COOL IT DOWN

COOL DOWN

 

I am spending the weekend directing one of our Regional Hot Shot Training Camps. In watching and directing there always seems to be things that strike me as needing attention. Usually the weaknesses present themselves in areas that most simply take for granted. In being a coach that has always preached details makes the difference, I feel this is a message that needs to be driven home more often.

 

In past blogs I have addressed the importance of a proper warm up and how it sets the pace for training. The benefits of a proper warm up go far beyond just getting the body loose for sports participation. A detailed warm up establishes a standard of excellence from the very moment the training begins. Great warm ups enforce perfection, effort, stylization, and discipline. This carries over to the event training to come later.

 

Anyone who has ever attended a National Team Training Camp or related TOPS, JO or Elite Developmental Camps at the National Team Training Center in Houston can certainly attest to the emphasis placed on a proper warm up. Any athlete caught slacking during warm up is quickly reminded of the error. It is unacceptable to give less than 100%.

 

Likewise and for some of the very same reasons, a proper cool down is just as important. During the intensities of training the body is put through the wringer. It endures conditioning, explosive take offs, tough landings and more. When the training session is complete the body teeters on the edge of exhaustion and the muscles are wound tightly. A well directed cool down stretch will help iron out the kinks and aid with the maintenance or improvement of flexibility. Taking the cool down to the ultimate (and many of our national team athletes make this part of their ritual) would include a body flushing massage (this helps rid the body of lactic acid and helps with next day soreness and overall recovery time). It is too bad that most programs do not have the ability to offer after training massages (but then again Moms work real well).

 

In watching the first day of cool down stretch at this particular camp it was glaringly obvious that cool down time is generally used as chat time for most athletes. That is of course unless there is a standard set by the coaching staff that cool down stretch is an important ending to a productive training session. 5-10 minutes of quality and focused stretch time will go a long way. 15-20 minutes would even be better (that is what we required of Jordyn).

 

At the end of a training session there may be many obstacles. Staffing situations where coaches have to move to another group or homework and car pool obligations for the athletes often create a rushed feeling at the end of the day. Toss in the fatigue factor and the situation magnifies. This is where leadership (older experienced athlete leaders or coaching directives) become essential. Rushing through cool down creates an unfinished, less than ultimate practice. This is another important detail that makes a difference.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details | Leave a comment

Dealing With Jealousy

Jealousy is an innate human trait. It lives and breathes in every gym and can be quite destructive if left un-managed.

Wikipedia states: Jealousy is an emotion, and the word typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something of great personal value, particularly in reference to a human connection. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, resentment, inadequacy, helplessness and disgust. In its original meaning, jealousy is distinct from envy, though the two terms have popularly become synonymous in the English language with jealousy now taking on the definition originally used for envy.

In using this as the base of reasoning we can start with the person responsible for the “envy” or causing the jealousy. In a team situation these people are often times considered the leaders or in more troubled atmospheres “the favorites”. In either case they are normally being envied due to their individual talents or the attention they are receiving because of it. If it is the talent and related success that is being envied (causing jealousy) then the lesson needs to be one of respect. Respect the talent, respect what it took to achieve success and model a chosen path that will produce similar results. Obviously the envied athlete needs to display humility and compassion for their teammates. A brash, boastful or abrasive attitude will only serve to alienate. BUT if this athlete encourages and assists his or her teammates with their development, the envy then can be transformed into respect.

Greater issues arise when envy and jealousy are the product of perceived favoritism or special attention. Perception is the key word here as it has been my experience that those receiving attention are those who crave it, earn it, deserve it through their consistent actions. But in the minds of humans, perception is reality and coaches need to learn to deal with this as they would with any other legitimate concern. With this being said however, I do feel this is a great situation to TEACH a valuable lesson which is, if you feel you are not getting the attention/feedback you desire then as an athlete you need to create a situation where you get what you want. Ask for help, pay attention to corrections, take extra turns, work harder and look your coach in the eye so as to deliver the message that you want to improve, you want to learn and that you are 100% coachable.

