Finding The Perfect Gym
Hey people, welcome back from the holidays, and I hope everyone enjoyed their time with friends and family. For me, food is always the best part of the season. Below is actual footage someone caught of me eating at Thanksgiving dinner.
A couple of quick hits before we get started with the blog. First, if you submitted an Ambassador application for GDN Apparel, we have begun the review process of those applications, so please have patience we will follow-up accordingly. Second, we are releasing our gymnast profiles platform (gymnastsprofiles.com) pretty soon, and we are looking for beta testers. If you are interested in setting up a free profile page for your gymnast and be a beta-tester, please submit your information here. If you are selected to be an Ambassador, there is no need to apply for a profile because ambassadors will automatically receive a profile account. Any-who on to the blog. The topic of this blog was sent in by a reader. Her question was, “how can she identify if her daughter is at a good gym?”
Welp, that is a great question, and the answer largely depends on what is the ultimate goal for your athlete. If you are doing gymnastics primarily for recreation, then honestly, most any gym will do. If you are looking for something more, then choosing the right gym is critical to your gymnast’s development and overall success. Although picking the right gym is a personal decision, I believe there are certain qualities all good programs should have regardless of the sport.
Communication, Communication, Communication
Good programs communicate. This includes ownership, coaches and all the way down to the booster club. When dealing with youth sports, you are dealing with the three things that will get “yo ass whooped” by parents. Their time, their money, and last but not least, their children. The best way to avoid getting cussed out by parents is by over-communicating with them. Having open lines of communication also allows for an easier time when having to have an awkward conversation. Below an example of an uncomfortable conversation, I had with a parent on my track team. This conversation could have gone in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I already had an open line of communication with the mother from previous discussions so we ended up in a good place.
It’s not about the money
Good programs don’t coach to the financial bottom line. This is one of the hardest things for organizations to avoid, especially if there is a lot of overhead involved with your team. The truth is there is an obscene amount of money in youth sports, and cash is a very potent drug. One of the reasons there is so much money in youth sports is that parents will pay almost any amount for their child to “look” successful. Once a gym starts catering to the highest bidder, it becomes challenging to run a program with integrity. Parents will begin to question a coach’s motives and decision making, and at that point, the gym is pretty much a sinking ship. Queue that band from the Titanic.
Expectations define Culture and Culture defines identity
All programs want to establish an identity, but good programs understand that they first must establish a culture that fosters that identity. It isn’t very easy to establish a solid identity since before you build your identity, you have to create a culture. To create a winning culture, you have to be willing to lose people. Parents or athletes who can’t fit into the culture have to bounce. At our old gym, Coach Irina would tell lazy athletes, “train or go home.” Parents on the cutting end of that statement would get mad. Some will say that the coach was being too harsh, and make statements like ”I paid my money…”. Parents, you paid your money for the coach to develop your child not to babysit. What the coach was actually doing was trying to establish a certain level of expectation amongst her team. The expectation was simple “you either worked your tail off or go kick rocks.” Over time we began to have a lot of parents leave for other gyms. Watching profit walk out the door is always tough, believe you me, but “not all money is good money,” and sometimes there is an addition by subtraction. They needed 100% buy-in for this transformation to take place. If the athlete went too many days not focusing, then Coach Irina called that parent into the principle’s office. Make too many mistakes in practice if you want too, coaches handed out rope climbs like Skittles on Halloween. There would be days where it seemed like the whole entire optional team would leave the gym crying. Lord forbid, we collectively had a bad meet, mandatory Saturday practice, “bruh, seriously.” At face value, our environment looked harsh until we started winning. Once athletes started showing progress, the buy-in happened naturally, and that is when the culture started changing.
Once the culture was in place, winning became the expectation. The athletes started holding each other accountable in practice. Pre-meet, my daughter’s level would hold a “get ya mind right” gymnasts only meeting where no parents or coaches were allowed. In a nutshell, winning became our level’s identity.
Reward those who work hard and perform well
Fair does not always mean equal. Good programs understand how to incentivize their athletes to compete better. When the higher-performing athletes are treated the same as the lower performing athletes, what is the motivation for lower-performing athletes to work harder? At the end of the day, if you play in a competitive sport, winning is the ultimate goal. Victory or succeeding validates hard work, effort, focus and practice. It proves the coach’s instructions and training. It confirms for parents that their time and money are smartly invested. Good programs understand the value of winning. Consequently, a good program also values those who can help them accomplish the goal of winning.
Coaches own the lost
In good programs, the coach will typically own bad performances. There are times where “s#$t happens”, like an inadvertent fall on a basic skill or a skill that a gymnast has performed a million times with no problem. In those situations, it is no one’s fault just bad luck. I am referring to the stuff that should have been developed and wasn’t. I hate losing. Actually, I despise losing, but for most good coaches losing is not solely an athlete thing. It is an “us or we” thing. I hate to see coaches pass the buck of a lost or lousy performance to an athlete. “Bruh, real talk, you coached that crappy performance, now own that shit.” Whether it was lack of oversight or just all around neglect, coaches are equally as responsible for the lousy performance than the athletes and parents are. If an athlete isn’t ready to compete, then don’t put them out there. Once an athlete starts to compete, the spectators have no clue that that athlete wasn’t focused in practice. They have no idea how many hours of practice the athlete missed. They also don’t know that you went against your own best judgment and put an athlete out there that wasn’t ready to perform because you were trying to appease the parents(ahem). The only thing they know is that that athlete performed bad and was trained by <insert name here>. The good programs value their reputation, and to preserve their rep, they will not put a poor representation of their work in the spotlight.
Lastly, good programs have a great culture among parents. As the owner of a team, I tell my parents at the start of a season that I expect everyone to get along and find something they have in common. It is not an option on my team it is a requirement. We spend too many hours together to not be able to fellowship and break bread together. Our old gym had a great culture for the most part. It was sort of a watering hole for the community. You see it in the way parents would come to the gym one-two hours early just to hang out and fellowship. I talked to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and all walks of life. If you were in the gym then we had something in common. Our kids were either a gymnast or aspiring gymnasts and that was enough to converse about.
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Until next time, peace and soul….