Gymnastic Coaching Tip: Constant Change

Being the only boy in a family of nine children led me to believe I had the inside track understanding the other sex. Wrong. They are all different and going through constant change. Over thirty years of my life has been devoted to training these lovely young ladies. Along the way I’ve learned a few things about gymnastics, psychology, and life.  I’d like to share some of that with all of you. In the hopes of spurring conversation and the further development of coaches and gymnasts, I’ll be writing an article series on the For Love or Money Blog.

Developing Gymnasts Require Developing Coaches

Although we are aware our gymnasts are going through constant change, the
same often does not occur in training. Have you been frustrated by an athlete repeating
the same error over and over again? I have had some success presenting the problem
in the following way. Although not exactly true, it seems to get the point across.

The hypothetical goes like this:

If I am training ten gymnasts for three hours and work with each equally, how much of my time will each gymnast get? With or without a little guidance it is understood that each gymnast will get 18 minutes of my time in a perfect world. Wow, only 18 minutes over a three-hour practice. In other words, my gymnasts will be self-supervised for 162 minutes. Who will be the better gymnast, the one who only trains well with me for 18 minutes or the one who also trains well for the remaining 162 minutes? I explain that it concerns me that they may develop poor habits training themselves for that 162. To train well on their own, the number one rule is “Change.” This is defined as not making the same mistake more than twice in a row. The third attempt after two failures must show significant change.

Example 1: Falls on Beam

A gymnast falls on the left side of the balance beam two times in succession. The third attempt must fall off on the right side. Staying on the beam on that third attempt is not significant change. No bad habits. No coaching. She should gain the confidence that she is in control of where the skill lands.

Example 2: Casting to Handstand

Two cast attempts fall on the short side.  The third attempt must go over the bar if it means casting into a front hip circle.

I also follow this concept when coaching. If two attempts at correcting an error fails, I also learned to make significant change. This often meant giving a teammate the remainder of her eighteen minutes until I could re-evaluate problem. Less frustration and reduce my bad habits. My next article will expand on this concept by presenting the four areas which determine whether a gymnast can do a skill or do a skill without deduction.