Tracy Whittaker-Smith Heading for Glory

New National Coach and the Challenges Ahead

Tracy Whittaker-Smith

 

October 2017 has delivered a double celebration for Tracy Whittaker-Smith. This most charismatic of coaches not only begins her new role as Head National Coach for Trampolining but also begins working with Britain’s recently announced World Championship Team.

The 52-year-old from Northampton has already helped turn her hometown academy into a beacon of excellence, highly regarded across the world. Now, her vast experience of 24 years will add some wisdom to the squad charged with landing more British medals in the months to come. Despite this, there’s much more to this inspirational lady than meets the eye.

Tracy is extremely well known on the elite trampoline circuit, having previously worked as the Great Britain National Support Coach which led to becoming Men and Women’s National Coach too. As a major part of our own World Class Programme, Tracy has already contributed a vast amount to the ongoing British success story as the Technical Consultant to British Gymnastics. It’s no secret how much the athletes enjoy working with her, and as a people person, her coaching style is admired by many people within the gymnastics circle.

“This appointment now enables her to really drive forward the ambitions of our trampoline programme towards Tokyo and then Paris 2024,” said British Gymnastics Performance Director, James Thomas. “Tracy has a fantastic working relationship with our gymnasts and is passionate about continuing to push on from the historic successes in Rio. Her experience within the sport at all levels means she has a great understanding of the challenges we face and the opportunities we have to make improvements. We are confident she will be a fantastic leader for trampoline gymnastics.” Let’s be honest, anyone who has coached at no less than four Olympic Games and a number of World and European Championships must command great respect from both athletes and fans alike.

Ever modest, however, Tracy is just happy to continue her involvement in the sport she loves so much. She told us: “Following the history-making achievements at the Rio Olympic Games, it is a great honour to be appointed as the Head National Coach and I relish the challenge to build upon this success in Tokyo and beyond. I look forward to working with the gymnasts, coaches, support team and everyone involved in the trampolining programme”.

The Northampton Trampoline Centre, Tracy’s great passion and a world-class facility (purpose-built for trampolining and used every day by the community and high-performance gymnasts) became the proud host of pre-Olympic training camps for Australian and Japanese gymnasts prior to the London Olympic Games in 2012. In fact, the British team has a great relationship with their Japanese counterparts because of this.

Having been named Outstanding Coach of The Year in 2014, it comes as no surprise to see how much her abilities are admired in the sport. Tracy was honoured for her work with the Great Britain Senior Ladies Trampoline Team, though she has an outstanding reputation in sport more generally.

Coaches, just like the athletes they help, can continue to improve with the knowledge acquired over many big events and competitions. Nothing can ever be guaranteed, but given this recent high profile appointment, it would seem success in Sofia is extremely likely. It’s another major step forward for a lady who fully deserves the plaudits coming her way. Tracy Whittaker-Smith is surely destined for further honours in the future and we wish her every success along with those she trains.

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Here at Pay Subs Online, just like the gymnasts Tracy trains, we wish you every success. Part of being successful will include the smooth administration of your club – something more easily said than done. In order to help you with this, we’ve compiled a document of Admin Tasks Which can be Done Quicker and Easier Online which you can download for free here.

Currency of Coaching

We’re all familiar with the business saying, ‘time is money’, but what is the equivalent for a coach – time is medals?

Currency of Coaching

When we talk about the currency of coaching, according to professional gymnastics coach and consultant Nick Ruddock, if time is money OR medals, how do coaches use theirs? Is the time they spend with their athletes valuable?

He uses the following business analogy; If you wanted to start up a business and you were lucky enough to have a full team of investors to support you, you’d have definite advantages over an individual who had little capital.

As a coach who has a talented athlete to train, you hold the advantage over a coach training someone less talented. But advantages do not always correlate with success – or winning, come to mention it.

Productivity – whether it’s business or coaching – will always trump activity. No matter how talented, an athlete and coach who train unproductively will not match the optimised training programme of an athlete who has a fervent work ethic – even if that athlete isn’t as talented.

Productive training is defined as making excellent use of time to get closer to your goals. Busy and productive are two different things – after all, a rocking chair keeps moving but makes no progress.

There is a straightforward formula – time + beneficial activity = progress.

Sounds commonsensical, yes? But what you will often see in practice is time + non-beneficial activity = stagnation.

When it comes to training, there are many things athletes can do in a session, but at any one time, there are only a few things an athlete SHOULD do if he or she is to improve their performance. The rest are time-filling activities – enjoyable perhaps, but fluffy rather than necessary.

When it comes to business, the best use of money is an investment that will create more wealth. When it comes to coaching, the best use of time is to invest in the kind of activities that increase the probability of an athlete increasing his or her long-term potential. This might mean sacrificing the ‘fun stuff’, the same way that a businessman or woman splashing out on a Porsche limits his or her potential for business growth by wasting money on something that doesn’t help with an end goal.

To be successful in business, you need to convert every pound to £10 – by either selling or reselling a product worth XX to make YY, or by placing the money in a long-term investment, such as property or stocks.

This is a long-term strategy – not as fun as the Porsche perhaps, but more conducive to success in the long run.

