April 15th, 2010 by Tony

I hope everyone had a successful Regional weekend.I really believe that THE SUCCESS OF ONE- IS DRIVEN BY THE EFFORTS OF MANY.This year was a pretty good year for us. We qualified 100% of our Level 8, 9 and 10 to Regional Championships and at 9/10 Regional Championships we  qualified everyone to Eastern’s or JO Nationals.BUT- No matter how hard we try, we will not always be this successful. As I was quoted in the paper last week, “There are only 2 guarantees in gymnastics, You are going to get hurt and you are going to get frustrated.” The best gymnasts in the world have faced disappointment. “We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world,” wrote Helen Keller. How I wish she were wrong. Disappointments leave us with the unpleasant task of squashing, crushing, and pinching lemons to extract any and all juice.Here, then, are a few of my techniques to turn sour into sweet, to try my best to overcome disappointment.1. Throw away the evidenceAlbert Einstein failed his college entrance exam. Walt Disney was fired from his first media job. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Get it? MOVE ON2. Stay in the mud”The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud,” says a Buddhist proverb, just in case you thought all crap was bad.3. Make a pearlAllow your disappointment to form a pearl just as an oyster does when an irritating grain of sand gets inside its shell, but grab the pearl before the sand gets in your eyes.4. Ignore the criticsSuccess is one percent talent, 99 perspiration. My coaching success comes from the fact that I work harder than most other coaches and make others work hard around me.5. Grow your rootsAlthough the bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth, it looks lazy at first because there is no branching … just growing lots of deep and wide roots. At the right time, though, the evergreen is capable of surging as fast as 48 inches in 24 hours. So are we … if we grow strong roots.6. Persevere”The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.”–Author Unknown7. Don’t rush the processOnly in struggling to emerge from a small hole in the cocoon does a butterfly form wings strong enough to fly. Should you try to help a butterfly by tearing open the cocoon, the poor thing won’t sprout wings, or if it does, its friends will make fun of it.Good luck with what ever you have left!


April 18th, 2009 by Tony

Like any coach I HATE to see any gymnast get hurt. Unfortunately  Injuries are a reality in any sport and it is not a matter of IF a gymnast is going to get hurt, it is a matter of WHEN. Knowing that every gymnast is going to experience some kind of injury that will prevent her from optimal performance in practice or competition should encourage us (as gymnastics professionals) to have a plan.

Injuries can range from as small as a rip to the obvious fractures and torn ligaments and ruptured tendons.  Each athlete will deal with their injury differently. Some have a very high tolerance for pain while others have a relatively low threshold. I have had gymnasts who when they ripped you would have thought that someone had taken a blow torch to their hand and other gymnasts who continued to work out on what we discovered was a broken bone in her ankle.


A coaches attitude towards an injury is so important. You want the gymnast to be able to tell you if something hurts BUT they should also tell you how much they think they can do.

“My ankle really hurts, I think I am only going to be able to do Vault OR Floor. Which should I do?”

If a coach over reacts to an injury then the gymnast will as well. I have seen coaches under reacts to an injury, the gymnast may learn NOT to tell the coach when they are hurt or feel that the coach doesn’t care. It certainly is a fine line.


Following an injury we all want the gymnasts to return to practice and be part of the group. It is good for their psychological state, it keeps the desire to return high. We can all think of an athlete who did not return from a relatively minor injury because of too much time off and they felt that the group moved on with out them.

I like to see the girls back at their normal practice schedule even if hours are reduced.  Speaking to an athlete on their return is a crucial part of their rehab. What is the plan? Because of the nature of women’s gymnastics leg injuries are the most prevalent as well as the most limiting in the gym.  If an athlete hurts her leg, This is an opportunity for them to really make improvements on bars. They can learn to be more subtle with their arm movements on dance.  I have had a great deal of success with gymnasts practicing “mental choreography” for leg events that they can not do (I will write more in this later).

If she has injured her arm, there really is a lot they can do in the gym. Tramp will become their new best friend! There are literally thousands of drills and skills that kids can do on tramp for every event. (Who knows maybe that will be the topic of another dvd!)

