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For Coaches Toddler Gymnastics ideas & techniques! Need advice & can give advice. IM A COACH!!

Da.bomb.diggity

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Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 22, 2020
4
36
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USA
I have been working with all age groups in gymnastics as a gymnastics coach for a little over 15 years. I mostly work with toddlers & other younger children. Those are the ages that I feel I do the best with since I am great with kids. I think they see me as a big kid, not only because I am a kid at heart and act like a kid lol, but I am also just 4 ft. 8 inches. Haha. Anyway, I wanted to make a post about toddler classes to give advice & take advice. I worked in Kentucky at a gym since 2006, & in 2011 I did my own gymnastics lessons at different schools and local rec center as well as work for a friends business. I moved to Tennessee a couple years ago & started working at a gym there. I am over and in charge of managing most of the toddler classes there. They do things a lot different. For one, the gym I worked at before in Ky. wasnt that big. We did a little beam and bar but it was mostly just floor work. So, I have learned a lot at this new place when it comes to the different levels, beam, bar, vault, etc. I have also learned the different names of things. There are times I feel like they don't run the toddler classes properly. I know the parents seemed very happy that I was there. They said it was something new and fresh and I did really great with the little ones. I try to use some of my techniques that I had prior before coming to the new place and also be mindful and respectful of how the owner/boss wants me to do things as well. I do get frustrated at times because I feel like he doesn't have faith in me. He says i don't take or like constructive criticism very well. It isn't that at all. I don't mind to take criticism, but only if it seems logical or if I was actually doing anything wrong.
I feel that toddlers, ages 2-5, give or take a little younger or a little older not only have a short attention span, but they are still growing and developing motor skills. So, I believe that toddler classes should be ran and done a bit different than the other classes with older kids or higher levels. Now there are some exceptions. Each individual child learns differently and at a different pace. Sometimes you can find a 4 or 5 year old that will achieve certain skills & be better at that skill than an older child. There are also 2 & 3 year olds that may be more advanced than others their age. So I think that needs to be taken into consideration as well & if needed have toddler classes for more advanced toddlers. But this is how I think the average toddler class should be ran & the type of skills, & techniques that should be used. I think toddler classes should allow parents to sit in class with them if needed (it should be an option depending on how well the child listens and takes direction and instruction. Using carpets or mats are great so they can stay sitting on their, "magic carpets" if they aren't practicing on a station/skill or with their coach. During stretching & warm ups I think singing songs with them to make stretching more interesting or "fun" is a great way to keep their attention. Using different "fun" or unique words for certain positions or skills helps them to remember and makes it more fun and interesting. An example would be the squat position for their forward rolls. I call it a popcorn, snowball (during winter), and so on. Or when they are standing in their lunge for a cartwheel, I call it the good guy bad guy! And dont let the good guy catch the good guy. Anyway there are many different words that I use. I even call their hands pizza so they can smash their cheese pizza on the floor. I always make for sure to change it up every few minutes because they get bored easily. Since they are little they dont quite understand how to take direction or stay on task. So I wouldn't want to spot them in a cart wheel and then tell them to continue down the mat on the stations or obstacle course until they get to the end, then go to the next station or teacher. Lol more than likely they will end up in zig zag, running around, rolling on the floor, pushing one another or bumping into each other trying to do something at the same station. My boss tells me to keep them busy (which I do), but he acts like they can take direction like the