Teaching your athletes fundamental skills and movement isn’t much fun either – but it works. It’s your long-term investment strategy. If a coach can see beyond the boredom of repetitive, core competencies – this will pay off. Basic skills are a brilliant investment of time, and they prolong an athlete’s career, as well as increasing his or her chances of fulfilling their potential.

Think about it – would you say yes to £50,000 this week, instead of £100,000 in ten years’ time? Funnily enough, the human brain is set up for instant gratification, so statistics show that most people would take the £50k. The same applies to the choice of taking a holiday versus sticking money in a savings accounts. Patience is difficult when we are presented with something fun and exciting.

But while it might be more fun to teach exciting release and catches on bars to 11-year-olds, what about their handstand shapes or kip cast to handstands?

Think long-term.

What gets measured, gets mastered (as the saying goes). 

Your successful business person will know how every penny of their pound is spent – and what they intend to get from it. Having worked out the strategy they need to ensure their plan works. They keep a watchful eye on spending to make sure they stick to the budget and do not overspend on areas of their business that aren’t as important. They look at 10p spent on something unnecessary as costing the business £10 in another field.

As a coach, do you know how much time you’re spending on physical preparation of your athletes? Are they doing their vault drills and their routines? In addition to the actual time spent training, do you know what is being achieved in that time?

Most people check their online banking at least once a week to make sure their accounts are in the black and that they stay that way.

But what about those training programmes? Are they subjected to the same scrutiny? Time isn’t a renewable resource (unlike money), and it, therefore, needs to be taken far more seriously when it comes to coaching.

The collective sum of small amounts of daily time adds up to significance – what Nick terms the accumulation effect. It’s the same kind of thing as the saying, ‘Look after the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves’.

If every day, an athlete spends five minutes refining a handstand, this accumulates to about 20 hours of handstand work over a year (based on an athlete training five times a week). You read that right. Twenty hours! Accumulation is powerful.

Imagine increasing your physical preparation from 20 minutes a day to 40… That adds up another 80 hours a year. Coaches who value time spent on physical development have higher-performing athletes, and that is why.

Shave off the ‘fluffy’ time and prioritise critical activities. Scrutinise and deconstruct your programme so that you know every minute is being spent wisely. Remember, you don’t get time back.

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Nick Ruddock is a coach, consultant, clinician and speaker. He has been the junior national coach for British Gymnastics, and his GBR junior team made history in 2014 with the first-ever junior team medal at the European Championships. He formed Nick Ruddock Gymnastics in 2015 and has consulted for more than a dozen international gymnastics federations including Australia, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and provided services to professional sports teams such as Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs. You can connect with Nick through his Facebook page or email him at nick@nickruddock.com

The Why of Gymnastics Coaching

'Why' – one of the most powerful words in the English language, according to professional gymnastics coach and consultant, Nick Ruddock.

The Why of Coaching

He has plenty of great advice about how to use the word correctly and efficiently when it comes to gymnastics coaching. Asking why can give you the answers to questions you think you don’t want the answer to – the reason it’s so powerful – but it’s also a confrontational, aggressive word. Something that isn’t useful in relation to coaching.

Nick runs through the occasions where ‘why’ is used poorly. If you’re a gymnastics coach and you use it when giving feedback or questioning one of your athletes, it can come across as particularly threatening.

Take questions such as ‘why are you bending your legs?’, or, worse, ‘why are you doing it like that?’. ‘Why aren’t you concentrating?’ is another poor example of its use.

You’ll want to know why it’s so threatening. Such blunt questions mean that anyone responding can immediately come across as argumentative. ‘Why are you doing it like that’ is something of a rhetorical question, and rhetorical questions do not belong in gymnastics coaching.

An exchange where a gymnastics coach asks, ‘Why are you bending your legs’ and the athlete replies, ‘Because I wasn’t tight enough on the springboard’ might lead to a confrontational situation where the coach thinks the athlete is answering back or regards him or herself as smarter than the coach.

There are better ways to phrase a question – ways that engage and empower the person, you coach. Instead of saying, ‘Why did you land on your back?’, ask instead ‘Any idea what made you fall on your back there?’

This is a much more encouraging question. Small tweaks to language help build the rapport between coach and athlete, helping you to get more from people. It also makes it more likely for the athlete to become independently aware of their mistakes, and understand the corrections needed.

Where can ‘Why?’ be used to good effect, however?

Children are avid fans of the question ‘Why?’ as anyone who’s ever had or looked after a toddler will agree. It’s part of the who, what, where, when, how philosophy we pick up at a young age – giving us the framework for asking questions and gaining an understanding of the world around us. It’s a strategy that works well going forward – if you want to succeed in anything in life, always ask lots of questions. The qualifier to that being, the better your question, the better the answer.

So, what counts as a good why question – especially when it comes to life and our path through it? These examples are ones that you should ask yourself regularly, no matter where you are.

  • Why do I deserve success?
  • Why do I coach people?
  • Why did my athletes not perform as well as usual today?
  • Why were my team so successful (or unsuccessful) this season?
  • Why is that coach repeatedly producing fantastic results?
  • Why am I not achieving my goals?
  • Why am I not making healthy food choices?
  • Why should an athlete want to work with me?

