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Question regarding coaching...style, I guess?

Discussion in 'Men's Artistic Gymnastics (MAG)' started by Curlyfry7, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. I have some questions that I am hoping some more experienced MAG parents can help with. The gym that my boys attend seems to have a very hands-off coaching style. It is something I noticed very early last year during our first year, especially compared to the gym my daughter attends. However, this year, it seems to be more pronounced, or perhaps it is just that the skills are becoming more difficult. The coach rarely spots the boys, and has even gone so far as to refuse to spot. Today my younger son requested a spot on his kip, which he has been inconsistent in being able to get. The coach said that his shoulders were sore, and that he wasn’t going to spot him. (For reference, my son is a tiny 42 lb seven year old). Also, is it usual for there to be no one present for spotting when a boy is trying to get giants for the first time? This is my older son, and he is using straps, but I am concerned that if he should lose his strength at the top, or freak out a bit (he is my son that gets into his own head a lot), that there could be serious issues. When I expressed my concerns to the coach, he acted like I was crazy, and that things would be fine.

    Do these seem like “normal” actions from a coach? I am generally not overprotective when it comes to gymnastics, but the giants on his own are freaking me out a bit. If this is the usual method for them to learn, I will chill. But with our history of minimal true coaching, I am concerned! Thank you!!
    jenjean70 likes this.
  2. Knowing what I know now I would be concerned. My son's coaches used to be more hands off when the boys were learning skills. They would spot but only until a gymnast made the skills a few times in a practice. I think they felt that if they got it once or got it in practice multiple times one day that the skill was mastered and a spot was not necessary and would hinder progression. The coaches are young (MUCH younger then) and lacked experience. Unfortunately this approach produced fear and anxiety in my son and caused his to shut down and lose skills over the course of a season. The coaches would get angry at my son and punish him which caused even more anxiety. I found some books on fear blocks (recommended by people on this site) and discussed the books with his coaches. Luckily they listened and really have been trying to change their approach with my son and the other gymnasts. There are days when they forget and refuse to spot when he asks but I just talk to them and things get better. I see a problem when the coach is unwilling to spot or take the kids through progressions. We have had kids come from other gyms where the coaches didn't spot and let them figure the skills out on their own. Most of those kids did terrible in competition if they even made it that far because of injuries caused by lack of coaching at the other gym.
    Klaws likes this.
  3. So, for the giants on strap, it is common to not have a coach there, from what I have seen, but only after they have learned how to get into the straps and how to get out. (our boys are taught this at L5).

    As for spotting...ugh. Our coaches will spot when asked. They will stand there They will be a support. My son has had to relearn lots of things, and his coaches are very supportive. Now, they do not let it be a crutch, and they will step away asap, but really overall, I cannot complain. (now my son does not really like spotting, but the coach will still stand there on something like his pbar giant, and put his hand on d's hand.)

    I would be concerned about some of what you posted. Seems like a good way for kiddos to develop fears and blocks.
  4. For what it is worth, this is my son's response specifically about spotting in these situations. He did gymnastics from age 7 to almost 15, he stopped when he started HS this fall and wanted to try other sports he could do in HS.

    "The point of straps is to not need a spot. The straps are there to prevent anything terrible happening. It can be scary if you don't quite make it over the top, but come very close, and then swing really hard the other way, but your are not going to ping off because of the straps. The coach should be watching closely and giving advice/corrections etc. talking the gymnast through the skill, but no spotting needed. At first on regular bar without straps, then there should be a coach spotting.
    For kips, there really is no spotting needed because again, nothing terrible could happen. If the gymnast misses the kip, they just go back to hanging under the bar. Coaches might muscle the kid up in that case, but this is not going to teach the kid the kip. Kip drills are best for learning a kip."
    jenjean70 and raenndrops like this.
  5. Thank you for your responses!!! A lot of it is along the lines of what I have been thinking...
    The style at this gym seems to be that kids have to figure things out themselves. In my short experience, that works for some kids, but not others. And while it may work ok in the lower levels, it probably won’t in the upper. The 3 level 10 boys we had last year wer all injured most of the year. The boys are usually told to just go try stuff.....I have not seen a single instance of a drill being performed for anything. If someone asks how to do something, the coach will either have a higher level boy demo it, or show a video.

