Spychological Gymnastics Coaching

The story, about the origins of this article, is that I was writing another article that had some “psychological” references and I mistyped the work psychological and it came out “spychological.” I was so impressed with the implications of the word (spying on the psychology of…), that I decided I just had to use it somehow. “Spychology” must certainly have some application for gymnastics and all I had to do is figure out what it was and write it down.

Spying usually involves obtaining information that is secret or confidential without permission. Spying and “Spychology” are inherently clandestine. The psychological information, coaches should want about their gymnasts, is what their real inner motivations for being gymnasts are and what are their dreams and goals for the sport.

Gymnasts may or may not consciously know why they like the sport. That may be because it is something so simple as “gymnastics is fun” or some incredibly psychologically complex reason. This is not an article to promote simplistic, pop psychology for gymnastics coaches, but rather a call for communication on the dreams and goals of both gymnasts and coaches. Both parties will have a much better chance of achieving their goals and dreams, if they understand, either by overt or covert means, what the other wants and expects.

It is an axiom of the world that nothing occurs in the real world, that has not first happened in someone’s mind. This is definitely true in gymnastics. From gymnastics skills to being an Olympian, everything in the sport first had to start in the mind of the either the coach or the gymnast.

Gymnasts are in the business of “spying” out the psychology of their coach, every day. They do something in the gym and they look immediately to see what the reaction of the coach is to what they have done, seeking, hopefully positive, feedback.

Because gymnasts are usually so talented and smart, it is sometimes difficult for coaches to remember just how young and inexperienced in life that they are. Coaches are expecting their gymnasts to have a tremendous drive to become an World Champion or Olympic gymnast and their gymnasts don’t even know that there are World Championships, or at all, what is involved in becoming an Olympian.

At the gyms where Olympians are produced regularly, the coaches talk every day about the Olympics. They provide a clear picture of the skill level, determination level and practice level required to reach the Olympics. This has a beneficial effect in a number of ways. Gymnasts clearly know what is expected of them and they know there are high expectations for them held by their coach, which they will then try to successfully live up to.

In addition to providing the information about high level gymnastics and possible goals, coaches may have to “spy’ on gymnasts to get them to reveal their personal goals for the sport. Clandestine HUMINT (human intelligence) information collection techniques need to be used to collect this information about gymnasts.

OK, that certainly carries this weak metaphor way too far out there, but the basic concept of coaches and gymnasts understanding each other’s vision of higher level gymnastics participation holds strong and true throughout.

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