Another useful way to use the question ‘why?’ is to ask it repeatedly, as this will help you get to the root of the problem. How does this work? Take this example.

Why am I not making healthy food choices?

Because I can’t find time to shop and prepare my meals.

Why?

Because I’m so busy with training and doing other things.

Why?

Because the training takes up so much of my time and I need to relax.

Why?

I’m tired and lacking energy, so I put my feet up and watch television.

Doesn’t it sound to you as if more sleep is needed, and that by prioritising a healthy diet and food prep that you might give yourself energy?

As coaches, we need to think carefully about how we use the word ‘why’ and make sure we optimise this to get the responses and engagement we want.

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Nick Ruddock is a coach, consultant, clinician and speaker. He has been the junior national coach for British Gymnastics, and his GBR junior team made history in 2014 with the first-ever junior team medal at the European Championships. He formed Nick Ruddock Gymnastics in 2015 and has consulted for more than a dozen international gymnastics federations including Australia, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and provided services to professional sports teams such as Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs. You can connect with Nick through his Facebook page.

 

Gymnastics Coach – Talent Transfer

Transferring talent – it isn’t poaching talent, promises professional gymnastics coach and consultant Nick Ruddock.

Gymnastics Coach

 

Nick Ruddock, our resident International Gymnastics Coach, wants to strengthen the link between clubs and their coaches and offer solutions to coaches who need support and mentoring for athletes. Perhaps they feel themselves out of their depth. They have someone who is elite.

If you’re training someone and you don’t think you can give them what they need, should you transfer them to an environment where they will flourish? Yes.

Any true gymnastics coach who is athlete-centered will want to do everything they can to ensure the athlete reaches their full potential – even if that means they do it away from you. It’s still natural to worry about the repercussions on your career and how this makes you look as a coach.

As coaches, we have many opportunities, while this young athlete might only have one. This applies particularly to young gymnasts who have a very short window of opportunity to show their competence. This is a huge responsibility – coaches hold the keys to people’s futures.

That future might include medals – but it’s also about travel, teamwork, life experience, goals, self-belief, opportunity and much more. Can you as a coach justify not letting this happen?

Many things might run through a coach’s mind, preventing him or her from picking up the phone to a club that can offer more for an athlete.

What will the other parents/athletes think? I’d miss this person. How can I progress as a coach? What if my gymnast makes the national squad and I miss out on out being part of that?

Nick urges coaches to become better at collaborating between clubs and supporting one another. Athlete transitions should incentivise coaches with high-performance coach education support and mentoring programmes.

Take these two scenarios:

The current situation
Sarah coaches nine-year-old Millie. The child has won her first national level competition and shows tremendous potential for the future. She’s Sarah’s first national champion, but Sarah doesn’t have a track record of previous results at this level or above. She has no mentor, personal development plan or experiential learning to help her achieve better results in the future.

Sarah keeps trying, working hard to keep Millie at a high level for her age. In time, though, lack of preparation and poor habits exceed her potential. By the age of 11, Millie starts to plateau. Her performance declines. She doesn’t reach her performance potential.

Sarah hasn’t developed much as a coach either. The same will happen the next time an athlete of Millie’s calibre comes along. And the time after that. And the next time too.

A better solution?
Sarah recognises that Millie is an extraordinary gymnast. Sarah also has the self-awareness to know that as a gymnastics coach, she isn’t yet good enough to help Millie reach her potential. Following consultation with Millie’s parents, she contacts some of the high-performance clubs to ask if Millie can transfer there.

The new club has an education and mentorship programme, which incentivises Sarah to transfer Millie. Sarah gets regular ‘coaching’ from the gymnastics coaches in this club, she gets to watch her prodigy train (and helps too) and receives one to one mentoring designed to improve her own coaching skills.

The next time an athlete as good as Millie walks into Sarah’s club, she has the expertise and support to coach them competently.

Scenario two is the best of both worlds. It gives both coach and athlete a better shot of fulfilling their potential, as they are supported and coached by experienced people. It takes humility and vulnerability to admit that you aren’t the right gymnastics coach for an athlete, but both are essential qualities for the very best gymnastics coaches.

It will be forward-thinking clubs that will be the first to adopt such mentoring and coaching programmes. They will incentivise and provide support for club coaches who want to ‘up their game’ and do the best they can for the athletes they coach. Are there coaches out there who have the self-awareness and vulnerability to facilitate such a move?

As a club, you might think it would be easier to employ another coach who does have the experience to ensure an athlete can reach their potential on the home turf. A great solution – but only if the club has the money and there is a good enough coach who is nearby/can relocate. The organisation’s leadership and current coaches also need to be happy to accept a new gymnastics coach, who might well be ‘above’ them. Can the collective coaching ego take it? This isn’t really an easy solution at all.

An incentive programme, on the other hand, could have an incredible impact on the national and international results. And think what it would do to the lives of those athletes who get to achieve their real potential.

There IS an abundance of talent out there – the problem isn’t finding it, it’s nurturing it and ensuring it is in the right place.

