The most important coaching concept is that gymnastics training must be done systematically. The long-term success of the Russians, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans has come from their systematic approach to coaching. Much of the recent success in the United States is the result of imported Russian coaches who have brought their systems with them or American coaches who have been exposed to systematic training and have adopted or adapted it.
Systematic Training is the Key To a Great Program
Systems may vary, but the common success factor is the presence of a consistent training system. There is a tremendous variety in training systems regarding the specifics of workouts. A wide variety of systems have been used to create Olympians and World Champions. While we have our own favorite systematic approach to coaching and training gymnasts, what we understand most clearly is that the successful coaches have a system and work it. Plan your work and work your plan.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
The problem with many American coaches and many young coaches is that they tend to coach using the flavor of the day. One day, it’s gymnastics strength training and half the practice is intense conditioning and the next day it’s new beam drills and the next day it’s filling a need for more tumbling. Then, back from Coaches’ Congress with the newest and latest changes, it’s a whole new approach. The net effect is no follow through on anything and therefore no consistent progress.
Review and Repetition
Since gymnastics is a series of learned sequential habits, the training system must be consistently applied to create good gymnastics habits. This is why the flavor of the day type approach does not work. Gymnastics skills must be reviewed and repeated daily to remain consistent in performances. Without a systematic approach progress is spotty and progress and skills in one area are often lost when attention is shifted to another area.
One notable feature of a successful training system is the fact that the system is closely monitored and gymnasts are closely coached. This means that gymnasts are not sent off to do some arbitrary number of skills without supervision, but are carefully monitored, provided quick feedback and training suggestions.
Hallmarks of a good systematic approach include long and short-range written goals, a long-range written training plan, written daily goals and lesson plans, close coaching.
The fact that we recommend a systematic approach does not mean that we believe that everything is set in stone. Systems can always be improved and new ideas and new technologies regularly appear. The difference is that these need to be integrated into the training system to allow continued consistent progress.
See the Long-Term View
One of the easiest ways to train consistently is to maintain a long-term view of the goals of your program and not react to the various short-term distractions like upcoming invitational meets with little long-term strategic importance.
Peak for the Important Competitions
For each gymnast there will most likely be only one or two important meets in each year. Which meets depends on what level they are currently competing at. For level 10’s for example, Nationals is the only really important meet (States and Regionals are really just qualifying meets, however good success at them may look on your gymnastics resume). Every other meet during the year is simply training preparation and/or another experience in learning how to compete by competing.
Develop Your System
So for coaching and competition success, develop your training system and keep with it.