coaching, everyday gymnast, goals, Gymnastics, High School, Life Lessons

To Any Athlete

There are little eyes upon you

And they’re watching night and day:

There are little ears that quickly

Take in every word you say:

There are little hands,

All eager to do anything you do!

And a little child who’s dreaming

Of that day they’ll be like you.

You’re the little child’s idol:

You’re the wisest of the wise.

In their little minds about you

no suspicions ever rise:

they believe in you fervently,

hold all you say and do,

they’ll say and do it your way

when they’re grown up like you.

There’s a wide-eyed little child,

Who believes you’re always right,

And their ears are always open,

And they watch you day and night.

You are setting an example

everyday in all you do,

for the little child who’s

waiting to grow up to be like you.

–Anonymous

coaching, everyday gymnast, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, success saturday

Changing the Culture of Gymnastics One Gymnast at a Time

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.

basic training, books, everyday gymnast, Fiction, gym rats, Gymnastics, Life Lessons

Gym Rats Toe Jam – All New Kindle Edition Launches on Sunday!

This upcoming Sunday, November 1st is the day – we re-launch Gym Rats Toe Jam! I am so proud to offer this valuable and realistic book series that teaches important life lessons!

Here are some things going on leading up to and through Launch Week:

  • The matching Notebook for Toe Jam is available on Amazon. (Now there are two – one to match Basic Training, and one to match Toe Jam!) It’s a great way for gymnasts to share their motivation for the sport with their BFF in the gym. Of course, the Notebook can also be used to write down goals and quotes for any gymnast’s personal use!
  • Volume 1, Issue 4 of the Gym Rats Magazine will be out on Saturday! Get your annual subscription now!
  • I will be hosting a LIVE Facebook reading on Sunday!
  • There is a new program to help gyms earn some extra money. It’s so simple – just sign up on the website, and direct your parents to purchase the series here. IrisBlu Publishing takes care of the shipping and taxes. We will ship the copies to your gym, and all you have to do is hand them out! All orders in before December 1st will be there for Christmas!
  • Gym Rats Toe Jam will be FREE on Amazon to download the all-new Kindle edition starting on Sunday, November 1st! Be sure to download your copy and post an honest review!

I am so excited to be re-launching my book series. I truly believe that these books are great ways to help motivate your gymnast, help guide her, and help reinforce the important life lessons that our great sport of gymnastics has to offer!

coaching, everyday gymnast, goals, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, success saturday

What is Success Saturday?

In my gym, we have what I call “Success Saturday.” I take the opportunity to sit down with my team groups and talk about the mental side of gymnastics. Sessions can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the topic. Some topics we cover are goal-setting, motivation, time management, and self-esteem. But the list goes on.

I find that these sessions are helpful to my gymnasts. The normal behavior of a child is to come to the gym because she loves it, loves flipping, swinging, loves her friends, and loves her coaches. This is great, but, not too much thought is given to the mental side of gymnastics, even though almost everyone who knows gymnastics will say that “gymnastics is 90% mental.”

If anything, these Success Saturday sessions introduce my gymnasts to the idea that they can set their own goals, create good habits, and be more aware of what they are doing everyday in the gym. I find that just becoming aware of the mental side of the sport can help them in the gym, and ultimately, reach their goals.

I have heard many elite gymnasts say that they had never been asked what their goals are, what they want, or what they want to accomplish. Instead, paths are set for them, and they are pushed along, until they stumble and are no longer able to keep up. Only a handful are able to live up to the expectations set of them. I do not want this for my kids. They spend way too much time in the gym for them not to be the owners of their gymnastics.

This ownership leads to a feeling of control, and knowing that they have choices. This feeling can be translated to the rest of their lives, especially as they grow older and their biggest problems no longer involve whether or not they will make their cartwheel on beam today.

Success Saturdays are a great addition to our training program, and I find that the kids who take it to heart are the ones who reach their goals more quickly and are more successful in and out of the gym.

books, coaching, everyday gymnast, goals, gym rats, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, parents, success saturday

In Becoming a Better Coach

Especially after everything that has happened, and is still happening within USAG, with coaches coming under scrutiny for child abuse – emotional and physical – and with the seemingly unending Covid-19 crisis, I find myself more than ever examining why it is that I coach, and what I want my gymnasts to get out of being under my tutelage.

I want to help them develop a strong sense of self-worth. I want them to be confident in their minds and in their abilities.

I want to help them develop a high self-esteem. I want them to know that their goals are possible.

I want to help them develop their individual character. I want them to be comfortable with who they are and to know that each of them matters, regardless of what anyone else says about them.

I want to help them develop a sense of control over their lives. I want them to be confident to know that they can make goals, set a path, and reach their goals.