Nick Ruddock is a coach, consultant, clinician and speaker. He has been the junior national coach for British Gymnastics, and his GBR junior team made history in 2014 with the first ever junior team medal at the European Championships. He formed Nick Ruddock Gymnastics in 2015 and has consulted for more than a dozen international gymnastics federations including Australia, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and provided services to professional sports teams such as Manchester United and Manchester City Football Clubs. You can connect with Nick through his Facebook page or email him at nick@nickruddock.com

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

What is a self-fulfilling prophecy and how does it affect coaching?

Professional gymnastics coach and consultant Nick Ruddock has plenty of experience of self-fulfilling prophecies and their limitations. If you tell someone something often enough, they might just end up believing it. True.

As someone who regularly travels the UK and the world teaching, coaching and consulting, coaches often introduce athletes to Nick in a certain way – ‘This is Ella, she’s nine years old, and she has the worst legs in the world’. Or, ‘This is Caitlin, and she’s the one I told you about who can’t jump’. Another alternative might be ‘Meet Sarah, she doesn’t like to straighten her legs at all’.

URGH. Talk about naming athletes by their poorer qualities. And what the heck are such statements doing to their self-belief and esteem?

How often must a coach repeat such statements – the ‘worst legs’, the ‘can’t jump’ – until the gymnast or athlete starts to believe it’s true? I have the worst legs in the world. I can’t jump. I can’t straighten my legs. What might also happen is that the gymnast or athlete will choose to become powerless to those weaker qualities, and develop a mindset that is fixed – instead of a growth mindset.

Is there anything at all to be gained from a nine-year-old believing that her legs aren’t designed to jump? (Clue – it’s the opposite of ‘yes’.)

When you coach, you will be aware of everyone’s weaknesses. But as a coach, it is your job to frame them properly in the mindset of your young athletes. This isn’t just about sporting performance. It covers life skills too.

Nick’s up front that he’s been guilty of this in the past too. Years ago, he’d worked with a fantastic athlete – a very talented girl, who did everything else at a snail’s pace. She went to the bathroom, moved between apparatus, fetched her equipment and read her programmes super slowly.

He took to calling her ‘Sloth’ – and now wonders if that made her even slower and if she carried that belief into her adult life.

It’s incredibly easy to influence young athletes, and coaches play a crucial role in forming their unconscious and conscious thought patterns and beliefs. These will become embedded in their behaviours and habits as they go through life. The mind hears much more than we think – and it stores all that information for later use.

You should use this opportunity to reflect on the ‘stories’ you have told your athletes. And what have you heard about yourself that has defined your current thoughts, behaviours and habits?

A good place to start is to make sure you introduce your athletes by focusing on their better qualities such as hard work. Let’s take nine-year-old Ella. Next time, present her this way:

“Meet Ella – she’s working on her superhuman legs that will one day let her do a Yurchenko double twist.”

Can you imagine how magically that will work on her self-esteem and beliefs?

One final point… We want to make sure you can devote as much time as possible to your athletes, and not waste time on activities such as club administration. If you use GymnasticsClubManager, for instance, this membership software tool will do all the hard work for you, saving you time, increasing membership numbers and engagement. Why not contact us today on help@paysubsonline.com or book a demo to find out more?

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Nick Ruddock contributed to historic medal winning performances on the international stage throughout his four-year term with British Gymnastics as National Coach. A former personal coach to Amy Tinkler; European, World and Olympic Medallist, Nick has been mentored by some of the world’s most experienced and accomplished coaches throughout several influential countries.

Nick has lectured as a Technical Expert for the UEG (Union of European Gymnastics) for 7 years, and has consulted for over a dozen international gymnastics federations and a variety of performance sports, with a mission of optimizing athlete and coach performance for the world stage.

For more information on Nick’s services, including online courses, conferences, events and coaching programmes, visit www.nickruddock.com

 

What Makes A Great Gymnastics Coach?

Gymnastics Coaching

There is one question that troubles me greatly, and it’s one that arises in nearly ALL gymnastics coaching courses and workshops I have attended:

‘What makes a great gymnastics coach?’

Just writing it is making my blood pressure rise!

Some years ago, I would have put together a long list of qualities that great coaches have … but not today.

The thing is, I’ve travelled the world and worked alongside a tremendous number of coaches, many of whom are at the height of their respective fields. And it is during this time that I’ve come to recognise that many high performing coaches are totally flawed in the characteristics we often associate with high performance.

High technical knowledge? Not always important.

Organised? Quite the opposite.

Positive? Nope.

‘People person?’ …. Definitely not!

Growth mindset? … I wish.

You get the gist

Jigsaw Pieces Or Cogs?

I used to see the gymnastics coaching world as a jigsaw puzzle, with coaches who are lacking in important qualities as being ‘incomplete.’

I’ve now moved to a ‘cogs’ model.

The more cogs that are moving, the more efficiently a system runs. But even with fewer cogs (or in our case desirable qualities) the system still runs, albeit not quite as efficiently. The coach can still produce results, but it might require more work, or have a few more bumpy roads to ride down first.

What Makes A Great Gymnastics Coach Anyway?

Yes, there are some characteristics that many great coaches will have in common, and it’s wonderful to dream about what qualities a ‘complete’ coach would have, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves that ‘great’ coaches hold all of these.

