Passion to profession.
Many young coaches enter into the coaching profession through the same pathway. They may have been a competitive gymnast themselves, been at their club for many years have a love and passion for the sport and as they turn 15-16 years old getting paid to coach seems far more appealing than flipping burgers at McDonalds. This pathway has been repeated throughout gym clubs around the world for years and will continue to repeat. It also makes sense as any head coaches already knows that the young coach understands the fundamentals of how the club operates, may already know the kids they will be coaching and usually competitive gymnast are good at following instructions it’s a match made in heaven!
However there are few common mistake that are repeated throughout this process that can at times limit the development of young passionate coaches. As a sport if we can recognise some of these I believe we can foster truly amazing coaches who will become lifelong coaches who can contribute the the further developed of clubs and the sport. Here are a few of the most common mistakes I believe hinder young coaches.
Young coaches follow the mold.
I myself fell into this trap! As a competitive gymnast you have a true respect for your own coach and have most likely been coached a certain way for your entire competitive life. So when they start coaching it make sense that they will follow the same style as their own coach or mentors. However I believe we don’t encourage young coaches to take the principals that have been instilled into them by their own coaches and mix it up a bit and give it their own twist. If we could encourage this more and embrace that fact that not all their ideas are going to work but give them the opportunity to try and fail rather than just follow the path that’s already been laid. You never know! Young coaches can bring a youthfulness and enthusiasm and may even teach their mentors a thing or two!
No development in skills outside of gymnastics.
As mentors or head coaches we focus on teaching young coaches the key gymnastics progressions and safety techniques. Don’t get me wrong this is extremely important, however it is only one side of the coin. We rarely teach young coaches positive behavior management strategies, how to inspire and motivate children, lesson structures, first aid, coaching philosophies and how to engage with parent and college as a young professional. There is so much more to becoming a great coach than just the gymnastics knowledge. However we often neglect to discuss these other aspects of the job with young developing coaches and often leave them to work it out for themselves. The best advice I was given as a young coach was “you need to be a entertainer, put on a show for the kids and they will love you and keep coming back”. This has always stuck with me and been far more valuable than any handstand drill.
In a three hour shift when you role from one class to the next there is often not much time to reflect or discuss the lesson you just ran. However this can be extremely important in developing young coaches. We should encourage young coaches to reflect on what went well in the lesson, what went wrong and how would you do it differently next time. For example we have all at times had the bars set too high for our students or the mat we needed on the other side of the gym and as we fix these problem the class runs wild. Encourage young coaches to develop this skill of self reflection and share with others in the gym what is working and what is not. There can often be a fear of admitting “that lesson did not go well”, however this should be encouraged and as a team work together to find out why and fix it as a team. You will find that coaches will start to provide their own development and it will filter through your gym and things will run smoothly.
Many young coaches will work for 4-6 years as they go through university or school, but if these early years of coaching provide a positive experience you will find that they will become lifelong coaches. This will not only benefit your own club but the wider gymnastics community. The more the merrier when it comes to quality coaches.