Athletes, Child Behavior, Coaching, Communication, Program Development, Training

How Do You Treat Your Students?

I believe the most difficult and challenging job a person can have is coaching and teaching children. It takes a certain type of individual to deal with children in a way that is productive, positive, and enthusiastic. The larger the group, the more challenging it becomes. Children are our best assets and it is the teachers and coaches responsibility to educate them in a highly controlled environment. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task.

Parents know how challenging it can be just to raise a family of several young children. Just think of the teacher and coach who has a group of 10 to 20 children. We often here the teaches say “they don’t listen” – “they don’t follow directions” – “they are out of control “.

This is a problem that is not uncommon in youth sports programs. It is how the coaches deal with this issue that needs to be addressed. Of course, bad behavior and uncontrolled environments should not be tolerated in order to operate a productive program.

Coaches need to take and maintain control of their classes – and in many cases, it can become a huge challenge. So how is this done? In my opinion, never by yelling at the students!! Coaching: The Communication Factor  This should never take place in any program. There are numerous ways to take control of a class that is productive and not demeaning to the students.

One way is to simply stop the class and sit the children down with no activity. Have a talk with them to explain why this is happening. Let them know that their behavior must improve before resuming activities. Another strategy is playing games to convince the students to behave. All children loves games. One popular game is “the quiet game”. Funny how it works.

Much of the means of gaining control in an out-of-control class depends on the dynamics of the class. Is it a competitive team that has a particular amount of discipline and commitment required by the participants? Are the students young or older? These factors play a large part in how to gain control.

In some cases, it may be just “one bad egg in the basket”. One disruptive child can destroy an entire class program. In this case, it is necessary to take that child out of the class. This needs to be done in a very sensitive manner. A parent conference needs to be held and options discussed. This is a sensitive issue and needs to be constructed in a manner that does not imply any discrimination.

Although most coaches do not have a degree or education in child psychology ( I certainly do not), but through many years of coaching, they should qualify for the diploma.  It takes patience, understanding, and structure to develop a program that is positive and productive for students in any program.  We cherish our children and students – let’s create and maintain the best possible environment where they can grow and achieve their own hopes and dreams.

I am in the process of publishing my first training manual: “Beginner Tumbling Training” .  This will be a useful tool in training for all and any needing to learn proper technique and safety. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Advertisements
Athletes, Coaching, Mentor, Parent, Program Development

Someone Needs to be in Charge: Coaching Sports: Who is in Charge?

coach with kids

All athletes who participate in sports, whether it be for recreational or competitive purposes need to have the guidance and support of a coach. Many sports have multiple coaches that participate and specialize in particular elements of the sport. For example, in the sport of Golf, the athlete may have a swing coach, a putting coach, and exercise coach. Even recreational youth sports programs may have multiple coaches. Basketball, football, soccer, gymnastics, etc. will have several coaches on the field or in the gym. There should always be a head coach that is responsible for the entire program and assistant coaches that specialize in particular fields. This process can get cloudy, however. Throw in the parents and it becomes a nightmare. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on the role of the coach and how it relates to the athlete.

In sports that have multiple coaches, there needs to be a definitive hierarchy of responsiblity. If this is not defined, the training atmosphere is sure to be chaotic with ongoing conflict. We have heard of the term “to many chef’s in the kitchen ” and it is no different in the sports industry. When this occurs, who suffers? the athletes!!

Not only is it an objective of the coaches to train the athletes so they can improve their skill level, they should create a positive and exciting environment for the students to train. This type of environment will certainly help to motivate the students to put forth a strong effort for success (The Motivation Factor). If there is conflict between the coaching staff, it will affect the atmosphere and focus of the athletes which may result in a lack of progress.

Coaches talking

The coach has a huge impact over the development of their students both physically and emotionally. Young athletes look up to their coach and seek direction from them. In many cases, the coach has a stronger impact over the student than their parents, as many athletes spend more time training in their sport than they spend at home. The coach has such a strong influence over the student that he or she will be the person who is responsible for the success or failure of the student. This is a huge responsibility and one that every coach should recognize.