    For the straps, both my boys know how to get in and out of them (unless there is a quick way to get out in case of an emergency?) but except for the very first time they were shown the straps, the coach isn’t anywhere near them....he is usually across the gym, or on the phone. Today while my older son was swinging, there was one other boy near him. Yesterday, no one was anywhere around him. So no one to tell him if he is doing something wrong, or ways to make things easier or to have better form.

    As for the kip...I am not worried about anything in terms of safety on this one! For my youngest, I think it is just a matter of having the timing correct. Like I mentioned, they have never done any kip drills...They are usually just told to go practice it. The coach asked him the other day if he had his front uprise yet for P-bars.....I don’t think DS even really knew what that was! Much less have any teaching on it.

    My oldest is my one who is likely to develop fear/blocks as he is my worrier. He up until recently had a block for his back handspring.....the coach’s way to handle it was to tell him to go do jump-backs onto the pit mat.......needless to say that didn’t help much.

    It is probably pretty obvious that I am not happy with the “coaching” they are receiving. This gym is very close to our house, and while I am quite willing to drive, there is no point in me doing so if this is the norm. My daughter probably gives them more corrections than the coach does. And he doesn’t seem to ever know exactly what the routines are for each level....on the way to our first meet this season, my oldest asked me (!!!!) what the level 5 non-bonus mushroom routine was!!! Once we got to the meet, the coach had to look it up......
    jenjean70 likes this.
  6. I don’t think this is the norn. If you are willing to drive, why not go watch team workout? Dont announce yourself or anything, just go in and sit and watch) This will give you a good idea of the coaching style before making any kind of commitment to the drive or causing any issues with your current gym. If you like what you see, set up a trial. If you don’t, you only lost an afternoon of your time.
    jenjean70 and txgymfan like this.
  7. There are 4 other gyms with men’s programs within about 45 minutes....one the boys have absolutely no interest in. We have already visited 2 of the remaining, and plan to visit the last tomorrow night. (We have had difficulty coordinating nights these other gyms practice between my work, DD’s practice, and the boys’ practice.) So far, we liked one of the 2 we visited. Once we check out the last one tomorrow night, we will see about starting to talk to whoever we like about details, esp. since it is mid-year.

    We will be going from a 10-15 minute drive to a 45 minute drive, so I definitely wanted to be sure that I was making decisions out of ignorance. Also, in our ar at least, none of the gyms seem to be able to coach both boys and girls well, and I was really hoping to find a place I could put all 3 kids. Doesn’t look like that will happen though....
  8. Hello, @Curlyfry7. A couple of things i'd like to add. First on spotting. Spotting is done for two reasons: safety and shaping. Both are different and both are necessary. The safety spot is kind of obvious. First time on hard mats, out of a belt, etc. Anytime when there is a good chance of a crash. After that, we're into the repetition and refinement stage. This is where the shaping spot comes in to play. Let me be frank. In the compulsory levels, if your coach isn't willing to spot 500 kips, 500 giants, 500 pirouettes, 500 cast handstands, then your son will not proceed at a rate that will allow him to be a competitive upper level gymnast. The repetitions are only valuable if they are done correctly (otherwise you are simply ingraining bad techniques) This is why the shaping spot is necessary. Also it allows the athletes to "let themselves go", to make the subtle changes which may be scary or 10% outside of their current capabilities. A good coach will be constantly assessing and correcting bad positions and techniques, not just yelling from across the gym. Things are obviously different when he is a 140# L10, but not by much.

    Kips can be learned w/o spotting, but it takes longer and the product will be a little less precise. Same with giants. Straps are not a substitute for hand spotting. (BTW strap giants should be done from a hanging tap - not from a cast.) Now, I am an older coach, and I certainly don't spot as much as I used to. However, I'm pretty good at setting up drills to simulate what I'm looking for, rather than blindly hacking away at a skill. Your coaches may be in a similar situation. A good sign is if the coaches use drills or "partial' skills. Then you know he has identified an error in the technique and is trying to fix it (again, don't reinforce bad technique.) If it's just attempt-fall, attempt-fall over and over, I would seriously consider your options.