Besides, what does it mean to be a ‘great’ gymnastics coach anyway?

The status of being a great coach often gets attributed to those who produce gymnasts that can (and do) win medals at an international level. But I’m often a little more curious (don’t mistake this for being pessimistic or cynical) as to how those results happened.

A coach whose gymnast’s win international medals, but are left emotionally broken wouldn’t earn my badge of being a ‘great coach.’ That would be mistaking being a great ‘technician’ for being a great coach. A BIG difference.

Neither would I consider a coach great who manages to squeeze one gymnast into the top spot, but in the process manages to physically or technically ‘wreck’ another 40 gymnasts.

You could say a wealthy drug dealer knows how to make money, but you’d question their ethics and are unlikely to hold them in high esteem. In much the same way, this is how I view unethical coaches who leave a path of destruction in their wake. They don’t get my vote, regardless of the size of their medals haul.

Some of the best gymnastics coaches I know have never actually coached at a high-performance level. They are, however, in the elite at running a recreational gymnastics class or a class full of pre-school children. That’s an art in itself and requires a mass of experience and skills.

So what do YOU think? I’d be interested in what you attribute the status of being a ‘great coach’ to?

Article by Nick Ruddock, Gymnastics Club Manager’s resident coaching expert and International Gymnastics Coach and Consultant.

Why The Attraction of Drills Could Be Hindering Your Gymnastics Training Plan

Gymnastics Coaching

It can be said of many coaches, that they are magnetised by preps and drills. The proverbial moth to a flame. But why? You would think a press conference had just commenced each time a new drill is introduced to the gymnastics training plan – such is the buzz that ensues.

Don’t think me judgmental in my assessment, I do understand the appeal – I’m not averse to introducing a good drill too, even to the point of filming it for my archive. Yet I recognise that the inclusion of drills is just another ingredient in the training pot, that too often does not attract the attention or thought it deserves.

Less is Definitely More

There are many things we use to train our gymnasts that probably don’t matter, and I always look for ways to reduce the number of steps or processes used in training.

An example would be a caddy advising a golfer, the number of good options when it comes to which club to use next are often limited, especially when there aren’t many to pick from in the first place!

For context let’s use a back flick (or ‘back handspring’) as an example.

There are thousands of drills and exercises to choose from to teach a gymnast a flick. Some good, some fantastic.

So how many do you need?

In my experience you can teach most skills in just a handful of stages – 4-5 steps say, assuming the gymnast has refined the prerequisite skills already.

4-5 drills which include specific performance and learning benefits is sufficient to teach gymnastics skills. More than this and your training plan could actually hinder a gymnast’s rate of learning and retention.

Balancing Gymnasts ‘Needs’ With Your Own Desires

If we were to leave out the impressive or glamorous drills we spend hours searching for on YouTube, we can teach an exceptionally good ‘flick’ in just 4-5 drills, simply by focusing on teaching high quality, basic movement.

Yes, the internet is a great place to find ideas and to share content, but it lacks any form of quality control. This means before you charge ahead implementing a new idea into your gymnastics training plan, you should stop and consider the following first:

  • Is it what the gymnast needs?
  • Is it simple enough to implement?
  • Can my gymnast already perform the pre-requisites?
  • Is the video from a credible source, with someone of experience?
  • Do I know what the learning outcomes are of the drill?

What is important to remember is that what your gymnast needs, may be at odds with what we like the look of as coaches…

I like to think of it as ‘shiny object attraction.’ The new Galaxy S8 smartphone looks amazing, but my current ‘older model’ will still perform just as well for the tasks I want it to do – make calls, send emails, receive texts etc. Having the latest ‘thing’ is not necessarily going to improve performance and there are better things to spend money and time on.

There are often many better ways to improve performance than perhaps some of the drills and preps you might be coaching your gymnasts.

It’s All In The Details

It pains me to say that I’ve failed to see significant improvements in gymnasts coached by those who spend many hours each week scouring online for more drills and exercises to add to their training program. It’s safe to say the internet has not helped them at all – they should really have been looking for the best recipe, rather than the individual ingredients.

Techniques do not really change much over time, but innovation has. Gymnasts of 30 years ago were performing some of the highest complexity acrobatic elements we see today but without the luxury of modern day equipment.

How?

It all comes down to using simple methods and exercises, and concentrating on the attention to detail when it comes to technique. 30 years ago much of the innovation we enjoy was not there, and neither was the virality of sharing ideas and content.

Let’s use a chef baking a dessert as an analogy here.

How many recipes do you think an experienced chef could come up with given basic, quality ingredients such as sugar, eggs, flour, butter and chocolate.

I’m guessing it would be a pretty extensive list and one which, with the right love and attention, would include a masterpiece or two.

My point is that you don’t need lots of ingredients. You just need the right recipe and attention to detail.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be obsessive in other areas. I often see the top performing coaches excel in these three areas:

  • Being PRODUCTIVE.
  • Being ACCOUNTABLE.
  • Having exceptionally HIGH STANDARDS.

No matter how awesome your drills are, without these 3 qualities, you will never progress in the high-performance world.