There are many methods and styles of coaching and it can be a challenge for the coach to find what works best for each individual athlete. Every athlete is different and what may work great to motivate one student may not work well with another student. The challenge becomes greater when the coach is working with a group of students at one time. It would not be possible to communicate to each individual in detail during a training session. The instruction is directed to the entire group and all students must react and perform as directed. In this situation, all students need to accept the style of coaching presented to them.

Mean coach

So what style of communication should the coach use when working with students? There are many styles and each will have a different effect on each individual student. Some communicate in a stern and demanding manner, some use threats and negative consequences, while there are others who communicate with positive and constructive criticism (Coaching: The Communication Factor). I believe this last example should be the norm.

When an athlete is in an environment where there are several coaches training at once, there can often be confusion and conflict. The problem arises when different coaches are telling students different things on the same issue. For example, one coach may tell a student to run 10 laps while another tells that student to run 15 laps. This puts the student in a difficult situation. Which coach has priority in this case? It is this type of scenario that can cause a breakdown in productivity and positive environments.

Each coach participating in a program needs to have a specific set of objectives and be responsible for specific parts of training. Once defined, the coaches should not interfere in an area controlled by another coach. In the sport of gymnastics for example, there may be a coach responsible for training students on the Bars and Vault and a different coach responsible for the Floor and Balance Beam. Each will have their own set of objectives and training format for their students. This same concept applies to all sports that have multiple positions or events.

Parents on sidelines

A common problem in many sports, especially youth sports, are the parents. Of course, not only is the parent paying for their child to participate in the program, but they want their child to succeed. The problem arises when the parent takes it upon themselves to assist in the coaching of their child. There is nothing more frustrating for the coach then to have a parent try to coach their child from the sidelines (Coaching the Parents). This creates a huge disruption in the objectives the coaches are trying to achieve. It also distracts the student from focusing on what their coach is instructing. In this scenario, the student may be more concerned with what their parent is saying or thinking and ignoring what the coaches are saying.

Father yelling at coach

It is also common that a parent may approach the coach and attempt to dictate how their child should be coached. Are you kidding me?? Even if the parent has had experience in the sport, they have no business telling the coaches how to do their job. If the parent is not satisfied with how their child is being developed, it may be a good idea to terminate the participation and enroll in another program.

There are parents who may think the “grass is greener” at some other location or program and constantly moving their child. In gymnastics, we call this “gym hopping”. This only hurts the athlete and will usually slow down progress. It takes time for an athlete to thrive in an environment and gain confidence in their coaches. When students hop from program to program, this confidence is rarely accomplished.

group of coaches

It is the coaches job to train and guide the athletes along their path to succeed. The “head coach” needs to make sure all aspects of the training environment are organized. They need to perform as a team and insure the athletes are getting the best training possible. When there is a strong positive relationship among the coaching staff, the athletes will be in an environment that should produce positive results.

coaches teamwork

I would love to hear your comments on this subject. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts. Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

Coaching, Program Development, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling

Basics of Tumbling – From the Beginning

cartwheel on beach

Tumbling is seen and used in many activities in our society. Not only is it a competitive sport on its own but it is required as part of many other sports. It is needed in gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, parkour, and others. It is, for most students, the most difficult of all activities to achieve. As with learning any type of activity, it is important to learn from the beginning. In this discussion, I will share my thoughts and experience in training the Basics of Tumbling.

The sport of tumbling is beneficial in many ways for enhancing performance in many activities. Not only is it the foundation in the sport of gymnastics, but it creates over-all physical development that will benefit the athlete in many areas. It teaches the athlete to be flexible, strong in all areas of the body, fast and physically explosive, coordination of motion, and much more. All these attributes are important for the success in most physical activities and sports.

