Negative Coaching

Subject: Difficult Coach

We have a coach that is very negative. She coaches by saying: “Make a change”, “You’re not working hard enough”, “Whatever you are doing, do it again.”

But there is never any coaching on how to do it better, or what my child is doing wrong No constructive coaching!

I am afraid my daughter is going to quit just because of her. My daughter loves gymnastics but will quit if she continually receives this abuse everyday. What should I do as a parent?

Welcome to one of the biggest reasons we started this web site and started writing gymnastics books and to what is a huge problem in our sport of gymnastics.

Three is no doubt that there are coaches at every level of the sport who are negative and that even literally yell and scream at young gymnasts. It is unfortunate that some of the most “successful” high profile coaches in the country set the tone for this type of negative coaching.

There are many coaches who believe that they must emulate these coaches to be successful. There are way too many coaches who are so ego-involved that they lose emotional control when dealing with their gymnasts.

Some gymnasts can deal with this and stay in the sport with no apparent short-term effects. Some can not take it and are lost to the sport and suffer continuing negative self-image problems even after they quit.

We know that a person’s life can be entirely changed by a teacher’s even one positive comment. How can anyone think that constant negative comments won’t have an even greater negative effect on their gymnastics and life?

There is tons of scientific evidence that positive coaching methods are always more effective in the long run, especially with girls. We know that positive expectations by a teacher cause their students to rise to that level of expectation (or sink to negative expectations).

We know of programs and design and run programs where the coach uses the same knowledge of the sport that negative coaches have to find what gymnasts are doing right. When gymnasts are complimented on what they do right, they tend to repeat the positive behavior and you can build on that. Constant negativity gives gymnasts no direction in which they can move without being criticized, so they do not move forward effectively.

Gymnasts are happy and learn quickly and maintain a confident, positive attitude which is a huge asset in competition.

We can, and eventually will, go on and on about this situation. We hope to educate coaches on how to positively motivate gymnasts including at the Elite level. We have done it, seen it done and hope to teach others how much more effective positive coaching can be.

What should you do? First, talk to her coach. Explain that you do not wish your daughter to be driven out of the gym or the sport. Tell her that you know that positive coaching is the best method of coaching girls and that for what you pay, you expect your child to be positively motivated.

We know that many coaches do not feel they need to learn any more about the sport, but we do have a few articles on our web site already that deal with positive coaching. Recommend that your coach read:

If that does not bring results, complain to the owner (if the coach does not also happen to be the owner, as is true in many cases). Explain that you know that positive coaching works best with your child and that she may quit the sport if she doesn’t get the kind of coaching she deserves. If there is another better coach in the gym, ask that your daughter work with them instead.

If there are other gym alternatives in the area, investigate them and see if you can find a coach who is both successful and positive. We are not really big fans of gym hopping, but we do believe that gymnasts deserve good coaching. You have a perfect right, indeed obligation to get your daughter the best coaching possible.

Unless your daughter is one of those rare gymnasts who can remain unaffected by such coaching behavior or the coach has a solid record of producing successful high level athletes, you are likely best to make some kind of switch or see some kind of change in her coach.

Good luck and if there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

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