Current Issues in the Gymnastics Training of Young Gymnasts

It is evident to us and to other observers of our sport that there are serious issues with the training regimens our children, our gymnasts are forced to undergo. The problems are not limited to the training programs as there are more widespread problems in youth sports in general

Lack of Experienced Qualified Coaches
The consensus on the top problems in youth sports and gymnastics would at least include the following list. In gymnastics, the lack of qualified coaches is perhaps the biggest problem. The sport is growing at a rapid rate and there were not enough before.

No Place to Learn
There are many reasons for this and a number of deficiencies indicated by the term qualified. One of the largest problems is that there is no place for anyone who is interested to go to learn how to coach correctly. There is no college, University, trade school or even central source of information where you can go to learn how to coach and the higher the level you aspire to coach, the less information and resources there are.

Passed On Bad Coaching Habits and Practices
Coaches in this country learned how to coach either from how they were coached themselves or by mimicking another coach in the gym. A once annual coaches’ congress realistically does little to improve the situation. Add in the lack of useful informational resources and coaches are basically on their own. This is the problem we have chosen to attack ourselves with this web site and our products.

Developmentally Inappropriate Training
Linked to this situation and problem is the developmentally inappropriate coaching style of many coaches in our sport. Lack of knowledge about training loads and hours in the gym and the amount of pressure to place on very young gymnasts is far too common in our sport.

Parents and Coaches Want Wins, Gymnasts Want to Learn and Have Fun
The next major problem in the sport is the overemphasis on winning, in actuality more by coaches and parents, than by gymnasts themselves. Parents evaluate the sport by the competitive success (read that -count the medals) their child. Coaches match that and then top it with an emphasis on how much control they have over their team and macho competition about which coach can teach the hardest skill (or at least say they can) in the shortest amount of time.

Gymnast Are Usually the Most Sensible Ones
Gymnasts seem to have the most sensible attitude toward the sport and are happy as long as they can fly through the air and learn new skills. If those conditions are met, they are happy. They are nowhere near as affected by competition success or the lack of it as their parents and coaches. All in all, an admirable attitude toward the sport especially at the lower levels.

No Fun Allowed – Get Out
Coaches are often all too willing to sacrifice the natural fun of the sport in their ego drive toward reaching their own personal goals. Some even take the position that gymnasts on team should not be having any fun at all because training in gymnastics requires nothing but serious training. Our advice in this situation – find a new coach – or if that is an impossibility, learn to ignore that attitude in them.

Gymnastics is Fun – Working Hard is Fun
Hard work, which we enjoy, like writing about our sport and working out is fun. We don’t have to be somber and morose to progress and accomplish things and neither do our gymnasts. Gymnastics is inherently fun. Don’t let anyone take that away from you because if and when they do, they have begun to bring about the end of your gymnastics career.

The Most Talented Are Burned Out First
We are talking about burn-out. And unfortunately, it often happens first to the most talented of our gymnasts. Coaches get a young talent in their gym and proceed to push them too far, too fast in terms of too many hours in the gym, too much unnecessary pressure too soon and robbing of the fun of the sport.

Coaches Burn Before They Learn
By the time coaches realize their mistake, they are many years and many burned out gymnasts into their career. The problem seems to have resurfaced with a vengeance lately. One generation of coaches learned their lesson a decade ago, but without anywhere to learn from the mistakes of others, the new generation of coaches is busily burning out gymnasts of their own.

Learning High Level Skills is Not the Problem
Some have misunderstood our position in this regard. We do not advocate restricting the learning speed of gymnasts and decreasing the quality and level of skills they are capable of learning. We simply believe young and very young gymnasts should have limited practice hours and competitive pressure. We still want them in the gym when they are 16 and finally old enough to compete internationally.

Too Much Pressure or Too Little Support
The next problem is almost a conundrum (an enigma, a puzzle). On the one hand, many parents put far too much parental pressure on athletes, especially in light of the fact that some coaches are putting too much pressure on the very same gymnasts themselves. On the other hand, some gymnasts suffer from a lack of attention and support from their parents. More than half the time, it seems, fathers do not fully support their daughter’s participation in the sport, for whatever reason.

Education is the Solution
The solution for all of the above problems is education – education for parents and coaches alike. We hope this article has contributed to your education.

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2 Responses to “Current Issues in the Gymnastics Training of Young Gymnasts”

  1. lyndsey May 5, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Hi, my name is lyndsey, right now I am working on level 7 and 8 skills at my gym but lately I have been having alot of mental blocks and it is not only physically draining, but also very emotionally draining too. Last year I quick for the same reason but lucky I came back after about 10 months which was very hard. But I love gymnastics and dont know what to do, if u have any ideas to get past these mental blocks please let me know
    ps
    its mostly giants, back fulls and series on the beam that scare me.

    • Coach Howard June 8, 2011 at 10:08 am #

      Dear Lyndsey, I get lots of questions similar to yours as this is a topic I have researched for years. I wrote and published an article that should tell you as much information as there is available that you can actually do yourself. The article is at: http://gymnasticszone.com/gymnastics-fear-scared-on-bars and it is about some slightly different fears, but all of the principles apply. Let me know if you have any more questions and I will be glad to help.

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