When you think about ethical gymnastics coaching, what values and philosophies do you attach to it? Many coaches will have their own ideas about what it should look like, along with a number of irritations firmly placed under the umbrella of ‘bad coaching practice.’
New coaches often begin filled with a sense of power and authority over the young gymnasts they are coaching. If there is one thing Spiderman taught us it is that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
This responsibility doesn’t just apply to the physical aspects of coaching, but emotional well-being too.
Leaving Behind The Power-Trip
The majority of coaches quickly learn to get over the initial power-trip, preferring instead to focus on developing and nurturing the all important gymnast-coach relationship.
Placing the gymnast front and centre when it comes to coaching technique may not work for everyone. But consider for a moment how morale and motivation can impact performance.
For some coaches, an army PT style seems the only natural way to extract peak performance from those in their charge. Yet this ‘yelling and telling’ environment often only results in gymnasts with low morale, low motivation and ultimately low confidence in their abilities.
How can engineering an environment where the fear of failure proceeds everything, possibly result in success?
The Carrot Or The Stick?
Needing to shout at any gymnast could point to one or even two things:
- Your coaching efforts to that point have been poor
- You are coaching someone you would rather not work with at all
Can the threat of punishment and consequences really motivate? Sadly, yes. But not without those gymnasts going on to develop emotional and self-esteem issues. Do you really want your coaching efforts to be associated with such a cost?
The Freedom To Fail
There will be those in your classes who will excel from the outset, there will be those who show potential and there will be those who really just aren’t cut out for gymnastics, whether they give it 100% or not.
What is important is they all have the freedom to fail – without any consequence attached.
For some gymnasts, it is a question of coaching their mindset as well as their technique.
As coaches and as adults we have a responsibility to support the gymnasts we coach through both the good and the bad aspects of the sport. Success and failure can be a roller coaster for a young mind, as a coach you need to be seen as the one in control of the ride and able to keep your frustrations in check.
A firm word here and there is perfectly justifiable, especially from a safety standpoint. Yet if this is your only approach to coaching it may be time reappraise your methods to ensure you get the best from your gymnasts – mentally and physically.
What creative ways have you come up with to motivate your gymnasts? Let us know in the comments below.
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Article by Nick Ruddock, Gymnastics Club Manager’s resident coaching expert and International Gymnastics Coach and Consultant.