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Gymnastics Success: How to Develop an Unstoppable Gymnast

You’ve finally found it!

This resource is designed for those gymnastics coaches and administrators unfamiliar with TheGymnasticsCoach.com (TGC for short) – and for those TGC veteran professionals who want a refresher course on the proven systems that produce successful gymnasts.

It is also a road map, a compass to success.

You see - all gymnastics coaches and administrators are at some various level of STUCK. In this ever changing and constantly evolving industry, there is a mind boggling amount of information to learn and absorb.

From the beginner level recreational instructor to the most seasoned professional coach, we are all looking to get better at what we do. We are all looking for that edge, that competitive advantage that can launch us into a new level of success. This is a defining characteristic of a true professional.

This page is here to point you in the direction of more productive, effective and efficient coaching. The goal here is to assist you by offering experienced-based advise. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply change the tires RIGHT?

THE SYSTEM

Starbucks and McDonalds have used similar systems to corner coffee and hamburger markets. Amazon has used a template system for dominating ecommerce. Systems are how Best Buy, Sports Illustrated, and WalMart have become household names.

This system works for small clubs and multi-location clubs.  It works for programs with brand new competitive programs and well-established programs.

Systems in the gymnastics industry are in their infancy and you are in the right spot at the right time to get in on the ground floor. As gymnastics businesses struggle and toy with trial and error methods, we have been taking notes… and developing proven systems that produce champions over and over again.

There are many “technical geniuses” scattered along the road to gymnastics success.  They were left in the dust because they did not have the ability to apply their knowledge in a proven system.

There is only one path to coaching success in competitive gymnastics.

Read this page carefully, then read it again and commit to applying these systems yourself.

Learn the Steps to Gymnast Development Optimization (GDO)

The following flowchart outlines the GDO system.

Download the PDF version here (*coming soon)

This is a warning: Your technical knowledge is important, but not nearly as important as your ability to apply that knowledge within a system.

Here are the steps,

  • Build Foundation & Talent Pool
  • Train and educate
  • Develop A Culture Of Excellence – this is crucial
  • Implement Systemized Program Structure
  • Identify Potential and Talent
  • Plan and Strategize
  • Supplement Weaknesses
  • Create Balance to Motivate
  • Produce champions

Pay close attention to this article as we are about to reveal the exact process that we have used to produce consistently impressive results, year after year, regardless of the inevitable stumbling blocks that can get in the way of success.

Is the process simple?

No!

Is it worth the effort?

Well I guess that depends on your  personal goals and objectives or your program’s goals and objectives. To me the answer is obvious…

YES!

STEP 1- BUILD YOUR FOUNDATION AND TALENT POOL

The gymnastics business is fairly simple.

Get students in the door and then provide an incredible experience that they can’t walk away from.

There is great financial return on this formula.

And it certainly makes developing talent pool for an impressive competitive team much easier.

Talented athletes cannot help your program if those talented kids are playing soccer or softball.

Students and parents enter your program searching for the “unknown.” They really do not know much about gymnastics or what it can offer.

It is the responsibility of your systems to take advantage of this opportunity to sell these “shoppers” on the benefits of gymnastics at your facility.

We can’t simply rely on motivated instructors (some are better than others) to deliver this message.  It has to be a choreographed system.

Get them hooked!

PARENTS DO NOT BUY FLIPS AND ROLLS

They buy FUN.  They buy enhanced learning opportunities for their child.

Many aspiring programs try to deliver too much skill-oriented content as their “hook”.

I see this happening in programs time and time again, and it simply doesn’t work.

When new customers enter your program, very few parents are truly concerned about whether or not their child actually learns a cartwheel, back handspring or forward roll.

They are looking for exposure to FUN, while providing their child with enhanced learning opportunities.

Great programs understand and capitalize on this simple fact.

Great programs use gymnastics as a vehicle to deliver many important cognitive and social skills.

SURE learning a cartwheel is impressive,

But getting clear on the desired outcome your offer delivers is fundamental to the success of your program:

  • Fun
  • Taking turns
  • Exploring movement
  • Cooperating with others
  • Sharing
  • Teamwork
  • Listening and directional skills
  • Fitness
  • Manners
  • Problem solving
  • Following rules
  • Concepts (over/under, fast/slow, up/down, in/out, higher/lower, colors, numbers)
  • And more…

These are effective “hooks.”

Another reason that competitive programs struggle to succeed is because they fail to give  the recreational base programs the attention they deserve.

This results in a diluted talent pool but also significantly impacts the financial resources for the business overall.

