How often have you heard the phrase ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat?’
Maybe, you hear it ALL the time in your sport, and maybe, (like me) you hate the saying!
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s value and reasoning behind it, and I am not against its principle, HOWEVER, all too often it is incorrectly used and taken out of context.
The saying, which can be traced back to the 1850’s, clearly refers to there being more than one way to do something. That is plain, and can’t really be disputed.
Yet I am often exasperated by it, and its prolific use within gymnastics; just because there are 10 different ways of teaching a skill, doesn’t mean you should use them all.
In fact, using them all is often counter-productive! Nothing is more complicated than trying to teach a gymnast a skill multiple ways, simultaneously.
It’s great to be experienced enough to be able to deploy multiple methods to deliver the teaching of a skill, and I would encourage gymnastic coaches to know as many different methods of teaching a skill as possible.
Problems arise however, when coaches shift from method to method without allowing them to run their course or permitting enough time for a gymnast to understand and learn a concept.
I’ve observed coaches undertake to teach a skill multiple ways within a single session, looking for assurance that the gymnast will pick one up. This is possible in training camp environments, when a number of coaches, working within a group, all attempt to teach a gymnast ‘their method,’ often resulting in a Feedback Frenzy.
An early sign of a gymnast performing a drill well isn’t always a sign that they can grasp the whole skill using that method. We must also remember that early adoption of skill learning can be harmful to the learning process.
Keep in mind, there are not many shortcuts in skill learning worth taking in gymnastics.
Adhering to a single method in which you have belief and confidence is NOT CLOSED MINDED. Presuming that you have considered alternative approaches, be aware that there may always be a better, faster, safer, more accurate way to teach a skill.
If for example, you’d been coaching at a high-performance level for a decade, teaching a particular skill multiple times, to multiple gymnasts and to an international standard, I would expect you to have great confidence in your approach and not want to move to other methods just because you can or because another coach tells you to.
That isn’t being closed minded, that’s having knowledge and belief in your current method.
There are more ways to skin a cat, YES, but that shouldn’t mean you skin the cat 5 different ways at the same time.
Article by Nick Ruddock, Gymnastics Club Manager’s resident coaching expert and ex GB National Coach.