Welcome to our Gymnastics Discussion Community
554,231 messages... 44,365 topics... and 6,612 members
Join for FREE!
Thank you for supporting our sponsors Energym Music & Norberts & High 5 Meets!

For Coaches Troublesome Level 3 Group

kaisydaisy

New Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Sep 18, 2020
3
27
Country
USA
The gym I coach at has recently decided to try the NGA competitive program as opposed to USAG. I have a group of NGA level 3 girls who mostly competed silver last year. They are older kids (avg. age is 11) and not your typical JO level 3 group. All they really want to do is learn new "cool" tricks, but their basics are either non existent or terrible and they lack dedication and focus. The NGA requirements for level 3 are similar to USAG level 2/3 so most of these kids will need to be brought back quite a bit in the skills they were competing (can't compete a squat on on bars or a barani off beam) and they are all incredibly frustrated as a result. They are not particularly coachable - they don't listen, spend lots of time sitting down/playing on equipment, make excuses or roll their eyes when given a correction etc. It has been a week and a half of working with this group and I am already at my wits end. I have tried to explain that if they put in the effort on the basics we can move on to more challenging skills at the end of a rotation but that only sticks for about a minute before they decide its not worth it because there is no instant gratification. I am fine with doing basics all night long but if they are loose and floppy are they improving at all? How do you get a group of kids that are older and not naturally talented to put in the effort?
 

rd7

Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Parent
Aug 18, 2011
132
That's a tough group, I feel your pain!
I would ignore the negative and praise anything remotely positive. "Excellent work Suzie, your legs were really straight on that cartwheel".
Make sure they know you are serious when it comes to behavioural issues. Have consequences for those that are not behaving well. I have been known to ask gymnasts of that age to take themselves to the peripheral of the work area so they can stay out of the way of the girls that do want to work. Then give lots of attention to those that are trying to do what you have set them.
Give them some responsibility for their training. "Ok, so we are going to work cartwheels on the high beam today. If everyone gets it done we can do some new skills. How many do you think you can stick each?" Or, today we are going to work split leaps and spins for our basics. Which one shall we do first?":) You get the idea :).
Also, I wouldn't let them sit down but you may not be able to do that if that's the norm in your gym.
 

Aussie_coach

Moderator/Coach
Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Club Owner
Jan 4, 2008
3,415
Country
Australia
I second the notion to praise all good efforts. The key to changing kids training habits is to change the way they think of themselves.

If they see themselves as hard working, dedicated, technical gymnasts. Then that’s how they will train.

11 is a good age to change this. How they appear to others is very important to them.

Working on technique and more basic skills doesn’t have to be boring. Throw in fun drills, challenges and equipment and they’ll be racing over to take extra turns.
 

coachmolly

Active Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 18, 2009
2,990
VA
Country
USA
I had a group very similar to this except a little bit older. They were Xcel kids, not super successful in the past, really just wanted to learn the skills they wanted to learn and weren't too concerned about basics, dance, details, or fixing anything. They were mostly there to socialize with their friends and do "fun" gymnastics. I attempted stations but it always devolved into play time or skipping the things they didn't want to do. My biggest mistake in hindsight was assuming I knew what the group wanted. I walked in with the assumption that they would want to improve their skills, do better gymnastics, and ultimately do better at meets and attempted to coach them to achieve that goal. However, that was my goal, not theirs. So when I pushed my agenda on them, there was intense push back. No matter how much explaining I did, it just wasn't working. What I wish I would have done from early on is sat them down and asked what their goals were for themselves and seeing how I could align my coaching with what they wanted instead of just imposing what I wanted for them. For them, they mostly wanted to have fun with their friends, play around with new skills and ideas that were interesting to them, and compete routines that they liked, even if that meant lower scores.
Obviously there are things that are always going to be necessary that kids might not love- conditioning, dance, safe skill progressions- but there are other places you can give a little. And I totally do not mean to give up on their potential and just view it as a play group and let them dictate what they do, just attempting to get a better understanding of why they are there and what they are working for. You can also take some time to explain where you are coming from. There will be some kids who that resonates with and who you will see start to buy in, give those kids lots of praise. And while I think being a little more lenient with the little things is important, being firm with the big things early on is equally important. In my case I was so afraid to step on toes in the beginning that I didn't address things that needed to be addressed early on hoping they would fix themselves (major mean girl situation) which was a massive mistake as that particular child picked up more and more steam as the season went on. I eventually had a talk with her mom, but by that point the damage had been done.
I really feel for you, that group was one of the toughest I have ever coached and there are so many things I wish I had done differently to make it a better experience for everyone.
 

gymisforeveryone

Coach
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Relative
Judge
Nov 16, 2012
864
I second @coachmolly!

I think that the biggest mistake that coaches make is to just assume that the athletes have the same goals as the coach has in mind.

All of the "trouble groups" that I have had, have had one thing in common, and it has been the lack of communication between me and the athletes. Sometimes I saw potential in gymnasts, and assumed that they are reaching for the stars, but they weren't. That caused problems, as I was coaching them in the way that I would coach an athlete that had high goals.