YES there are programs that survive with a competitive team mentality... putting their competitive team above all else.

But these are rare…

And they are usually located where other businesses (competition) does their foundation building for them.  In other words, the talented kids are developed in some other program and then transfer to their competitive team later on with a well developed foundation of excellence.

Oh to be so fortunate!

Other programs can survive when they can charge exorbitant tuition rates that compensate for not having a large number of students at the base of their program.

Short of having a continuous stream of talent walk through your doors and being able to charge them rates that would equal that of a luxury car payment, developing your base is the logical answer.

O.K… I KNOW…

COMPETITIVE TEAM COACHES ARE GETTING ANXIOUS FOR MORE “COMPETITIVE” TEAM BUILDING INFORMATION

The purpose of this page is not to teach you how to run a recreational program.

We will focus more on the aspects of creating a powerhouse competitive team program,  BUT the importance of a base program needed to be stressed.

The bottom line is that if you want to consistently produce quality athletes…

You need a feeder program capable of sending you potential “Super Stars” year after year after year.

STEP 2: TRAIN AND EDUCATE

Coaches who are driven to succeed often have an overwhelming urge to “blaze the trail” all by your lonesome self. “Who needs help? Who needs support? I can do it all …right?” WRONG! It takes a staff to build an impressive gymnastics program.

  • Office and Administrative Staff
  • Recreational Staff
  • Birthday Party/Promotional Staff
  • Developmental Staff
  • Compulsory Level Staff
  • Optional Level Staff
  • Elite Level Staff

Can one person produce successful results? Potentially yes. We have seen that happen once in a while. An inspired coach grabs a couple talented athletes, advances them through the program, and they experience success. The problem is that the success is short-lived because no one was focused on filling the vacant holes in the program that are created as the coach focused on this one talented group. The bottom falls out and the program collapses. Developing and implementing a systematic, ongoing staff education and training program will help avoid program collapse. We have produced consistent successful results for the past 25 years while using a philosophy that emphasizes the contributions of an entire staff. Here are the keys to our philosophy…

Hire the right people

  • Pre interview questions
  • Interview process to screen for quality employees
  • It is better to be under staffed than poorly staffed
  • Establish expectations

Fill Staff Positions From Within

  • This creates a vested interest in the program
  • It shortens the transition times when valuable staff members move on.
  • This also shortens the learning curve because they already know the standards and procedures.

Shadowing

  • Learn the ropes
  • Audition for the position
  • Complete a specific training check list

Automated Ongoing Training

  • Online staff videos covering the basics
  • Online staff Safety certification
  • Links to advanced certifications
  • Access to advanced training videos

Contribution based employment

  • Every staff member brings something to the program
  • Assign, clarify and enforce responsibilities
  • Allow mistakes, insist on improvement
  • Show initiative and passion, but accept constructive performance adjustments
  • Provide advanced learning opportunities

Training and educating extends to your athletes and parents also. When your gymnasts and parents are left in the dark about your program goals and objectives, it becomes more difficult for your staff to implement what they have been trained to do because the gymnast and/or the parent doesn’t know or understand the reasoning. Proper and consistent communication is key to getting everyone working in the same direction. Rules, policies, philosophies and procedures need to be clearly identified and consistently enforced. Knowing where your business is going is good information to share if you expect your athletes and parents to ride along. Staff and Team Member/Program Handbooks are critical resource documents to enforce your standards. When expectations are in writing, they are well-received and easier to follow. Knowing what is expected and being held accountable to that standard is the cornerstone for building a culture of excellence.

STEP 3: DEVELOP A CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE

As obvious as it may seem, achieving world-class results requires excellence.

This requires excellence in instruction, in training, in planning, discipline, motivation and more.

There is no other way.

The problem is the definition of excellence.

What is excellence to one person may very well be mediocrity to another.

My advice is simply to raise your standards no matter where you are currently.

Then keep raising them in incremental doses until you reach the level of success that you desire for your program.

No matter where you are, or what results you are currently achieving, if you raise and enforce a higher standard, you will achieve program growth and more success as a result.

Much of this is accomplished over a reasonable time line.

It is not reasonable to expect an overnight change in culture.  In most cases it will create more gym drama that it would be worth.

Small incremental doses are easier to handle.

Raising your expectations and standards in the gym requires explanations and constant communication.

Change is difficult for most people to accept, so change requires reasoning and explanation.

One of the most difficult tasks of creating a change in your established culture is replacing old habits with new ones.

This applies not only to the athletes and parents BUT also the staff members.

Everyone needs to buy into the reasoning for change and managers must be willing to address issues related to resistance.

