Athletes, Coaching, Communication, Evaluation, Skill Development, Training

Problem Solver vs Text Book Instruction

cropped-smart-spotter.jpg

It is great and rewarding to be a coach and know that I can have a positive impact on a person’s life. I had a passion for the sport of gymnastics as a competitor and now the same passion as a gymnastics and tumbling coach. Where does this passion come from? I honestly believe it is due to the challenges of succeeding in this sport – and I have always thrived on accomplishing challenges.

Learning new skills was always a thrill and even more so when they are accomplished successfully. Now, as a coach, I understand what the athletes go through as they work through their training sessions. I also get the same thrill when I see the excitement of my students when they accomplish their skills successfully.

coach spotting dancer    When introducing and training skills, there are typically a series of progressions and drills that are useful in skill development. However, the challenge for the athlete and coach is finding the proper methods for fixing problems and/or bad habits the student has created.

Problem solving for skills gone bad is not a text book fix. Since every athlete is different in so many ways, what may work to help one student may not work for another student. Many times, the coach may need to try many methods to find what works best for the specific element needing fixed.

FB_IMG_1530453083848.jpg

Fixing bad habits not only takes physical effort but it is a psychological game as well. You may have heard that great coaches are great psychologists as well (Confidence and the Mental Block). This is certainly true!! Especially in sports like gymnastics, tumbling, and cheer that carries with them a high degree of difficulty and risk.

When I get a new student, who has not learned proper technique in their skills, it can be frustrating for the student to focus and work on elements they do not think is important. Some students respond well to this change,especially if they see quick results, but others do not adjust well to this new focus.

For example, if a student enrolls specifically for the purpose of learning a back handspring, but do not have a strong foundation to build upon, it is imperative the student learn and accomplish the prerequisites first. This may include bridge kick-overs, handstands, round-off, etc.

It is this scenario that reinforces the fact that the student and parent become educated on how these skills are developed and learned (Coaching the Parents). Not only for the skill to be learned with good technique but more importantly, safely!!

It takes a lot of time and consistency to develop new skills and the same goes for fixing bad habits on already developed skills. If the student is serious about their development, then a strong effort to fix their problems will be taken. One-on-one lessons (private lessons) is a great way to isolate and train only on the problem areas. These lessons will certainly shorten the time it takes to fix the habit(s). Most importantly, however, for bad habits to be fixed, the coach needs to have the knowledge and experience in all issues of skill development and technique to find the best method of training for each individual.

img_09426787057562810544815.jpg

I am in the process of developing videos on skill development that will be useful in training. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Scott's headshot

Advertisements
Athletes, Benefits, Competition, Evaluation, Lifestyle, Preparation, Sports, Success

Choices A Parent Should Consider for Their Child's Development: Sports: Choosing the Right Path for Your Child

youth baseball player

Which direction should I go in?

How do I get there?

Am I making the right decision?

So many choices
So many influences
Mixed messages from coaches and friends

These are just a few of the questions that many parents and students ask themselves in the pursuit of success in a sports career. The truth is, there is no clear path to anyone’s success. A major question to consider is, what is the objective? Where is the motivation coming from? This is key in determining which path to take. Is it coming from the parent or is it coming from the child? This is an important factor in determining the strength of the motivation (The Motivation Factor).

The age of an athlete is very important in determining which direction to go in. For example, a student at the age of 5, 6, or 7 years old typically will not have the maturity or understanding to know how to make these types of decisions. For children of this age, it is important that they experience as many activities as possible, so they can determine what they like best. This may take several years to determine. It is not uncommon for a child to have a passion for one activity and in several month’s make a change to participate in a different activity. This can be frustrating for the parent if they are trying to persuade their child to pick one solid destination.

multi sports youth         I often tell parents that are clients in my own program that it is important that their children experience different activities, so they can experience as much as possible while they are young. We have many students in our program attend classes periodically throughout the year because they are involved in different sports activities which conflict with our schedule. I believe this is a positive way to approach where the children are going with their lives.

As a child gets older, these decisions become more defined. They begin to figure out who they are, and in many cases, determine what their likes and dislikes are. The preteen ages, especially for the boys, is a great time to start figuring out which direction they may want to go into. For girls, this decision may come earlier as girls tend to mature at a much earlier age.

baseball player hurt

Another factor to consider is the burnout and injury factor associated with students starting a sport at an early stage in life. Sports can be aggressive and physically demanding. If you are involved with sports, you are going to have injuries. It comes with the territory (Injuries: Prevention and Repair). The body, with all its complex physical anatomy, can only take so much wear and tear. The earlier the student begins to participate in sports the earlier the body begins to experience the impact of physical demands. At the higher levels of sport, the greater the impact of stress on the body (.