As mentioned earlier, tumbling is one of the most difficult activities to learn. It is very complex and detailed. In addition, there is a certain amount of risks involved that must be acknowledged in skill development. Here, I will discuss the initial steps to consider in tumbling skill development.

As with most sports and activities, tumbling is a progressive sport meaning that each skill learned is a building block to learning the next skill. If the initial skills learned are not learned properly, the student will struggle with learning additional more advanced skills. The 3 major elements of tumbling are learning movements going forward, backward, and twisting. In this discussion, I will focus on the forward and backward tumbling elements. The twisting elements will be discussed in a following post.

Forward Tumbling;

20180716_182549.jpg

It is important to begin the development of tumbling skills from the most basic of elements. In forward tumbling, this starts with the forward roll. This fundamental skill is the beginnings of teaching the student to flip the body in a forward motion. Even this basic skill has a technique value that must be considered for accomplishment and safety. The forward roll may seem very simple and it is for many students. However, I have seen students struggle with this most basic element. Even this skill may need the assistance of a coach to spot the athlete to prevent any stress or injury to the neck or head.

 

straddle forward rolls

A variation of the forward roll is the straddle forward roll. This skill is very similar but more challenging as it entails more flexibility and strength. The bigger the straddle position, the easier it is for the student to push the bottom up for the roll. For this reason, a good stretching program should be the start of each training session. Again, this skill will, for most athletes, require a spot from a qualified coach.

With the successful development of these skills the student should be ready to learn the more aggressive front tumbling skills such as handstand, front limbers, walk-overs, front-handsprings and front flips – in that order. There are many drills in teaching each of these elements which will be discussed in future posts.

Note: The Bridge and Handstand are very important elements for both forward and backward tumbling that must be incorporated in each training session. Before these more advanced skills are trained, the student must have experience in these elements as many tumbling skills have these positions incorporated within the skill.

Backward Tumbling:

20180716_185811.jpg

Backward tumbling is more popular in this sport and one that is used most often in related sports. It also carries a higher risk factor which needs to be recognized. The initial fundamental skill to teach is the backward roll. This skill carries a higher risk factor than the forward roll. The back roll teaches the student the sensation of going backwards which is an unnatural motion in general movement.

20180714_093544.jpg

There are several methods used to teach this skill and both should require the coach to spot initially. Since there is body weight forced on the neck and head in performing this skill, the risk for an injury is common. All students learning this skill for the first time should have a coaches assistance. The coach needs to spot the skill by holding onto the hips and lift up as the student rolls back. This takes pressure off the neck. The two basic tools used to teach this skill is the wedge mat or two panel mats placed in a “V” position (this latter method is great for preschoolers and young ones).

The progressive skills following the backward rolls are generally: Back extension rolls, back limbers and walk-overs, back handsprings, back flips and it’s variations. These more advanced skills may take years for a student to develop. Not only is the technique in these skills more complicated, there is a strong emotional factor to consider. Due to the risk factors involved, students need to acquire a strong sense of confidence and mental strength.

The forward and backward rolls are not only fundamental requirements, but it teaches the student the awareness if flipping forward and backward which they will learn in future development. When the students acquire a strong foundation of basic elements, the time it takes to learn the more advanced skills may be faster than a student who skips these fundamental steps.

 

scott spotting bhsp

It is common to have students who have not learned these basic elements struggle with learning the more advanced skills that their sport requires. Cheerleaders and dancers, for example, reach a level in their sport that require such skills. These may be the back walkovers, round-offs, aerials, and front and back handsprings. Without the development of basic training in tumbling skills, the athlete will more than likely struggle in their tumbling development.

As with any activity that is built upon progressive development, it is important to not skip steps along the way. Just as in our education system, students start off learning the basic methods of math such as adding and subtracting. Once this is understood, the student can progress to algebra, geometry, and more. It would be impossible for most students to be place and succeed in an algebra class without having the knowledge of simple math skills. The same applies to tumbling and other activities.