I want to help them develop the belief that life is full of possibilities. I want them to believe that anything is possible with productive action.

I want to help them develop a belief that they are more than just gymnasts. I want them to know that I am a trusted advisor for life, not just for life in the gym.

I want to help them develop a love for gymnastics. I want them to look back on their days in the gym and believe that it was worth the time, the hard work, and dedication that they put in.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start. In order to do all of these important above things, I must be present with my coaching, and do everything I can to be consistent in trying to develop these goals in my gymnasts. I must draw on my experiences, remember what it was to be a gymnast, and apply what I have learned through that and my years as a coach. But more than that, I must continue to study and apply what I learn to help develop my gymnasts even further. I enjoy reading and applying what I read to daily practices and Success Saturday. I will continue to do so, and will also develop training tools for gymnasts, coaches, and parents to use to help them apply what I have learned to gymnastics training.

I will be building off the Gym Rats book series by creating a series of workbooks and workshops for gymnasts to learn and reinforce more of the valuable life lessons that gymnastics has to offer.

books, coaching, everyday gymnast, Fiction, gym rats, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, parents

Sneak Peek! Gym Rats Toe Jam, Chapter 1

– Hanging By My Toes –

I was in the dining room reading Madison’s notebook entry between bites of cottage cheese.

Dear Rat (AKA Morgan),

Tomorrow starts the last week of school! WOOT WOOT – No more school! And I can’t WAIT to start going the optional days. I’m so glad Coach Deb invited us to come in extra. Do you know who else gets to come in on the optional days? I hope we get to work out with the girls in the next level up – and what if we worked out with the girls in even higher levels? That would be awesome!

I can’t believe that DAKOTA is coming to The Gym Club in 1 WEEK to try out! If she’s anything like us GYM RATS, she’s really going to like it here! I hope everyone is nice to her. Did you hear Amber tell Leslie the other day at practice that Tina’s back handspring is ugly? I think Tina heard her, too. Geez. Give her a break. Tina just got it! And she’s still in Devos! That wasn’t cool. I wish there was something we could do to get back at Amber for saying that. Okay, I have to cut it short cuz I need to study for my last social studies test tomorrow!

CU2morrow! –Gym (AKA Madison)

“Morgan, get back to your homework! It’s 8:30!” my mom hollered from the kitchen. I don’t know how Mom knew that I was reading the notebook, but she did. I was supposed to be studying for my last math test before the end of the school year.

“Okay! I was just taking a quick break!” I didn’t have time to write back to Gym since I also had to start studying for my spelling test. I brought my empty dish to the kitchen. “I’m so tired of school! I can’t wait till it’s over,” I complained.

“Four days left. You can hang by your toes for that long,” Mom answered. “Let me know when you’re ready for me to go over your spelling words with you.”

“All right,” I sighed and sauntered back to my math book. We had practice until 7 o’clock on Mondays, so I had just a little time to do all of my homework and finish studying for tomorrow’s school day. It was already 8:30, and my eyelids were getting heavy…

“Morgan, wake up,” my mom lightly touched my shoulder. “Get ready for bed. I’ll quiz you on your spelling words tomorrow while you’re eating breakfast.”

I rubbed my eyes. “Okay,” I said as I climbed the stairs to my bedroom. I could see the light to my older sister Allison’s room under her door. She just got home from gym – she just finished competing in her first season as an upper-level optional and was getting ready for the next level. No doubt she was doing her homework. How can she stay up so late? I wondered. I got ready for bed and before I knew it, the sun was shining through my window.

Get your FREE Autographed copy here! Just pay shipping!

The all-new Kindle edition of Gym Rats Toe Jam is coming out on November 1st!

coaching, competition, everyday gymnast, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, parents, USAG, USAIGC

Life Lesson #3 – Kids should be kids

USAIGC‘s “About” page states, “Training Times were created. The USAIGC believes a child must NOT give up their childhood for any sport.”

There are many reasons why the USAIGC limits training hours for gymnasts in each competitive level. One important reason is that they believe that children should remain children. Just as the USAIGC says, “a child must not give up their childhood for any sport.” There should be time for other things: school, friends, family, music, other sports. Do we really need to pigeonhole a child to one sport when she’s seven? Six? Five?

Another important reason why the USAIGC limits training time is to level the competitive playing field. Every gym must limit skill training hours to a certain number per week, depending on each competitive level. This is important in competition in a sport where some coaches require anywhere from five to 30 hours of training per week. Under USAG, there are no limits on training hours; some teams in the same level compete against one another with their training hours varying by more than double the time. This does not lead to fair competition. Arguably, the child training more hours will have the competitive advantage… until she cannot train anymore, which leads us to perhaps the most important reason to limit training hours.