older kids. He also doesn't want me to go "in depth" as he calls it and he also doesn't want me to use any of the equipment such as the cartwheel mats, hands, or anything that would be useful. He expects me to tell them to do a cartwheel and them just do it. Or he just wants me to put a fold up mat and have them start on one side, put their hands on the mat and jump over it to the other side for their cartwheel. That is the most "in depth" he thinks it should be. He doesn't want me to let them do wall work (which I find helpful). Walking their feet up the wall, smashing their hands on the floor. Or to go backwards over a mail box to have straight arms, stay off head and pull legs over to land on feet. Today he told me not to use any equipment. To have them to forward rolls all the way down the mat, have a teacher at other end to do backrolls, then keep doing that to keep them going. Then next to worm on their cart wheels (not spotting them or using any helpful stations or equipment), then round offs (how and why if they cant even doing their cart wheel yet), then he wanted them to do lever hand stands, front lembers and backbend kick overs!! These were 2 and 3 year olds. Until they are about 5 years old, their arms aren't even long enough to be off their head in a back bend. Granted, there are some who can be off their head, but for the most part it isimpossible. I feel they need to be put in groups & rotate those groups(a teacher at each station). I feel, "in depth" (using different stations & drills that will help them develop their motor skills for a specific skill) cartwheels, forwards & backward rolls, handstands against wall (walking feet up wall, hold it, stay off head and sing abc's), and so on with a lot of repetition is what is needed. I have been teaching for 15 years or longer, not to mention I have taken courses about child development and psychology in college. He has too high of expectations for them (which is fine to a certain point). He also doesnt see that he isn't giving me constructive criticism. Instead he is taking away from what I do best. It's almost like he doesnt want them to learn or he doesnt want parents to see me as a good coach. Or maybe he really believes he knows what he is doing when it comes to babies/toddlers. I never see him work with any of them. I only see him work with his 3 oldest team girls. Once I had 7 or 8 2 and 3 year olds by myself & it got a little hectic and overwhelming for me that day. He wasnt doing anything but walking around watching the other coaches teach their classes and talking with parents. I asked for help & he stopped, looked around and said, "I don't have anyone for you to help you." Lol then once he came to a class & said in front of me to a 3 year old, "you should already be doing your cartwheel by now so come here and let me help you." It was funny to watch actually. This little girl is a character anyway. I love her to death but shes wild as a buck. He was sweating, and you could see him getting anxious. The whole time I was think, "yeah buddy! You ain't gonna get her to do it any sooner or better." This little girl is precious and rotten. But I cant tell she is struggling with some basic motor skills. She gets off balance easier & it's hard for her to have straight arms and to stay on her feet. She also gets distracted easier. I have to say her name 20 times to even get her to look at me for a second. I cant blame the little ones they cant help it. When the older kids are practicing their routines, the music is blasting (they cant hear me talk), & their attention isn't on me, it's on them. I don't know what to do. I am almost afraid to talk to him about it because he makes me feel like I'm clueless & uneducated or something. He makes it well known he can't stand cheerleaders, and I use to cheer in high school. He says gymnastics is harder and cheerleaders don't know anything. He is dead serious about it too. I find it kind of rude considering some of his clients are cheer teams. I get it is his business but when it comes to the toddlers I honestly don't think he is very good at it. If I had money like him I would open my own gym, but I dont. He takes things out on me and has admitted to it when he talks to my gf. He has gotten mad at me for being sick with a fever of almost 103 & needing to leave. I feel like he belittles my abilities or knowledge of how I teach. I wish I could explain more. Any advice? I also thought this would help some coaches and/or parents with ideas! Thanks!! Hope to get a discussion going.
 

