Does Team Mean Anything in the Individual Sport of Gymnastics

CMU Gymnastics Team photo

CMU Gymnastics Team photo
In many ways, JO Gymnastics is treated as an individual sport by coaches, parents and gymnasts. Traditionally for coaches, having All-Around winners in relevant levels and age groups was always more important than winning team trophies, especially for compulsory and lower level optional levels. Coaches are always looking for that one highly successful gymnast that can make their reputation and have never spent too much time worrying about team building.

Lack of Team Spirit, Team Unity and Team Relationships Has Negative Consequences

This has four major negative consequences. The first has to do with the overall gymnastics experience for the majority of gymnasts on a gymnastics team who get no feelings of what it is really like to be a member of a close-knit team.

Team Spirit and Team Unity Have Virtues for Gymnasts

Gymnasts at all levels receive less support from team members than athletes who participate in a traditional team sport like baseball, football or soccer. This is one of the virtues and all-time great experiences of athletics, in general and for gymnasts, who spend so much of their time in the gym, to not have this experience is both a travesty and a coaching error.

Team Building is About Building Relationships and Support Systems

Support systems are necessary, even for professional athletes, and not providing one of the most basic support system building blocks (teammates) makes no sense in a high level training program. Gymnasts can and should be providing emotional support, shows of support in practice and especially at competitions and can, at timers, be even better than coaches at passing on knowledge and inside information about what it is really like to compete at the highest levels of the sport, from a gymnast’s point of view.

Is Real Coaching Picking or Training Gymnasts?

Coaches who are looking for that one top gymnast to make their reputation are likely trying to pre-pick (probably wrongly) the winners on the team, instead of providing a robust team training program, that teaches all team gymnasts how to be winners and successful as a high-level optional gymnast.

Competing for Your Country is a Whole Different Kind of Pressure

The pressure of competing at big competitions as a team, whether for your own gym or a Regional team or an International team is a different kind of pressure to deal with, than competing for yourself. College gymnastics coaches are going to be looking to award scholarships to gymnasts who can deliver rock solid performances for their team, when it really matters. Learning how to compete successfully for something bigger than yourself is an important lesson a gymnast needs to learn.

Equality of Coaching?

Gymnasts are individuals, and at times, coaching and communication will and should be individual, but equality of coaching, training and opportunity is a responsibility of a professional gymnastics coach.

Team Building Must Start When You Start to Build a Team

Real team building should and must be an integral part of truly professional gymnastics coaching. A strong team spirit lends extra support, training opportunities and heart to every gymnast on the team, when done right. It must be part of the coaching plan from the very beginning of the gymnast coaching process.

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