There will always be parents and athletes that base their level of importance on what those around them are doing. This is a normal human reaction. In sports, however, athletes of the same age will have different physical and mental abilities (cognitive and motivational understandings) that dictate progress. Trust in the coaching staff and the gymnastics program itself is vital when decisions are made to progress athletes at different paces. Some perceive this as favoritism and this of course causes jealousy or hard feelings.

With trust and open lines of communication that stamp “the child’s best long term interest” on the foreheads of those that doubt your intentions, these situation can be avoided or at least tempered. Advancing athletes is not an exact science. Sometimes it is merely a coaches instinct thing but when at all possible the use of a specific set criterion (skill, score or combination of both) will help provide a visual illustration of your standards. Although meeting a set criterion might still have a few snags, it gives coaches something concrete to base their “yes” or “No” decisions.

Good coaches will note the tell tale signs when members of a group or team are feeling slighted. Body language, attitude, emotional outbursts, frustrations and parent complaints or comments should raise the proverbial “red flag” and create a need for a solution based approach. Perhaps this means going a bit out of your way to give that child a little extra attention that week. Perhaps it is a one on one meeting where you reassure the athlete that you are there to do everything in your power to help them succeed. Perhaps you outline the lesson explain in the previous paragraph i.e if you want more attention … seek it/earn it.

In actuality jealousy and envy are strong motivational factors when channeled in the proper manner. It is jealousy and envy that create many goals. I want to be like so and so, I want to have a house like the Smiths, I want a car like John’s, I want to tumble like xxx. To be envious of something can serve to set a target to shoot for. This is a good thing.

     

More Recent Articles at TheGymnasticsCoach.com

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Essence of Leadership

 

Blog: The Essence of Leadership

Here is a blog article that ran in the USECA Newsletter. If you are looking for a great organization that provides lots of coaching tips and advice, check out the US Elite Coaches Association.

 

I have stated many times that the technical aspects of our sport are attainable and within the reach of any aspiring coach. It is the application of this knowledge, and how you lead your troops that truly separates the good from the great. Much has been written on the topic of leadership in relationship to success, but H.A. Dorfman’s Coaching the Mental Game, nails it. In his book he outlines the characteristics of a great leader and it is quite interesting how easily you can see these traits in the most successful coaches in our sport. Mary Lee Tracy, Valarie Liukin, Kelly Hill, Tony Gehman, Todd Gardner immediately came to mind as I read his list.

 

  A Credo. Great leadership begins with believing in something. Some refer to this as a mission statement but no matter what it is called it is the foundation of leadership. It is what the coach, the organization, and or the team stands for. It is the values and philosophies that serve to shape actions, the standards and the expectations deemed appropriate for representing that team.

 

Consistency/Authenticity. Athletes will respond to consistent expectations. Nothing upsets the apple cart faster than inconsistent methods, tactics, and philosophies. Great leadership is an “all the time thing” not a “sometimes thing”. The beliefs etched in the credo are echoed daily in the actions and demands of a great leader. When a coach lets things drift off the stated path, the first thing that is lost is the athletes trust. They now question the goals and the direction. They soon question the coaches authenticity. Dorfman quotes Sophocies in saying “those don’t command who do not enforce”. Talking about standards and expectations serves little purpose if they are not enforced. Authenticity is honest integrity driven consistency.  It makes the leader real and believable in the eyes of the followers.

 

Flexibility- A one size fits all approach to coaching is a ridiculous methodology. The ability to adapt tactics and strategies, motivation and plans based on the situation or the individual need of the athletes is imperative to good leadership. Sports are ever evolving, what we considered gospel 10 years ago might now be outdated. Flexibility is the ability to adjust your “consistency” when something has been validated as no longer fitting the needs of your team. “Comfort in foolishness and failure is consistency and something that makes those that we are supposed to be leading very uncomfortable”. Flexibility is part of the evolution of a great coach.

 

Discipline- Discipline is order and structure. It implies commitment to the stated “credo” and dedication to the expectations and standards it represents.  Discipline implies that the members of the organization/team be accountable and responsible. Discipline is preparation and the relentless pursuit of the established goals. Self-discipline is doing what is right when no one else is watching. According to Dorfman, this is not a human norm. Doing the right thing requires great power of will and is certainly an asset that the greatest achievers possess.