    Best of luck,

    PinPin, M2Abi, Seeker and 6 others like this.
  9. There are different schools of thought on spotting, some coaches firmly believe it is the best way to learn and other firmly believe that it isn’t. There are benefits to both a hands on and a hands off approach, I believe in a combination, I do spot but not too much as drills are often better and helping the gymnasts hot the shapes themselves.

    But honestly reading your post it does not sound like the coaches don’t spot because they believe in the non spotting approach. It sounds like they don’t spot just because they are lazy.

    If you choose the non spotting approach you need to watch, give feedback, explain, develop drills. The way they are being coached is not just scary it’s also counter productive. If they are just being sent to figure things out a lot of bad habits will creep in and these will be compounded as the gymnast reaches higher levels.

    Gymnastics skills are not just going to happen if the kids keep trying, they need to be taught how to do it. This gym may be the most convenient, but if the boys receive no coaching feedback then you are just paying for play time.
    PinPin, M2Abi and jenjean70 like this.
  10. I call Lazy on your coaches. I watch practice regularly boy and girls. DD is Level 8 so I watch optional practices at her gym bars for the boys and the girls. It goes like this:

    1. Warm up. Tap swings, kips, kip cast handstand, pirouettes etc on own. Coach stands bar bars giving corrections waving hands.
    2. Coach spots and shapes kip handstands on low bar, 5 to 10 for each athlete
    3. Kip Cast Handstand Clear Hip, Coach shapes and sports 5 to 10 for each athlete.
    4. Chunk the routine into three parts. Coach spots and shapes each chunk. 3 to 5 times each athlete.
    5. Routines Meet the assignment for the day. Coach sports from appropriate positions.
    6. Every athlete uses stations while waiting for their next turn with the coaches.
  11. I have to agree with the consensus. Shaping, breaking down skills into components, getting technique right -- all so important at the compulsory level. If my son's coach, who is eligible for Social Security, can spot and shape my L10 son and his teammates, your coaches can handle the tinies.
    PinPin, M2Abi, Lisbeth and 1 other person like this.
  12. Our coach spots when they are just learning a skill. For the younger levels, he will be on floor helping them with their tucks or handsprings. I’ve also seen him push them along on giants without the grips. Now the kids are older less spotting. The last time I saw him spot my kid was when he was doing a pirouette on Pbars, but it was more of a making sure his handstand was good before he turned and to catch him if he was going to fall between the bars. Now they usually work on tumbing bouncy floor into pit or can land on track before they do it on hard floor. Once they are practicing on hard floor, the only danger is falling on their butt because they pretty much have the skill. On high bar, they spot by putting kids in a rubber band belt to keep them from having a bad crash.
  13. All of my son's coaches have spotted a lot from level 4 to level 10. Strap bar it is msotly to teach shape at first. He's done a lot of strap bar stuff without a spot too.
  14. Yes, I have never, EVER seen the coach shape any of the boys. Obviously, that doesn’t mean it has never happen, since I am not present for every second of every single practice, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope since I am present at most of my boys’ practices, and it hasn’t happened. I just asked my oldest and he said he had never been told anything about shaping for doing the giants.

    There is really only 1 coach, and he is the owner. There is occasionally someone else present at either the Friday night or Saturday practice, and they are a bit more helpful, but with them only being present 1 day out of 5, it doesn’t help much.

    I just told my husband last night that this was basically just a several hundred dollar open gym. . The gym does not seem receptive to change, which would basically mean a complete change in coaching method.

    We checked the 3rd gym out tonight. Next week I am planning to contact one of the gyms we observed to try and set up some trial days. I am not sure how bad it is to change gyms at this point in the season, but I have to do what is best for my boys.

