For Coaches Discipline options?

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gymcoachindy

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At my new gym, I am experiencing a few discipline problems that I've had the fortune of avoiding in the past. I'm having some serious problems with some of my team gymnasts talking back, complaining, and even refusing to do something. Actually, at my last job, if I had trouble with a gymnast, I could just send them to the office to talk with the owner or director. If it were a serious problem, we would schedule a meeting with the parents.

The two worst are the owner's kids (11 and 14, Level 7's) -- whose position is, "you're the coach, deal with it however you think is best."

Aside from saying, "I'm the coach -- shut up and do it," or getting upset and yelling, what are some methods that work? I never like to kick anyone out of class (doesn't help anyone), but that's how I've been handling it, lately. Unfortunately, they seem to return with a worse attitude than before. If I keep it up, we'll end up with a team of only 4! Suggestions?
 
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Linsul

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Sep 19, 2008
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I'm no expert on child psych, but the ages you mentioned seem to be right around the time kids discover snarky and sarcastic are fun. They haven't yet figured out how to filter though sometimes. They may be taking being sent away as being labeled 'bad' or 'trouble' in front of their team mates, which would make them angsty.

There's a few things I do. One is snark back if it's not hurtful or inappropriate. I had a girl go off on me about the bad effects of over conditioning once when asked to do her crunches. I let her go off on her long-winded rant. When she was done I said 'You've put a lot of work into your anti-conditioning research, but I don't believe your propaganda so get to it.' She just kind of blinked and muttered in response, but got to it without another argument.

The other thing is to straight up ignore them. If you have to decide between coaching a girl who wants to learn and improve, or waste time in a power struggle with another girl, make the coaching choice. They'll get the message and get to work, or ask you why you're ignoring them. At which point you can tell them that you aren't interested in arguing or having to beg them to workout when there are perfectly willing other gymnasts that are eager to learn. Even if they refuse to do something, as long as they aren't distracting the other girls, shrug it off. Should they question your reaction explain who's competition score is only going to improve for working, and who's isn't for electing to not. It's an absolute truth that you can't make them do anything they don't want to, but with other gymnasts around don't let that stop your world. Not worth it!

Be very vocal in praise when they do well, and don't let any tense moments taint your mood. As soon as something is said, make the decision to ignore it or confront it immediately. Then let the moment pass and try to start fresh with them every time you address them. If they know they're not being held accountable for whatever obnoxious line they threw at you 20 min ago they might be more apt to try and play nice as the workout progresses.

Hopefully that made sense, it's late and I'm tired but I have a baby who won't sleep! Apologies if it's jibberish.
 
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bogwoppit

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Feb 26, 2007
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The two worst are the owner's kids (11 and 14, Level 7's) -- whose position is, "you're the coach, deal with it however you think is best."

quote]

That would be tough. I think I would have a "team" meeting where I would sit all the kids down and tell them your expectations for the upcoming year. Then I would tell them that you will put a system in place where for the first infaction (talking back, lateness, poor team spirit etc) they would get a verbal warning, the second a letter will go home and a parent/coach/gymnast interview will be held to assess whether the child had the right attitude to be allowed to continue in such a priveliged group as "team". On the third infraction I would suspend the gymmie for a week.

Even is a parent/child is paying to be coach, they have to be respectful or the team spirit will be lost, sometimes laying down the law with clear consequences is all that it takes with some kids. Maybe you'll have to suspend one child for a week, but usually kids will step up rather than be thrown out in front of their peers.

Maybe you could also introduce some team activities to encourage good attitude.

I feel for you, teens are hard work sometimes and coaches kids are notorious, at least this coach seems to say that you can discipline them.
 

CoachL

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Apr 9, 2007
217
I would kick them out of the gym for the practice. In our program if you get booted from practice more than 2 times in a month you are gone from the team.
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
I know where you are coming from. I have 20 Level 8/9s all between 13 and 15 years old, and they can be a handful.

I try not to punish the kids when they are having a rough time with their gymnastics, but when their attitude turns sour, they sit out. I have them sit right in the middle of the bleachers with the parents after telling them that if anyone talks to them, they are to respond, "I'm sitting out and I'm not supposed to talk to anyone right now." What could be worse than sitting next to adults?