Da.bomb.diggity

New Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 22, 2020
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I also wanted to add that I mean no disrespect to my boss or anyone else. I am truly just concerned because I really love working there and working with the kids. I think I just need more affirmation of appreciation or to hear more things and thanks to what I do right instead of feeling like i am only getting what i am doing wrong. (I know my teaching technique is not wrong though). I know it seems like I am tooting my own horn, but I have been coaching toddlers for 15 years or more. It always worked in Kentucky and the kids and their parents always praised me. The parents give me praise here as well. I know that ppl have different opinions and there will always be ones who like me and ones who would prefer a different coach. That's fine because that's life and everyone is different. I have even done things his way & not used any of my techniques at all. I have also used both to try and compromise or meet in the middle. There have even been times that I've used his way & I feel he complains. Lol so I feel there is no winning. My biggest concern is I feel that they are not getting what they pay for and I want the kids to learn. I've also seen them improve with my techniques. I mean, I'm sorry but 2 and 3 year olds dont need to work on round offs if they havent even accomplished a cartwheel. They don't need to work on backbend kick overs if they cant do a back bend off of their head. Maybe doing stations or drills to help them build the motor skills & strength & flexibility to eventually get the skill.
Another thing that annoys me are some of the other workers. One of them has never even done gymnastics or coached at all. And some of the younger, teenage coaches just stand there and don't do anything. I think myself & a couple others are the only ones who try, actually coach, and spot these kids. Some just stand there on their phones and don't even break a sweat. They stand there and just tell the kids what to do. Its laziness and gets annoying when they tell me they need the station, because they say they "cant reach the higher set of bars".....but they think that I can? Lol I'm like 5 or 6 inches shorter than the coach that did and said that. Haha. But I let her have it just so she could stand there and have the group of kids do something on the set of bars made for toddlers do something on them that the bars aren't made for. She didn't even have to help them or reach anything! But I moved and got a 3 ft high mat so myself and the 2 and 3 year olds get stand on to reach the higher bars. Lol. I mean....ugh. I just need advice as to how I can address this with out upsetting my boss or getting fired. If I get fired, I can draw unemployment. Lol until I can work somewhere else. Somewhere else I would get more hours, better pay, some type of benefits, lunch break during 8 hour work days so I wouldn't need to be afraid to ask to leave to get something to eat when i am going to be there all day with no breaks in between classes. (That's usually summer times a couple days a week). I wouldn't get jumped all over if I asked off last minute because it was a legit reason such as having a fever of 103. I never miss unless I absolutely have to.
I also don't like to complain on other workers because I dont like to be that person so I usually never say anything.
Are there any other coaches out there that understand my coaching techniques with the toddlers? Do you guys have anymore ideas or how do you work with them? I would love to have my own gymnastics lessons, but don't have a gym. I live in Tenn. Are there any laws, policies against doing tumbling lessons with out having a certification? I was suppose to get it a few months after working there and have asked about it several times and he keeps avoiding giving me a direct question. Technically, by skills I don't need one because I do know what I am doing, I just know that there are laws and rules so....just wondering.
 

txgymfan

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Sep 4, 2008
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I suggest you look for another job. Preferably at a better gym but if not, just somewhere that will respect you.

When writing a long post, please use paragraphs. Your post was extremely difficult to read.
 

Da.bomb.diggity

New Member
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Former Gymnast
Jan 22, 2020
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USA
I suggest you look for another job. Preferably at a better gym but if not, just somewhere that will respect you.

When writing a long post, please use paragraphs. Your post was extremely difficult to read.
Okay. For one, I am using a cell phone, and I didn't know that I was being graded for a writing or english course which I have already taken & made all A's. I know when and when not to use correct grammar and spelling. So any social media sites, most people don't pay attention to that kind of stuff. I definitely don't. Haha. But I was only reaching out for advice as well as giving advice. I seen some people on here talking about toddlers doing gymnastics and how it is hard to teach them backbends due to their arms not being long enough. Soooooo...I made a thread. The place I work isn't a bad place. It is a good gymnastics academy. I just feel that my boss doesn't appreciate me. I am in charge of all the toddler class even though they aren't the only classes I teach. I teach differently. I feel toddlers need to be taught differently than the other older kids. They need things like, singing songs whole stretching. An example would be to sing the, "itsy bitsy spider went down the straddle sit (instead of water spout)" I also feel they shouldn't work on round offs if they cant or hardly can do a cartwheel. They shouldn't be spotted or made to work on backbend kickovers for many reasons. The basics like cartwheels, doing drills or obstacle courses that help with their motor skills and other stations to help them learn to have straight arms, stay off their heads while pulling their legs over and arms up. Is that hard to read or understand? I am sorry if it is. I usually get in the moment and just text my little fingers off. Lol.
There are only a few workers there that actually work. A couple others and I actually sweat. Some just stand there. The gym I worked at in a different state had a thing called MOSES! It was a guide to go by. One of them were to move! Never just stand there waiting on a kid to come to you. If your overwhelmed or don't know what to do, or who is next in line, just grab a kid and work with them on something.
Right now, I will stick with this job, because I love coaching and those kids are a blessing and look up to me. So I have decided to focus on them and so my thing. I just wish there was more appreciation and praise from my employer. Maybe my expectations are too high. I don't know. I also don't want to do these things with the kids that I know will not help them improve. I use a building technique not just to tell or have them flip on over and go on. I am detailed even with the toddlers. I done it for 15 years the same way where I use to work in a different state until I moved and it worked. It is working now too. I want the parents to see and notice. They give me praise all the time.
If I only had the money to open up my own gym, I would. But anyway, I am sorry if my grammar and spelling isn't to anyones liking. I am also sorry that I ramble on and make long posts. I may need to work on that, but I know I don't need to work on my coaching skills and techniques because I am the bomb! Lol. The proof is in the pudding. ;)
 