It is important that the gymnasts know that EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. This is a set back, but it is also a time to let other things heal. This is also an opportunity to make improvements in other areas.






Your relationship with the medical community is another aspect often overlooked. Face it, there are some out there who HATE gymnastics. They think gymnastics is a form of abuse. I will save my tirade against those closed mined individuals for another time. Find a set of DRs who understand sports and children. The fact that gymnastics is a big part of their life and that taking it away can be crushing. Invite them in to your gym. (give their kid a free trial class!). Show them what you do and that you really care about the children. If they know you and your concern for safety and the individual recovery they are more likely to let a gymnast return to limited gymnastics sooner.  I actually had a DR put a kid in a cast for a fairly minor sprain because he knew this particular athlete WOULD NOT stay off it. This was a great thing and the DR called me up and told me why.

Find a great Physical Therapist in the area. Invite them in.

Every time an athlete goes to see a DR or a PT they are usually given exercises for their particular injury. Start a big 3 ring binder and divide into body parts. Make a copy of the exercises and keep them in the book.

Have some pre-designed work outs for athletes with limitation. Sort of a “Help my ankle hurts Vault work out” Or Bars, Beam, Floor. This will save you a lot of time and aggravation as you work with your healthy athletes.

Proper nutrition is a key component to injury recovery. Here are 2 good articles.

Nutrition as a key player in injury recovery

Exercise Injuries, A diet for recovery

Books every coach should have

April 17th, 2009 by Tony

A few things have come up recently which got me thinking. The first thing leads into the second so bear with me.I have started working with more pre-team and compulsory gymnasts which has put me in contact with a lot more compulsory coaches through out the State and Region. The one thing I have noticed is that by and large they are an incredibly energetic group. They are so eager to learn from anyone.My question is- Are we taking the time to teach them? Are we giving them direction or are we letting them reinvent the wheel?I am currently working on a paper on COACHES AS EDUCATORS. The bottom line is that we must continually educate ourselves and those less experienced coaches in our gyms. I know I will revisit these issues and this blog more extensively.All education starts with a good philosophy. From both the teacher and student.To form your own philosophy you need experience. You need to be willing to make mistakes but also learn from the mistakes of others.Here are a few books where you can learn from the experience of others. Some of these books may be difficult to get but are worthwhile. This is surely an incomplete list. Please e-mail me with your recommendations.   Biomechanics of Women’s Gymnastics. Gerry George. Modern Women’s Gymnastics. Bill Sands.  Gymnastics- How to Create Champions.   Leonid Arkaiv, Nikolai Schilin.  Sacred Hoops- Phil Jackson. Peak Performance- Charles Garfield, Hal Z. Bennett. The Vision of a Champion- Anson Dorrance. Zen Lessons- The Art of Leadership- translated by Thomas Clearly.  It’s Not About The Bike- Lance Armstrong. And if none of those work I highly recommend: A BARTENDERS GUIDE TO COCKTAILS

Coaches as Teachers

February 2nd, 2009 by Tony

Coaches as Teachers.

The importance of Motivation and Correct Teaching Styles in a coaching environment.

One thing I believe most coaches have in common are that we all aspire to be better coaches than we were gymnasts and be better coaches than what we had.

We have to learn from our mistakes as well as the mistakes our coaches made with us and our team-mates.

A few questions to ask yourself-

-How far did you go in gymnastics?

What skills are you teaching that you NEVER did?

Do you have an appreciation for what you are teaching?

You may have TAUGHT thousands of handstand, but each year you work with kids teaching it to them for the FIRST time. You should still get excited by it. Think of the 1st grade teacher who taught you to read- If they can get excited about a student learning to read a basic sentence, SO CAN YOU

-How “good” was your competitive coach?

What do you wish he/she would have done differently?

What would the gymnasts that YOU work with say that they wish you had done differently?

What Makes YOU a “good” coach?

Why are SO many foreign coaches so successful in the US despite language problems?

Do they work harder?

Have greater technical expertise?