 

   Preparation- Successful coaches don’t simply show up at competitions and produce champions. They fully realize the need for preparation. One of the most famous coaches ever, Vince Lombardi, made a career of doing simple things perfectly, through meticulous preparation. Preparation is planning, practice organization, defining roles, delegating responsibility, assessing progress, making adjustments and competition strategies. Plan your work … work your plan.

 

   Rationality/Grace To think is to act, Rationality is the ability to use intelligence over emotional passion. Coaching can be an emotional experience as we are certainly vested in the process. In the heat of battle, emotions run high but emotion can’t rule the day, Rationality has to play the lead. All to often we have witnessed emotional coaching cause a total train wreck situation (believe me I have been guilty a time or two). Cooler heads prevail and in the process, teams, athletes and results gain the benefit. Grace under pressure means keeping your poise while others are loosing theirs. If you can master this as a coach, you will be a leader than can pull your athletes through rather than be devoured by tough situations. Develop a inner vision that is “Un-Get-Able (which means nothing or nobody can get to you). This is intimidating to the opposition and is contagious to your athletes.

 

   Courage- Courage is a resource that is needed at every turn, the courage to enforce, to stand strong, to confront difficulty and adversity. Courage is needed to hold yourself and your followers accountable. The Latin “Cor” means heart. To have courage is to have heart. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to act regardless of fear. Many coaches run from threatening situations but this not a great strategy nor does it bring safety. Courage is tackling the issues head on so that short term pain becomes long term gain (Dr. Allison Arnolld).  Challenging the tough situations elevates behavior, elevates the leader and the organization one leads.

 

Dorfman advises to keep the following in mind:

 

  • A coaches team represents something. It should represent what the coach deems to be a form of excellence.
  • Consistency means the adherence to the standards and expectations that your pre-established credo (mission statement) repreents.
  • A coaches honesty and integrity are what makes him/her authentic, real, believable to the athletes.
  • Flexibility implies calculated changed based on the evident need for that change
  • Discipline includes setting the parameters and structure, order and acceptable level of effort while simultaneously enforcing those standards
  • Poise is the quality of self control that allows for productive and effective thinking when the heat is on.
  • Courage provides the strength for doing what we know in our hearts is right.

 

For a great coaching bible, be sure to check out D A Dorfmans, Coaching the Mental Game. I have to give total credit for this article to this enlightened author and motivator.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Coaching, Coaching- The Little Details, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 Tips for Developing Balance

8 Helpful Hints for Developing Balance

 

I bet you thought I was going to be discussing balance beam tips… Nope

 

Some athletes and coaches (and parents) fall into the trap of thinking that Gymnastics is Life rather than simply a sport which can be used for the betterment of. They pour heart and sole into becoming the best they can be. They are willing to sacrifice whatever is needed to reach their lofty goals and aspirations. This attitude is common amongst the high achievers of the world. The commitment to total dedication is commendable but balance in life is key to long term success not only within the sport itself but more importantly LIFE.

 

Gymnastics is an age limited sport. The transition from cartwheels to real adult life dictates that we place importance on developing balance between sport and the things that will matter most years down the road. Balance also keeps that athlete fresh, eager and hungry for more. Here are a few things to consider when trying to provide balance for your athlete.

 

1- Family takes priority over sport. Missing or reducing family vacations, skipping weddings or family reunions, missing out on sibling events etc serve to lessen the family bond. Sure you might have to miss some events as sacrifice is a part of sport, but make your family a priority as they will always be your pillar of strength for LIFE. Make time for family.

 

2- School should take priority over sport. We encourage our athletes to use public schools if for no other reason that it provides a social outlet that is non gym related. The importance of making school a priority is obvious when it comes to academics (the ability to do a handstand will not provide future income for many). Do not sacrifice homework or study time for gymnastics time.

