Our optional team consists of girls who are between 11 and 17 years old.
When girls are very young we need to guide them more and tell them what to do most of the time. Otherwise, most of their valuable time and energy will be wasted with aimless turns and non-focused activities.
When they are young, their power and strength have not been developed yet so the events that require more power are harder for them to improve on rapidly.
However, they can improve quickly on the events that require precise technique and timing. Also, they can develop good basic skills and technique on all the events, because they have so much energy.
They tend to learn skills quickly and make corrections easier simply because they can repeat the skills many times and also can take many turns to fix their mistakes.
Additionally, they have another distinct advantage, they can be hand spotted easily when they are learning the skills. Hand spotting is a very safe way to repeat skills many times and it is not physically demanding for the coaches due to their size.
Also, most of the gymnasts still are small and do not weigh much so, when they fall from the apparatus, it will not be as dramatic or as taxing on their body.
Generally, girls who are pre-adolescent girls will listen well to the coaches and they will follow the guidance of the coaches without much doubt or complaint.
However, it is hard to find young gymnasts who are talented and at a high enough skill level to take advantage of all that I mentioned above.
Once they become a teenage they think much more independently and we need to start treating them differently.
The verbal communication becomes important when they are older and they need to understand the logic of the proper technique. Therefore, when they make mistakes they need to understand why and how they need to make their corrections.
Perhaps, asking the questions on their mistakes is a good way to make them start thinking about what is going on with their body and the technique.
Sometimes, corrections may take a great effort to make or it could present some fear. However, if they understand how it will work it should ease their fear and help them make the critical step.
When they become a teenager outside interests, other than gymnastics, grow. Sometimes, the outside interest disrupts their gymnastics and may lead to a lack of focus.
They will be more affected when they start growth spurts and their skill development temporarily slows down. The rapid growth in height and weight will affect the timing of the skills as well as their speed and the power.
Some of the skills that were easy for them to make, becomes harder and sometimes they completely loose skills. Around this time, they can develop bad work habits as well as a bad attitude. They have a hard time finding the success in their training.
Some gymnasts go through this stage quickly and start developing power as well as physical strength in a short time, but some of them really struggle with it for a long time.
This is the most susceptible time for most girls and if we are not careful some of them could lose interest in gymnastics or fall far behind the rest of their teammates.
When you recognize this type of problem, it might be time for them to re-access their gymnastics and re-establish their goals as well. If they can define realistic goals that are attainable in the near future they might get excited about their gymnastics again.
When they pass through this struggling stage while they gain some physical strength and power, perhaps their most rewarding time of development awaits.
They will have a much better understanding of technique for most of the skills they are working and they can achieve a higher skill level than previously.
Hopefully, they feel like they are reaching their potential or close to it and have some success in the competitions as well.
Perhaps the most rewarding and satisfying feeling for us is that when they leave our program with a big smile and appear happy to have been part of our program.
Have fun coaching!