If it happens more than once (or there is any hint of disrespect toward me), they call their parents to come get them. I don't care where their parents are or what they are doing. If they can't get them, someone else needs to. We pretty much have a zero-tolerance rule there.

Everyone in the gym avoids coaching whatever level the owner's daughter is, for obvious reasons.

As CoachL put it, if they can't follow rules, then they don't belong on the team. Being on the team needs to looked at as a privilege.
 

bogwoppit

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I try not to punish the kids when they are having a rough time with their gymnastics, but when their attitude turns sour, they sit out. I have them sit right in the middle of the bleachers with the parents after telling them that if anyone talks to them, they are to respond, "I'm sitting out and I'm not supposed to talk to anyone right now." What could be worse than sitting next to adults?

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I like that!
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
What behavior do you guys see as disrespectful or disruptive enough to sit kids out or send them home? I'm not asking to judge, I've never sent a kid home before is all. The one time I sat a team kid out was when she was repeatedly asked to do her beam warm-up assignment, and not only didn't, but distracted the girls who were up and trying to get through it.
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
What behavior do you guys see as disrespectful or disruptive enough to sit kids out or send them home? I'm not asking to judge, I've never sent a kid home before is all. The one time I sat a team kid out was when she was repeatedly asked to do her beam warm-up assignment, and not only didn't, but distracted the girls who were up and trying to get through it.

I don't know...the one you just described may be a "send'er homer"...

If I'm coaching a group of kids, all of those kids parents are paying for their daughter to be coached. If one athlete is disrupting the workout to the point where the other athletes are missing out, I draw the line.

Eye rolling, stomping and grumbling under the breathe are just inexcusable...they don't even get a warning, they are sent home.

Upset...as in frustrated and on the verge of tears, I can understand...they go and clean up and return to workout. The ones who sit out are usually talking or goofing around or refusing to make a reasonable correction, and they get a warning, and then they sit out. If they keep talking at that point, they are sent home.

You know, sometimes the reason coaches are afraid to administer consequences (sit out/send home) is the fear of the raging parent stomping into the gym, swearing that the coach is "picking on" their sensitive child. The way I deal with it is two-fold:

#1. Gymnastics is inherently dangerous. Gymnasts can and do become crippled or die...it's not a pleasant thought, but it's true. I think that it is important that athletes learn how to enjoy the sport while paying attention and learning in a safe, structured, productive way. That is the number one goal. I will not allow a child to be disabled or killed because they are screwing around...it's legal suicide for me, and it would just be a sad, unnecessary tragedy. When an injury occurs (and sady, they do), at least we know that we did everything we could to keep the workout and workout area as safe as possible.

#2. I have to assume that parents of a competitive gymnast want their athletes to be successful. Gymnastics takes concentration and focus. This is part of the sport. If a parent wants their child to talk and screw around, they can go to open gym and do what they want, talk to who they want and act how they want.

Open gym generally doesn't produce strong competitiors...that's why we have WORKOUTS. Lack of concentration and focus is something that is learned during workout, not at a meet. It is very unlikely that an athlete will be successful in competition if they don't know how to workout, especially as they move up through the levels.

If that is the basis, I can always go back to it. How can a parent or athlete argue? What...they think it's fun to break their neck or suck at a meet? If so, then maybe they need to go to another gym.
 
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gymch34

Member
Aug 2, 2008
322
east coast
Lol- lannamavity I think we are long lost twins seperated at birth! Sometimes I go to answer a questions and you have already responded- saying something exactly like I would! I bet our atheltes would be scared to know there are 2 of us out there!!!!!! LOL!
 

iluvgym

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Feb 6, 2008
139
Well said! I despise eye rollers, foot stompers and those who mumble under their breath with a passion. I ask them if they have something to say they need to use their words and tell me. It's okay to even say something I disagree with, and in that case I'll explain to them why I think they're wrong and that they need to basically go do their assignment.