 

3- Gym is not prison. Attending events that seem important to an athlete should always be an option. Again, prioritizing these events will be necessary so as to maintain respect and discipline at the gym. BUT when an event is deemed important…. attend it. Be it a school dance, a school sporting event, community service events, sibling support events or family gatherings, missing a practice every now and then is not a sin. IN FACT coaches will get a big return on investment as those that are “allowed” to attend social events will in turn repay the gesture with greater effort in the gym (happy gymnasts are hard working gymnasts).

 

4- Stress the life lessons that sports inherently provide. Those that focus solely on competitive results are less likely to get the true benefit of sport. Life lessons serve to fill our toolbox with tools that we can use for the rest of our lives. Results of a sporting event on the other hand are very forgettable. Life lessons like: working hard creates progress, goal setting points us in the right direction, enduring through adversity makes us stronger, mistakes are opportunities to begin again with better information, teamwork works, sportsmanship creates better people and more. The main goal of participation in sport should be what we can learn in the process.

 

5- Stress the character shaping skills over the physically impressive acrobatics. This is a tough one to focus on as we all want to learn skills that defy the laws of gravity. We all want to learn skills that wow our friends and family. BUT the character building skills will far outlive the physical skills. Honesty, integrity, compassion, determination, patience, focus, aggressiveness, and more are skills that can be learned through sports participation and traits that people of quality possess in abundance.

 

6- Appreciation of what others invest into your gymnastics careers is a very important part of learning balance. Sports are done by and for the athletes and that should certainly be the focus. With this being said however balance is enhanced when athletes are taught to appreciate what others put into the equation. Parents invest time, resources and emotional energy, Coaches also invest and sacrifice for the betterment of their athletes. Gym management and booster clubs provide behind the scenes support that contribute to the process of developing an athlete. Learning to appreciate others helps with balancing their perspective.

 

7- Athletes form life long relationships with teammates at the gym. They spend countless hours together in the trenches and thus the bond between teammates becomes very strong. Balancing gym friends with those at school and in the neighborhood can be time well invested. Non gym friends provide us with a look at life from a non gymnast perspective and since we will not always be a “gymnast” these viewpoints and outlooks can be beneficial.

 

8- Give back to the sport that provided you with so many great opportunities. The same can be said for giving to your community, church, school and family. Giving back is another form of appreciation and serves not only to create leadership opportunities for our future adults, but also a fantastic trickle down impact on the various organizations we give to. Examples of giving back: Volunteer to help with fundraising events, serve as an apprentice instructor, conduct after school programs for area youth, serve as a mentor for up and coming athletes etc. Giving back to your sport is not only rewarding but an example of great citizenship.

 

Balancing the scales between sport and life is not as easy as it may sound. We all get caught up in our hectic schedules and finding the extra time needed to promote balance is difficult. One need only look at the alternative to realize the importance of encouraging a balanced approach to life. Sports are a great tool for enhancing our life skills but placing priority on your family, school, friends and life skills time will in turn produce a much more rounded individual.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details, Medical, Mental Roadblocks | Leave a comment

A Trip Down Under

A few months back my wife Kathryn and I were invited to present at a coaches seminar in Sydney Australia. At the time we wondered how in the world we could squeeze a 10 day trip into our already hectic schedules, especially with the competitive season looking us square in the eye. Squeeze we did and in hind sight we could not be happier.

New South Wales was hosting the event and they covered every detail with class and precision. We have presented at many seminars and congresses but have to say that the Australians really know how to make you feel at home. From the onset it was very apparent that the coaches in attendance were passionate and hungry for knowledge. It was so refreshing seeing wide eyed coaches soaking up every bit of information they could.

During the 4 day seminar we presented sessions ranging from beginner to advanced, covered the events, dance, conditioning, complexes and every possible coaching topic related to organizing and implementing a gymnastics program. Coaches were very receptive to new ideas yet contributed to the topics also. We also had the opportunity to work with some of their national stream athletes in a facility that most would consider “dream land” (part of a new 32 million dollar sports complex). The athletes were as receptive as their coaches and we enjoyed the limited time we had with them.

After completing the seminar in New South Wales, I was invited to spend a day with the Australian National Team at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sports) in the nations capital Canberra. It was a 3 hour drive from Sydney but provided great scenery and the chance to see wild Kangaroos by the 100s along the way. Their national team camp format closely mirrors that of the USAs and it was a privilege to get to work with their top coaches and athletes for a day.