 

IMG_0913.JPG

Many tumbling coaches, including myself, are happy to assist these programs. I have attended many cheer and dance programs doing clinics and classes for their athletes. I respect the owners and head coaches of these program to seek out experts in this field to help their programs. Those programs who attempt to teach tumbling skills without the proper knowledge and experienced are putting their athletes in danger. The results will more than likely be negative and the program will suffer its consequences.

Program owners and coaches who need to have their athletes trained to perform tumbling skills need to understand the importance of proper development and technique. Especially for those programs where tumbling is not a regular part of their program.  Tumbling can be a fun and exciting part of any activity, but it needs to be introduced and trained in a manner that is positive and safe for the athlete.  Let’s make it a great experience!!

Tumble-Side by Side PNG

I would love to hear your comments on this post and get your thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com             www.scottjohnsonstga.com

_TNG PNG Logo No Border

Communication, Program Development, Skill Development, Staffing, Training

Gymnastics: Training Your Staff

group lunge postition

I have touched on this subject at different times in previous posts and wanted to elaborate in detail due to the importance of having a quality staff to grow the business.  In sports that are highly complex and carry a particular risk factor, the importance of having a well-trained staff is going to determine not only the success of the business, but also the success and safety of the student.  All sports have their own specialized means of technique in training skills, which the athlete must accomplish in order to progress.  Since the sport of gymnastics is one of the most complex and complicated sports, it requires that the coaching staff have the proper knowledge and experience to train the athlete at their participating level to ensure quality and safety in the training environment.

At the recreational levels of gymnastics, the experience and knowledge requirements for the instructors are much more basic than the higher levels of sport. The students are learning basic elements like forward and backward rolls, bridges, and cartwheels.  Although there are specific techniques required to perform these basic skills, it is not so complex that the coaches can, in most cases, be easily trained in a short period of time.  However, with this stated, the trainer still needs to have extensive knowledge when training the technique to new coaches.  Even the simplest of skills like the forward and backward roll has a particular set of technical rules that should be followed.

20180312_183456-e1525821321466.jpg

I have found that when training our coaches, it takes them some time to recognize and actually see what actions the student needs to improve.   To train the eye of what to look for takes repetition and constant reinforcement from the trainer so the new coach can learn to recognize the areas of concern.  One great training method is to ask the new coach what they see when a student performs a skill and what areas need to be fixed.  Many times, they will not recognize the problem which is a great opportunity for the trainer to explain in detail what to look for specifically.  Just as the athlete needs to train their skills, the coach needs to train their eye’s.  Since the skills can be so complex, there are usually several different issues that can be corrected.  What makes this even more difficult is that many of the skills move quickly so some issues are difficult to spot. For example, when a student is performing a run- hurdle – cartwheel, the run should be correct (not baby steps for example), the hurdle can have many issues like the length, height, arm and body position, and of course the cartwheel may have another set of issues to address.  Most experienced coaches can see these concerns whereas a new coach may see very little of these same concerns.

20180606_172240.jpg   The coaches job is to teach skills to the athlete so they can master them and improve their skill level.  When a student is performing wrong or incorrect technique, the coach needs to correct this technique Every Time!!  If this doesn’t occur, the student is reinforcing the wrong methods that will create bad habits.  We all know that bad habits are hard to break.  The coach needs to create good habits through consistent communication.  The student needs to hear these corrections as much as possible so they can begin to understand what to focus on while performing the skill.  And how should we communicate?  always in a positive and constructive manner.

Another task that the coach needs to learn properly is how to physically spot the students on their skills.  I discussed this in my post (The Art of Spotting) in detail as this is an important requirement for all level of coaches.  We need to not only keep the students safe from injury, but spotting correctly also teaches body positioning on the skills which reinforces teaching the proper technique.  Spotting is also a skill that takes new coaches time to learn.  It is important that the coach is not put in a position to spot a student that they cannot physically manipulate or a skill that is more advanced than they are trained to spot.  Both of these factors can cause injury to the athlete and/or the coach.

