For Coaches Out of curiosity

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Billy

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As coaches, are you always looking for the next elite/Olympic/collegiate gymnast to walk into your gym? Is it your goal, as a coach, to train the next star? If so, how do you determine which gymnast(s) are possibly "the ones"? And what do you do with "the ones"? Do you train them differently than the others? Do you rush through the levels with them or do you perfect the basics for a solid foundation? Do you have a "plan" early on to promote them all the way through? A certain timeline? I know the parent's perspective on this but I'm curious about how the coaches view it.
 
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lannamavity

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Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
As coaches, are you always looking for the next elite/Olympic/collegiate gymnast to walk into your gym? Is it your goal, as a coach, to train the next star? If so, how do you determine which gymnast(s) are possibly "the ones"? And what do you do with "the ones"? Do you train them differently than the others? Do you rush through the levels with them or do you perfect the basics for a solid foundation? Do you have a "plan" early on to promote them all the way through? A certain timeline? I know the parent's perspective on this but I'm curious about how the coaches view it.
There are as many ways for that to happen as there are coach/athlete combinations.

I'm just really interested in what the "parent's perspecive" could be.
 
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Billy

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There are as many ways for that to happen as there are coach/athlete combinations.
I understand. But what I'm interested in is your personal perspective as a coach. Have you ever had a girl come into your gym that just really excited you with the possibilities? Are you always hoping that girls shows up? Do you look for that kind of potential in every girl? What do you do when you find it? I'm not looking for statistics. I'm interested in personal opinions, hopes and perspectives.
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
I understand. But what I'm interested in is your personal perspective as a coach. Have you ever had a girl come into your gym that just really excited you with the possibilities? Are you always hoping that girls shows up? Do you look for that kind of potential in every girl? What do you do when you find it? I'm not looking for statistics. I'm interested in personal opinions, hopes and perspectives.
I have not personally coached an Olympian or World Championship competitor, so I have not gone through that process, but most coaches never do...so I can't give you a first hand testimonial.

I hope all of the girls show up! Not only would I be out of a job, but I obviously enjoy watching them achieve their gymnastics goals, because I don't coach for the money...in fact, no one does!

I try to help every gymnast get to the highest level they want to...and can achieve. The "whole package" or "golden child" who walks into the gym is pretty special and most coaches can pick them out. Some coaches develop vivid imaginations when it comes to a gymnast's potential. Sometimes parents are "dazzled" by a coaches' predictions of greatness and the whole plan falls flat.

From what I have seen working in facilities with elite and high level JO athletes is that the girls who are trainied with excellent basics begin to rise above the rest of the group on their own. I have seen kids who are trained "special" who can't handle not always being "special" even for a moment and quit when the going gets tough.

Kids who are fast, and can punch the floor have the best chance. Flexibility and strength can be enhanced if the physical ability is there...fast twitch muscle is hard to develop if it isn't already a attribute the athlete has.

I figure if they get to Level 10 by 12 or 13, they have a chance to be elite if they are willing to put in the hours and sacrifice their social life. If they aren't on that path, they have an excellent chance at being a great NCAA athlete, which isn't a bad thing to settle for.;)

I'm still curious about the "parent's perspective..."
 
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Billy

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From the parents' perspective, we all want to believe our kid is special and it's hard not to buy into the coach that tells us "Your daughter is the next Nadia! I've never seen anyone like her!" Hopefully most of us have enough common sense not to fall for a sales pitch that uses our daughter's potential and dreams to gain monthly tuition. And contrary to many parents here, I would love to see my daughter take this sport all the way. I think she has the potential to become collegiate at the very least and I think elite is in her future, if she chooses it.

I have seen two types of coaches- the ones that will blow sunshine and visions of Olympic gold, regardless of the child's true abilities; and the ones that won't say anything except that this is such a hard sport and so few make it to the top, etc. Nobody can predict the future, especially when a young child who can change her mind in an instant is involved. But, that's not to say that a coach can't tell which girls may possibly have "it."

What would be refreshing for me is to hear the coaches true thoughts on the matter. I don't believe that coaches don't get excited by especially talented girls that have the potential to be incredible. I understand that they want every girl to enjoy her experience and be as great as she can be but that is not what I'm talking about.

Btw, I have no idea what "fast muscle twitch" means.
 

gymdog

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Jul 5, 2007
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Fast twitch muscle is basically just muscle composition, like if the child has muscle composition that tends towards the muscles working explosively in quick bursts or less explosively over a longer period of time. In other words, personally I can jump but I can run for like, two minutes before I get tired ;)

None of the gyms I've worked at really have designs on anything more than level 10 and NCAA unless something exceptional works out (unlikely). From most of what I've heard about programs that do have an elite track, it isn't like they pick the kids out the first day they walk in anyway. I know a few girls who were elite tracked at regional gyms either currently or at some point in the past, and there it happened once it was clear they were progressing fast in compulsory and picking up optional skills (these gyms don't do TOPs). 8-10 years old. Gyms that do TOPs and elite track would I suppose essentially be going down that path around 7 if they tested the first year, but even that would be after several years in the gym for most kids. Out of a preteam group of girls who all basically possess good physical qualities for the sport, if you follow them over the years some of the ones who either stall out or quit and some of the ones who rocket ahead or just stay in it slow and steady until they are teenager L10s with good skills would surprise you. It's not always that easy to tell because the factors other than physical attributes and the unknowns like injuries are big factors.

