Reward and Reinforcement of Gymnasts

Never assume the minimal amount of reinforcement a gymnast receives even from winning a meet is sufficient in the long run to motivate them. This is especially true if the meet is an away meet and the gymnasts depart quickly with their parents.

Paltry Gymnastics Awards

Among the awards of comparable subjectively judged sports – martial arts, diving, dance competitions, cheer competitions, etc., the union-judged sport of gymnastics suffers from the most paltry selection of awards because there is rarely much left from the meet budget to award the true participants. $1.00 (in quantity) medals abound as the ultimate gymnastic award as opposed to the huge trophies often awarded in the other sports.

Meet Budgets Stretched and Leave Little for Awards

Yes, our point is that judges in many other sports primarily donate their time and our so-called professional judges receive a higher hourly rate than many coaches do and all their expenses paid. This leaves little money out of a meet budget to award those who truly deserve the positive reinforcement effects for the work they have put in for that competition. Imagine if we were paying the gymnasts for their participation at the rate we reward judges.

We’re Not Looking to Make Them Pros

Yes, we remember that gymnasts are amateur athletes but there are acceptable ways to reward them in terms of the NCAA and the IOC.

Who Knows What They’ve Done Even If They’ve Won

Gymnasts need to be reinforced for their efforts in their local area, especially for away meets. Hours and hours of practice and no-one in town even knows if they’ve won. Let them enjoy at least a meal with their teammates.

3 Medals for 120 Gymnast Session

Months of conditioning and hours of training and three gymnasts out of a session of 120 get a “lowest cost” medal. This is, overall, a sport requiring the most hours of effort and receiving the lowest amount of reward.

The Meet Ends and They’re Gone

Travel requirements or habits often mean that gymnasts are whisked away from a meet by their parents before even their coach can congratulate them on their success.

What Gymnasts Deserve

We don’t understand or is it that parents don’t understand that gymnasts deserve time to rejoice or commiserate with their “friends” from the gym after meets. At least let them have dinner together. Yes, we know you have other kids and job commitments. Coaches and gym owners have those also. But your young athletes have put in considerable effort and time to be rewarded only with a long, silent ride home.

Even in Their Own Gym There’s No Recognition

Many gyms and coaches never even mention a meet after it has taken place unless of course they have criticisms. Monday after a meet and it’s back to practice as usual, which is often to say boring. No rest, no reflection on their successes, no attention, no reinforcement occurs. This has to be a big letdown after the intense emotional buildup to a meet. In fact, our scientific knowledge of peaking tells us that it is. It tells us we should be “taking the day off” in at least some manner, shape of form. Perhaps it should be in the form of a day of appreciation, reinforcement, fun, relaxation or at least a day to learn new skills (which is one of the best and most rewards a gymnast receives in their entire career, indeed, the major driving factor in the reinforcement and them staying in the sport).

Media Consultants

There is little done with the media – TV, radio, newspapers – to report the successes of gymnasts. Perhaps, we should have professional media consultants instead of professional judges.

Make Them Role Models In Your Gym

There is little to nothing done to even let the other aspiring gymnasts or potential future team parents within the local gym know about the successes of their potential role models.

Winners?

And all of this is talking only about those gymnasts who do win. What about the 117 gymnasts in the session who didn’t “win”.

Don’t Understand Why They Quit?

It never fails to amaze us how coaches can yell at their gymnasts, do nothing but point out their faults, pressure them unmercifully before competitions, fail to reinforce them after competitions year after year and then not understand a gymnast’s decision to quit the sport.

Lack of Reinforcement

Coaches who don’t take the time to point out at every opportunity to individual gymnasts, the team, parents, the gym, other gym parents and gymnasts and the media, the successes of their gymnasts are causing their athletes to go into reinforcement-debt.

Reward With Awards

The sport, with its current competition structure, is in reinforcement-debt anyway. Any owner, coach or parent who doesn’t take the time or effort to reinforce their gymnasts along the way should not be surprised about the high rate of turnover in the sport and the paucity of gymnasts who continue the sport past puberty, much less until International competition age or college scholarship age.

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