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, Skill Development, Uncategorized

An Approach to the Struggling Student: Coaching the Challenged Athlete

coach with athlete

The objective of the coach is to train their athletes to improve their abilities and performance level. For many coaches, and programs, this objective becomes extreme. It becomes an objective to not just improve the athlete but to create champions. But what about the athlete who doesn’t have what it takes to succeed in the sport? Are they tossed aside – forgotten, humiliated? This discussion will focus on training and developing the hopeful and challenged athlete.

All coaches have experienced the student who is very motivated and has a lot of determination, but unfortunately, struggles with learning even the most basic elements. Every person is built differently both physically and mentally. Many sports dictate what type of person is made to succeed in that sport. For example, to excel as a basketball player, the person will usually need to be tall; to excel in gymnastics, the person usually will be smaller and lighter. There are always exceptions to this dynamic but true in most cases. Thus, genetics play a major role in how successful one may be at sports.

The challenge many programs have is how to handle those students that will not progress to the point of becoming a competitive athlete. This is a sensitive issue and should be recognized so as not to damage a student’s confidence and self-esteem. Although in many cases, it is the parent who is pushing the issue of success without realizing the limitations their child may have. In these cases, parents will leave and explore other gym programs in an attempt to find the miracle program that will develop their child.


Many of these situations are students in recreational class programs (Programs for the Rec Student). All young athletes aspire to be champions one day. They have their own dreams of wanting to be just like their idols. I have had students state how they want to be in the Olympics someday – and they are serious!! And the coach should never tell the child that this is most likely an impossibility. No matter how awkward a student may be, they should never be treated any differently from the other students (Coaching: Lets Be Positive).

There will usually be a point in time when the student will realize their true potential. When they see some of their classmates moving up to higher levels, they wonder why they cannot move up as well. This is where the coaches need to communicate to the student and parent, in as positive manner as possible, that there are skill requirements that must be met to move to the next level. They need to be told what skills need to be accomplished and what they can do to meet those goals.

We want every participant to feel good about their sport experience. Even though a small percentage of athletes ever reach a highly competitive level, the skills and training they acquired will benefit them in other activities they choose to participate in.

As a gymnastics and tumbling coach, I have many students participate in our class program with aspirations to become great at the sport. All students are treated the same and follow the same curriculum of the other students at their same level. For the students that are struggling, the parent will usually approach me and ask to discuss their child’s progress. This is a great opportunity to explain the dynamics of the sport and the challenges facing the student (Coaching the Parents).


We want every child to have a great experience with their participation. It is important that children have hopes and dreams and set high goals for themselves. We should always support and encourage this attitude. It’s not all about winning or losing or becoming a champion. It is participation that is important to recognize. Every student should be regarded special and treated like a champion!!


Coaching, Success, Training, Winning

The Coach: Creating the Successful Athlete

SJ Parallel Bars pic

Many athletes who participate in competitive sports have a desire to be the best they can be and become a champion. These athletes pursue this goal as a full-time job. It may have started out as a hobby, but as they progress in their sport, the desires become extreme and the efforts are endless – and who helps these athletes follow and pursue their dreams and goals? The Coach!!  In his discussion, I will share my thoughts on the role of the coach in their pursuit to create a successful athlete.

Most coaches participated in their sport as an athlete when they were younger which gives them valuable experience in the development of skill training. However, just like the athlete, the coaches need to continue to educate themselves on training tools and technique. As the athlete progresses in the sport and begins to work on high level skills, the coach and athlete are learning together. For example, if a coach has never had an athlete reach the higher levels of sport, the coach would not be familiar with how to introduce and train the skills required of that level. In this case, the coach would need to attend seminars, coaches clinics, and conferences where they can learn the skills needed to progress the athlete. It is this scenario that many students will leave a gym and seek out a program that has success at higher levels.

two handstands in gym

When coaches see talent in a young athletes, they will often place them in a special program that helps in accelerating their development. These athletes usually start in a recreational program as beginner students but quickly move up the levels until they are ready to be placed in a program to prepare them for the competitive aspect of the sport. It is these talented athletes that coaches hope to see progress and evolve into the Elite level program. To become an Elite level athlete is a dream of many students, however, only a small fraction of athletes ever make it to this level. There are many factors that play a part in whether an athlete reaches these high levels of sport and many are determined by the coaching.

