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.

coaching, everyday gymnast, goals, Gymnastics

Teaching Optimism

It’s difficult to fake optimism. And it’s even more difficult to teach it. But as coaches, that has to be our focus.

One of the secrets to being optimistic is knowing that one is in control of her life. For a gymnast, she has to know that she controls what her body does; fate, luck, or the beam gods have nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s her outlook (positive or negative), her preparation (lacking or thorough), her strength (or weakness), her resolve (or lack thereof), and her focus (laser or blurry) that determine her control. And it is up to her coach to remind her of that.

For instance, when one of my gymnasts finishes a tumbling pass (but not the one she planned), and I ask her what happened, I usually get a shoulder shrug or an “I don’t know.” That’s when I ask, “who is in control of your body?” She answers that she is. Then we can have a conversation about control. What was she thinking about? What has she done differently in the past that made her make the skill? Is she going as hard as she can? Is she thinking about where her arms are? What can she do to take control?

Many times, a gymnast’s control is lost due to a pessimistic outlook or response to how a skill is going. This usually isn’t due to one day’s not going well. Rather, it is due to the fact that the gymnast is thinking about how the skill hasn’t been going well for a few practices now, or that she is afraid of a specific skill, or she feels tired, and her self-doubt becomes insurmountable. At this point, her outlook is tainted by a negative perspective and she is fails before she even begins. She loses control of her mindset, and she loses control of her gymnastics.

I have written about “a blank slate” from a coach’s perspective. But this concept is not limited to a coach’s relationship to her gymnasts. It is also important that a gymnast gives herself a blank slate in her mind, day to day.

As a coach, I must remind my gymnasts that they, and only they, can provide themselves with the necessary outlook for success. I can tell them how proud I am of them, how great they are, how much I believe in them until I’m blue in the face, but until they actually believe it themselves, it will never be enough. And the only way that they can begin to believe in themselves is that they must believe that they are in control of their attitude and their gymnastics.