Our chosen method of coaching is much different than is usually seen in most gyms and used by most coaches. Most gym training programs depend on repetition as their primary basis and progress is an incidental result of the repetition. The majority of workouts are based on doing multiples of skills already learned and only after that is time allocated to learning new skills. In our system the entire practice is predicated on making progress in every aspect of the workout.
On of the reasons we chose this particular system of coaching is that we believe that successful and fun participation in gymnastics practice is an end in itself. Indeed, it is the primary emphasis. Our belief is that success in competition is secondary to (although a result of) success in practice. Gymnastics practice should not be a sacrifice to some vague Olympic goal, but a building process for every important aspect of a gymnast’s life.
The chances of any one individual gymnast making the Olympic team is remote, but the opportunity for each day of practice to be a building block in the construction of a gymnast a s a better person is eminently achievable. Ironically, this process makes it even more likely that a gymnast will have high level competitive success.
Many think gymnasts should be sacrificing themselves to the dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. We advocate practices and a system where each day is enjoyable and productive in improving a gymnast’s life. Practices should not be something gymnasts are giving up their life for, it should be their life and stand on its on regardless of what may or may not happen in the future.
Parents who are predicating their gymnast’s participation on future competitive success or getting a scholarship are looking for and at the wrong thing. The should be looking to see if practices are making their gymnast a better person in all aspects of their being, if they are making progress and if they are enjoying their life day by day. If they are putting up with something from coaches (e.g., negativity, overuse, verbal abuse, repetitive stress and/or dangerous progression) that is not currently benefiting them, then they are being robbed. Gymnastics should pay its way in benefits each day.
This is not to say that gymnasts will not be working hard, won’t become sore and tired and will not have highs and lows in or as a result of their practice sessions. Gymnastics is life and these things will happen. But on balance (a good goal for gymnasts and gymnastics), practice should and will serve to make each gymnast a better, stronger person.
A continuous improvement program must by necessity be based on the individual. Progress is not made on the basis of groups, but on individuals. This is more difficult because a coach must know where each gymnast currently is in each aspect of the sport in order to know what their next step is. We advocate skill sheet or computer tracking to aid in this purpose.
If coaches don’t currently know where their gymnasts are in each stage and aspect of the sport, the first thing they need to do is test their gymnasts and find out.
Philosophically, the only thing that people are guaranteed to have control of during their life is their own body. Other things may come and go but people will always have their body and the first thing a gymnast must do is to make over their body to match the requirements of the sport, in terms of strength and flexibility. This is a beneficial thing and an important life lesson in itself.
All kids love to learn. Gymnasts love to learn. When practices are geared to gymnasts learning and improving each day, gymnasts will look forward to each and every day of practice as a chance to again do what they love to do.
The Deming principles and system of continuous improvement for manufacturing is based on very small incremental steps of progress that over time add up to huge improvements. Gymnasts who learn one or two new skills per day and make 4 – 20 steps of progress each day will have learned 200 – 300 new skills and made 800 – 6000 improvements during a year. This is tremendous progress and tracking this progress and making sure gymnasts recognize their progress transforms gymnasts into confident and successful young people who are coincidentally very successful in gymnastic competitions.
Three are no guarantees for the future so it makes eminent sense to concentrate on the her and now. Making each daily practice a positive end in itself does this and yet also serves to improve future gymnastics and life prospects better than any other system of sacrificing yourself for some unrealistic goal for the future.
Parents and gymnasts have a right to expect practices to generate learning, progress and improvement in gymnasts. Coaches should plan their practices to achieve these ends and the best way to do this is a system of continuous improvement.