So before you start searching YouTube for more drills to use, take a moment to reflect on your gymnastics training plan and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are my gymnasts able to perform the current drills with great execution (if not then a new drill won’t suddenly help them to perform it better either.)
  2. Are the drills the problem, or is it the ratio of drills to practice?
  3. Do I have clarity on exactly what the finished skill should look like?
  4. Are the gymnasts physically prepared for the elements?

When you have the answers…then head off to YouTube 🙂

Article by Nick Ruddock, Gymnastics Club Manager’s resident coaching expert and International Gymnastics Coach and Consultant.

The World of Gymnastics Coaching: Lovers, Haters, Critics and Fans – Part 2

gymnastics coaching

In part 1 I talked about how individual views and opinions are often at odds with each other. I then went on to talk about FEAR and it’s impact on our everyday lives, and in a gymnastics coaching context, the mindset and performance of gymnasts at all levels.

In this second part, I look at the world of haters and how they seek to disrupt others with their toxic outlook on life.

Haters

The destructive breed commonly known today as ‘Haters’, poison the minds of others with their toxic and often distorted view of the world derived from their own insecurities and limiting beliefs.

A hater can infect a team or culture in rapid time.

Haters don’t love themselves, making it impossible for them to love others, or publicly express praise or recognition for others.

They have low self-respect, and often fail to demonstrate respect for others either.

On the flip side of the coin, those with high levels of self-awareness, content with who they are, do not need the approval of others to pursue their dreams, nor do they have any qualms about praising others who succeed in their field. They understand there is plenty of success to be gained in life.

Now I hold my hands up, I’ve ridden the negativity bandwagon too, but am well and truly off it, having spent a great deal of time in self-reflection, self-discovery and maturing through personal development and philosophy in recent years.

But what about you? Are you happy for others when they succeed? Do you celebrate others’ success or let it threaten you? Do you invest time and energy in criticising others? Are you an energy angel or energy vampire?

The worst kind of hater is the one who criticises others for following their dreams or standing up for their beliefs. Yet they are usually too fearful to take any action themselves.

The very reason they are critical in the first place is often down to jealousy and their insecurities, created by a fictional fear which is paralysing them to take any action.

Gymnast Simone Biles received criticism on social media following the Rio Olympics, despite being arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time. She’s a phenomenon, and we are truly blessed to have the opportunity to witness her ‘awesomeness’.

It makes you wonder what kind of person finds it necessary to invest time in broadcasting such a low opinion of her to the world? It can only be someone so insecure, unmotivated by goals, lacking inspiration, and with far too much time on their hands.

Few of us can accomplish in a lifetime (in their respectively equivalent fields) what many elite gymnasts achieve before they even turn 15. But haters always seem to find fault somewhere.

Perhaps society is to blame? Turn on the news or open the tabloids and it’s filled with negativity and all the problems with the world. It would be great to turn on the news and hear about all the good that is happening in the world (there’s plenty of it!)

Limiting beliefs, insecurities and fears paralyse people to move forward. Successful people (open for interpretation as always) find ways to manage their emotions and remove limiting beliefs from taking charge of their destiny. They optimise their mental state to aid performance. Focusing on hate will make you a more hateful person, and that’s not conducive to accomplishing your goals.

I won’t be paralysed by the unimportant opinions of others, will you?

You may instead choose to use hate to feed your success …

I’ve received my fair share of criticism to date, and still do of course. As a young coach of about 16/17, I received counselling for it. I’ve never shared that before, apart from my closest friends and family, but I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. Young minds can struggle to deal with negative criticism, and lead to further insecurities.

Not everyone’s comfortable with my vision, energy or accomplishments, and not everyone will be comfortable with yours either. Some criticism is rightly justified, through errors in my behaviour or judgment (we’re all human remember, and we only act at any given time in the best manner we know how.) But much has been uncalled for, demonstrating a real lack of professionalism, particularly by people in positions who should be leaders and role models.

As a young coach, it affected me hugely, tormenting me for several years. It’s only recently, through self-discovery, awareness and being content with who I am that I can now rise above (sometimes even laugh at) the transparent behaviour of others who are throwing out hate and negativity.

When you understand what drives this kind of behaviour, it becomes easier to ignore.

I’ve had ‘experienced’ coaches, 50 years old plus, publicly ridicule me whilst delivering a coaching clinic. I’ve watched them high five and laugh with each other afterwards, congratulating themselves for their disruptive behaviour.

I could write a book about the different lengths some coaches have gone to in a bid to cause me harm or to suppress me, but I don’t need to share it, nor do I need to play the victim.

The old Nick would be deflated, intimidated, even paranoid from this kind of behaviour. It’s upsetting to be treated in this way, but I now think and understand, that these types of behaviours came about because of the individual’s’ own insecurities.

Ridiculing me in public elevated these coaches own sense of power and significance amongst the group, something insecure people need in abundance. Sad really, but it’s reality, and the more you understand of human behaviour, the easier it is to be more content with oneself.

What This Means For Our Gymnasts

In the information age we now live in, it has never been easier to access content and media. This brings an abundance of positive things along with it, but one challenge the younger generation faces today is exposure to hate, criticism and negative comments.

