One of the best ideas I ever had was to do annual exhibitions at the schools where our team gymnasts attended. On the one hand, the program worked better than I could ever have imagined. But there were some administrative problems that I will tell you about so you not to make the same over-scheduling mistakes that I did.
Gymnastics Stars in Their Own School and Community
This was all a part of my efforts to turn my team gymnasts into community heroes. We already were doing half-time basketball exhibitions, where our team girls in high school were getting a lot of attention, but we had nothing similar for our team girls in Jr. High and elementary school.
Exhibitions at Our Team Girls Schools
So my big idea was to do an exhibition in every one of our team girls schools once a year. It was really easy to schedule those. We simply called the principals of the schools, and told them what we wanted to do, and every one of them agreed to schedule an assembly in their school gym so we could do our exhibition.
Feature Gymnasts at Their Own School
While we took our whole team to every exhibition, we “featured” the gymnasts who were from that school. We literally made the gymnasts, from that school, the stars of the show, regardless of what level of gymnast they were. For us, “featuring” them meant that they were the last gymnasts to go in the introductions (and got the longest introductions listing their gymnastics accomplishments) and they were the last up in every tumbling and exhibition pass (where the applause tends to be bigger).
Make Them the Stars of Their Own School
We also restricted our other girls from doing certain skills. The only girls doing, or being spotted on double backs and the other big skill finishes of the show, were the girls from that school, even if other girls on the team could do them by themselves or do them better. We designed the whole show to feature the gymnasts from that school. We featured them in every aspect of the show. The other team girls didn’t mind at all, because it wasn’t their school and they knew they would be the stars in their school when their turn came.
“Can I Have Your Autograph?”
The results were spectacular. The girls were mobbed after the shows. Several were asked for their autographs at shows and the girl’s parents were simply ecstatic. This was exactly what we were going for and we actually got way better results (in the making our gymnasts into heroes) than we ever thought possible. I highly recommend that this become a part of your program. The effect on your gymnasts is well worth the effort.
The downside to this program was that we all of a sudden had far more exhibitions than we had ever done before. In spite of the spectacular results for the gymnasts, we had failed to understand that every time we did one of these, gymnasts were getting out of school to do them, and now we were missing another 15 days of school in addition to the time we already missed for meets. After a while, parents became concerned with the amount of time their gymnasts were out of school and attendance (not mandatory) began to drop.
A number of the girls on the team were from communities in different towns and while we did not travel more than 35 minutes to any school, that added notable time to the time the gymnasts missed. We had three girls who lived an hour away , but we did not schedule exhibitions at their schools.
Too Many Schools for One Year
After that first year, we had all decided that doing every school, every year was too much, so we scheduled the exhibitions every other year. That way we still got the results, but it did not take away so much time from school.
Prioritize Your Exhibition Schedule
We all agreed that these exhibitions were more effective and fun than some of the other exhibitions we had been doing, so we dropped some of our less important exhibitions to lighten up our schedule so we could do more of these exhibitions.
Streamline Your Exhibitions Systems
We developed strategies, systems and parental leadership for moving the equipment necessary to do these and our other exhibitions. When parents saw triple (or quadruple or quintuple) the already excellent benefits of doing exhibitions, they gladly did the work to set them up.
When I chose the title for the program, “Turning Gymnasts into Heroes” I have to admit that I really thought I was overreaching. This school exhibition program alone proved that I had actually underestimated the positive benefits. I had certainly never expected to see my gymnasts signing autographs at their school. The net results of this program were so powerful and beneficial that I would do anything to make sure we could do it. I cannot recommend more strongly that every gym implement this program for their gymnasts.
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