Before you start reading this blog let’s set the mood.
As this gymnastics season draws to a close I would like to say good luck to those going to state and region. For anyone in Level 7 and dealing with vault all I can say is “the struggle is real” and misery loves company so welcome. Anywho, around this time is when parents start looking for new teams and new gyms for their daughters to join. Many of the reasons why parents decide to move on are legitimate like cost and location, but many of the reasons deserve the proverbial “side eye.” After my daughter’s gym closed down we were forced to find another gym and fortunately for us, we were able to land on solid ground at another gym with coaches very similar to her old coaches. I realize our situation was more about luck than strategy. Typically when making a decision to move gyms, there should actually be a lot of thought that goes into it. I decided to write this blog with the hopes of helping parents understand what to look for when choosing a new gym.
Recruiter VS. Coach
One of the main reasons why parents decide to move to other teams is the belief that another program will dramatically improve their athletes’ performance. The standard of measurement that drew them to this conclusion is typically seeing another team at a competition, and the bulk of their gymnasts are pretty solid. Before getting involved with coaching, I would have considered solely looking at athletic performance as a good indicator of the quality of a coach. Since I have been in coaching for over a decade, I realize that evaluating a coach solely based off of performance could turn out to be a bad move because several factors go into an athlete’s overall performance. This leads me to my first point of knowing the difference between a recruiter and a coach.
Before we get started with this topic, let me make a point of clarification. If you have read my previous blog Talent vs Training, you know I do not like the words “talented and gifted” in regards to athletes. Actually, over the years I have grown to despise the phrase. I have seen too many instances where the word talented has been used to replace hard work and dedication. You often hear parents use terms like “your daughter is so talented” when referring to an athlete that is outperforming their child. The way the words “talented and gifted” is often thrown around, in my opinion, regulates hard work and dedication as qualities that have a minimum impact on an athlete ’s performance and that is not the case. I believe parents throw around the words “talented and gifted” because those are not action driven words like hard work, effort, and dedication. Basically, it is much easier for a parent to accept their child not being talented or gifted enough than to accept their child doesn’t work hard enough. Lack of effort, lack of dedication, and lack of focus in a child is also a reflection on the parents(sorry if I just stepped on some toes).
Every coach wants a gymnast with ability. After all the more ability a gymnast’s has, the more creative the coach can be with routines and the more opportunity for success. The difference is real coaches understand that an athlete’s natural ability is just one ingredient in the overall recipe to an athlete’s success. On the other hand, recruiters who pose as coaches believe an athlete’s talent will be the driving factor behind an athletes success. Notice, I used the word ability when referring to real coaches and talent when referring to recruiters. To learn more about the difference read this blog but at a high-level a real coach treat athletic ability as something the requires nurturing and development, but recruiters view talent as either you have it or you don’t.
When evaluating if the potential coach is a real coach or a recruiter in disguise all you have to do is look at their history of work with other gymnasts with the same quality of work as your gymnast. What that means is don’t evaluate the coach by an athlete who is the second coming of Dominique Dawes especially if your daughter isn’t that caliber of a gymnast. If your daughter typically scores 34.00 then research if that coach has a history of turning 34.00 gymnasts into 36.00.
Everything that glitters ain’t gold.
Let me guess, you went to a competition and seen a team with a zillion gymnasts that got first place, and you thought to yourself, “you know what me, this team must be pretty good because why else would everyone want to go there?” Before you jump ship ask yourself this question, how would you feel if you walk into your child’s school and seen fifty kids in her class, you would blow a gasket, correct? Yet, parents are okay with sending your child’s to a classroom(gym) with a zillion gymnast and expect her to get better…and I will just leave it right there.
What large teams tend to do is that they hide individual failure in the overall success of the team. Now, the example I am about to give will cut deep for a lot of parents. Have you ever heard this before (or something similar) “My baby didn’t do so well today….but the team took first.” What this really means is “yea my athlete performed poorly today, but the team did well overall so we are good.” Parents stop fooling yourself, gymnastics is an individual sport, so if your gymnast didn’t do well, then the meet didn’t go well, period…end of discussion. When you see a large team standing in first place ask yourself how many of those girls actually contributed to the overall team win.
Accepting the truth
For parents, seeing and accepting the reality of their child’s current skill level is one of the hardest to do. Most parents look at their children through rose-colored glasses. Coaches are conditioned to see reality, but parents view what their athlete could be instead of their current state. When my daughter did Level 2, I thought she was the second coming of Gabby Douglas. I would sit in practice looking around like “what’s up playas, we up in here trying to get a @#$@#$@# scholarship,” yea not so much.
(explicate video but it is the best vid to demonstrate the point, plus I love this part of the movie)
Although my daughter is a pretty solid gymnast, as the levels get harder, she will need to work harder to stay competitive. If a parent can allow themselves to look at their child through an unfiltered lens, then the parent has a better chance of being able to accept the results of an athletes potential.
Staying the course
Lastly, for any athlete to experience long term success having trust in the coach is critical. Every athlete will go through highs and lows when it comes to development. For example, my daughter is currently and Level 7, and if your daughter is in Level 7 and I mention the “V” word, then you will shutter in fear. For those who don’t know what I am talking about the “V” represents the vau…. Sorry, but I can’t bring myself to say it. Okay, that was a little dramatic but my point is my daughter has a history of doing very well in the vault and the changes this year has created less than desirable outcomes in that area. It sucks, but if you look at gymnastics as a whole, just about every level 7 gymnast is experiencing the same thing. This is where trust in the coach comes in. If their history says they have figured out previous changes in requirements, then you have to trust that they will figure this out also. That does not mean having blind faith in a coach who hasn’t earned it, but if a coach has a history of success, knowledgeable and cares about your gymnast then you need to be like
We ride together, We die together, Bad Boys for life.
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Until next time, peace and soul….