It’s all over the media, magazines and social media. People can hide behind a profile without ever being identified. Opinions from all over the world are instantly visible, the moment they are published. Times have changed.

I’m aware of several high profile athletes being subjected to aggressive trolls and hateful people, whose sole purpose is to disrupt their emotions.

I’ve watched young gymnasts break down in tears after reading a blog post which is critical of their performance in podium training the day before a major event (for my non-gymnastics audience that is basically pre-competition training in the same arena and conditions as the event will be taking place to familiarise themselves with the equipment, environment etc.)

This ‘opinion’ comes from a blogger with no competitive experience in any sport, who seeks to criticise and affect the performance of a gymnast who has represented her country, travelled and competed all over the world, and still manages ‘normal life’ all before the age of 16.

Unbelievable.

Words are weapons. Most adults can’t cope with criticism, let alone young minds.

You can’t escape it or police it. It’s here to stay. Quite frankly, it’s life, and our young gymnasts will be exposed to it pretty early, commonly at school too.

Our gymnasts need educating in this area as well. YOUR gymnasts need educating in this area.

Gymnasts need to know that ‘where focus goes, energy flows,’ so when getting caught up in negativity, be it through the people they surround themselves with, the media they engage in and the thoughts they ultimately run through their minds, they are making a conscious choice to become powerless to external factors.

As coaches, we are a gymnast’s most important critic. Our opinion, matters to them. It’s why we are the perfect person to educate them in the way of the world, advise on best practice, teach them to stay goal oriented and not let the opinion of others paralyse their performance.

It’s important too we demonstrate this kind of mindset to our gymnasts also. We have to walk our talk.

It’s pointless telling them not to get upset about criticism if we ourselves demonstrate a lack of emotional intelligence in front of them when we receive a score we don’t like or get beaten by a competitor.

Our own self-control, emotional intelligence, mental resilience and self-awareness comes first.

This means understanding our flaws as coaches as well as our strengths, understanding human behaviour (what causes or motivates people to do what they do,) and understanding our values and thought patterns/limiting beliefs.

It also means recognising that none of us is perfect, we all make mistakes, have dark moments, and we all need to be supported, not suppressed.

When our inner world is complete, our outer world and the way we interact with others improves greatly. If we are not content with who we are and where we are going, it’s going to be difficult to demonstrate positive actions and behaviours towards others, or in front of our gymnasts.

If you missed part 1 in this series you can read it here.

The World of Gymnastics Coaching: Lovers, Haters, Critics and Fans – Part 1

gymnastics coaching

One of the great things about our world is that no two people see things the same; we all view the world through a different lens, one which has developed through our own life experiences, opinions and circumstances.

If we all viewed the world the same, life would surely be much duller. After all, where would we find the room for creativity, flair or uniqueness?

We’d be little more than mindless automatons, with nothing to differentiate our lives, loves or passions.

Obviously, differing views mean debate often becomes inevitable, including disagreement and maybe even conflict. And, alongside different opinions, comes different values.

What is important to you could be less important to me. What you may love, I may hate.

Where there is passion, conflict can often be found – a sign that people care perhaps, which can only be a good thing …

Consider for a moment, the reality TV competition Masterchef. I often find it comical that even among their ‘expert’ panel of food critics and restaurateurs, feedback ranges from ‘world class’ to ‘I can’t even finish it it’s that bad.’

This is funny because they all taste the same dish, yet some hate it, whilst others love it. Fancy that!

It begs the question, how can the average restaurant hope to get rave reviews from critics if even top food critics can’t decide.

Thinking about gymnastics in this context, what hope is there for your gymnasts to meet the expectations of the entire world with their routines and performances?

There isn’t, and you shouldn’t try either.

The only thing that matters is the judge’s score, and even in gymnastics, there is a little room for subjectivity in that. It’s simply impossible to please EVERYBODY.

Do you think Ricky Gervais is concerned if the audience doesn’t enjoy his stage show? Absolutely not. He’s more interested in the segment of the market that does.

I’m not worried about people who don’t enjoy reading my posts, attending my events or clinics, or watching my videos. If they are not my target audience, they are not my concern.

I work for a community which loves my content and gets great value from it. Anyone else doesn’t matter. But when they are ready or willing to engage in it, the door is wide open, come on in.

Subjectivity and opinion in life is welcome, but problems arise when this becomes direct criticism or hate towards gymnasts and coaches who take an alternative path or vision, one which doesn’t align with their thoughts and views of the world.

This doesn’t just apply to gymnastics coaching of course, it applies to all aspects of our lives.

FEAR

We’re not born with fear, but it doesn’t take long for it to become ingrained in our daily thoughts and habits. By the time we’re teenagers, we become subject to a host of newly found fears, and the associated mental disruption and anxiety. These fears can increase further into adulthood.

Watch children play for a few minutes and witness an untainted mind in action. Young children believe they can conquer the world (and one day they might too!), they are not limited by beliefs, fears or destructive thought patterns.  

Adults are nothing more than deteriorated children, tainted by a combination of fear, society and the suppression of others’ opinions …

Does she like me?

What did he say about me?

What if this happens?