Our final 2 days were spent relaxing in Sydney. With temperatures in the mid to upper 80s and the views and attractions that Sydney can provide, the days were well spent. Our hotel overlooked the harbor, the Opera House, the North Sydney skyline and the famous Harbor Bridge (compliments of our hosts). I now know why many consider Sydney as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Having chiseled the ice off my truck upon return I had thoughts that perhaps Christmas in the 80s is not such a bad way to go, but we are home now so LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW, LET IT SNOW.

If passion and effort are any indication of the future of gymnastics in Australia, all is pointed in the right direction. Being good is not their goal, being great sounds much better. Kathryn and I wish them the best in climbing that ladder of success and hope we played a small role in helping them up a rung or two.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details | Leave a comment

Coaching=Educating

I am not sure most professional coaches fully understand their role in educating their athletes. Many fell into the role of coach due to their love of children and of course the sport itself. Step by step the enormous responsibility unfolded before us. Coaching=Educating.
Sport provides us with the perfect classroom but it is not the related teaching of physical skills that should fill the curriculum. It is the life lessons that can be learned that make sports so valuable.
Twistars upper level athletes have just finished a 5 chapter course on developing and building a strong mind. These tools will be invaluable not only in assisting the athlete with better training and performance BUT also as tools that can be used in life outside of the gym … forever.
Dr. Allison Arnold’s, The 5 Rings of Mental Toughness will serve us all well.  The rings are:

1- Awareness- being aware of the thoughts that control your actions, being aware of goals and how to achieve them, being aware of attitudes and how they can impact training and performance.
2- Vision- What we put energy into will grow. Knowing who we want to be as an athlete and a person is our Vision. Working to become your Vision is the goal.
3- Discipline- This is key to achieving anything worth while. Disciplining the mind is as important as the body and requires just as much attention. Learning to control your
thoughts and actions through the use of key “mental
choreography”words is essential.
4- Perseverance- This creates the difference between good and great. The ability to get through a tough day, a bad situation or rough event is a great life lesson tool.
5- Belief- This is the ring that
holds all the other rings together. Believing in the power of the mind and the process for training it will create not only a better athlete but a better person. Believing in yourself is one of the most important life lessons that sports can teach.
As coaches it is our responsibility to instill these qualities in our athletes.

Educating the athlete on the power of the psychological mind through participating in sports is time well spent. Athletes will automatically be able to draw parallels between sports experiences, struggles and achievements with those in every day life occurrences.
Studies show that athletes are much more likely to be stronger academically when they have above average coaching experiences.
I think it is important to remind our members from time to time that we are not simply in the teaching flips and cartwheel business. We are good at that but more due to the process of instilling confidence in our athletes than any other top secret training idea. We attempt to educate all of our athletes as we are fully aware that when the chalk dust settles on their gymnastics careers, there are far more important goals and achievements to add to the resume.
The education does not stop with the mental training. We continuously encourage proper manners, work ethic, and respect for others. We are teaching sound health and well being habits
which include personal hygiene, sleep and nutritional practices. Sports involvement enforces time management education and the prioritization of the real important things in life (family, friends, school). We encourage a balance in life in that when the sand in our hour glass runs out, we simply can not turn it over and start again. Sure commitment to your sport is important if you ever expect to attain an upper level status, but under no circumstances is your sport ever more important than your family, your friends, your education or YOU.
We teach discipline which with todayʼs entitlement generation is a disappearing character trait. Being held accountable for actions or inactions is going to be part of life. Living up to standards and expectations is something present in every profession known to man. Teaching these concepts within a sports setting is the best benefit of sport.
Some of the lessons might seem to be sports specific like mental imagery (seeing yourself doing a skill correctly), Goals setting, anxiety control, attention focus etc. BUT if we examine the principles we soon see a broad score of uses that can be applied outside of the gym.
Education is not merely accomplished in the school.

