Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

Coaches as Teachers

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

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