As far as picking out what kids have the potential to make it to team levels, that's pretty natural because it's fairly obvious. There's "class" good and "team" good, I guess that's the way to put it really. There are kids who are physical kids and good all around athletes who can go through a L1 course and do the things you do...but they might never get to L4. And there are kids who get to L4 (or 5, or 6) but won't be optionals. In my entire summer classes, some of the kids are pretty young to tell but I can think of about five kids maybe who I think really have both the physical ability and mental focus where if they want to pursuce gymnastics, they could probably be level 4s in a few years.

Out of the entire session, I can think of ONE girl with the physical ability and ability to translate instructions to movement where I'd say she could be a level 4 in a year if someone really wanted to train her there (in this program it'll probably be two) and a good one - impeccable form for a little beginner kid, unusual coordination, incredible core and upper body strength. Just one. Now some who I say have the basic ability could well keep it up, get through 4, 5, 6 and then suddenly be great optionals and pass her, but her potential for performing basic team skills in the near future is great. She's stronger than a lot of L4 trainers I've seen and has the natural great lines and flexibility that tend to bode well for compulsory scores. Do I get really excited, I like to HER excitement at discovering she is so good at something, just like I like to see every kid enjoy themselves. The talented ones tend to especially enjoy it and feed off your love of gymnastics. But honestly it's not that super exciting because 99% of the time life gets in the way and that kid isn't going to Olympics, L10, and a lot of times not even L4, so being extremely emotionally invested at the expense of others isn't worth it.
 
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gracefulone

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I coach at a YMCA, so it's a bit more lax. However, I do get excited when I get a 6 year old who can do a pull over, roundoff, handstand on beam, etc. The thing I hate is when talented girls just don't try. Maybe it's because I had very little natural talent-everything I had was my flexibilty-and I had to work hard for every little skill, so it's annoying to see someone with so much talent throw it away.
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
Fast twitch muscle is basically just muscle composition, like if the child has muscle composition that tends towards the muscles working explosively in quick bursts or less explosively over a longer period of time. In other words, personally I can jump but I can run for like, two minutes before I get tired ;)

None of the gyms I've worked at really have designs on anything more than level 10 and NCAA unless something exceptional works out (unlikely). From most of what I've heard about programs that do have an elite track, it isn't like they pick the kids out the first day they walk in anyway. I know a few girls who were elite tracked at regional gyms either currently or at some point in the past, and there it happened once it was clear they were progressing fast in compulsory and picking up optional skills (these gyms don't do TOPs). 8-10 years old. Gyms that do TOPs and elite track would I suppose essentially be going down that path around 7 if they tested the first year, but even that would be after several years in the gym for most kids. Out of a preteam group of girls who all basically possess good physical qualities for the sport, if you follow them over the years some of the ones who either stall out or quit and some of the ones who rocket ahead or just stay in it slow and steady until they are teenager L10s with good skills would surprise you. It's not always that easy to tell because the factors other than physical attributes and the unknowns like injuries are big factors.

As far as picking out what kids have the potential to make it to team levels, that's pretty natural because it's fairly obvious. There's "class" good and "team" good, I guess that's the way to put it really. There are kids who are physical kids and good all around athletes who can go through a L1 course and do the things you do...but they might never get to L4. And there are kids who get to L4 (or 5, or 6) but won't be optionals. In my entire summer classes, some of the kids are pretty young to tell but I can think of about five kids maybe who I think really have both the physical ability and mental focus where if they want to pursuce gymnastics, they could probably be level 4s in a few years.

Out of the entire session, I can think of ONE girl with the physical ability and ability to translate instructions to movement where I'd say she could be a level 4 in a year if someone really wanted to train her there (in this program it'll probably be two) and a good one - impeccable form for a little beginner kid, unusual coordination, incredible core and upper body strength. Just one. Now some who I say have the basic ability could well keep it up, get through 4, 5, 6 and then suddenly be great optionals and pass her, but her potential for performing basic team skills in the near future is great. She's stronger than a lot of L4 trainers I've seen and has the natural great lines and flexibility that tend to bode well for compulsory scores. Do I get really excited, I like to HER excitement at discovering she is so good at something, just like I like to see every kid enjoy themselves. The talented ones tend to especially enjoy it and feed off your love of gymnastics. But honestly it's not that super exciting because 99% of the time life gets in the way and that kid isn't going to Olympics, L10, and a lot of times not even L4, so being extremely emotionally invested at the expense of others isn't worth it.
This is a really great way to put things...and on top of everyone else...a kid who appears weak or can't make corrections or don't even appear to enjoy gymnastics can stick it out and be "the one". There are too many factors to pinpoint one.