If you found this article to be useful please feel free to share it with your friends via your social media choice.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details, Mental Roadblocks | Leave a comment

10X Rule

Blog: 10X Rule of Greatness

 

 

 

I am spending the weekend at yet another Region 5 Hot Shot Training Camp. This has always been my favorite age group to watch and work with. There is something about wide eyed youthful enthusiasm combined with  idea sharing coaches that inspires me. Our Hot Shot camp is set for 3 days of honing and improving on the core basics. The athletes are absorbing the information like little “Sponge Bobs”. I love it.

 

My role this weekend is camp director. I have the pleasure of floating amongst the 7 groups and offering my 2 cents on anything that might look like it needs attention. For the most part I find that the coaches are right on track with their corrections, and technical knowledge. But then again that has always been the easy part of coaching.

 

With the wonderful education system that we have within our Region and the USA for that matter, it seems that the technical knowledge of coaches has vastly improved over the past 10-15 years. There are lots of coaches that know lots of stuff! In fact I am pleased with the number of new drills and variations of that I have stolen from the younger up and coming generation of coaches here at this camp. I am a thief!

 

I would love to sit the coaches down and lecture them on their technical short comings but I find very few. Why then are the results from one program so glaringly different from another? With that in mind I offer the only advice I can. I have attributed progress in this sport to 3 things (remember there is talent in every gym). 1- Effort, 2-Volume and 3-Details (which combines 1-2).

 

Consider having 2 groups each with equal talent. Group 1 applies max effort on a daily basis which undoubtedly will produce better results than Group 2 which applies less than max effort. Effort is also a two way street in that effort by the coaching staff plays a significant role in progress. Lets say Group 1 gets constant feedback, and hands on corrections and Group 2 gets little feedback or assistance. Group 1 will certainly win out if all other aspects remain equal.

Now consider each group applying the same amount of effort (from coaches and athletes) but group 1 takes more turns (volume). It only stands to reason that Group 1 would win out again.

 

Then comes the idea of Details. This is often the least recognized or enforced concept for coaches. You can take more turns, you can have all the feedback you need, you can even apply adequate effort BUT if it is not DETAIL ORIENTED the results will suffer. From the moment kids step on the floor for warm up you can immediately identify the athletes that have focused training on the details. Details are what separate the good from the great.

 

It is obvious from working camp after camp, clinic after clinic that coaches know what needs to be done. My advice is simply to do more of it. Apply more effort, take more turns, and enforce greater attention to details. The results will follow.

 

There is a great book on this topic, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. The basic premise comes from studying leaders and experts, sports stars and business tycoons. The findings are simple: If you want to be better, more accomplished, a super star in your chosen field, then do 10X the work, apply X10 the effort, execute 10X the numbers needed. This applies to both coaches and athletes. Simply concept, great results.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details | Leave a comment

Would Mary Poppins Have Been A Good Gymnastics Coach?

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_r-PbcykFj5o/SIsmRdIjeFI/AAAAAAAAAh8/IOCIX6PqhGI/s400/marypoppins.jpg

 

“Without criticism, there can be no true praise”. I read this the other day and it really made me pause to think. It made me think about my coaching philosophy and approach to dealing with athletes. Although I did not write this quote, none could be closer to describing my thoughts.
Text book motivation preaches the revelations of positive reinforcement. Of course this serves the best interests of developing children and adults who need motivating. I understand the inherent benefits of the sandwich approach to motivation (say something nice, give constructive criticism, and then finish with something nice). I believe this method has valuable purpose BUT just like most worth while tactics, if overused it loses it’s power. In todays society I believe the Mary Poppins, nice nanny, sugar coat  everything, to everyone, every minute approach is over played.
Kids are smart. They know very well when something deserves praise. False praise glows like a neon light. They know when coaches/parents are “just being nice”. When overused, this tactic creates counterproductive results. First, if the athlete does not buy into the sincerity of the praise, they loose respect for the person giving it and thus future feedback may be viewed with skepticism. “Wow my coach just told me my cartwheel was awesome but I know my knees were bent, my hand was turned the wrong way, my hips were out of line and I landed out of control” Does my coach know what she is talking about? Do I listen to future feedback?
But what if the athlete does buy the sincerity of the praise. This creates a situation where they expect it for everything… not only in the gym, but at home. Not only for earned efforts but for mediocracy too. Take the praise away and so goes the motivation. I have seen this time and time again. False praise creates a monster “If you don’t tell me how wonderful I am … then I can not function”. It is classic.
I am not condoning sarcasm and ridicule. I am not saying to use NEGATIVE reinforcement (although there is plenty of research to support the lasting impact of such). I am not saying that children and athletes don’t need a “pick me up” boost of encouragement from time to time. I am saying that they don’t need to be praised unnecessarily. Save it for maximum impact.
Self esteem is best served by well intended and worded criticism, advised solutions with assistance, which brings about noticeable progress.