I often tell parents when they are considering whether their child should pursue a competitive atmosphere, I let them know that the earlier the children get started, the earlier their career may end. It is important not to rush this decision and I personally believe that starting a child in the competitive atmosphere at the age of 6 or earlier is not necessary for them to reach success. Not only is the competitive atmosphere physically demanding but it is also emotionally demanding.  Most young children do not understand how to cope with this demand.

vollyball girl serious look

Okay, so the goal has been set and the child has determined what direction they want to go in. Now the decision needs to be made on what it’s going to take to achieve that goal (Setting Goals: The Path to Success). There are so many factors that go into play here. Is the sport offered by the school, or is it a club scenario? If the program is offered by the local school system, the child can participate with much lower costs and easy accessibility. However, if the program is a club system, the costs could potentially be much higher and accessibility more difficult.

In addition, the club programs may offer a higher level of coaching and instruction. These programs, in most cases, are for-profit organizations which make it more appealing for high level coaches. However, if your child is not at a particularly high level of sport, the club program could wait until the level of sport requires this type of training. Much like the High School football and basketball player who excels in their sport. These athletes may get the opportunity to progress at a higher level with a successful collegiate program.

A life in sports can be a great life.  It can be very rewarding and teach lessons that can be applied in all aspects of life.  Many successful athletes have become successful in their professional lives as well.  Sports teaches discipline, focus, and an understanding of hard work to achieve goals.  Whether a sports career ends with great success or not, the experience is enough to make all participants Champions.

showcase medal ceremony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athletes, Coaching, Communication, Competition, Evaluation, Parent, Skill Development, Training

A Parents Guide for Youth Sports : To Compete or Not Compete

multi sport collage

When a young student begins an activity, it is usually because they have a desire to do so. They may have friends that are doing the activity or seen it on television that sparks their interest. Whatever the reason, participation starts out at the beginning stages and the athlete will quickly decide if it is something they enjoy and want to pursue to higher levels.

Many sports are automatically competitive and is a major focus even for beginning students. Sports such as football, baseball, basketball, and soccer all have competitive games that are part of the participation. When a child participates in one of these types of sports, they become a competitor.

Some athletes thrive in this environment and love the competition. However, there are others who like the activity but not the competition. So, the question to consider is: “to compete or not compete?” This question is usually answered by the parent. Parents who enroll their child in a competitive sport should be aware of how the child reacts to this environment. Of course, competition is scary at first for a young athlete, so encouragement and patience may be necessary. Many parents will wait for a season to end before determining if that sport was the right decision.

CartwheelThere are other sports that have a recreational only side of the sport where the students are not trained to compete. These include sports like gymnastics, dance, and golf to name only a few. Many children who participate in these types of sports do so for fun and enjoyment. The time commitment is typically less than in a competitive sport and there is little stress involved in participation.

It is typically the passion and desires of those athletes who choose to pursue the competitive side of sports. These athletes may have a natural competitive attitude. This drives them to stay motivated, train hard, and want to win. They are excited about spending as much time as they can practicing their sport. As with most competitive athletes, the objective is to train to win. There are many factors at play with competitive sports. These include learning great sportsmanship, learning how to lose gracefully, and more importantly, how to remain humble when success is achieved (Win or Lose: Sports Learning Curve).

The biggest difference between the athlete who enjoys the recreational side vs the competitive side of sport is the effort and dedication factors. Athletes who participate as a recreational activity will usually spend much less time at the activity. Training these athletes is also much different. Although, the students should still learn the skills correctly, effectively, and safely, there is no pressure to perform at any level. In this environment, training may not be focused on skill development detail as training with a competitive athlete.

The programs I operate are strictly recreational and the focus of our curriculum is centered mostly on tumbling elements – which is the foundation of all gymnastics. In addition, tumbling is an important part of cheerleading, dance, and martial arts. Thus, our programs draw in athletes from several different sports disciplines (Programs for the Rec Student).
Since our programs are strictly recreational and incorporates athletes from different disciplines, we have scenario’s where the students grow out of our program to pursue higher levels of sport. This is the dynamic of not offering a competitive program, however, we pride ourselves in developing students to the point where they can be accepted and take the sport to higher levels.

Coaches conference
Parents Need to be Educated

When a student is ready for this transition or the parent is interested in taking their child to the next level, it is important to explain the differences in the style of programs. Especially if the recreational program is not located in a gym that also has competitive program running simultaneously. When an experienced student makes the transition from a recreational program to pursue a competitive program, the training commitment and schedule will usually become much more demanding. In addition, there may also be a difference in skill development.

There are students who leave the recreational program to join a competitive program where they have thrived and become successful competitors. However, there are others who return or quit altogether because it wasn’t what they expected. There are several factors to consider when making this adjustment. Age is a big factor when considering this transition. Many students may be just too young to handle the structure and demand required in a competitive program. Another factor may be the sacrifice in the time commitment.

