How to Be a Positive Coach and Create a Positive Gym Atmosphere

We recently had occasion to restudy one of our most successful prototype coaches, a former coach of an Olympian and whose current program is developing at an astounding rate. We were looking to identify the reasons for the well above average (even for them) progress they are currently achieving.

Reconsider Your Coaching Style

While we all consider ourselves to be positive coaches, we were surprised to see the standard of positive reinforcement being used and its obvious effect on the success of the individual gymnasts and the program.

90 – 95% Positive Coaching

What we saw was that approximately 50 percent of the time, the coach did not respond at all to gymnasts’ efforts (where errors were made or no progress made), just maintaining an attentive posture. Out of the remaining 50 percent, 90 – 95 % of gymnasts efforts were met with cogent positive commentary with the word of the day being “Awesome!”

5 – 10% Redirection of Gymnasts

The remaining 5 – 10%, the coach emphatically, even intensely but never negatively, redirected the gymnasts’ efforts (individually or as a group) in the direction he wished them to go. Simply put, they told what the goal of the exercise was and what the coach wanted and expected them to do – on the spot reminders of goals or setting new goals and expectations.

ZERO Negative Feedback

There was NO, repeat NO negative feedback given during the entire four hour practice. That is the standard for true coaches to aspire to. We have to admit that we heard later that the coach was in a good mood that day, but with the corresponding success in practice we saw, there was ample reason for being in a good mood.

Coaches Responsibilities to Gymnasts

  • Set mutually agreed upon goals for each season and preferably long-term.
  • Plan practices ahead of time. Set up gymnasts to succeed every day n practice.
  • Give gymnasts specific instructions as to what you wish them to do.
  • Carefully watch their performances.
  • Comment positively on their performance and give them specific advice on what to do to improve their performance.

Always speak positively about gymnasts – Never say anything negative about any gymnast to or in front of any other gymnasts or parents other than their own. Always make any necessary negative comments or corrections in private.

Always speak positively about other coaches – Never say anything negative about other coaches to any gymnasts, parents, the media or members of the general public. Always make any necessary negative comments or corrections in private.

Use positive reinforcement as your major training tool – Never verbally abuse, intimidate, embarrass or degrade any gymnast. Build upon each gymnast’s strengths.

Always speak positively about the gym – Your job is to build the gym program in every way including public relations.

Concentrate on improving the gym, program and gymnasts – Resist assigning blame for any problems to any individual and concentrate on creating solutions and positive action. Become part of the solution, not part of the problem

Always be professional in your manner of speech, methods and appearance.

Commit to continual improvement, both personal and professional – there is always more to learn about coaching, no matter how long you have been doing it.

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