7 Basic Gymnastics Coaching Tips

The current state of gymnastics coaching for the majority of coaches in most gyms  is neither based on science nor  based on a successful Elite coaching system. And that is the case for just the physical aspects of training. When you add in the virtually complete misunderstanding of what psychological coaching methods really work, you end up with a bewildering array of ways coaches can screw up their gymnast’s careers. Here are 7 basic gymnastics coaching tips, all gymnastics coaches should understand and follow.

Don’t Think “Positive Coaching” is Weak, Ineffective or Lacks Intensity

It is common for coaches who use negative coaching methods to characterize positive coaching as somehow being weak or rewarding gymnasts when they don’t really deserve it. Nothing is further from the truth. True positive coaching requires living up to the highest of positive expectations and demands progress every single day. Negative coaching does not (and cannot) produce such positive results.

“My Way or the Highway” Coaches? Gymnasts and Parents Should Take the Highway

While it is significantly easier to be an authoritarian gymnastics coach, that results in you teaching your gymnast is to submit to orders and no independent learning or thinking occurs. Instead, a coach’s  job should be to teach gymnasts everything they know themselves so they can independently learn and learn to make good decisions themselves. A gymnast’s learning should not be limited to only the time their coach can work directly with them, but they need to be taught to work independently. A coach’s job is to allow gymnasts to make correct decisions within the parameters of their current learning and capability.

Mental and Emotional Control

It is important for gymnasts to be able to control their emotions and mental processes during competitions. But coaches who cannot control their own emotions have no chance to teach gymnasts how to do that. It is easy for gymnastics coaches to lose their temper with gymnasts, but such an example by a coach showing anger or frustration is not the best thing for teaching gymnasts how to control their competition mind set. Coaches must learn to keep their emotions in check.

Your Time As a Coach is Limited

You average time with your team gymnasts is likely going to be less than 5 years, and if you make mistakes, even shorter a time frame than that. The average team gymnast quits when she becomes a teenager (or shortly thereafter), years before she is even eligible to compete in an International Elite meet. Make the most and provide the best possible training during the time you do have or you will further shorten the amount of time you have with them.

A Sense of Humor is Mandatory

Coaches need to be able to learn to laugh at themselves, situations in the gym and at life in general. Laughter is a healing element in life and should be a requirement in any gym. Any coach who takes themselves so seriously that they cannot laugh at themselves is incapable of teaching gymnasts life’s essential lessons. Coaches who think they should be so “strict” (read that insane) as to try to ban smiling in the gym should not be allowed to coach young children.

Learning is Play, Play is Learning

When children are young (before age 7), they are in their peak learning phase. And one of the key ingredients to their peak mental and physical learning capacity is play. Don’t just let gymnasts play, make them play. Gymnasts really develop through playing, doing things like practice competitions, making up learning games and contests. Making as many moments of a gymnast’s practice day a competition, contest or a game radically speeds learning, increases motivation and intensifies practices and results.

Humans, Including Gymnasts, are Individuals and Must be Treated as Such

The sameness of many gymnastics programs is almost frightening. Gymnastics is a sport that traditionally has rewarded individual style and signature skills. Great coaches do not coach every gymnasts the same. They study gymnast’s individual differences and learn the best way to speed each gymnast’s progress in their own individual way. Many coaches try to mold their gymnasts into a single mold, even if that gymnast’s personality doesn’t fit the mold. Let gymnast’s personalities flourish, because that is what is going to be seen by judges and spectators during competitions.

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