If you enjoyed this blog topic please feel free to share it with your facebook or twitter friends. For further coaching blog topics visit www.TheGymnastics.Coach.com

Posted in Coaching, Coaching- The Little Details, Mental Roadblocks | Leave a comment

Outdistance The Talent Pool

LondonPhoto
Lets face it folks, no matter what our profession, no matter what our goals, there is always someone out there in this massive talent pool we call life that possess as much if not more talent, ability, intelligence or available resources to do the job better. There are people on the same pathway with more charisma, past experience, and financial backing. There are people with better innate leadership skills, motivational skills and technical knowledge. All could do the job better. All could accomplish much more and snatch the rug of opportunity and achievement right out from under those with lesser traits. Luckily most choose not to use these gifts to the fullest. This is where the less “talented” can capitalize (I speak from personal experience here).

We have all seen the athlete or academically gifted colleague who simply squandered opportunity after opportunity as they lethargically marched through life. Things usually come easy to the gifted and this often times creates a “why work harder” mentality. These people litter our chosen pathway and although still formidable opponents(competition) they can be outdistanced by effort.

Work harder, plan better, employ assistance and you will outdistance those that fail to recognize and utilize their blessings.

1- Work Harder- Sounds simple but requires initiative and intension. Adding an hour or two to your work day is an obvious starting point (at least initially). All things created equal would mean that logging more hours will give you the advantage. My wife and I do 10-12 hours days and have for the past 25 years. Keep in mind however that extra time in the work day is only useful if it is applied to areas that will enhance performance and productivity. Develop a plan for your extra time. What are your areas of weakness? Devote a portion of your time each day or each week towards improving on these areas.

2- Plan better- There are only so many hours in a day. There are only so many training hours available. Increasing hours is always an option but I would rather more effectively and efficiently use the time I have available. How can you get more out of your day? How can you get more out of your practices? How can you get more out of your staff? Planning is the answer. Implement systems the create efficiency. Systems where the athletes and coaches know exactly what to do from the minute they step foot in the gym to the time they leave to go home. Weekly, monthly, yearly plans that transition from one to the other with precision are essential if we expect to keep up with the talent pool.

3- Employ assistance- This is an area where great leaders, managers, head coaches put their egos on a shelf and surround themselves with people and the resources that compliment their own personal weaknesses. We can not be expected to do it all. The spotting, the staff training, the organization, the motivation, the disciplining, and more. Having a circle of great co-workers lessens that load and magnifies the eventual benefits of the program.

The secret to success is not a secret any longer. There are no sure fire, quick fix solutions to keeping up with the competitive market but we all have the ability to succeed. Establish a mind set that you will be unstoppable. A mind set that drives and directs you step by step, inch by inch towards the goals you set. We may not all be blessed with the best of all the success characteristics but by adopting the unyielding and relentless use of our limited talents, we can outdistance the truly gifted.

Posted in Coaching- The Little Details | Leave a comment

Cultural Revolution in Your Gym

Cultural Revolution

 

 

History has proven time and time again that lasting change is best accomplished with a changing of the culture. I have entertained coaches pleas for help for years now, with most struggling with finding the elusive answer to why their programs seem to be treading water. They are not drowning, but certainly not making the progress they would consider as satisfying. The answer lies in changing the culture.

