Plenty of people in the gymnastics community believe that the culture of gymnastics needs to change. However, it seems that no one knows how to do it. I was talking to a friend and colleague the other day about how we can go about this change. I had an idea of how it needed to change, but it seemed like a long shot. Neither of us came up with a good plan, but we did have a relatively good discussion about it.
The next day I saw a quote from Elon Musk. It said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
At that moment, it became clear; I knew the answer. It came back to my basic premise that gymnastics is an individual sport, and each gymnast must be treated and trained as an individual. This idea may be controversial to some, especially to those coaches and gym owners who believe that the team’s success is the most important focus.
Let me challenge that belief: without strong individual gymnasts, there would not be a strong team. It is as simple as that. By simply changing our focus to the individual rather than the team overall, we can open our eyes to what is best for each child.
We teach children. These children are forming into adults as we interact with them on a daily basis. As coaches, we are major influences in each of their lives. If we can show them that we value them as individuals, and not merely as cogs in a larger team (what can they do for the team?), then we can truly teach them how to believe in themselves, teach them about how the lessons they learn in gymnastics apply to life, and give them a safe place that builds them up, rather than something that they need to recover from later.
It comes down to this: Change the culture of gymnastics one gymnast at a time. This is what I intend to do.
1 thought on “Changing the Culture of Gymnastics One Gymnast at a Time”
Your premise is right on. When you create the team success as primary we take the individual joy of learning away from each athlete. Poor sportsmanship and alienation of athletes who perhaps do not have a “team behind them” is encouraged. For these individual lack of confidence is bred and usually they leave the athletic arena. I have personally experienced this as an individual athlete who receives cheers but not like the ones from team members who only see their team members worthy. I am an adult competitor whose communication skills enabled me to approach the coach with this observation. Her answer was I get paid to make these women feel like they are part of something. Their individual skill and performance is not my focus. If we do this to our youth we risk low self esteem, isolation and eventually a lack of social skill to contribute to a successful culture. Let each person shine and the team will shine regardless.
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