Many coaches dream of having the opportunity to develop and train an athlete to an Elite level. It takes many years for an athlete to reach this level and many gymnastics programs are designed for this development. As career coaches and gym owners know, the number of participants decline as the level increases. This is due to the extreme difficulty of gymnastics. Not only is the physical demands extreme in this sport, the emotional demands play an even larger role. As the levels increase, the risk factors also increase. To reach the higher levels of gymnastics, the athlete must have a low fear factor which allows them to train the difficult skills without stressing about the risks involved. Through proper training and skill development using a variety of drills, the risks are greatly reduced which raises the confidence in the athlete. Coaches of athletes training at these high levels are very creative in developing drills to assist the athlete in learning correct technique in a safe and comfortable environment.

oversplit on chair

It is at these higher levels where the athlete is now spending many hours a week in the gym.  It almost is considered “home” to many of these students.  Many do not have much of a social life and most of their existence is lived in the gym.  They actually spend more time with their coaches than their parents and family members.  It is critical that the coaches of these athletes build a positive and strong bond with them. I have stated in previous posts the importance of creating a positive and exciting environment so the athletes can stay motivated and move forward in a positive direction (Coaching: Lets Be Positive).  So many times, a negative or demeaning environment will create frustration, stress, and lack of motivation.  When a person loves what they are doing, they are more likely to be motivated to put out the effort needed to succeed.

male comp high bar

It is a very exciting time for the athlete and coaches when an athlete succeeds and moves up to the higher levels of sport.  This is the objective and what all the hard work in the gym has produced.  The coach, of course, plays a major part in this success and should also be rewarded for their efforts.  As the levels become higher and an Elite status is earned, the commitment to the sport goes to a new level.  Not only is the training extensive 6 to 7 days a week and 4-6 hours or more each day, the competitions become many and traveling extensive.  The coaches need to be strategic at this level in preparing the students for this lifestyle.  It is important that the training is designed to prepare the athlete for competitions.  When preparing for major competitions, the training is more focused on routine training and consistency.  New skill training takes a back seat during the heavy competitive season. There also needs to be some down time to allow the athlete to recuperate after a competition, especially if it was a major competition.  Not only is there a physical demand in the preparation of training and competing, there is also a strong emotional demand.  This needs to be considered to prevent the athlete, and coach, from burn-out.

handsprng vault

For those coaches who are considering a career in this upper level training environment, they need to understand the commitment.  It can be considered being “married” to your job.  Little time is spent at home with late nights and weekend trips.  If the coach has the passion and desire for this environment, just as the athlete has the passion and desire to be successful, both will succeed.  It certainly is a joint venture between the coach and student.  It takes motivation and effort for both in order to have a successful result.



Losing, Success, Winning

Win or Lose: Sports Learning Curve

winners cup

As a child growing up, I was very competitive in almost every activity. This was an attitude I developed on my own with no influence from my parents, siblings or peers. I was an active child and found my physical release in the way of participating in sports. Not to brag, but sports came natural for me and I was fairly successful in most physical activities. I believe much of this success had been my desire to win. When you talk with Olympic or Professional athletes, they all have one thing in common – the same desire to Win. But winning is not everything – we all lose at one time or another and it is a lesson that people, regardless of the activity or business, must learn to manage.

I have worked with both recreational students and competition athletes, and the dynamics are very different for each of these. In the recreational side of sports, the athletes participate mostly for the entertainment of the activity. In the absence of competition, the desire to win is not always the motivation driver to excel, but more simply, it’s just to learn. If on the other hand, the student strives to be the best compared to the other students in the gym they may have that burning desire to compete. With that said, some students simply want to be better than their classmates, this in itself can be considered competition.