All of these things are an even bigger problem when the parents seem to think that that behavior is okay. "She's expressing herself" "She's venting" I understand kids making a bad choice regarding how they behave but parents shouldn't be ok with it. Have you ever heard "When you made my daughter sit out you hurt MY feelings?" What the heck? This is one out of 100 parents, though, as most parents will be glad to have some help in keeping their preteen or teenager on the right path!
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
Lol- lannamavity I think we are long lost twins seperated at birth! Sometimes I go to answer a questions and you have already responded- saying something exactly like I would! I bet our atheltes would be scared to know there are 2 of us out there!!!!!! LOL!

We're well-trainied, die-hard coaches...ie. crazy people.:eek:
 

CoachL

Member
Apr 9, 2007
217
I will never forget the day that the girl that had the WORST attitude/work ethic rolled her eyes at me and mumbled something, I went friggin BALLISTIC. I told her to get out of the gym, and she refused and sat down on the tumbl trak. That is the only time I've actually ever really yelled at a child...she was sitting there saying "you can't tell me what to do" blah blah, and refused to leave. So I picked her up over my shoulder and marched her to the front desk and called her parents. Her mother is the booster club president and when she came in she asked the girl what she did...and she actually had the nerve to repeat exactly what she said. The mothers jaw dropped and she smacked her rear end so hard like 4 times I was sure she wouldn't sit down for a week. The next practice she came in with a notebook filled with "I will respect and not back talk my coaches ever again" She had to write that 2000 times before her mother would let her come back to the gym.

To this day that is my favorite mother.
/end story
 

Linsul

Active Member
Sep 19, 2008
876
Pripyat
I don't know...the one you just described may be a "send'er homer"...

If I'm coaching a group of kids, all of those kids parents are paying for their daughter to be coached. If one athlete is disrupting the workout to the point where the other athletes are missing out, I draw the line.

Eye rolling, stomping and grumbling under the breathe are just inexcusable...they don't even get a warning, they are sent home.

Upset...as in frustrated and on the verge of tears, I can understand...they go and clean up and return to workout. The ones who sit out are usually talking or goofing around or refusing to make a reasonable correction, and they get a warning, and then they sit out. If they keep talking at that point, they are sent home.

You know, sometimes the reason coaches are afraid to administer consequences (sit out/send home) is the fear of the raging parent stomping into the gym, swearing that the coach is "picking on" their sensitive child. The way I deal with it is two-fold:

#1. Gymnastics is inherently dangerous. Gymnasts can and do become crippled or die...it's not a pleasant thought, but it's true. I think that it is important that athletes learn how to enjoy the sport while paying attention and learning in a safe, structured, productive way. That is the number one goal. I will not allow a child to be disabled or killed because they are screwing around...it's legal suicide for me, and it would just be a sad, unnecessary tragedy. When an injury occurs (and sady, they do), at least we know that we did everything we could to keep the workout and workout area as safe as possible.

#2. I have to assume that parents of a competitive gymnast want their athletes to be successful. Gymnastics takes concentration and focus. This is part of the sport. If a parent wants their child to talk and screw around, they can go to open gym and do what they want, talk to who they want and act how they want.

Open gym generally doesn't produce strong competitiors...that's why we have WORKOUTS. Lack of concentration and focus is something that is learned during workout, not at a meet. It is very unlikely that an athlete will be successful in competition if they don't know how to workout, especially as they move up through the levels.

If that is the basis, I can always go back to it. How can a parent or athlete argue? What...they think it's fun to break their neck or suck at a meet? If so, then maybe they need to go to another gym.

I think I've been fairly lucky as far as having even-tempered team kids to coach so far! I agree with you in your reasons to administer a punishment, and your reasons why coaches sometimes don't (but should!) are right on.

The beam girl incident I brought up actually did bring on some parent rage, and it floored me! That day specifically their beam/floor coach was out, and the parents and kids knew that. After the warm-up they were told they were going to be split into 2 groups, and have a warm-up for each event before I got to them. I asked them to be focused and patient etc, and everything seemed fine. Anyway, I gave the girl in question 2 warnings, and told her the next she'd be in the office. When her parents arrived to pick her up, they were actually angry that she was in the office because 'anyone could walk in and grab her.' Nevermind the fact that there was 3-4 office staff that were all aware of the situation, and she was sitting well away from the front doors. I was thinking some pretty choice things I couldn't actually say at that reaction.

