Archive for Coaching
For any gymnast, coach, judge or experienced gymnastics parent, watching that video will bring a smile to your face and probably a few head nods, too. For those of you who are not familiar with the way gymnastics works, you can still get something out of the video.
The premise of the video is that little Suzie got an 8.45 on her Level 5 bar routine. She thought she did great and in her mind, deserves a 10. As her coach breaks down the routine and points out the places where the judges took deductions, Suzie isn’t buying it and decides her coach is just being mean. And herein lies the opportunity for the adults in Suzie’s life to work together and teach her how to remove the “person” from the “gymnastics.”
Gymnasts and other athletes who perform in front of a panel of judges (ice skaters, divers, synchronized swimmers, competitive dancers and cheerleaders) need to be taught that the scores they receive are based on a list of criteria and how well their PERFORMANCE met those criteria at that moment for that set of judges. It has nothing to do with whether the judges LIKE THEM AS A PERSON or not.
I actually judged competitive level gymnastics (up to Level 9) for a few years and really enjoyed it, but it was hard. It is hard to take a mandatory deduction for a fall on beam when you know that gymnast has probably performed the skill 100 times successfully in the weeks prior to the competition. It’s hard to decide if the split leap is within the margin of error for the 180 degree requirement when you only have a split second (no pun intended) to decide and no instant repaly. It’s hard to go through a floor routine and make sure you correctly identify every skill and give the gymnast credit for the requirements of the routine and come up with the correct starting value.
But, like everything else, it takes practice. After judging up to 96 gymnasts in a session (then multiply that by 3-6 sessions on any given weekend) what has to happen is that you judge the body in motion in front of you. You don’t notice the pigtails or missing two front teeth. You don’t have time. You have to account for every skill and every deduction and make sure the score you award is within a certain range compared to the judge sitting next to you. You want the gymnasts to succeed. You’d love to give a perfect 10, because that means you just watched the most beautiful and technically correct routine of the day, but that rarely happens.
Does favoritism ever happen? Of course it does. Judges are human. But, it shouldn’t and a judge who takes the position seriously will not let the color of the leotard, the size of the gymnast, or her personal tastes influence the job at hand.
And back to Suzie. As much as she wants to think her routine was perfect, the more important things to stress are:
- Have you been working on corrections from the last performance at practice?
- Do you understand what mistakes you made so you can learn from them?
- Did you try your hardest?
- Did you have fun?
Answers of yes to those questions are more important than the fleeting feeling of receiving a perfect 10. Scores matter, but the quality of effort and performance are much more important! Teach this to the athletes from day one and you will have kids who take that skill and can apply it to all areas of life.
Things have been a little too quiet here for the past few weeks – and by that I mean on SportsGirlsPlay.com – in my own little world there has been a lot going on – some might even say, too much!
Let’s get caught up.
After 26 years of coaching gymnastics, 13 at the same gym, I have decided to take a leave of absence for a while. My own kids sports schedules are getting harder and harder for me to keep up with, and if I could have a clone, all would be great. Add to that my Dad is having both knees replaced this fall, my need to spend more time building up my own websites (like this one), making time for more fitness and golf time for me, and you can see why I just have to take a break. Deciding to step away from coaching was probably the hardest thing I have had to do in many years, but for now, it is the right thing for me to do. The SuperMom cape is off and I will just wear the SportsParent hat for a while.
Here are some “related” links that you will find interesting:
- Speaking of sports parents, I wrote an article for Kellogg’s Snackpicks on Kids Sports Snacks – in other words, what kind of snacks to bring if you happen to be in charge of half-time or post-game snacks for your child’s team. There is also a great snack planning sheet you can download with it!
- Since my Dad is having his knees replaced and my gymnast daughter wants to be a surgeon, we visited one of our favorite sites last night – EdHeads.org – and performed our own virtual knee replacement surgery. Let me tell you, EdHeads is just cool! From a virtual hip replacement to designing the ultimate cell phone to investigating a crash scene, the site really gives kids the opportunity to explore some hi-tech skill sets in an age appropriate setting. Go check it out!
- One of the things I am trying to find more time for in my busy schedule is running. Years ago I ran 3-4 times a week and I just loved the way it made me feel. Then kids happened and I let my own fitness take a back seat to my kids. Now that they are all busy in their own sports I have set a goal – I want to run a 5K race this spring. I have been training since May and while the return to the miles is a little slow, I’m fine with that. One of my friends just introduced me to a site called SeeMommyRun.com which allows you to find other moms in your area who want to get together to train. What at great support resource! Between that, keeping up with my online friends at DailyMile.com and my NikePlus sensor, I think I have all the support I need now to reach my goals!
- The new season of BigBreak has started and it is really getting me excited to play golf at Half Moon Bay in a few weeks! I love the range of ages, body types and personalities the show brings together and hope to pick up a few golf pointers along the way.
Among my goals in the coming months is to increase the frequency of posts here and share even more great girls sports information with you. If you have any topics or sports you would like me to cover, please leave me a comment! And in the meantime, check your balance – and feel free to ditch the SuperMom cape, too.
As the old sayings go, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” and “a little sugar goes a long way!” When coaching, do you keep these concepts in mind? Or do you simply yell out corrections like:
- Don’t bend your legs!
- What was that?
- You are not even trying!
- Ugh, you run slower than my Grandma!
What do those corrections mean to your athlete? Well, nothing really. They just tell her she did something wrong or she thinks you are mad at her. And, if you as a coach don’t have kids of your own, let me tell you that 99% of all kids want to do nothing more than PLEASE their coaches – especially girls.
Corrections like those do not give athletes ACTIONABLE tasks either – in other words, how will your athlete know what you are looking for if you do not specifically say it?
TIME TO SANDWICH YOUR CORRECTIONS
Instead, try making a correction sandwich! In other words, sandwich the actionable correction in between two positive statements. So, next time Susie Q. Gymnast does her vault or Janie B. Swimmer finishes her lap, try this instead:
- PRAISE EFFORT – Tell Susie what she did RIGHT – even if you are just recognizing her for trying. Example: “Wow! I loved how fast you ran down the runway!”
- GIVE SPECIFIC ACTIONABLE CORRECTIONS – Tell Janie what she needs to do next – and why. Example: “Breathe every four strokes, it will help you swim faster.”
- CHALLENGE AND ENCOURAGE – Pump up your athlete. Let her know you have faith in her abilities. Example: “You can do this and I can’t wait to see it.”
I guarantee you will get athletes who are happier, more motivated, and your athletes will master their skills, decrease their times, and work better as a team!! Try it.
P.S. Giving encouragement and actionable tasks with a SMILE on your face also goes a long way.