For the competitive side of sports, the issue of winning and losing becomes much more of a serious issue. Competitive athletes do so with the understanding their performance will be compared to other athletes. This makes the desire to perform at their best paramount, and the desire to win all-consuming. Not only is this a major focus for the athlete, it can also be a major focus of the coaches and organization they represent. Athletes that are on collegiate scholarships or professional athletes, for example, also have an obligation to train and perform at an expected level in order to continue their participation. This is an external influence that high level athletes understand and accept as a condition of competition.



However, with this said, I do believe this focus needs to be adjusted depending on the age group and level of sport. I believe many youth programs put too much emphasis on the aspect of winning. This is a lot of pressure on a young student and may create unnecessary stress at such a young age. I have experienced watching coaches of students at the ages of 6-8 treating them as if they were training for the Olympic Games. I do not believe this is the correct approach as students of such a young age do not fully understand the ideals of commitment, motivation, and sacrifice. For those athletes in the higher levels of sport, the issue of participating to win is much stronger and efforts become greater to achieve this success.

When high level competitive athletes train to prepare for a major competition, the desire to win or place high in a particular ranking, the training becomes serious, more focused, and motivated. The aspect of ranking gives this scenario a serious dynamic. In many sports, there are events that are used for mobility to move an athlete from one level to the next. For example, there may be State level competitions, Regional level competitions, and National level competitions that an athlete must progress through to reach the highest levels of competition. When an athlete fails to reach the next level, there may be a feeling of disappointment and failure.

Failure phrase

It is this failure that is so important for almost every athlete to experience. In many cases, this failure makes the athlete realize and analyze the reason for the failure, and it becomes another learning situation. We have all heard the phrase “you learn from your mistakes”, and this is certainly true for anyone who experiences a failure and takes the steps necessary to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again.

In many cases, a disappointing failure is exactly what is needed for someone to become successful. This particular scenario happened to me as a national team athlete. Following the 1984 Olympic success of our men’s gymnastics team, I made the decision to continue with competitive gymnastics and attempt to make the 1988 Olympic team. However, due to our success in 1984, I had taken a step back from a serious training regiment and the effects were apparent the years to follow. In 1986, during the USA National Gymnastics Championships, which ranks the athletes for national team selection, I performed very poorly and was lucky to make the national team. For the first time in 8 years that was the lowest ranking I have experienced, and thus, was not chosen for the high-level national team competitions. I knew that I was a much better athlete then what I had shown and it was the slap in the face that I needed to get back on track. The following year, in 1987, I won the USA National Gymnastics Championships and for the first time in my career, became the All-Around National Champion. I knew this success would not have been possible if I had not experienced that failure the year before.

parents viewing

When a person experiences failure, they should have the support of their family, coaches and peers to help boost morale and confidence. For the athlete, this is a very important issue if the athlete is to continue in a positive manner. I believe one of the worst things that can happen is if a coach or parent degrades & humiliates the athlete because of a failure. This type of attitude can certainly be devastating for the athlete and may even cause a termination of participation. We all Fall once in a while and we need to get back up quickly, but sometimes it takes assistance, and we may need a crutch for a short period of time to help move forward in a positive direction.


It is always great to win and, for most people, miserable to lose. However, we are not always going to win, but hopefully not always going to lose. Every person needs to understand how to win and lose gracefully. Having great sportsmanship is very important in the participation of activities. I believe athletes should be humbled when they have a victory, and they should understand how to take failure with grace. Many people have different definitions for what failure means. I have seen athletes who may come in 2nd place at a competition and they see it as a failure. What needs to be understood is that winning is not easy – in fact, it can be very difficult. There are so many factors that must fall into place perfectly in order for one to be successful and rise above all the others. Such factors as health (being sick), injury, emotions, preparation, etc. can play a large part in the pursuit of success.

There is nothing better than winning, especially if there has been a strong desire and years of hard work to get to that point. Many successful people can look back at what it took to get there, like passion, motivation, sacrifice, patience, and failure. The road to success is usually always bumpy, full of ups and downs, and many detours. Through extreme focus and determination, the path to success can be followed through to completion. It certainly is a choice, and if it is the right choice, you just might Win!!