It is always best to have the new coach train and shadow other coaches initially so they can become comfortable with the environment and class structure.  I have heard many stories of coaches being forced to run classes on their own their first day of work without any training.  This can be stressful for the new coach and the students of the class.  Remember, usually the parent is observing and if a class is not run efficiently, this willy look unfavorably for the gym program.  When one parent is unhappy with a situation, they will certainly tell others and this can potentially spread rapidly within a community.

20180411_195036.jpg

The success of every business is determined by the quality of the staff running that business.  We are providing a service to the community and we have many competitors that are providing programs for children.  Not just other gymnastics related businesses, but dance, martial arts, baseball, etc.  The higher the quality of training and service the more opportunity the business has to achieve a greater market share.  Remember, a business is only as successful at its staff.  Let’s train them the correct way!!

I would love to hear your comments. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

www.scottjohnsonstga.com

_TNG PNG Logo No Border

 

 

Business, Facility, Program Development, Staffing

Starting a Small Gym Program

IMG_0913.JPG

There are many types of youth sports and physical activity programs available in most communities.  They run from very small to quite large depending on the diversity of activity or level of instruction that may be offered.  The smaller programs are much more abundant and seen in many strip plazas, whereas larger programs are generally found in buildings designed and built specifically for the business.   In the gymnastics industry, these smaller programs have an entirely different set of operational consideration than the large competitive programs,  from initial set-up, equipment needs, choosing a location, marketing, staffing, class programming, to name a few all require a different set of consideration for a successful launch.   In this discussion, I will share some insight on what is needed to start and build a strong, successful recreational gymnastics program in your community.

If the goal is to start a small community gymnastics program, you should write a mission statement that clearly defines your purpose for being in business. It should be a short statement that is clear, easily understood, and gives you a definitive course to stay as you plan your new business.

Your mission should be your guide as you determine the age and ability levels the program will offer, and the space you will need to effectively run the classes. Once you determine the age and ability levels and the space needed, you can begin to layout your matting, equipment, and staffing requirements.

You will need to determine if the program is to be strictly gymnastics, tumbling, a combination of both, or possibly include even more activities. This is very important because this will determine what your target market will be in advertising and marketing.  Once the type of program is determined, the next step should be to develop a detailed class curriculum for each class offered.

20160924_083720.jpg

In developing the class curriculum (Programs for the Rec Student), it needs to be determined what the purpose of the program is designed for.  For example, will the training be directed to prepare students for advancement into a competitive gymnastics program? or designed to train gymnastics in a general recreational manner?  I have found that there is a large demand for children to explore what gymnastics is all about.  At the younger ages, this should be the initial focus.  I have also found that there is a large demand for tumbling and acrobatic instruction for cheerleading, dance, and martial arts. In many cases in order to advance in their sport or activity of their choice (cheerleading as an example) they may require a little more advanced tumbling or acrobatic instruction than is available through their own club or team organization. As these other activities will often parallel gymnastics in regard to the need to develop tumbling and acrobatic skills, it is an easy fit to incorporate this level of instruction into the class structure.

One of the most difficult tasks in setting up your business is finding a location that meets all, or at least. most of your needs.  There are typically two types of spaces to choose from:  retail space or industrial space.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages and should be looked at closely to find the best scenario for the program objectives.  When starting and expanding my program, this is an area that required a lot of time and  attention to find the right space that best fit my program structure.

