If you watch competitive gymnastics for any length of time, you begin to notice subtle differences in the athletes and teams. These can be attributed to any number of things, but one of the most pervasive influences on an elite athlete or team is the coaching staff. So why do elite and sometimes amateur athletes seem to coach-hop so frequently? Why did you wait to take that 400-level sociology class until a different professor was available? Same answer: you want the best teacher.
Personalities and teaching styles just have to click, or the best coach and the best athlete will never be able to work together, regardless of the level of their achievement. Discerning subtleties in a coach’s style of instruction is only possible through experience. At the amateur level, word-of-mouth will give you an idea about whether a coach’s style will be compatible with yours, but there’s no substitute for the road test. That said, there are certain qualities every good coach should have, whether teaching tumbling to toddlers or finessing elite performances at the Pan Am Games.
Many top-tier coaches are former gymnasts themselves who understand the importance of a solid foundation from which to build. They have experienced first-hand the progression from balance and control as a young person to strength and grace as an accomplished gymnast. These coaches will teach from that perspective, and it’s important to insist on this in a coach for yourself or your child. Only a coach with a belief in the basics will help a gymnast evolve into an elite athlete.
This same kind of coach values continuing to grow his or her own knowledge base as well. You wouldn’t engage a doctor who earned her degree 30 years ago and hasn’t studied since then – imagine the diagnoses and treatment! A good gymnastics coach is no different: learning how to coach is just as important as learning what to teach, and there is a big difference, though both are equally as important. Insist on a coach who values learning new skills to teach, but also new and improved ways of teaching them.
Few gymnasts respond well to drill sergeants (but some do!). A coach who can inspire and drive an athlete with positive inputs will see greater results than one who is primarily critical. Especially in the younger tumbling classes, a positive attitude in a coach will influence how the child views the sport and whether or not they will desire to continue in it. As the gymnast gets older, a coach can challenge and drive a little more to motivate the competitive spirit. But the best coach will always be an encouraging, supportive, and positive presence in the gymnast’s life.
Insisting on the best teacher means you get the best education, whether in academics, in the business world, or in your gymnastics ventures. Find a learning, growing, progressive, and positive coach and you’ll enjoy years of gymnastics instruction.