Just recently my older optional athletes made me realize, that for them the most important thing is not high scores, but routines that are "up to level" skill wise. They felt embarrassed competing the same clean easy routines they had been competing for a while. They wanted higher difficulty, even if they knew that it would probably mean lower scores, because the harder skills weren't clean quite yet. It was really hard for me at first to let go of the idea that had been put in my mind in many coaching courses and lectures - everyone always said that you should pick easy and clean over hard and messy. But in the end, if my gymnasts have a goal to compete higher level skills, it is my job to help them reach their goals. I'm there for them, not the other way around. It took me almost 10 years to realize this.... Now I try to remember to ask the athletes first, what do they want? And then we will make a plan. I'm happy if my athletes are happy!
 

Hana

New Member
Gymnast
Sep 30, 2020
6
18
Country
USA
I'm not a coach, but when I was in silver my group was just like that. All we wanted to do was round off back handsprings, but we all had pretty bad round offs. We did a lot of round off drills and no one tried very hard, but one day we had do do a round off over a carpet square or something to help us reach further, and our coach said we could do a back handspring out of it if we had good round offs. All of our round offs got way better, and we were having fun. You could try some stuff like that or if they practice 2 or 3 days a week you could let them do more fun stuff one day and more drills or conditioning or whatever the other day. That seems like a hard group to coach.
 
  • Like
Reactions: kaisydaisy

kaisydaisy

New Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Sep 18, 2020
3
27
Country
USA
That's a tough group, I feel your pain!
I would ignore the negative and praise anything remotely positive. "Excellent work Suzie, your legs were really straight on that cartwheel".
Make sure they know you are serious when it comes to behavioural issues. Have consequences for those that are not behaving well. I have been known to ask gymnasts of that age to take themselves to the peripheral of the work area so they can stay out of the way of the girls that do want to work. Then give lots of attention to those that are trying to do what you have set them.
Give them some responsibility for their training. "Ok, so we are going to work cartwheels on the high beam today. If everyone gets it done we can do some new skills. How many do you think you can stick each?" Or, today we are going to work split leaps and spins for our basics. Which one shall we do first?":) You get the idea :).
Also, I wouldn't let them sit down but you may not be able to do that if that's the norm in your gym.
Thank you!
We do not let the girls sit down - no one sits in the gym, not coaches or kids. Focusing on the positive is definitely a good idea, I have been doing my best with that. Unfortunately there are a few kids with terrible attitudes who drain my energy and make it hard to be positive for the rest of the group. We have tried consequences for bad behavior, like sitting out or missing a turn, and typically the kids just come back more angry and with a worse attitude. I am not allowed to give conditioning as a consequence, which I am used to doing from past jobs. I will try to set specific expectations at the beginning of each rotation to see if that helps!
 

kaisydaisy

New Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Sep 18, 2020
3
27
Country
USA
I second @coachmolly!

I think that the biggest mistake that coaches make is to just assume that the athletes have the same goals as the coach has in mind.

All of the "trouble groups" that I have had, have had one thing in common, and it has been the lack of communication between me and the athletes. Sometimes I saw potential in gymnasts, and assumed that they are reaching for the stars, but they weren't. That caused problems, as I was coaching them in the way that I would coach an athlete that had high goals.

Just recently my older optional athletes made me realize, that for them the most important thing is not high scores, but routines that are "up to level" skill wise. They felt embarrassed competing the same clean easy routines they had been competing for a while. They wanted higher difficulty, even if they knew that it would probably mean lower scores, because the harder skills weren't clean quite yet. It was really hard for me at first to let go of the idea that had been put in my mind in many coaching courses and lectures - everyone always said that you should pick easy and clean over hard and messy. But in the end, if my gymnasts have a goal to compete higher level skills, it is my job to help them reach their goals. I'm there for them, not the other way around. It took me almost 10 years to realize this.... Now I try to remember to ask the athletes first, what do they want? And then we will make a plan. I'm happy if my athletes are happy!
This resonates a lot. Unfortunately I can't really tell if they believe that they are better than they are, or if the goals that they give me are the goals they think I want to hear. For example, we asked them to set an intention for strength at the beginning of practice. They proceeded to do conditioning, and spend all of their time goofing off and chatting with one another. When asked how they thought conditioning went they said that they worked really hard and it went well. Do they really think they worked hard? Or do they not want to admit that they goofed off?
Maybe I will try to ask them with two options - hard and bad or easy and clean. The other problem we have with this group is that at least 2 have parents who want it more than they do.
 

rd7

Member
Coach
Former Gymnast
Proud Parent
Aug 18, 2011
132
For behaviour we have a 3 step rule, first time warning, second time sat out for 10 minutes, third time sent home. We have never had to send a girl home. Boys on the other hand!! This obviously has to made clear to parents in advance. We don't give conditioning as a punishment.

This is a really hard group to coach, you want it more than the gymnasts, been there done that, most will eventually leave as their heart is not in it. In the meantime try to focus on the positive and give your attention to those that do want your time and effort.

Always try to praise any effort by those that have previously not tried. I found that these types of groups are very aware that they are not the best gymnasts and can actually feel that they are not very good so will goof off instead of working. Or we will ask them to do 10 chin ups but they can barely do 2 so they feel what's the point. In that case modify the assignment.

Eye rolling is not acceptable behaviour and I would definitely make that clear and have consequences as above.

Try to move on from basics quickly once the assignment is met (turn a blind eye to those that are really not trying at all, pretend to yourself that you can't see them). For example, "once everyone has done their 5 cartwheels with straight legs we can move onto fun round off preps and back handsprings"

You may have to lower your expectations for this group for a while, for your own sanity. :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: kaisydaisy