CoachJessica8704

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Oct 30, 2019
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Is there any possible way the gym owner would let you make a monthly curriculum for the toddlers/preschoolers since you’re the one running the classes? And then he can “approve” it ahead of time, but you can get your drills and stuff in that you know need to be done? This could help not only with having the equipment available that you need, but also maybe more help from the other teachers who are basically just standing around on their phones? (I found that when I’ve worked with much younger coaches, there are times they need specific instructions and guidance, just like the kids. So as awkward as it can be, sometimes just assigning each teacher a station and making sure they know exactly what the kids should do, how it should be done and how they should be spotting/helping keeps the other teachers off their phones during class times.)
Our gym has a binder with a beam, bar, and floor rotation in it for each month, each with multiple stations. We’re lucky and we have two toddler rooms set up upstairs for kids 18 months up to age 5 (and then they go to beginners or level 1/2). So each month, the gym owners will set up the stations ahead of time (each month has a theme: October was Halloween, November was Superheroes, December was Christmas, January has been Princess and Knights/Dragons and Unicorns... February will probably be Valentine’s Day related), then send out our lesson plans. We can adjust them to each classes needs. The stations are on a small area and in the classes I teach I’m the only teacher but I can go around and help the kids as they rotate if needed. Normally I’ll have one station in particular where I’m helping them with a “new” skill or to improve upon an old one (sometimes I’ll spot them with “cartwheels”, or hold their hands as they walk on the higher beam, or spot them on the baby bar on a little mini pullover). I have one girl who will be ready for team next year, so I always add something extra to her stations (like she has to actually lunge into her cartwheels and handstands, she does small stretch jumps on the beam while others step over things, she does is working on doing her pullover without running up the mat, etc), while there’s other kids in the same class who can barely make it to the second rotation without losing focus (even though we move quickly, keep things fun, etc). The lesson plans just makes it easier to roll with anything that happens.
Another thing I would DEFINITELY talk to the gym owner is about the fact that most preschool age children’s bodies just aren’t ready for things like bridges (let alone kick overs!), or levering into cartwheels/handstands, or a lot of other “typical” gymnastics moves. The kids who are able to do those sorts of things that young either 1) suffer greater injuries earlier in life or 2) are extremely gifted athletically. The typical 2-3 year old does not have the coordination, strength, muscle mass/bone density to do a cartwheel. Maybe by 4, more likely by 5. I know our gym doesn’t even start doing tables before 4, let alone bridges... maybe show the owner some research on this sort of thing??? (Sorry this is so long!)
 