I always discuss with the parent when they ask about this transition the factors to consider (Coaching the Parents). Most importantly, if a student wants to give competition a try, I think they should experience the atmosphere. Most gyms will allow a trial period before a commitment is made. They will never know unless they try!!

kids on dance floor

I hope this article is helpful for those seeking information for youth sports development.  I will soon be releasing a series of manuals and video’s that will be beneficial for many.  These will include skill development, safety and spotting, program development, training atmospheres, and many more subjects to enhance the development of coaches and athletes.

If you have concerns or need assistance with your training program, do not hesitate to contact me.  If you would like an on-line training session via Skype, please contact me for scheduling.

Email:   scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Benefits, Coaching, Communication, Evaluation, Skill Development, Training

A Coaches Guide to Seeking Help on Skill Development: How Do I Fix That?

 

Back arch flip anim

There are many articles, videos, pics and more that are designed to help athletes in skill development. The “how to’s” are posted everywhere on social media and other publications. These methods of training can be effective and is useful for many. However, what is needed more in training that is difficult to publish and define, is fixing the problem areas that athletes are challenged with.

The objective of the coach is to train the athlete in all areas of skill development. This starts with training each student from the ground up, so they can develop a strong foundation of basic elements to build upon. We see, in many cases, athletes who have missed learning the basics which results in many challenges in developing more advanced elements.  Without a strong foundation of basic elements, the student will have challenges learning more advanced skills.

A common problem we see in many gyms is that there may be several members of the coaching staff that do not have the experience and knowledge to teach skills with proper technique or fix a problem area that a student is struggling with.  We see this most in recreational programs where competitive gymnastics is not the major focus of the program.  However, many of the students who participate in these types of programs may have a desire to move up in the sport and try a competitive program.  When this occurs, the student will have challenges if they have not learned the proper basics with good technique.

I have seen many video clips posted to social media networks where coaches are requesting help in fixing a technical issue a student may be having.  I have seen clips of round-offs, back handsprings, front handsprings, and many more in tumbling.  There are also many clips requesting help for skills on the bars and balance beams.  These video clips are a great tool to assist the coach in fixing problem areas.

51546198_s-300x200

I have found that on-line training is becoming more and more popular.  I have begun doing lessons via Skype and they have been extremely successful.  However, it does have limitations.  Although Skyping a training session is beneficial in helping with teaching proper technique, it will never be as good as the “hands-on” approach.  Especially if the student needs spotting to help improve the skill.

One of the biggest issues I have seen with posting video for corrective comments on group posts, is that the recipient may receive many comments from many different coaches.  Although it is great that so many are responding and attempting to assist with the problem, it can be somewhat overwhelming for the coach posting the video.  For example, if there are 30 responding comments on how to fix the problem, there may be 20 comments that have different views on how to fix the problem (i.e.: “too many chefs in the kitchen”).

Another concern is that many coaches have different opinions on how skills should be learned.  It’s not that different opinions are wrong, but what may work for one athlete may not work for another athlete (The Technique Controversy).  It is good to have several opinions to work with, but not to get overloaded.

An alternative to consider when looking for help with teaching or correcting a skill is to post and send to only a select few that you may have collaborated with previously or know has the knowledge you are seeking.  There are many experts out there that can be of great assistance.  Much depends on the skill you are needing help with.  Is it a tumbling skill?  Or a bars or beam skill?  You may even want to ask for referrals.

group training seminar

The ultimate fix is for the coaches to become knowledgeable in the skills they are teaching.  For those programs that are lacking in this knowledge, it is beneficial to participate in local clinics and seminars.  If these are difficult to locate or not available in your area, you may consider bringing in a professional to run a coach’s clinic at your facility or program.

When coaches have the proper knowledge of skill development, not only will their athletes be more productive and successful, the entire program will benefit and be successful.

img_09426787057562810544815.jpg

I hope this article is helpful for those seeking training information.  I will soon be releasing a series of manuals and video’s that will be beneficial for many.  These will include skill development, safety and spotting, program development, training atmospheres, and many more subjects to enhance the development of coaches and athletes.

If you have concerns or need assistance with your training program, do not hesitate to contact me.  If you would like an on-line training session via Skype, please contact me for scheduling.

Email:   scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Athletes, Coaching, Evaluation, Training

Student Evaluations: Where to Place New Student Athletes

20180509_163503.jpg

There are many sports that place their athletes in particular groups based on the age of the student. We see this in sports such as football, baseball, and other such team related sports. This is to ensure an even playing field among the athletes. However, there are other sports where placement of the students is based on experience and skill level. This is common in sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance. It is important to evaluate and place new students in the appropriate level so they can be in an environment that can maximize their potential.

youth football team

Proper placement for students in any group setting is a critical issue that needs to be considered. There are a number of factors that should be recognized in placement practices. Most importantly is the social environment created in group settings. It is this reason that most sports use age as the criteria for placement. Grade levels in most school systems are based on age. People at all ages tend to feel most comfortable with other people in their age range. For example, it can be extremely awkward for a teenager to be placed in a group of 5 and 6 year olds. It is the same for adults as well. Although an adult usually has the maturity to adjust to almost any environment, it still may be somewhat awkward if the age range is extremely different.