A few non-believers will create great frustration and this is where most head coaches, directors or owners simply throw in the towel.

Rather than battle, they surrender.

Change requires an iron resolve. If the change is truly needed for the betterment of the program then it is worth battling (correcting, inspiring, motivating) those that initially resist.

STEP 4: Program Structure and Curriculum

Great programs have a detailed visual flow chart of the various levels and pathways for advancement.

Not every child is going to want to progress to your developmental or competitive team programs… so where to do they go?

What do you do with the talented and hungry 5-6 year old?

What do you have to offer the recreational student that wants more instruction?

What options do you have for those gymnasts and parents that are on the fence with their commitment level?

Where does your fast track program begin?

At what point do you offer access to your excel program?

What is your level advancement criterion once an athlete reaches your competitive team levels?

All of these questions are answered within your program structure.

  • Twinkle Star: Mom/Tots
  • Shining Star: 3-4 Years Old
  • Shooting Star: Advanced 3-4 Years Old
  • Rising Star: 5-6 Years Old
  • Super Star: Advanced 5-6-7 Years Old
  • Comets: Invitation Only 5-7 Years Old
  • Flip Star: 7-9 Years Old
  • Advanced Flip Star: 2 x per week
  • Fun Star: 10-12 Years Old
  • Advanced Fun Star: 2 x per week
  • Teen Star: 13+ Years Old
  • Star Fire: 6-8 Invitation Only Years Old
  • Advanced Star Fire: 3 x per week
  • Level 2-3 Pre Team: 7+ Years
  • Advanced Level 2-3 Pre Team: 3 x per week
  • Excel Silver: 2 x per week (Level 2-3 pre team skill equivalent)
  • Advanced Excel Silver: 3x or 4x per week
  • Excel Gold: 2 x per week (Level 3 team skill equivalent)
  • Advanced Excel Gold: 3x or 4 x per week
  • Level 3 Team
  • Level 4 Team
  • Level 5 Team
  • Level 7 Team
  • Level 8 Team
  • Level 9 Team
  • Level 10/Elite Team
  • Fast Track A.M. Training

Having a structure is one thing…

But you also need to know exactly what you want accomplished at each stage of development.  This is key to advancing your program and the athletes on your path of success.

It is our philosophy to train a minimum of one level higher than you are competing.

Our recreational program content is based off of the skills the gymnast needs to progress on to our developmental teams.

The developmental teams train to acquire the skills and execution standards of our TOP program (USA Gymnastics Talent Identification Program) and/or entry level of competitive team.

Each team level masters their competitive level while training the drills and skills needed at the next highest level.

This curriculum content produces favorable competitive results.

In addition, the gymnast is ready and able to transition smoothly from level to level.

STEP 5: Talent Identification and Team Marketing

Ultimately, you need to implement a system that produces a large talent pool of gymnasts at every level.

Next you select athletes from your talent pool to fill the available spots in your developmental and competitive team programs as gymnasts move up levels and up the ladder of success.

The larger the pool of potential talent, the more selective we can be in filling the open spots.

In the beginning talent identification may be less important then quickly filling the teams.

But with a more productive recreational and developmental base system, numbers grow.

This in turn elevates your starting point each year because your larger talent pool produces better athletes to choose from.

Selling parents is equally as important as getting the athlete hooked on gymnastics

The increased time commitment, financial commitment and other related sacrifices are not always an easy sell.

This makes having a well rehearsed and choreographed program marketing system vitally important.

We take great care in delivering the message that although gymnastics is a wonderful sport, it is the life lessons learned through sport that are the most valuable to the child.

“We are great at teaching gymnastics. BUT we are even better at helping to develop strong, confident, focused and reassured young men and women who can take these qualities with them for the rest of their lives.”

“Cartwheels are great but teamwork, sportsmanship, goal setting and work ethic are life-altering lessons that truly matter.”

This truly resonates with parents.

“Will we make you child a better gymnast?  Absolutely! But more importantly we, with your help (*this is important) will make them a better person.”

We have a very specific talent identification evaluation system that has been tested, evaluated, analyzed, updated and perfected over 25 years.

The system emphasizes the physical abilities of the gymnast.  Why emphasize physical abilities?

Simple… we know that if they are strong and flexible we can teach them the gymnastics skills.  This is the surest path to success.

We also test a battery of core gymnastics skills.

Each test has a written criterion.   This keeps the scoring as consistent as possible regardless of the coach administering the test.