Have a better system?

It really comes down to their training.

Not only were they trained to become a master of sport (similar to a degree in Kinesiology (the science of human movement. It focuses on how the body functions and moves.) They then specialize in gymnastics technique, pass a course in spotting.

All this is great but I believe that it is because many are TRAINED AS TEACHERS.  All the technical knowledge does not help if they do not have the tools to communicate.

In the early 90’s Doc Massimo did a survey of all gymnasts  through Olympic games. The gymnasts were asked to list in order of importance what they want out of a coach as well as traits they didn’t like or that were not helpful. What is interesting about this is that is was a cross cultural and international survey. The results were solid with very a very small margin of error.

-Relate to athletes with warmth but not as a peer.

-Minimize unnecessary verbiage.

-NEVER use sarcasm

-Be Fair- with attention and time. Don’t coach over my shoulder

-Don’t say Good when it isn’t.

-Have a balanced sense of humor (not up and down)

-Say “NO” without guilt and “YES” without resentment

-Be willing to say “I am Sorry” and “I don’t know but I will find out”

-PRAISE when they make a correction.

-Catch me doing something right-


The first thing we noticed is WHAT IS NOT ON THERE.

Spotting, drive, motivator, It may be that athletes at this level have coaches that already do this.

The next thing I noticed is that this is ALL taught in basic classes for educators. (Theory of education as well as Education Psychology).

Not every coach in the US is a trained teacher and there are some teachers who would SUCK at coaching.

The BEST coaches in the US are GREAT teachers whether they are teaching gymnastics skills or math.

Take some time and listen to yourself coach. Play a tape in your head of what you said through out the day while you were coaching.

How did you do?

Awareness is the first step.

-Relate to athletes with warmth but not as a peer.

They need to trust you and believe that you will never hurt them. I have a rule, they can come to me with ANY problem, but I will give them an honest answer and they may not like it. You can not coach an athlete without knowing what is going on in their life. How long did it take you to learn this skill? If ever? How hard is it for them to motivate themselves to come in after a full day of school or come in before school? Are you making it worth while and fun?

-Minimize unnecessary verbiage.

Tell them what correction they are need to make without a lengthy speech. (THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS A FOREIGN COACH MAY DO WELL. Not only were they trained with this as educator. They are forced because of limited vocabulary to be efficient with their words.

Give them a correction NOT an observation.

A professional says “you need to squeeze your left knee”.


A parent says “Your leg was bent”

Keep your corrections to a minimum- A GOOD gymnast will only be able to make 1 correction in a routine.

A GREAT gymnast may possibly be able to make 2.

If you give more, they probably won’t make ANY or each one a little.

-PRAISE when they make a correction.

When they make the correction, you need to praise them! They did what you want. then have them try to do the next correction.

If you don’t praise them, they are not motivated to make the next correction.

-NEVER use sarcasm-

Possibly the most painful kind of humor but children do not understand sarcasm as humor. I have said this before, it is written in every educational text book. Don’t do it.

-Be Fair- with attention and time.

All kids pay the same amount and should get the same amount of time. Some kids work harder than others and get more attention that way.

Don’t coach over my shoulder- COACH ME when it is my turn. Not the kid on the next event. If you cheer for them when you are watching me it tells me that What I am doing doesn’t count.

-Don’t say Good when it isn’t.

-Have a balanced sense of humor (not up and down). We all have bad days and come in the gym stressed. What was fun yesterday needs to be acceptable today. If you have big UP and DOWN  then your athletes will always be confused.

-Say “NO” without guilt and “YES” without resentment.

If you say YES but are annoyed they will stop asking or be afraid. If you say NO and they understand why then they are involved.

I told Melissa  that she could NOT do a Yurchenko full alone while the coach from Maryland was there. She understood why. That coach was there to look at one of her team -mates.

-Be willing to say “I am Sorry” and “I don’t know but I will find out”

It makes use human. If you screw up, Say your sorry and tell them what you will do to fix it.

If you don’t have an answer, tell them that and find an answer.

