Patience: “Finish the Race”

We have all heard the saying that “patience is a virtue”, well no truer expression could apply to the coaching of gymnastics. This idea not only relates to system planning and skill training but also athlete placement.

Sure we all would love to jump through the levels like a frog on a lily pad but sooner or later we find out the that the next jump is just not realistic.

Just when you think you are about to make the big jump … SPLASH!

A couple decades ago I ran a club that was continuously “splashing”.

I wanted to compete with the top clubs like Parkettes, Scats, Dynamo, NAAG, and American Twisters to name a few. In the rush to close the gap, “patience” was not a word in our vocabulary.

Years of frustrating results produced the need for a change.

Then I heard something that struck a cord. It went something like having a choice between “short term gain, long term pain” or “short term pain, long term gain.”

I am paraphrasing a core message that has been more recently preached by Dr. Alison Arnold during her athlete motivation seminars and consults. Since adopting this rather obvious approach to coaching and team management, I have to say the results have been much more appealing.

Short term gain is what happens when we lose sight of patience, when we advance a skill (or athlete for that matter) too quickly. Sure the athlete will love the thrill of a new skill or a new level.

Sure they love keeping pace with their friends, and their parents will love maintaining their social status at the gym. But the long term pain comes when they run smack dab into the wall of frustration or the reality barrier and realize that a little more patience could have prevented the “Splash.”

By using a more patient approach we discovered the obvious… Athletes performed better because they were placed at an appropriate level.

Athletes mastered skills and techniques better because the smaller progressions provided a better base to build upon. Parents were eventually happier because their child was happy and productive in the sport that they finance.

I refer to this as the snowball impact of patience…

“I succeed, I feel good, I like gymnastics, I work harder because I can see the benefits, I progress because I work hard, I continue to succeed and feel good about myself, my parents are happy and supportive and the snowball grows.”

All to often athletes are placed in a position of unrealistic expectations. In other words they are not ready for the next skill set or competitive level.

This too creates a snowball effect but it is a “muddy one…”

“I feel frustrated because I cannot execute the skill or level to a certain standard, I develop anxiety and fear due to being extended beyond my current abilities, I feel like I am failing, my interest and motivation declines, my progress plateaus, my parents become concerned and start questioning the program, and the cycle continues…”

Proper placement of an athlete solves so many issues before they even start (short term pain, long term gain).

Sure athletes need to be challenged and I am all for that, but the art of coaching includes not crossing the line from challenging to frustrating the athlete.

What we also learned is that patience in development will produce accelerated progress later on down the road. Once the basics are refined, the ability to handle the competition aspects of the sport are learned, and the work ethic and standards established, progress will sky rocket!

Our program and others have been accused of “holding back” athletes at the lower levels yet always seem to have some of the youngest athletes at the optional levels. This is due to avoiding the wall of frustration (usually around Level 8) by being more patient with the placement of athletes and skill development.

Remembering that a gymnastics career is not a sprint but rather more of a marathon might help to illustrate the long term gain idea. Be patient and finish the race.

(NOTE:  Want to see an effective Fly-Away skill progression in action and learn how to develop proper shapes and execution?  Download our proven Flyaway Training Video now.)