being in class help them increase their grades?

But it makes sense in the sense that they start to become more responsible and take initiative in their own learning because they know that if they don’t, their opportunity to train at that level or in that program would not be possible. I make sure the athletes and families know that their grades must be kept up in order to miss school for training and/or remain in the program they were originally picked for.

For myself as a coach, I always ask the parents to keep me updated on their progress at school and to let me know if their grades are dropping so that I can make sure the athlete continues to train in the correct program. The motivation that they have to complete their goals in sport generally carries over to school work and other aspects of their lives. They don’t only become more responsible in the gym but also at school and even at home.

Of course it is going to be different for each child and family but in my many years of coaching it has been very rare to have an athlete training in this type of intense program with suffering grades. In this case there would generally be other negative factors affecting that athlete socially or emotionally causing the downfall of grades or work ethic. Nonetheless, training during school hours is a privilege that the athletes have earned and should always be treated as such.

#3 – Gym Space

Most gymnastic centres have the bulk of their recreational classes in the evenings. It can get pretty cramped for space, loud and can become rather distracting for higher level gymnasts. I find it reasonable for competitive athletes to train some evenings, but counter productive if they have to train 4-5 evenings in a week. For example, if I have an athlete who trains 20 hours per week, I want to be able to get the most out of them possible. Training some daytime hours would allow them to have more space and equipment and therefore they would be able to complete more in those 20 hours than if they were training only in the evenings.

For hockey, skating or other sports on ice, it is difficult to find ice time only in the evenings so daytime helps in that case. For dancers there are only so many groups that can fit in the dance rooms at one time so trying to spread them out throughout the daytime helps with scheduling.

But What About The Weekends?

Even though Saturday and Sunday are daytime hours, it is also prime time for recreational classes and space can be rather limited during that time as well. The weekend is also a good time for families with athletes training many days and hours per week to get some family time in.

#4- Family Time

That leads me to talk a little about family time. Training daytime helps to free up some evenings throughout the week. The evenings or after school is usually when mom and/or dad get home from work and can actually spend time with their kids. It is heart breaking to see little ones upset because they have not seen their parents for a couple days just based on the time that that child and parent(s) leave home in the morning and get back in the evening. If that family has two working parents with kids in extra curricular activities after school, this bonding time can be quite difficult. I know it sounds sad but I have seen it before. By training some day-times, it helps to allow those families to spend more time together, be able to participate in a competitive sport that requires a significant amount of training and also to afford it.

By training some day-times, it helps to allow those families to spend more time together, be able to participate in a competitive sport that requires a significant amount of training and also to afford it. Family bonding plays a very large role in the psychological development of children, so being able to spend time together is utterly important in my opinion if I want to raise emotionally strong athletes.

#5 – More Time for Homework

Last but not least, training daytime leaves time for athletes to actually get some homework done. If I had an athlete training 4 evenings per week and no daytimes, that would mean they go to school all day, go to training, get home later in the evening and then have to get to bed and be ready for the next day. When would they ever get homework done other than on the weekends or the one evening they had off? Every school has their own homework policies but it is important for any child to have time to complete something they were perhaps unable to finish in school.

I have had some schools in the past exempt the kids that do high level sports from homework. I don’t like this because it does not teach them how to take responsibility for their own work. As I mentioned before, an athlete at this caliber of training generally has a great work ethic that has been acquired through sport.

It would be unproductive to just write it off and say “it’s okay, you don’t have to do it”. If any person did not finish something important, it is necessary to get it done. It is a life lesson for all children, so I don’t believe athletes should be exempted from that just because they do more things in a week than the average child or person.

How Do We Notify Their Schools And/Or Teachers?

Personally, I write a letter for each child from the gym club/head coach explaining the type of program the child was accepted into and what they would be doing during their missed hours from school. I like to include how it will benefit the athletes emotionally as well as physically. I would also arrange meetings with their teachers if needed to help them understand the purpose of this type of program. I always have parents deal with the teachers first and then if there are any issues I do not hesitate to help.

Please Take Into Consideration

I am basing these programs on regular public schools that have roughly 6.5 hour school days. There are private schools that offer earlier start and/or finish times that are even better for high level athletes. The only issue is that they generally cost money and not every family is able to afford to send their child to private school. There are also high performance programs available within the public school system that do not cost money where athletes can attend to help make their school timetable flexible for the benefit of their training. They tend to allow half day school and half day training. They cover all the essential subjects while minimizing the number of hours spent in the music and arts curriculum and eliminating the phys-ed curriculum completely because they are all athletes already. These types of programs are without a doubt beneficial, but are difficult to get into based on location and availability of schools that offer it. I highly recommend this if it is an option in your area.

How Do We Educate Parents And/or Families?

This sometimes comes as a shock for many parents especially if their child is entering a competitive program for the first time. The initial reactions from parents is usually highly seasoned. I suggest taking your time with the idea and bringing it up early on so it doesn’t come as a surprise when it is actually time to start missing school.

Don’t get me wrong school is important and nothing to take lightly but I strongly believe that daytime training is very healthy and beneficial for athletes at a higher competitive level or who take part in sports that require a significant amount of training.

“You are your own most powerful motivator and critic. Which will you be?”

-Coach Brittany-