Children are very vulnerable to their social environment and it should be a major objective for the coaches and parents to ensure the child is placed in an environment where they will feel comfortable and thrive. In the sports of gymnastics, cheer, and dance, this scenario becomes challenging at times. If the student has little or no prior experience in the sport, they would certainly be considered a beginner. In many programs, beginner students are much younger, usually falling in the 5 to 7 year old age range. Students of these ages usually will get along well together in a group environment. As the students progress, they may be moved up to the next level. This mobility is relative to the ages participating at each developmental level. However, as sports increase in skill levels, the age ranges tend to expand and this can be a challenge for many programs.

FB_IMG_1521642684854.jpg

A common scenario is when a student categorized as a preschooler, for example 3 or 4 year olds, that has excelled to a higher level than what is structured for that age group. In this case, the student should be place in a higher level group so they can maximize their growth and ability. Although this placement may become necessary, it places the student in a group of students much older. When we place a 4-year-old in a group of students that are 6 to 8 years old, it may create a strong feeling of anxiety for the student.  In addition, skill levels may be much different than the maturity levels within a group.

This situation occurred in my program recently.  We have a 5-year-old student who has developed quickly and needs to be challenged at a higher level.  We placed this student in the next level up, however, the students where much older.  This was a disaster!!  The 5-year-old was so intimidated being among (giants) that she completely lost all interest in the class and sat out.  We determined it is best to move her back to her original class and the coaches will work her at a higher skill level.  Upon maturity, she will grow and be able to handle an older age division.

In addition, not only is the maturity level a huge difference, the social environment and attitudes are also different. Topics of discussion are very different among different age groups and the coaching staff needs to make sure that any discussion is appropriate, especially for the younger students in class (although there should not be much discussion among the students while in class:)

cheerleading group with young one   In the sport of cheerleading, it is very common to have a large range of ages among participants within a same squad. Due to the dynamics of this sport, students that are the “fliers” are, in many cases, smaller and much younger than the other students on the squad. We often see young elementary age students on the same team as middle school students. The age ranges can be as much as 5 or more years difference. Many people may wonder if this is appropriate. It certainly may not be a positive or appropriate environment for an 8-year-old to interact with a group of teenagers. This is where the coaching staff is challenged. Although it is difficult to monitor, the coaches should communicate to the students that conversations be limited to protect the younger students from inappropriate influences.

Another challenge that is common in most programs is when an older student with little or no experience needs to be placed in a beginner class. As mentioned earlier, most beginner students are early elementary school age. When we get a teenager wanting to learn gymnastics, it certainly can be an awkward situation to place them in a group of such young children. It may not only be awkward for the older student but also for the younger ones as well. So, what can be done? Possibly, through a trial class to see how the dynamics work in this situation. In many cases, it works out fine. In other cases, it is usually the older student who feels the most uncomfortable. One option is to offer private lessons to the older student to get them to a level where they can be placed with older students.

Some programs are large enough to have classes based on ages. For example, a program may offer classes for middle and high school students. Although, the ability and experience levels may be drastically different, the dynamics and environment are more positive for the students.

parent conference animWhat are the criteria for student placement in a program? All gyms are different in regard to their structure and class curriculum. When a new student is interested in signing up, it is important that the student is evaluated. We do this by communicating to the parent some general questions regarding skill level. For example, we may ask if the student has had experience and for how long. Questions should also be asked in regard to specific skills: can they do a great cartwheel or round-off? However, it is important to not allow the parent to dictate where a student should be placed (Coaching the Parents). We see this scenario often. Some parents may say their child is at a certain level or able to do particular skill, but when they participate in the class for the first time, the story is completely different.

I great way to evaluate the student is to offer a free trial class. Through initial conversation with the parent, the coach will have an idea of what may be the best level to start. It is better to place a student in a group for their trial class that may be under their ability level. This is to protect the student from embarrassment. I have seen students placed in a higher level than their own ability for a trail class that has resulted in embarrassment and humiliation. Sometimes to the point where they won’t come back. It is important to try to create a positive and exciting environment for all new students.

Evaluations are an important element to the success of every program.  All students are different in many ways and should be placed in a system where they can thrive and have a great experience.  A trial class or trial period is essential for the coaching staff to determine what is best for the child and the overall program.  Most importantly, the coaching staff needs to make the final decision of where the student needs to be placed.  In the proper environment, students will have a much greater chance to grow and achieve success.

showcase medal ceremony