The role of expectations in coaching gymnastics is more powerful than most coaches realize and affects everything in the coaching relationship. Either to maximize the potential of all their gymnasts or to keep from inhibiting every gymnast’s chances, coaches must be aware of their own expectations and keep in control and utilize them to maximize all their gymnast’s progress.
What Are Expectations?
Expectations have to do with the act of expecting or a state of something being expected. In a coaching relationship, a coach’s expectations are the conscious and subconscious beliefs the coach holds about a gymnast’s prospects for success in the sport. There is a commonly stated phrase that says so-and-so’s results did not live up to expectations. The truth is that science shows us that gymnasts always live up to their coach’s expectations to a measurable and significant degree, just depending on whether those expectations are positive or negative.
How Do Expectations Influence Gymnasts?
Simply stated, the positive or negative expectations of a coach, whether stated or perceived subliminally will substantially affect gymnasts for better or worse. The effect of expectations works regardless of the truth or validity of the expectations, but positive expectations always influence gymnasts positively and negative expectations always affect negatively.
The Sport Science on the Effects of Expectations is Unequivocal
All the educational and sport science research supports the fact that a coach’s expectations will influence his treatment of individual athletes. Coaches may not be consciously aware of the transparency of their own expectations, especially if they are negative. But research has also shown that 70% of communication is non-verbal and young children, including gymnasts, are particularly sensitive to non-verbal communication, so they read a coach’s expectations to a greater degree than coaches imagine.
The Effects of a Coach’s Expectations are Far-Reaching
A coach’s positive or negative expectations will definitely and significantly affect gymnast’s motivation, confidence levels, ability to learn new skills, their speed of learning and their competition performances. Virtually every aspect of gymnast’s training and competition are affected. In fact, there is considerable evidence that gymnastics success, or the lack of it, will be determined by coaches’ expectations.
Coach’s Expectations are Positive or Negative and So Are the Effects
Gymnasts, who are judged by coaches to be superior, will easily receive that message and react and perform up to those positive expectations. Those gymnasts, who are negatively evaluated by coaches, to have limited prospects for success will “live down” to their coach’s expectations of them.
The State of Current Thought
For even the most enlightened coaches, the above information is about the limit of current understanding about expectations and coaching. Using the above information, an informed coach should be able to manage their conscious expectations communications to gymnasts. What remains is what can be done about a coach’s subconscious beliefs and subliminal communications to gymnasts. There are answers and solutions to that problem, as well.
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