I find that it's rec kids I actually have to separate or sit out most often. Once, a kid bit another kid. The mom tried to write it off as 'boys will be boys!' but the mother of the kid who got bit wasn't buying it. The most aggravating situation with rec was the time I got 3 kids that were friends in the same class. Everything was fine until they decided it was awesome to drag each other off beams and see who could fall the most dramatically. Dangerous, distracting, counter-productive to actually learning the event...but the parental response was 'let them play they're friends!' Seriously I wanted nothing more than to give her directions to the nearest local park. Opted for a safety lecture instead.
 
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gymcoachindy

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Thanks, everyone! I've got some ideas, but hopefully won't have to 'go there.' We had a team meeting last night and discussed 'respect' and 'dedication,' among other things. One of the new "test" rules regards shorts (lycra or otherwise) -- which have become the de-facto staple fashion for the team. The rule states that the acceptable 'uniform' for gymnastics practice is a leotard, period. This elicited some groans and unhappy looks from the older girls, but not much else.

(This stems from an incident last Saturday where, at a Level 1-3 "fun" meet, our team was one of three invited to do a five-minute demo prior to the start of the meet. When it came time for our warm-ups, three of the older girls, who had on lycra shorts and their leos rolled down to their waist (with a sports bra), refused to take off their shorts before going onto the floor. After threatening to cancel their performance, the took them off "with an attitude" and pulled up their leo. Prior to that, I had told them lycra shorts were okay, but loose shorts were a no-no on bars or if I were spotting them on something -- which led to more than one of the girls being sent to conditioning for "forgetting" her other shorts.)

We'll see what happens tonight when team practice starts.
 
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CoachL

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Apr 9, 2007
217
I personally don't mind if the girls wear shorts as long as they don't get in the way when I'm spotting. Teenage girls can get pretty self concious about their body type and I prefer not to argue over simple things like that.
 
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LasswadeCoach

Guest
I have a similar problem, but only with one gymnast

She can have an attitude problem, but I think that is because she happens to be my sister!!

Sometimes I feel the best way to get at them is to ignore them, if they give you cheek and attitude, just walk away and coach someone else, they are usually doing this to get attention, if nobody gives them it, then they will soon get bored!

Good luck!
 

Anna

New Member
Jun 20, 2007
41
Sydney, Australia
Oh, discipline issues. How I love them!

I'm a school teacher as well, so it's amazing the difference from the sweet-and-lovely coach I was two years ago to now. I'm still sweet and lovely, but I'm so much stricter, firmer and happy to sit a kid out. I love scaring a kid with being all silly, funny and humerous and then getting them busted big time!

I work on the policy of the kids have to want to be there, and they have to want to do the work. If they do, that's fantastic, and I'll coach them the best I can. They're eligible for nationals at their age and level.

If they don't want to be there, they don't have to be. They know where the door is. I can't do the work for them, and I'm not going to bother if they're not going to try. The onus is always on them. Luckily we rarely have athletes who are there because their parents make them!

All of my gymnasts know this, as do all of our athletes in the trampoline program. As a result we achieve some pretty amazing results at state, national and international level as well as have a LOT of self motivated gymnasts!

I sit kids out routinely - for not listening mainly. If I have to repeat an instruction more than once; if they're not paying attention; and if they're getting too silly and need to calm down. They know. 5 minutes, and then they have to come back and tell me WHY I sat them out. Generally that fixes things.

We also have a rule of no crying in the gym, especially at competition. Everyone knows you are not allowed to cry unless you are injured; if you are too injured to train, then you don't come to training. If you cry at comp, no one is allowed to talk or comfort you. Our squad with young teenage girl has the rule that if you cry you get sent home - I've never actually ever seen anyone get sent home.

I've never had to send a gymnast home (thankfully), although I coach alongside other coaches (esp. MAG) who will send kids home 2 days a week (for the wrong reasons). Generally if I sit the kids out I'll mention it to the parents that day so they were aware...I have a lot of hyperactive kids, so the parents are pretty understanding.