The year-to-year scores are used as valuable feedback for our coaches and directors.  By comparing year-to-year we can see if program is improving and/or if there are any obvious weaknesses.

It’s important to promote and advertise the evaluation process as serious business.

This is not an evaluation to simply to get a progress report.

It is an evaluation conducted for those who are serious about the privilege of joining our highly respected competitive gymnastics team program.

We ask parents and gymnasts for commitment prior to the testing event and conduct orientation meetings that outline all the important information so that families can make an informed decision.

This is not a “hard sell” because we only want athletes who are convinced that competitive gymnastics is something they truly want.

The others who are on the fence are better served by remaining in the less intense, recreational levels.  And this in turn is a better situation for our program.

What tests do we conduct? How do we organize the evaluation event? What information do we reveal to parents? How do we present this material? This is all part of the system.

STEP 6: Have a plan

Many coaches and programs feel that they have a general idea of what they want to accomplish and how they want to get there…

But they pursue their goals in an ad-lib fashion.

Quality programs have a plan that is outlined and followed.

Sure there are adjustments that are made along the way (that is part of planning) but the template is set.

Seasonal plans need to emphasize specific needs of the athlete like:

  • Rest
  • Fun and enjoyment
  • Experimentation
  • Skill development
  • Conditioning phases
  • Combinations and routine construction
  • Routine progressions
  • Routine perfection
  • And more

These aspects of training are pre-organized and mapped out to create a reusable system.

Intuitive coaching is a great asset to have…

But is relied upon far too often.

Intuition and instincts are great for making necessary decisions and program adjustments.

But intuition does not create a system that everyone can follow.  Successful programs rely on system, not intuition.

What is seasonal training?

Post Season:  a brief period following your championship run. This can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the goals of your program.

Off Season: this is normally a skill-training period without the worries of competition. This is also a time for significant physical abilities training although this progresses through phases throughout the entire year.

Pre Season: This is a time for routine construction starting with parts and combinations and progressing to full routine performance.

In Season: This covers the majority of the competitive season where athlete are rewarded for their efforts while trying to master the art of competing.

Championship Season: This is the priority season and very short in duration. During this season all energies are used for routine and performance perfection.

Planning is a task that includes:

  • The optimal number of training hours for each level
  • The related conditioning phases to coordinate with each specific season
  • Event warm ups and complexes that supplement not only the skill development but also the related conditioning programs
  • Element counts (volume counts) that dictate how much work is required
  • A progressive transition to intensity counts (less volume more quality).

Template coaching significantly reduces the need for planning from year to year because coaches are using a general template for the skill the gymnasts needs to be successful at each level.

The template, combined with the philosophy of training one level higher than the athlete is currently competing, allows time to work on skills the gymnast needs for a smooth advancement to the next level.

This is the essence of planning!

STEP 7: Program Supplements

Just as human beings need nutritional supplements to perform at our peak, so does a gymnastics program.

I think it is safe to say that every coach has a weakness…

Good coaches put their egos in their back pocket and realize that there are people and systems that can help them achieve greater success.

Great coaches are not afraid to surround themselves with other great people.  Great coaches are not afraid to use supplements.

Gymnastics is a complicated sport, especially if you expect to compete at the top of the game.

You need knowledge:

  • Planning knowledge
  • Conditioning and flexibility knowledge
  • Motivational and tactical knowledge.

You need experts:

  • Dance and performance experts
  • Sports psychology experts
  • Medical experts

The list is extensive and shows that it would be unreasonable, if not impossible for a single coach to handle all of these areas successfully at a world-class level.

Ask yourself… Do you want to have a world-class coaching career and a world-class program?  Or are you happy to settle for a mediocre program that just gets by…

Supplemental Programs:

Dance: Dance ability (including performance, artistry, alignment and balance) become increasingly more important as the athletes progress through the levels.

Sport Psychology: training the mind is every bit as important as training the body. This applies not only to competitive abilities but mastering training attitudes that will produce a more productive, self-assured, and confident athlete.

Mentoring: using the wealth of experience of the older gymnasts within your gym to mentor the younger athletes on the expectations, standards, training rules, conduct codes, of a competitive gymnast.

Sport Medicine: like it or not, sports medicine will play a major role in the health and wellness of your program. Injury prevention and rehabilitation knowledge is essential.

Nutritional Assistance: with the sport of gymnastics being a strength-to-weight ratio sport, nutrition is going to play a major role in success. Early nutritional education will help point the athletes in the right direction while limiting the frustrations for coaches.

Other supplemental considerations might include:

  • A strength and conditioning coach
  • A speed training/sprint coach
  • A motivational coach
  • A cross training coach
  • A flexibility/yoga coach

… just to mention a few.