    Thank you all so much for your input....it has really helped me clarify my thoughts, and know I am not crazy (well, I might be crazy, but at least I am not wrong about this!! Lol) Any other thoughts will be welcomed!!!
    PinPin, John and jenjean70 like this.
  15. You are fortunate to be in an area with some options! Keep us posted on how your research goes.

    If I were looking for a new boys' gymnastics program, I'd look primarily at how well it does in retaining older athletes. It's so valuable for boys to have some successful L10s on their team who've survived that frustrating period of going through puberty and trying to manage gym through the process. Any team that has a good cohort of happy, healthy L10s who have come up through the program, some of whom are routinely making nationals, has got to be doing a lot right.
    M2Abi, sce and jenjean70 like this.
  16. Wise words KRC. As an ex-coach - I totally agree with you.
    PinPin and krc like this.
  17. There are options, which is better than many people have, but sadly in our state, the gyms with stronger programs are on the other side of the state. Even now, it would be a change from a 10-12 minute drive to a 45-50 minute. The complicating factor is that my DD is at a different gym, and I have not yet figured out how to be 2 places at once!!! Lol. And none of the gyms anywhere close to me have both good boys AND girls programs.

    Any of the descriptions of shaping or spotting...do not happen at our gym. The day starts with a warm up led by a 13 y/o, while the coach wanders off, sometimes on his phone. The the coach will tell each level to go practice their routines and rotate through all 6 events. He will then be again wandering around or on his phone. Sometimes he will ask the boys to show him their routine. Very seldom are any corrections made. Then they will all break into 2-3 groups and have races of different conditioning things, or contests for push ups, handstand push ups, etc. (I kind of wish I could post a video of practice.....you all would either laugh or be horrified, or both!)

    I feel like not only is this not helping the boys, but it is turning me into a crazy gym mom, as they don’t get any feedback from him so look to me instead. I also told my oldest NOT to do the giant by himself, since he hasn’t been taught anything about it,and the coach responded to that by saying my son was stronger than another kid, and he could do the giants just fine, so my son could be fine. I did not feel comfortable with that.

    In regards to the level 10’s....is there a site for MAG that I can search more thoroughly, similar to MyMeetscores for WAG? The gym we are leaning towards has some upper levels, and they have some history of sending boys to the P&G’s, or state elite teams, and just had one of their 10’s sign with a college. I do not know how happy they are though. Certainly continuing to compete until level 10 is a positive sign. For the other gyms, one is a very young gym, so they have no history of anything in the optional levels.

    So hard to know what the best thing is for everyone!!!
  18. Check Meetscoresonline. Most state and regional meets are up on there. It doesn't sound like your guys will be able to progress well where they are.
    sce, OwlGalLiz and John like this.
  19. Coaching efficiency is more important than hours spent practicing. Our old gym had many more hours, but half the time the boys were unsupervised and left to play or practice on their own. The gym has a very high attrition rate and has never sent a kid to Nationals.
    New gym has a pretty solid group of 9’s and up. Kids go to Nationals each year. Practice hours are shorter, but the coach stays with the boys, watches what they are doing and gives them corrections after each rep. I think my son has gotten more out of gym #2 despite the fewer hours.
    It seems tough everywhere to keep boys in gym during and past middle school, so a gym that does is the place you want to be.
    jenjean70 and PinPin like this.
  20. First, when my son switched gyms it means a 45-50 minute drive in traffic. The drive home is faster though. Second, there is one caoch for all the levels?!? That is concerning. There should be someone nearby teaching correcting, keeping an eye out for safety. I still can't say that I've evern known a coach not to spot. Even at camps and clinics they all spot. When I think about it, my son;s worked with a lot of coaches, they are all hands on. Even when not spotting are nearby and engaged with corrections. His caoch now is amazing, when they do floor, and sometimes vault at the same time, the boys are pretty spread out. He sees everything and makes corrections, and moves around to spot all who need it.

    I second looking at meetscoresonline. Most states post their state emet scores there. You can then look at the level 9 and level 10 session and sort by gym to see who has boys at that level.
    PinPin likes this.
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