To the other coach who mentioned respect with teenage girls and especially the shorts - oh, believe me, I understand. Our level 6s drive me NUTS. They could be so much better than what they are - yet they're lazy, they stand around instead of being efficient, they eat chocolate before every training and then wonder why they're not comfortable in a leo infront of everyone else...SO. FRUSTRATING.
Eventually they do get past this stage. But please understand how much of a self image issue it is to not be wearing shorts. I remember when I was 14, I could count the ribs (as in I was thin enough that they just showed through my stomach), and yes I had a butt and thighs, but I still thought I was fat. Their minds are so screwed up as to how they perceive themselves, and they don't know it's NORMAL to have body fat and jiggle and cellulite and have hips and periods. Their bodies are changing and for once, they're not the skinny little gymnast they were last year.
Two things that can really help - encourage them that they are normal and reassure them that it's about who they are, not what they look like (i.e. everything anti to what the media says), and secondly just include a stack more conditioning and fitness training. 100 skips between each strength item does wonders!

Wow, long post.
 
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gymcoachindy

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I personally don't mind if the girls wear shorts as long as they don't get in the way when I'm spotting. Teenage girls can get pretty self concious about their body type and I prefer not to argue over simple things like that.

Exactly -- if they're that self-conscious in a gym full of gymnasts, how will that affect her perfomance at a meet, where there may be hundreds of people?

Anyway, Tuesday's practice went well with the exception of one older girl (owner's older daughter) whom I sat down because she came in wearing shorts and a sports bra (no leo). About an hour later, her mom came to me and told me she had the shorts on because she was on her period and uses pads (for religous reasons). Ummmm, okay -- so, after explaining to her that it's a problem she needs to solve, soon, I let her back in class.

Last night, however was a different scene. Four of the older girls had shorts on. When I told them to take them off, two complied, but one refused, saying she had stretch marks on her hips and didn't feel comfortable. So, I took the group over to a poster I had them make a few weeks ago that had word describing gymnastics (such as: graceful, scary, difficult, etc.) and asked if she saw the word "comfortable" anywhere in that list of 40+ words. She and one of the other girls said, "No, but it's hard to concentrate when we feel uncomfortable." I said, "EXACTLY! You need to get used to it and be able to focus on what you are doing and not how you look or who's looking at you." One of the other girls said their last coach always had them practice without shorts for a few days before a meet, that was more reasonable, and they would do that. I asked, "So, if YOU decide that it's reasonable, then you'll follow the rules? Sorry, but you don't have that choice." Anyway, this went on for a few minutes too long and I finally told her to sit down if she's not going to follow the rules. The owner's daughter followed her and said, "I'm going to be with my friend." Another followed. So, the 10 remaining team members and I had a good practice, but this is far from over. It's turning into a power struggle and wasting a lot of time. I'm getting very frustrated with the whole thing. I'm their fourth coach in less than three years and think I see why.

I really don't care what they wear as long as it's safe; but, this "shorts" thing has apparently gone on so long with previous coaches that it's gotten to the point of being neurotic. It's less about the shorts and more about discipline and commitment. This also just shows me who is willing to overcome their fears and hang-ups to become a better gymnast -- in other words, dedication and effort. If it's not the shorts, what's next?

(Did I mention that I'm the fourth coach in less than three years?)
 

Aussie_coach

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I worry about a rule of no crying in the gym. Crying, especially in female kids and teens is not a sign or weakness or a form of manipulation. It is often an essential release. Many females between the ages of about 10-16 have little to no control over their tears anyway. Their bodies have all these new hormones and they don't yet have the skills to deal with them.

Tears in the gym are often a sign of passion, a child would only cry if they really cared about what they were doing. A kid who doesn't care if they don't get that skill, or if their performance didnt go as well as it should have won't cry. A child who cares deeply about it will.
 

Aussie_coach

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I personally believe that we push many kids out of the sport because of the leotard thing. It's not just a body image thing, but girls are experiencing mentruation often for the first few times. As an adult you deal with a period the same way you deal with anything, but for a young teen it is a very traumatic and complicated experience. Some kids will not be preprared to wear a tampon, some kids will not be allowed to wear a tampon, some will be far to frightened, others will wear one but fear it wont work. Most of these kids are so worried about their periods that they would prefer to sit the whole lesson out rather than face wearing just a leotard.
 
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