Athletes, Coaching, Confidence, Mental Training, Preparation, Safety, Skill Development

The True Asset in Skill Development: Building Confidence for New Skills

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One of the biggest challenges students have when learning new skills, is getting over fear and gaining confidence. It is amazing how emotions take control of an individual when the time comes to perform a skill without assistance. In many cases, it takes much longer to build the confidence needed to perform the skill than the physical effort required to complete the skill. This can be frustrating for both the student and the coach, but it needs to be understood and approached cautiously.

It is amazing to see how well a skill is performed while the coach is providing a spot, even the slightest spot. It is obvious the student can perform the skill but it doesn’t happen. Why? Because they are terrified!! Although this is frustrating, it is completely normal. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to take weeks or even months before they are emotionally ready to go solo on a skill.

The coach plays a major role in helping the athlete gain confidence. This is done primarily by spotting the skills (The Art of Spotting) as the athlete progresses through the stages of development. As the athlete gains better understanding and awareness if the skill, the coach can begin to lighten the spot.

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Although the objective is for the student to perform the skill without a spot, the coach needs to be aware of the emotions of the student. In many cases, when a student is attempting to do a skill without a spot for the first time, they are not thinking about how to do the skill, they are thinking about how bad it’s going to hurt when they crash. The coach should recognize the signs- if the student is stalling for a period of time, it is a good indication that they may not be ready. In this case, the coach should stand in to give emotional and physical support.

I have seen cases where students are forced to perform a skill without a spot, even if the student asks for one. This may be acceptable depending on the risk factor of the skill. For example, a front handspring has a much lower risk factor than a back handspring. If the risk factor of the skill is low, the student can be encouraged to “go for it”. If the student fails, there will likely be little physical or emotional consequences.

If the skill has a higher risk factor, however, the student may suffer an injury and possibly serious emotional consequences. The most sever is the “Mental Block”. When this occurs, it is a huge step back in progressive development.

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It is our job as coaches to assist the athlete to grow in a positive direction. Every athlete is different both physically and emotionally. Some will have a low fear factor and others will have a much higher fear factor. This is why many students learn skills quicker than others. Patience is important and coaches need to work with the student to help build confidence. What’s even more important, is Safety. A coach should never put a student in a position where they are not comfortable or emotionally ready to perform a skill.  Let’s keep them safe, happy, and moving forward in a positive direction.

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I am in the process of developing manuals and videos on tumbling 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 or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Athletes, Communication, Parent, Sports, Stress, Success

Parent and Coach Influence on an Athlete's Success: To Push or Not Push

Happy child athletes

It is always great to see parents involved with their children’s activities. Not only do the children (younger children) love it when their parents watch and support their activities, many depend on it. However, there may come a time in an athlete’s development when the parent should take a step back and allow their child to develop more freely.

One challenge the parent may have in the development of their child’s sports activity, is not understanding the true emotional desires or feelings of the child. There are many cases where the child may not have the desire to participate in the activity. It is important that parents attempt to introduce several different activities, throughout the early years, to allow the child to determine what they like best.

As an athlete becomes more serious and involved with their sport, training will become more consistent and serious. They will learn many things that are important and pertinent to that sport which will allow them to grow both physically and emotionally. They will learn the specifics of every aspect of the sport – things that the parent may not be aware of or have knowledge of since they are not actively involved with the day to day training atmosphere.

There are many aspects of development in an athlete’s pursuit to succeed. The physical aspect is only one part of development. The emotional aspect is another part of development and can be considered the most important and sensitive. As an athlete grows in their sport and begins to participate in competitions, the emotional aspect intensifies. For many athletes, the competitive arena can be a scary one and it may take time for the athlete to understand how to deal with and control the stress in those environments.

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I have many conversations with parents regarding their child’s development. One of the most common question and concern is the issue of ” to push or not to push”. This issue is different for every athlete but most common for athletes in early development. The parent should be able to recognize if their child is serious about the sport or activity and this will help guide whether to push the athlete for greater achievement.

I truly believe that a person will only be successful at something they love and desire. This comes from the heart, which is internal motivation The Motivation Factor. Athletes that have this type of attitude will usually have the motivation to push themselves without much outside influence. Throughout an athlete’s career, there will be ups and downs – there will be success and failure. There will be injuries and burn-out. All of which are factors that can influence an athletes drive to succeed. Patience is important to allow the athlete to work through all challenges. Achievement is a process that takes time, experience, and consistency.

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When an athlete is pushed hard to train for success, it may result in the athlete having a negative attitude. Especially if there has been a series of failures. This could result in continued failure and eventually and end to a career. As an athlete grows in their sport and reaches higher levels of competition, pushing the athlete can be beneficial. All great athletes need a good push periodically. It is the younger, more inexperienced athlete that may be more sensitive to being “pushed” to succeed.

However, not pushing your athlete may result in a lack of motivation or cause a lack of interest. Younger students do not understand the process of commitment and sacrifice, so they must be guided through the process. It can be a sensitive issue and one that must be properly determined by the parent.

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I believe that athletes should be pushed and encouraged in their pursuit of success. But how hard to push and when to push is the issue. Every child is different and what may be beneficial to one may not work for another. The parents and coaches need to recognize this in their children and students in order to positively affect the pursuit of their goals. We want the best for all children. Some will become Champions, and many will not, but every one of them are Stars!!

I am in the process of developing manuals and videos on tumbling 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 or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

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

Problem Solver vs Text Book Instruction

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!!

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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