-Catch me doing something right-

If you make 1 person a good example, You will have the rest of your group trying to emulate them and attract your attention.

If you yell at 1 person for a bad example, You will have the rest doing their best NOT to get noticed.

Miranda, “Great body position! Nice straight legs” – look around and watch everyone else straighten up and point their toes their body language saying, “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME.”

If you yell, “Maddie, get your back on the floor, open your arm pits.”

Look around and watch everyones body language say, “Please don’t look at me”


Listen to yourself coach.

Listen to your gymnasts.

Listen to each other

and learn

2009 – a New Year

January 5th, 2009 by Tony

It is the time of year when many of us make our “New Years Resolutions”. We all start off with the greatest intention and then don’t follow through. It makes you wonder, IS CHANGE REALLY POSSIBLE?
Most people achieved their greatest success one step beyond what looked like their greatest failure….. The fastest way to succeed,” IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., once said, “is to double your failure rate.” In recent years, more and more executives have embraced Watson’s point of view, coming to understand what innovators have always known: Failure is a prerequisite to invention and success. Although both companies and individuals  may grasp the value of making mistakes at the level of corporate practices, they have a harder time accepting the idea at the personal level.
What’s crucial is the presence of failure-tolerant leaders– coaches and teachers who, through their words and actions, help gymnasts overcome their anxieties about making mistakes and, in the process, create a culture of intelligent risk-taking that leads to sustained innovation and motivation.
Coaches and Teachers need to  break down the social and bureaucratic barriers that separate them from their students. Engage them at a personal level. You must take a nonjudgmental, analytical posture as they interact with gymnasts as well as staff. You need to openly admit your own mistakes and try to root out the destructive competitiveness built into most organizations.
Become a failure-tolerant leader. Above all else, failure-tolerant leaders  push people to see beyond traditional definitions of success and failure. They know that as long as a person views failure as the opposite of success, rather than its complement, they will never be able to take the risks necessary for success.
Is change possible?  A lot of people will tell you it isn’t- especially the ones who have had a lot of practice with failure. The biggest deterrent to sticking to an exercise plan, losing weight, or improving grades is the idea that we have failed in the past, and, hence were doomed to fail again.

Let me propose a new paradigm:  Failure is Not an option.  Failure is a prerequisite.  Those who achieve success are not those who never fail; they are those who learn from failure and move on.

Pete Carroll was laughed out of Foxboro and the NFL before he became the most dominant coach in college football.

Donald Trump was seeking bankruptcy protection before he made his real estate fortune.

Terrin Humphry made the USA National Team for the first time 1 year before making an Olympic Team.

These are not people who said well, I tried, I failed, I think I will sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself.
They failed, and then they adjusted and changed.

This is the time of year when a lot of us would like to invite change into our lives. We’d like to clean out the cobwebs, suction off the fat, improve our grades and hit our new tumbling passes. But as much as we hope, forces align themselves with the same old same old. It is almost like an echo of the force of gravity.
– Marriages made in Hollywood fall apart.
– Politicians remind us of what they gave up to pursue their career.
– The Red Sox will Never win a World Series. WAIT! They won! And with that is the realization – We are not stuck in the dead on winter – we are just 7 short weeks from the start of spring training!
– JO Nationals is just 15 weeks away.

New research from the University of Sheffield in England tells us that if you can stick with a new initiative, whether it is for grades or workout, for 5 short weeks it will become habit.

The habit of STRONG.
The habit of LEAN.
The habit of CALM.

But to attain this mastery use another phrase, Forgive and Forget. We tend to think this means forgiving others- but the sins we most need to forgive are OUR OWN. They stand in the way of achieving true greatness. So, if you can, try to accept the lesson and discard guilt.

Change isn’t just possible; it can be achieved by the time the pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida.

In our sport change is necessary. If we didn’t accept change we would still be competing on horse hair mats instead of a spring floor. The Beam would still be wood and the bars close enough to beat your hips on.

– Be NOT afraid of going slowly, Be afraid only of standing still.
“Pain is temporary, it may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.” Lance Armstrong.