Subject: gymnast to coach ratio
Gymnastics Level: level 7
I was wondering what your thoughts were regarding the appropriate gymnast to coach ratio. My daughter’s team consists of levels 7-9. Currently there are 14 girls and 1 coach. My daughter is 1 of 4 level 7s (all new 7s). I think only 3 or 4 girls are repeating a level. The rest are working to get their new skills. I asked the office about the ratio and was told they are hoping that girls will be absent. Is there a recommended ratio? What is the best way to approach the topic with office management without offending the coach?
Okay, first I have to say I literally laughed out loud the first time (and a few times afterwards) that I read the office’s response to your question about gymnast to coach ratio. That is so wrong on so many levels, that it is hilarious.
8:1 Ratio is Standard?
You are right to have questions about this situation, but the problem is perhaps, not as critical as you may think. In general, while there are suggested maximum ratios for gymnastics classes (8:1) and preschool classes (6:1), there is really no such established maximum ratio for team coaching (except for the British Gymnastics Federation which sets a 16:1 ratio as the maximum). Most team programs would certainly like to keep their coaching ratio at 8:1 or lower, and I would say that could likely be a reasonable average ratio in the U.S. for optional team programs.
New, Young Optional Gymnasts Benefit from More One-To-One Coaching
There are a so many factors to consider when talking about the ratio of participants to coach. The age and level of gymnasts is certainly a factor. In your case, your daughter is a young, new optional gymnast. Because she is an optional gymnast the ratio could conceivably be somewhat higher than normal. But because she is young and new to optionals, a lower ratio would be more beneficial.
Wide Ranges of Age and Level are Harder to Coach
Three is considerable difference between a new Level 7 and an experienced Level 9 and there is likely a fairly wide age range in your daughter’s group of 14. Widely ranging ages and levels generally are best served with more than one coach. It is considerably harder to coach a wide range of ages and levels at the same time. And while it can be done, it is not likely that the coaching will be as effective.
Enough Equipment on One Event?
In most gyms in the United States, it would be unlikely that there are 14 individual training stations on the same event, so the gymnasts must either wait for equipment or be on two (or more) separate events. Waiting for equipment is a waste of practice time that most optional gymnasts can ill afford. The amount of equipment available is a definite factor in effective gymnast to coach ratios.
Supervising Gymnasts on Two Events Involves More Safety Risks
Safe supervision practices come into play when one coach is responsible for gymnasts on more than one event. And it is difficult to closely coach and comment on gymnasts working on two separate events, especially if they are not located together in the gym. A coach must be able to observe and instantly respond to any dangerous situations, accidents, or other difficulties of everyone in their gymnastics group. The coach needs to evaluate the safety risks of the situation and must coach in an effective, but safe manner.
Well Organized Coaches Can Handle More
A very organized coach, who does things like use, either a written team team or individual workout for each gymnast (my style), or who has taken the time to teach their gymnasts exactly what their workout should be each day, can handle larger groups than a coach, who simply walks in the gym without a plan. Highly experienced coaches can handle larger groups than can newer, less experienced coaches.
It Takes More Than One Coach to Build an Elite
My experience and the opinions of my high level coaching friends is that it always takes more than one good coach (at least two) to produce high level optional and Elite gymnasts. No one coach, no matter how good can do it themselves. In general, coaches have different strengths. A coach who is exceptional at teaching beam, floor and dance is not likely to be a strong bar, tumbling and vault coach and vice versa.
It Can Be Done
All in all I would have to say that one coach would not normally be expected to supervise more 14 gymnasts on a regular basis, without other suitably qualified coaches being in attendance. However, there certainly are coaches who could handle that situation, depending on their organization skills, their experience level and the availability of equipment.
Lower Ratios are Always Better
That said, lower gymnast to coach ratios will always yield better results, and in this situation, I am sure the coach would like a better ratio as well. Eastern European coaches and coaches in the old Soviet system often would work with only one, or a very few, optional gymnasts with great success. Many coaches dream of being able to work with only a very few exceptionally talented gymnasts.
Help the Coach Get More Help
My approach, to the coach, would be to ask what you can do to help convince the office and owners (assuming the coach is not the owner) to get the coach some more help.
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