STEP 8: Create Balance

Gym programs that are run like boot camps and prisons rarely survive.

Sure they may make a run at success with a few die-hard athletes but when enjoyment and life balance is non-existent most athletes will not endure.

I have lived this scenario and can attest to the fact that stringent, non-flexible training rules will and do impact the career expectancy of an athlete.

Yes gymnastics training is intense, even grueling at times.

Yes gymnastics training requires commitment and discipline.

But without a measure of “life balance” the sport looses its appeal, especially when considering the long-term mental health of the athlete.

A gym with demanding yet flexible standards can provide life balance for the athlete.

An athlete cannot recover quality family time once it is lost.

School time should always receive a priority pass when choices have to be made between academics and gymnastics.

So Family and School outrank gymnastics, plain and simple.

Yes there will be sacrifices that need to be made and yes there will have to be excellent time management skills employed, BUT when school or family calls, they win.

Balance can be enhanced within your gym too by using bonding events and activities that have nothing to do with gymnastics.

The idea is to create a culture and atmosphere that the families and athletes adore.

This creates loyalty.

Loyalty inspires members to want to continue their membership… through the smooth sailing times and through those filled with adversity.

If a gym feels like a prison, gymnasts and parents will find the exit signs at the first sign of struggle.

Happy athletes and parents are more likely to be long-term fans of your program when you and your program offer flexibility with regards to rules and policies.  Showing a concern for life balance will result in happier more successful students.

Step 9: PRODUCE

Completing each year feeling un-fulfilled, feeling you should have achieved more requires a change of direction.

Even the most established clubs might have a disappointing season from time to time but when disappointment is a familiars annual finish, things need to change.

The problem is very few programs or coaches look in the mirror. They find excuses and justification for their failures.

My assessment as to why our program has been so successful for so long is that we have not accepted excuses nor have we made then.” …. John Geddert

If you are not producing the results that you desire, the next step is to find out why.

Why are we inconsistent?

Why is our execution not up to the standard we need to be competitive?

Why are our athletes not delivering under pressure?

Why do our athletes look less dynamic?

Why, why and why?

By virtue of you getting this far down the page, it seems you are looking in the mirror for ways to improve. You are a rare individual driven to success.

The ultimate challenge is to produce.

Success breeds success but until you experience it, the goal remains elusive.

A successful season verifies that your plan has worked.

A successful season creates respect for your plan and in turn loyalty within your program.

A successful season makes you the topic of conversation in your local gymnastics community.

Producing a successful recreational program and successful competitive athletes at the same time is the key to growing your program.

People will seek out your expertise when you become the coach and the program that is consistently producing the best results.

There is a reason why WOGA, Texas Dreams, Cincinnati, Twistars USA and others have a continuous stream of talent knocking on their doors…

They produce!

YOU CAN TOO!

About John Geddert

John Geddert is the founder of TheGymnasticsCoach.com.

He has developed an unprecedented 2941 wins and 71 defeats in STATE CHAMPIONSHIP COMPETITION.

His teams have compiled more state championship titles than all other teams combined in his club's home state of Michigan, with over 140 State Championship Team Titles.

On the National front, Gedderts' Twistars USA has emerged as the National Power in Junior Olympic Gymnastics. In the years 2001-2002 and 2004 Twistars USA had more National Qualifiers, National medalists, and National Team Members than any other club in the USA.

In 2014 Twistars USA once again had the most National Qualifiers (12), National AA Champions (2), National Team Members (3) and National Medals Won (26) and posted the highest overall club team score at JO Nationals.He has coached well over 70 National Champions at the Junior Olympic and Elite levels and over 50 USA National Team members. These coaching accomplishments have earned him over 16 State, Regional and National Coach of the year honors (including the first ever JO Club of the year in 2007 and Elite National Coach of the year in 2012).

Club gymnastics is where collegiate programs get their athletes. During the past 30 years, Twistars gymnasts have earned nearly 8 million dollars in athletic scholarships to major universities around the country including University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of Florida, Ohio State, University of Arizona, University Maryland, University of Nebraska, Minnesota, Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma, Kentucky, LSU, Iowa, Cal State Fullerton and more.

John has represented the USA as a coach in international competition in well over 20 countries (Spain, Italy, France, Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, Great Britain, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, El Salvador, Sweden, Guatemala, Germany, Costa Rica, China, Belgium, Canada, Panama, Dominican Republic, Scotland, Croatia, and Japan to name a few).

Connect with John on Twitter.

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