 

Instilling and implementing a few new rules, programs, or a code of conduct designed to raise the standards is a  great starting point but change is a marathon not a sprint. Changing a culture within your gym is a painstaking process, the equivalent of watching grass grow. WIth the proper care and maintenance we all know that our lawns are growing, yet it is impossible to see.

 

Changing a culture requires revolutionary commitment to the “new ideas”. This of course does not sit well with those that are comfortable with the “old ideas”. Having a few team members (parents, or coaching staff members) that are not on board with the new goals, will make progress all that much more difficult. The rebels can impede so this requires a firm hand, constant monitoring, and most of all commitment to staying the course. Rebels can be swayed, but only when shown the benefits of doing so. Converting the opposers one by one, is changing the culture.

 

The cause gets weakened when frustration sets in. Coaches or management hit the end of the honeymoon period where members start questioning or challenging the new concepts. Those in charge start to wonder if the benefits are worth the constant battling. Many give up and cave in to the constant assault. This is one reason why few clubs have a multi year track record of successes. They revert to the old, less stressful ways and so goes the culture.

 

I can remember my first day taking over the Great Lakes Gymnastics Club in 1984. I had just finished a 4 year learning experience at one of the best gymnastics cultures in the USA. The standards, commitment, support and expectations were of the highest grade at my former club. I walked in for my first practice to my new gym. It was less than clean, with athletes laying about the gym in sweat pants and t-shirts. When it was time to introduce myself I called for a meeting to start the day. I assumed I would see hustling and enthusiastic athletes eager to see what the new coach had to say. Instead the lazily slumbered to where I was standing. I expected them to stand attentively and listen intently but instead I saw distracted, disrespectful and wondering eyes while I laid out the plan for the day. I assumed that they would get ready for practice by disrobing from the layers of apparel, but most proceed to their events dressed for winter (heck some didn’t even bother to bring a leotard). Two times during the first practice I had parents actually walk out onto the floor to discuss something with their daughters, rudely interrupting training in progress. Several times I had to insist that sitting down during a bar or beam rotation was not acceptable. Then there was the 10 minute bathroom breaks on top of the 15 minute snack break that had become the norm. It was immediately apparent that a cultural overhaul was desperately needed.

 

I changed the culture all right but in the process lost more than half of an already depleted team membership. Changing culture will have it’s casualties of course, but I know now that more of a gradual approach would have been a better course of action. My point here being, that change requires patience. Give your athletes, parents and fellow staff members a chance to grasp the concepts and reasoning behind the suggested changes. Driving the ideas home with a “my way or the highway” sledge hammer, proved to be bad for business.

 

Some 26 years later my gym culture is refreshing. Some say it is a culture of winning but I disagree. I feel it is a culture of standards and expectations and that winning is simply a bi product of doing things the right way.

 

Have a plan:

 

1- Discuss the plan with the major players. Make sure management is on board.

 

 

2- Make a list of areas that need attention. Create policy or a plan for each of these issues. For example: You feel the overall team discipline needs attention. Kids show up late, cheat on conditioning, display immature attitudes and miss too many training sessions. Create a policy for each of the issues. Communicate the “new policies” with staff, management, parents and athletes. Revise your team handbooks to include the new policies. Cover the new policies in newsletters, team emails or handouts, booster club meetings or team meetings. Follow through on the policies if there is a violation.

 

3- Get input from members- Sometimes making them feel that they have a voice in creating new and better policies, systems etc will produce a greater number of loyal supporters.

 

4- Implement changes with a time line. Mass changes are difficult to handle, where conversely smaller changes are more acceptable. Next you may feel your program needs a more intense conditioning program. Use a time line to get to an acceptable point as opposed to trying to maximize intensity from day one.

 

5- Market your results. Often times members won’t even realize the improvements being accomplished due to the changes you are implementing. Let them know what they are. “We just had perfect attendance for our level 6s this week!”, Our team score just improved my .5 over our last years best!”, “Our skills have improved ever since we implemented our new conditioning program!”. Let them know what they might not see.

 

 

I am hoping that the ideas presented above might be of some benefit to you. If you feel they have been somewhat helpful please feel free to share this blog with some of your coaching friends.

 

 

Posted in Coaching, Uncategorized | Leave a comment