The Perils of Coaches Standing There Instead of Spotting

Coach spotting

Coach spotting
A number of recent coach problems with “standing there” and missing a spot necessitated this article. Coaches, spotting and “standing there” all have the goal of gymnast safety and protection as their prime directive.

Shouldn’t Need to “Stand There”

There are two possibilities when it comes to coaches “standing there” for a particular skill that a gymnast is doing. The most common is that the gymnast asks the coach to “stand there.” The definition of “standing there” means that the coach is positioned in a place where they could spot if necessary, but theoretically shouldn’t be needed. A primary question coaches should be asking is whether a gymnast is properly prepared, both physically and psychologically, if they think they need the coach to “stand there.” Proper preparation for competition should have prepared the gymnast to confidently do all the skills in their routines. But coaches also need to be prepared to deal with any and all competition situations, including potentially valid reasons for a coach to stand there, perhaps like an unexpected bad fall in warm-ups.

Possibility Two

There are times when a coach will determine (or even just have an intuition) that they should “stand there” for a particular gymnast on a particular skill at a particular time. Years of experience indicate that if a coach feels they should “stand there” for a skill, then that is exactly what they should do. I had a personal experience, with just such an intuition, on a bar dismount a gymnast had been doing alone for 18 months and had competed the previous year. Looking across the gym at the layout flyaway timers gave me a feeling that I should stand there for this flyaway full dismount, something I had not done for a year and a half. Sure enough, the gymnast caught a grip on the release and over twisted and over rotated the dismount, requiring an intense spot to keep them off their head.

The Danger of Just “Standing There”

At a certain point, spotting is a tricky business. We are, of course, assuming a coach has the skill and experience to spot the skill in question. When a coach plans to and actually does spot any skill, there is really no decision to be made. They know they are going to spot and do. But in any situation where a coach is “standing there” and has to decide, in mid-air, whether to spot of not, spotting becomes much more difficult. And depending on what the skill is, there may or may not be sufficient reaction time to spot if the skill goes wrong and the coach was not already planning to spot the skill. It is even worse if a coach “stands there” but is not really planning to spot and is not physically and mentally prepared to spot quickly. In this case, if and when something goes wrong and a spot becomes necessary, by the time the unprepared coach reacts, it is already too late.

The Right Way to “Stand There”

Psychologically, the whole concept of “standing there” has the wrong attitude and intensity. Anytime a coach, stands there, they need to be positioned to spot and fully ready to do so, both physically and mentally. The more quickly a particular skill could go wrong, the more prepared and ready a coach needs to be to be positioned to spot. If a coach is “standing there” they have to be totally prepared to spot. The safety of the gymnast demands it and is, of course, the primary consideration, but a coach looks really bad if they are standing right there and are obviously unprepared to spot when a gymnast does fall and an injury results. Coaches should never put themselves and the gymnast in that position.

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