What is Your Real Problem with the Coaching?

I have asked before about the TOPS program and the separation of the groups and expressed by dislike that the teams are currently separated by TOPS and NonTops. They practice at the same time, but with different coaches (levels 5-10).

My question today is a lot of times when I get to practice to observe, the gymnasts are alone. Often the girls will be doing drills on the bars or floor drills (sometimes as high as Level 10) and there is no coach spotting, observing, coaching, etc. This concerns me because I am paying for coaching, but the girls are doing drills by themselves, not to mention it is not safe. I seems like they are just practicing the same thing over and over again, unattended. The coach is busy spotting or training the TOPS girls or working with a few TOP gymnasts and does not focus on the team as a whole. Should I be concerned?

Thank you.

You ask if you should be concerned and yes you should be, but you are also taking about a number of different questions – safety, supervision, spotting, training systems and value for your dollar.

In situations like this, usually the largest safety concern is not gymnasts getting hurt because they are doing skills and drills too difficult for them to do alone safely. Too many of the same activity can cause repetitive stress injuries but injury trauma is likely only to occur from lack of concentration after doing the same thing over and over again.

There is liability for the gym if a serious injury did occur without either direct or general supervision because legally there is the expectation of at least general supervision, if not direct supervision of young athletes. At least one coach should be overlooking all of the activity going on in the gym, in addition, to whatever they may be directly coaching. This only comes up, usually, if there is an accident and a lawsuit.

Spotting is a coaching decision and it can be perfectly safe to train in gymnastics, especially with pits, without spotting at all. Likely the drills are of such a relative low level that neither spotting or danger from accidental injury are likely. I would consider this probably to be a non-issue from your point of view, except for the fact that they are not working at the highest level possible.

I feel strongly that good coaching is what I call close coaching which is a system of coaching where the coach is closely watching the gymnast during almost everything they do at practice, giving them instant feedback and telling them what they need to do to improve on their next turn.

It is possible to watch teams at meets and tell whether they are closely coached or not. Teams that are closely coached not only don’t often fall, they look good doing their skills. Repetition and drill coaching systems may produce gymnasts who may stay on the equipment but who do not necessarily look good doing their skills.

When people are unhappy with a coach or a program, it is easy to find things that bother them. It seems your main concern is not really the safety, supervision, spotting, training systems, but that your daughter is not in the “best” group with the coaches you would like her to be with.

The USAG TOPs program is a strength and flexibility selection testing program that emphasizes making sure gymnasts are strong and flexible first and then teaching them high level optional skill progressions.

Individual gyms use the program in many ways. Some set it up as a separate program from their other team and training programs. Some use it with all of their gymnasts (this what I recommend doing. Getting strong and flexible first and then working on high level optional progressions is what I would want all my team gymnasts to do). Some coaches and programs try to pre-select for the pre-selection process. If you are paying the same amount of money as the TOP gymnasts and not receiving the same coaching and training opportunities, you certainly may not be receiving the same value for your coaching dollar. In that case, you may have a legitimate complaint.

The real issue is what can and will you do to change the situation, which has not apparently improved since the last time you, wrote me. Talk to the owner and coach. Keep talking until you get change or investigate your alternatives.

Good luck.

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