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Da.bomb.diggity

New Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 22, 2020
4
36
Country
USA
Is there any possible way the gym owner would let you make a monthly curriculum for the toddlers/preschoolers since you’re the one running the classes? And then he can “approve” it ahead of time, but you can get your drills and stuff in that you know need to be done? This could help not only with having the equipment available that you need, but also maybe more help from the other teachers who are basically just standing around on their phones? (I found that when I’ve worked with much younger coaches, there are times they need specific instructions and guidance, just like the kids. So as awkward as it can be, sometimes just assigning each teacher a station and making sure they know exactly what the kids should do, how it should be done and how they should be spotting/helping keeps the other teachers off their phones during class times.)
Our gym has a binder with a beam, bar, and floor rotation in it for each month, each with multiple stations. We’re lucky and we have two toddler rooms set up upstairs for kids 18 months up to age 5 (and then they go to beginners or level 1/2). So each month, the gym owners will set up the stations ahead of time (each month has a theme: October was Halloween, November was Superheroes, December was Christmas, January has been Princess and Knights/Dragons and Unicorns... February will probably be Valentine’s Day related), then send out our lesson plans. We can adjust them to each classes needs. The stations are on a small area and in the classes I teach I’m the only teacher but I can go around and help the kids as they rotate if needed. Normally I’ll have one station in particular where I’m helping them with a “new” skill or to improve upon an old one (sometimes I’ll spot them with “cartwheels”, or hold their hands as they walk on the higher beam, or spot them on the baby bar on a little mini pullover). I have one girl who will be ready for team next year, so I always add something extra to her stations (like she has to actually lunge into her cartwheels and handstands, she does small stretch jumps on the beam while others step over things, she does is working on doing her pullover without running up the mat, etc), while there’s other kids in the same class who can barely make it to the second rotation without losing focus (even though we move quickly, keep things fun, etc). The lesson plans just makes it easier to roll with anything that happens.
Another thing I would DEFINITELY talk to the gym owner is about the fact that most preschool age children’s bodies just aren’t ready for things like bridges (let alone kick overs!), or levering into cartwheels/handstands, or a lot of other “typical” gymnastics moves. The kids who are able to do those sorts of things that young either 1) suffer greater injuries earlier in life or 2) are extremely gifted athletically. The typical 2-3 year old does not have the coordination, strength, muscle mass/bone density to do a cartwheel. Maybe by 4, more likely by 5. I know our gym doesn’t even start doing tables before 4, let alone bridges... maybe show the owner some research on this sort of thing??? (Sorry this is so long!)
I have tried talking to the owner about it before & it just goes in one ear and out the other it seems. Just like the other day there was a newer beginner class added. So there was a new little girl that was maybe 2, if that so ofcourse she was excited and all over the place, and the other girl was 6! She has been in an intermediate or level 1 class but her mother insisted on putting her in a beginner's class. So the 6 year old was doing cartwheels and not staying on her "magic carpet" and the little one was just everywhere. So I was chasing after her, trying to get her to do things. All she wanted to do was be on the tumble track. I was the only one teaching the class which is fine since there were only 2. The mother of the 2 yr old (maybe a little younger) asked me if I thought she was too young. I said, "No, but I believe another beginner class with a few more toddlers in it that actually have been in it a while, sit on magic carpets when they aren't working with a teacher or on a station, and also one of the classes with more than a teacher, may help her. She will see what they are doing and do as they do. Know what I mean? Well he came up to me and said, "no, because it was a beginners class, so the 2 yr. Old could stay in that one, & the other one (the 6 year old) needed to stay until she got better." Lol it's like he doesn't comprehend anything!! So I'm like whatever dude, I'll just do whatever and when the parents ***** and get upset, dont even blame it on me. Because I feel he does sometimes. It's like he takes it out on me with what the others do or dont do. I just do not think he is good with toddlers or smaller children. I think he forgets I have done this for 15 years. Also, some of the mothers or an adult with them would come and set in with them. Like a mommy and me class. I would have them in different groups depending on how many coaches were available. Each group goes to a different teacher. So one teacher would be working wall work with them, such as hand stands (walking feet up wall to learn to try and stay off head and sing abc's) and a few other different drills. Then the other coach would work with cartwheel, and so on. After a few minutes they rotate. And ofcourse different stuff with beam and bar. Maybe if I send him a message about it first? I am honestly about afraid to approach him about anything just because of past things. So I think I am gonna try to do that and then maybe get up with him outside of gymnastics and talk and also present my ideas to him.
 
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