What will they say?

Did they see me fall over?

Did they like my routine?

What are they saying about my athletes?

Why are they laughing at me?

What if I fail?

What happens if he is successful?

What if she beats me?

Fear is probably our most common emotion, and certainly a great suppressor. As with other emotions, fear isn’t based on fact, but on fictional stories, circumstances and worries created in our heads.

To be clear, fear is FICTIONAL, not FACTUAL. It creates a host of limiting beliefs that either stops us from pursuing our dreams OR influence the way we see the world.

Leonni (my much, much better half) and I booked a holiday to Turkey last year, which coincided with the coup that was taking place back in July. I lost count of all the people that tried to instil fear into our minds, giving us a whole host of reasons why we shouldn’t, couldn’t, mustn’t go.

We went. We also had one of the best holidays we’ve been on.

I’ve recently returned from my third trip to Tel Aviv. It’s a beautiful place, I love taking a stroll along the beach at 6am to get my head together and to do some of my daily rituals. I could be forgiven for thinking I was in Miami, but rarely is Miami the picture painted by those who try to instil fear into me for visiting the Middle East.

Fear is fictional, not factual.

None of us is perfect. We’re all flawed in many ways. We all have demons, ‘skeletons in our closets,’ emotional baggage we’d rather forget, moments we are ashamed of and times we wish could be erased from history forever.

Whether gymnastics coaching related or not. I certainly have many.

Everybody has a story and has faced some form of adversity (some on a far greater level than others in comparison.) I’m frequently reminded of the importance of not judging people, especially after discovering the difficulties they have faced and by understanding more about why people are they way they are.

All coaches and gymnasts have bad days, bad seasons even, but it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to define somebody and become who they are.

The 10-year-old gymnast that just failed her grade may be being brought up by a single mum, struggling to support her, get her to her classes on time and look after the rest of her family. Her life is a country mile from high performance, yet she’s there everyday ready to train and commit to her cause and goals. That’s impressive, even if her level of performance isn’t.

Then there’s the 12-year old that just fell 5 times in competition, she recently lost her mother to illness but has shown immense strength by continuing to train and compete, albeit at a diluted level.

All too often we are quick to judge and criticise. This reminds me of the iceberg principle: the snapshot we see of a gymnast in training, competition or on the television, is a mere drop in the ocean of what they commit to (the tip of the iceberg). But we are oblivious to the conditions or circumstances that they are training in (the remaining part of the iceberg, which accounts for around 90% of it, and that is never seen.)

It’s human nature. At any one time, we’re only acting in the best way we know how. I don’t know anybody who is intentionally reckless or destructive to their own lives or performance. Mistakes come often through an error in judgement, simply because we didn’t know any better.

Can you think of any one coach who wouldn’t provide a better service, better level of support, or coach to a higher standard if they knew how?

Criticism of others is often a bi-product of insecurity, which is a by-product of fear, and all of this creates one thing …HATERS

Part 2 of this post will be published soon…

Why You Should Add Mental Skill Development To Your Gymnastics Training Program

Have you ever heard the saying: “gymnastics is 80% a psychological game and 20% skill”?

I’m guessing you probably have, or at least something similar.

While I wouldn’t disagree, it should be noted that this saying does not just apply to gymnastics, I’d say it is relevant to most aspects of life. Assuming this is the case, and coaches truly believed it, why do they not allow time within their gymnastics training program to work on the mental muscle power of their gymnasts?

It could be argued that logically, if gymnastics was 80% a mental game, then 80% of training time should be spent focusing on just that.

That may sound ridiculous, after all, it would be unrealistic to spend 80% of the training session on non-physical/technical activities. But here’s the point: coaches understand the importance of developing mental skills in their gymnasts, yet seldom put into action the strategies needed to build them.

Gymnastics clubs often host specific interventions every 6 months, where they invite in a sports physiologist. The question is, how can a visit once or twice a year impact the 80% ratio we attribute the mental side of the sport to?

I’m no psychologist, but I don’t need a degree or PhD to understand the important role emotional intelligence, mental resilience, mindfulness or coping strategies, to name just a few, have on gymnast performance.

Bringing in a sports psychologist is not really necessary (although could be a good option), instead, think about allocating a dedicated time in the weekly or monthly schedule to devote to building mental muscle. Great coaches will have those tools in their armoury.

I’ve attended several first aid training courses, as well as the recommended refresher every two years or so. Despite all this training, if presented with a gymnast with a broken arm or nose I’d have difficulty remembering ‘procedure’ even a few months after taking the course.

Fortunately, I’m not called upon to deliver emergency aid on a daily basis, the downside is it’s easily forgotten. Which brings me back to mental training sessions and interventions which are held only once or twice a year.

The mind, like other muscles, can be trained to improve, and just like every other muscle, it needs frequent training in order to do just that.

Drip feeding mental messages through the use of frequent interventions, with further reinforcing from a coach echoing the same messages during training, is a good way to make sure gymnasts have been proactively prepared for the many challenges gymnastics throws at them OR will just optimise their mindset for performance.

Article by Nick Ruddock, Gymnastics Club Manager’s resident coaching expert and ex GB National Coach.