Mental Training, Uncategorized

Setting Goals: The Path to Success


I remember a motivational poster that said “Success is a journey… not a destination”. The journey to success is rarely a smooth uneventful path. It’s more like an arduous endeavor full of twists and turns and many ups and downs (no pun intended) odyssey. My experience has taught me that these unforeseen obstacles are more manageable if there are specific goals to achieve all along the way. In this discussion, I will reflect on why goals are so important and how to stay on a path toward success.

Many goals start off as a dream, especially for young children. We all had dreams of what we wanted to become as an adult and it often changes as we develop. This is a great start and shows some ambition in an individual. Most young children do not understand the concept of setting goals and what type of commitment it takes to achieve those goals. Of course, they have the dream of wanting to become something but they aren’t typically mature enough at a young age to understand what it takes. Many of the goals that are made for a child usually will come from a parent and what they want for their child. This approach in some cases has been successful, however, all to often, it can end in frustration for both the child and the parent. We see this in every sport, activity, business, etc. where parents choose who and what their child will become. Unfortunately, this can have some very negative consequences as the child matures.

Scott coaching Kailyn

As the child matures, they begin to have a much better understanding of what is truly important to them. Their dreams begin to evolve into realistic ideas and this is where goal setting becomes important in development. Many students begin to set their own goals and begin to take the steps necessary to complete those goals. However, it is helpful if the student has a mentor or someone who has achieved the same or similar goals to help guide the student along and map out the path to follow.


In my own experience, as a young student (before my gymnastics career started), I loved sports and was always very competitive. I somehow knew that one day I was going to be successful in sports. I believe I had a natural drive to achieve. Once I got involved with gymnastics (at the age of 10) it didn’t take me long to decide that this was the sport for me to pursue in a serious manner. I began to dream of being in the Olympics someday. I had a poster of the 1976 Men’s Olympic Gymnastics Team pinned up in my room and vowed that I was going to be like one of them someday (ironic, Bart Conner was on that poster and many years later, I became his teammate). This became my inspiration and I began to set goals of how to achieve my dream.

There are short-term goals and long-term goals that should be determined. The short-term goals are necessary to help a person stay motivated and on the right path to achieve the long term goal(s). These goals may include such things as learning new skills that may allow advancement to higher levels, a ranking status on a team, or qualifying to a special event. Similar to climbing a ladder, each step is a short term goal that leads to the ultimate long term goal.

Rythmic gymnast Floor

There are many factors that can affect the success or failure of achieving goals. The most important factors in achieving goals are determination and motivation. If the person is serious and has a strong desire, there is a great chance for success. Many times, sacrifices need to be made when attempting to achieve goals. More time working and less time playing is a common sacrifice. I had to miss my High School Sr. Prom due to preparing for an event – a difficult sacrifice for sure, but just one of many I have had to make.

scott speaking to students

When setting goals, especially the short-term goals, try to make sure they are realistic. I have seen cases where students set goals that are certainly not realistic to achieve in a short period of time and they shouldn’t be set up for failure. Set many achievable goals and this will help keep the motivation strong in moving forward. Coaches should assist the students in selecting these goals so they are sure to achieve success. For example, a student certainly should not learn to do a back handspring on the balance beam before learning to accomplish a back walk-over.

As I mentioned earlier, when I was young, I had a dream of participating in the Olympic Games. As I got older and began to take gymnastics seriously, this dream turned into a goal. As I progressed in the sport through achieving many short-term goals, I found that this ultimate goal of becoming an Olympian became a realistic goal. This reality was a large boost to my motivation which allowed me to eventually achieve that goal. We have all heard the phrase “dreams can come true”, I have lived it along with so many others that had such a childhood dream. If a person has the desire and passion to achieve something in life and makes the right decisions and sacrifices to achieve their goals, anything is possible!!

Scott Johnson Scanned Photos (10)