There are currently a variety of career paths for gymnastics coaches. There are a number of factors that will affect progress through such a career path that we would like to inform all coaches and potential coaches about for their own information and planning.
Sell Yourself and Your Program
The primary quality for any employee is “salesmanship”. In the context of the gym, this means the ability of the employee to successfully convince current and potential gymnasts and parents to begin or continue as members of a gymnastics program. The ultimate success of the business depends, not on gymnastics and competitive success, per se, but upon selling the athlete and parent.
Where All Children are Stars
The first quality to be evaluated, therefore, is interpersonal relationship skills. One of the best gym mottoes and mission statements we have ever seen – “Where All Children are Stars” indicates the positive attitude, which a good gym philosophy requires. Children at all levels in the program are encouraged to become their best by encouraging them with constant and consistent positive reinforcement. This means to “catch them doing something right” and reinforce or compliment them about it.
The Worst May Be Best and the Best May Be Gone
There is no indication that even scientific selection gives anything but a cursory indication of the future potential competitive success of an athlete. There are too many complex psychological factors that go into champions, regardless of their physical attributes and early success or lack of it, to pick champions. Again, for this reason, all children should be treated as if they are the best potential athlete in the gym.
Have to Sell Both the Parents and The Gymnasts
The hardest part of the job is not to convince the gymnasts to enjoy the program, but to convince their parents of the value of the gymnastics experience. Parental motivations are not primarily for competitive gymnastics success. Primarily, they are interested in the goals of coordination (46%), fun and enjoyment (36%), discipline (26%) and athletic accomplishment (10%). Our program must reflect these goals. This is again accomplished by visible implementation of our motto – making it apparent to all who watch program or only listen to their own child that the program is fairly administered, fun and that all the coaches and staff are interested in the well being of each and every individual member of the program.
Treat Them As Family
To implement this, we recommend that you view each athlete as a member of the gym “family” and treat them as you would a family member. This means that you exhibit a long-term commitment to their well being and progress and a positive relationship in spite of any minor temporary differences.
Have to Be 16 to Be in the Olympics
This long-term view stems from philosophical and practical considerations. High level international competition, including the Olympics, is available only to high level athletes over the age of 16. When the average age of our gymnasts is between nine and ten, we must keep the long term perspective in view constantly, so that we and our program can retain gymnasts for that long a period. Coaching negativism is the primary factor in burnout, followed by boring repetitiveness and apparent lack of progress.
“Man To Man”
The most successful style of coaching is the one adopted for collegiate age male gymnasts. Successful men’s collegiate coaches use feedback and are known as teachers. They inform, educate, review, motivate and interact on a “man to man” level of equal respect. Attempted intimidation of a physical male adult would be uselessly counterproductive.
Intimidation Only Works for So Long
The fact that it is possible to use intimidation on younger and female athletes does not speak for its ultimate or long range appropriateness, success or usefulness. Other national programs, not withstanding, it is our experience and policy that such tactics are inappropriate and ultimately have a negative effect not only on the gymnast and their performance, but on the program. Teenage gymnasts go through the same period of rebellion and challenge with their coaches that they commonly go through with their parents. Without respectful treatment of the athletes’ inputs, motivations and feelings, a high percentage will exit the program needlessly. Losing the talents of such athletes who may have trained for years hurts the team and the gym competitively and financially.
Train, Train, Train
Training can involve first aid, CPR and emergency medical training, regional and national gymnastic clinic participation, ACEP (American Coaches Effectiveness Program) training and certification, safety learning and certification, USAG Coaches Level certification, meet director certification, in house staff training sessions and clinics. It should be expected that every employee and staff member will be actively working to improve the level of their training, especially as a prerequisite to career ladder movement and pay increases.
Employee Cross Training and Adaptability
Adaptability is a measure of productivity in an employee and cross training, task and goal oriented job assignments and frequent employee reassignment are factors in the success of a business in adapting to the current competitive climate. In terms of the gym, staff members need to be trained and cognizant of all of the factors necessary for the success of the gym as a business. This means that each and every employee should understand the correct procedures for inbound telemarketing (how to successfully take phone calls, recruit callers to sign up for free lessons, answer questions and schedule birthday parties).
Employees need to be able to teach a variety of levels and abilities of students on all of the apparatus – girls, boys, preschoolers, tumbling, trampoline, tumble trac, vault, bars, beam, floor, dance, conditioning, flexibility and warm ups. The most productive employees will be able to handle the widest variety of tasks with the least preparation time. The learning matrices for these two include a bi-modal matrix for gymnastics with events on the one scale and the level of gymnast from preschool to elite on the other. The gym management matrix includes an increasingly wide array of tasks compared to the successful assumption of responsibility and completion of those tasks.
Learn All Your Students Names
The complexity of personal skills is probably best dealt with by setting and meeting quantifiable goals within a deadline in each of the areas. For example, a goal to learn and use every class period the names of all the students in your class by the end of the second week can be achieved. Goal setting should be done on a personal basis as a matter of course and can be done or may be required to do in conjunction with a supervisor.
Creativity and problem solving are not job traits that can easily be required, but they can certainly be rewarded with promotion and appropriate pay incentives and rewards. It is well know that the employees who actually perform the everyday tasks are often the best suited to originating methods for increasing the efficiency of their performance. It is our expectation that every staff member will actively participate in attempting to create improved systems of productivity for the gym. Because individual staff members may not be aware of all the ramifications of changes in the systems, ideas should be submitted, preferably in writing (which will ensure that proper credit due is given).
The career paths in the gym may be varied depending on a number of factors. It is reasonable to expect that even the highest positions in the gym are available to those who successfully progress up the career ladder. The current size and structure of the gym and current management theory do not require multiple levels of management and supervisors, but all areas of management responsibility are open to those who have successfully demonstrated their capability and commitment. Their are increased management responsibilities available in the front office, day time office management, Saturday and Sunday weekend management, marketing, advertising, public relations, program development, with the non-profit team organization, fundraising, for birthday parties, the preschool, boyâ€™s, and cheerleading programs. There is more than enough work and responsibility for all who choose to accept it. Those who do will be fairly and adequately rewarded with appropriate promotions and financial rewards.
Get on the Team
The continued success of the gym will be a team effort. Providing the best gymnastics program requires far more than simply coaching. Our growth has not yet peaked and that means there are numerous opportunities for increased promotion and remuneration. Those choices will be based on actual productivity. It is in the best interests of the gym and shareholders to satisfactorily compensate productive employees. There should be no doubt that this will be done. It is only right and the dealings with internal clients of the gym of the gym (employees) must be no less positive than the treatment of the external clients if a positive consistency is to be maintained. It is hoped that the employees have a better understanding of the gymâ€™s expectations for them.
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