The USAIGC limits training hours to naturally slow the skill-building process so that the toll our sport takes on the growing body is kept at bay. According to Dr. Tommy John, “What we’re looking at is an across-the-board, all-sport, injury epidemic, with kids today finding themselves needing medical intervention at younger and younger ages when surgery and rehab shouldn’t be words in their vocabulary—because times have changed.” Keeping training hours lower naturally helps major injuries from occurring and allows time for important injury prevention exercises.

The USAIGC’s intelligent and responsible training rules help keep children safe and well-balanced throughout a childhood in gymnastics. Participating in gymnastics doesn’t have to require a gymnast to give up everything for the opportunity to be competitive. Rather, by limiting training hours, gymnasts have time to be kids, play fair, and keep their bodies intact so that they can enjoy their sport longer.

Life lesson #3 – kids should be kids!

coaching, competition, everyday gymnast, goals, Gymnastics, High School, Life Lessons, parents, season, USAG, USAIGC

Life Lesson #2 – There is more than one way to get somewhere

USAIGC’s “About” page states that “An Optional Only ‘College Bound’ Competitive Program was put into place,” paired with “Our highest Competitive Level uses NCAA Competitive (Premier) Rules.”

Contrary to popular belief in the gymnastics world, if a gymnast is not a USAG level 10, college gymnastics is off the table. What’s more, USAIGC has actually created their program around the NCAA rules, mirroring the NCAA rules in their highest level of competition.

College coaches would be very happy to see that a gymnast, following the same rules that she would follow in college, is successful at this USAIGC level. College coaches recruit in many ways. One very important way is by watching videos of prospective gymnasts. If they like what they see, and the gymnast fits their program, then the gymnast will be recruited.

Many gymnasts, parents, and coaches are stuck in a rut believing that there is a perfect formula to develop a collegiate athlete. One of the greatest detriments is believing that if a gymnast isn’t a successful level 10 by the time she’s in 8th or 9th grade, then there is no chance for her to compete in college. It is true that the very top schools in the NCAA recruit and sign kids early. However, there are many more schools out there that wait until 10th and 11th grades to recruit and make offers as late as 11th and 12th grade. Like so many other things in life, there is more than one way to get to where you are going.

The USAIGC’s basing its highest level of competition on NCAA rules grooms athletes to peak at the right time in high school in order to develop their skill level, maintain a healthy and injury-free body, and also leave room for improvement over the next four to six years that the gymnast has left in the sport.

When it comes to college athletics, gymnasts must think outside the box. If a gymnast wants to compete gymnastics in college, she must look for a college that reflects her skill level and love of the sport. The competitive structure from which she comes is not at issue; her skill level, health, and passion for the sport are what will drive the process.

Life lesson #2 – there is more than one road to lead to where you are going!

coaching, competition, everyday gymnast, goals, Gymnastics, Life Lessons, USAG, USAIGC

Life Lesson #1 – Individuals FIRST!!

One of the most fulfilling things a coach can do is impart “life lessons” on her gymnasts.

USAIGC highlights some important differences between their program and USAG’s on their “About” page on their website. Throughout this and future blog posts, I will highlight some of these facets and dissect why they are important life lessons for our gymnasts to learn.

1. The Restrictive Compulsory Competitive Program was eliminated.

This may not sound like an important life lesson on its face, but it truly is. By doing away with prohibitive and limiting compulsory routines for each introductory competitive level, gymnasts are inherently treated as individuals. Coaches are allowed to cater to gymnasts’ strengths and teach a wider variety of basic skills, rather than merely teach to perfect a routine. Not only does this allow for more gymnasts participating in competitive gymnastics, it also eliminates the basic “formula” for perfection and subsequent pigeon-holing of athletes at the very beginning of competitive gymnastics. This rule allows for greater creativity and individuality in the sport, allowing gymnasts greater opportunity to build self-esteem and self-confidence because they are able to set themselves apart from others, and focus on their strengths.

Contrast this with the USA Gymnastics compulsory program. I have written extensively on the detriments of the system within which we (our gymnasts at TGC) were compelled to compete. This was the case until we brought USAIGC to Arizona. Under the USAIGC optional-only system, our gymnasts are free to meet the requirements in any manner they choose within the rules. This teaches gymnasts that what they do as individuals matters. This teaches them that there is more than one way to do what is best. This teaches gymnasts that when they perform to their strengths, they are more confident in themselves and their abilities in the gym and on the competition floor, translating to greater self-esteem and self-confidence later in life.

Life lesson #1: Individuals FIRST!