The Problem with Gymnastics Coaches in America


A professional is an expert, who is a master, in a specific field. In spite of the designation of coaches by the federation as professional, there is considerable question as to whether the standards for coaching in the country, even begin to approach the professional standards, such as the professional standards that are required of doctors, judges, scientists, educators or the clergy.

The main criteria for being considered a professional in gymnastics should, among others, include:

  • Expert and specialized knowledge in gymnastics and all areas relating to the teaching and coaching of gymnastics.
  • Excellent theoretical, practical and planning skills in relation to the gymnastics profession.
  • Professional training as a teacher and educator.
  • High quality professional work, in providing gymnastics services.
  • Professional appearance in attire.
  • A personal high level of physical fitness and conditioning, as an example to young athletes, and in order to safely spot gymnasts when necessary.
  • A high standard of professional ethics.
  • A professional standard of behavior and professional level of work activities.
  • Professionals are often required to put the interest of the client (the gymnast) ahead of their own interests.
  • Appropriate treatment of, and professional relationships with, gymnastics colleagues, both within the gym and without, including with judges and with gyms, coaches and gymnasts, who are the competition.

No Education and Training

There is a significant shortage of high level gymnastics coaching professionals, all around the country, experienced enough and capable of training and producing Elite gymnasts. The most significant cause of this problem is a lack of coaches’ education and training. There is no currently no place in the country, where coaches can go to learn how to coach and receive a professional education, anywhere comparable to the physical education Bachelors and Masters degree programs in Gymnastics, like have been available in the Russia and Eastern Europe. There are not even extensive formal training and certification programs in this country, like the ones in Canada and Great Britain. And few gyms have their own effective instructor and coaching training programs. The result is a huge demand for coaches, and too few who are trained, experienced and knowledgeable enough to coach gymnasts, to be all they can be.

Coach Like They Were Coached

The result is that most of the coaches in the country, either coach like they were coached, or coach like they have seen someone else in their gym coach. Even the best coaches are self-taught, primarily from watching huge amounts of gymnastics video. If it were not for the Internet, there would be almost no gymnastics video resources available, even for that purpose, as the rights to major gymnastics competitions, where the best gymnasts compete, have been sold away to TV companies. And, so now, organizations like the U.S.E.C.A. (United States Elite Coaching Association) can not longer provide competition videos, like they used to do.

Lack of Professional Preparation

The majority of gymnastics coaches, and even some highly experienced coaches, in this country, walk into the gym with no written plan. Far too many coaches walk into the gym without even having though about what they are going to do that day in the gym. Formal written team and gymnast goals rarely exist. Formal written, comprehensive gymnastics training programs do not exist in most gyms. Few long range gymnast, team or gym plans exist, say for the next Olympic quadrennium. All in all, there is a tremendous lack of professional preparation in the sport.

Unprofessional Negative Coaching

Finally, for what is primarily a youth sport, there is an almost universal acceptance, contrary to the scientific evidence, that negative coaching is not only acceptable for young gymnasts, but actually the best, and indeed, only path to high level optional gymnastics success. This is wrong from both a scientific and moral point of view. Nothing needs to be improved more in this country, for the gymnastics coaching of youth, than to change from negative coaching methods to building successful Elite gymnasts with positive coaching methods.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “The Problem with Gymnastics Coaches in America”