180s.jpg

Most all large gymnastics and cheer programs will need to be located in an industrial/commercial structure.  This is required, in most cases for ceiling height that is necessary to develop high level skills for competition.  For a competitive gymnastics program you will need a large open floor space for the floor exercise and all the necessary equipment and mats, as well as a minimum ceiling height of 20 feet.  Competition cheer also requires both open floor space and 20 ft ceiling height to support both large group routines and flight skills. One upside of industrial space is the square foot cost is generally lower than retail space. With that said, at the top of your space requirements should be; Location, Location, Location! The major drawbacks in considering industrial space are visibility and location dynamics. If your building is not highly visible, you will need a more aggressive marketing plan to build clientele. The location needs to be well-lit and safe so that parents are comfortable bringing their children for instruction. Facility setup and operational costs are another major factor when considering a large industrial facility.  One example, most large industrial spaces are not air-conditioned and it may need to be added and operated.

1527287738803540805848.jpg

When looking at retail space, the options for program operations may be more limited than in an industrial space.  However, there are advantages over an industrial space.     Most retail spaces are located in strip centers and have much better consumer visibility.  Due to this type of location, the facility expense is much higher per square foot than an industrial space but the roadside presence alone is a great means of marketing and will help bring awareness to any business.  Many strip centers require large signage and some even require illuminated signage which adds to the start-up expense. The typical strip center space is usually designed for office or retail sales, with typically lower ceiling heights of only 10 to 12 feet.  In many locations ceiling height can be improved by simply removing the drop ceiling. However if there is an existing sprinkler system or drop lighting it may require permitting and a licensed contractor to get the job done adding to the expense.

download.jpeg

In addition to choosing the type of facility to operate the business, the location of the property may be your most important decision and ultimate asset.  You should know by now what your target market is, now to find the best fit demographically to maximize the programs potential enrollment. This is challenging, especially if there are a number of other youth sport programs saturating the community.  I do not believe it is ethical to put a new gymnastics program in close proximity to a competitor.  I have seen this done before and it often creates an ongoing and consistent conflict.  It is much more satisfying to choose a location where your program can grow by building your own market share, not trying to steal it from an established business.  The foundation of your program will most likely be young children.  Research  the location of elementary schools and daycare businesses in your community.  The closer you can be to schools and daycare centers, the better.  There are marketing companies that specialize in providing such stats as number of households with young children in a community and the average household income within a community.  This is important also because you want to make sure the business is located in an area that can afford the services you are providing.

Hiring sign

The two largest operating expenses a business incurs are the rent expense and the staff expense.  The rent expense is fixed on an annual basis so this is easy to budget within the business plan.  The staff expense is much more difficult to manage and is often the culprit of a failing business.  In most start-up business, especially the small ones, the budget needs to be closely managed. If you want to survive, stay within your planned budget, and keep unnecessary expenses to a minimum.  As a small startup business you will probably not be able to afford administrative help. Which mean you will most likely be the business owner, program director, head instructor, marketing manager, janitor and cleaning staff.  Only after the enrollment reaches a certain level and the revenue begins to flow in a positive manner, can additional staff be added to fulfill some of these positions.  It is also important to manage the staff’s rate of pay.  Although you need to be competitive with this rate as compared to other gyms in the community, do not set this standard higher than what the budget can absorb.  Remember, although pay rate is important to employees, the environment they are working in is more important.  As a business owner, how you treat your employees and the environment you create will determine the growth and success of the business (Staffing: The Backbone of Every Business).

group lunge postition

When I started my recreational gymnastics program, it took several months of planning before the business could be launched.  I started in subletting space in a local YMCA to run a tumbling program.  This quickly grew and within 6 months I had programs running in 3 separate YMCA’s.  After a year of operations, I realized that the only way I was going to build my business was to have a place of my own.  This commitment was huge and I needed to make sure I had all the pieces of the puzzle in place before jumping in financially.  Through the help and advise of many people, I have evolved my program into two successful locations and in the process of adding more.  Just as it took for me to become a successful athlete, there were many obstacles and ups and downs along the way.  However, through patience, determination, and desire, these challenges were overcome and success prevailed.  There is nothing better than having a dream, chasing that dream, and accomplishing that dream!!

I would love to hear your comments on this subject and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.  Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

www.scottjohnsonstga.com

_TNG PNG Logo No Border