I understand that Shawn Johnson's mother was told by a coach that her daughter wasn't very good at one point...and she's in Beijing.
 

gymdog

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Jul 5, 2007
5,121
This is a really great way to put things...and on top of everyone else...a kid who appears weak or can't make corrections or don't even appear to enjoy gymnastics can stick it out and be "the one". There are too many factors to pinpoint one.

I understand that Shawn Johnson's mother was told by a coach that her daughter wasn't very good at one point...and she's in Beijing.
True. They were told she just had "brute strength" and little ability. They went to Chow, who reportedly picked her out because "she could bounce better than all the other kids." By the way - I just read she had an Apgar score of zero :eek: Talk about a turn around!

Personally for me "brute strength" is actually one of the things that stands out to me. Unless the kid is exceptionally unfortunate coordination wise (unlikely when they're that strong), I feel like that's basically all I'm looking for at that point sometimes (strong compared to untrained class kids, not optionals or TOPs kids). It's pretty unusual to see natural upper body and core strength required to easily pick up correct gymnastics positions. If I have a kid who comes in and can learn a pullover to a reasonably smooth front support quickly, that right there is impressive, even if they don't quite have the idea of a CW down too quickly. If they're willing to listen and just keep chipping away at it, in my experience, having the strength is really half the battle then. Might take them some time to "memorize" the movement enough to execute it smoothly and consistently, but if they have the strength to even continuously attempt it with some level of success, I feel like I can work with that.
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
True. They were told she just had "brute strength" and little ability. They went to Chow, who reportedly picked her out because "she could bounce better than all the other kids." By the way - I just read she had an Apgar score of zero :eek: Talk about a turn around!

Personally for me "brute strength" is actually one of the things that stands out to me. Unless the kid is exceptionally unfortunate coordination wise (unlikely when they're that strong), I feel like that's basically all I'm looking for at that point sometimes (strong compared to untrained class kids, not optionals or TOPs kids). It's pretty unusual to see natural upper body and core strength required to easily pick up correct gymnastics positions. If I have a kid who comes in and can learn a pullover to a reasonably smooth front support quickly, that right there is impressive, even if they don't quite have the idea of a CW down too quickly. If they're willing to listen and just keep chipping away at it, in my experience, having the strength is really half the battle then. Might take them some time to "memorize" the movement enough to execute it smoothly and consistently, but if they have the strength to even continuously attempt it with some level of success, I feel like I can work with that.

I know elite level coaches who have the kids jump from a beam into the pit and pick and choose champions that way...

once again, missing a few other necessary attributes...
 
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Billy

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I know elite level coaches who have the kids jump from a beam into the pit and pick and choose champions that way...
Hey! My kid can do that! Woo hoo!!! She's gonna be a star!!! LOL

How bizarre.....

That is too funny about Shawn Johnson not being talented enough. I guess she showed them, huh? It just goes to show that you never can tell.

Seriously, though, thanks for your insights. I'll probably never be on the coaches' side of the equation and I like to know how you guys think. :D
 

Aussie_coach

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I don't think coaching is about looking for that star. But taking the kids you have and making them into stars. Some may have potential to go anywhere, while others may struggle. But it is about getting each one to reach their potential. I think you are just as a great a success as a coach if you train an olympian as you are if you take kids who struggle with coordination and help them to achieve in sport and life. Success is everywhere, it is just defined differently by different people. You can have a wonderful coaching career and make a lot of difference in a lot of kids lives and never train an elite.
 
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KBT

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My goal as a coach is to develop each kid into the best gymnast she can be. Sometimes that's level 4, sometimes that's level 10. I want to challenge each kid as much as she can be challenged. For very talented kids that may mean moving up very quickly, for my not-so-talented kids it's a slower process. I don't look for champions when I coach. The kids who won't make level 10/elite/get a college scholarship are just as important and deserve just as much attention as the superstars.

Because of my above feelings about coaching, I've gravitated towards coaching rec kids and coaching the JV and under kids on my high school teams. I know some gyms have a philosophy of just wanting to win medals; I prefer a gym that focuses on fun and gymnastics as a base for lifetime fitness. The superstars will always get lots of attention, and I want to make sure the other kids get equal time.

My favorites kids are the hard workers, and some of my fondest memories from coaching high school were the meets where we got to compete two JV squads and the routines of my second JV squad. These kids are so excited to be competing, and although their routines weren't very hard, they're out there doing the absolute best job they can. That makes them superstars to me.
 
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