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Why the Fear?

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Gymtastic

New Member
Jun 12, 2008
22
I coach levels 1-3 and the 2s and 3s will be competing this year. Now, I remember that when I was a young gymnast (before the age of about 13) I was not afraid of anything. I trusted my coach, and if he told me I could do something, then I just did it. I was not afraid of getting hurt on anything until about the age of 13, when I started to see my coach as a regular, fallible human being :)

Anyway, fear has been a major obstacle for some of my gymnasts on events like bars and beam, to the point of being very detrimental at times (falling incorrectly, taking a long time to learn new skills, simply refusing to do a skill without a spot even though they have done it before, etc.). I have never dropped a gymnast and not one of them has ever been seriously hurt, so I am wondering what they are afraid of? Sometimes I think the parents are pushing them into the sport when they are not mentally cut out for it (at least, not yet ready for the more intense, competitive side of it at this point), and so they don't have that fearlessness and trust that seems to be intrinsic for some gymnasts.

Any ideeas or advice would be much appreciated!!!
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
Sounds like you have inherited some kids who are in over their heads!

What's happening to your kids is most oftern the result of inconsitent expectations during workout. Standards have to be set before girls move into another level, and coaches must be confident athletes can perform their skills consistently, or one girl decides she can't go backward, or one decides she's afraid of a flyaway, etc... If the kids understand that the expectations for that level and that they aren't performing up to the level, they are more likely to take responsibility for their workout, and less likely to try to avoid doing something they don't want to do on a given day.

I have never been big on spotting, and always try to teach athetes skills with drills. It takes a little longer, but the fact that I don't spot means that I never have an intermediate step on every skill the kids learn, and I can't be blamed for spotting or not spotting. They either do the skill or not. There is no "gray area" between doing the skill and not doing them.

As an ex-gymnast myself, I understand the frustration with kids who say, "I want to do it" when they act like they have no interest. When I wanted to do a skill, I did it, or at least went for it and then tried again.

But most of the kids we coach are not like that, especially as gymnastics grows and becomes more accessable to the masses. As hard as it is to understand, kids do gymnastics for a million reasons (sometimes it's wearing a leo, hanging with their best friend, liking what their parents want them to like) and we have to coach them anyway.

The way I look at it...since I could never get enough, and always wanted to do more, I make the kids do the same thing. I don't beg any gymnast to try a new skill. Either we are working it or not. I don't rip hands off the bar on a flyaway, or spot backwalkovers on beam or tell them how if they do a skill they get to move up. If they want to do a skill, they have to prove it to me.

This is the opposite of the "whatever you do...don't hold kids back!" argument. Sounds like your kids were pushed to get their skills (either by you or their parents) but they never really got the skills...so all the pushing in the world didn't work in the long run.

Unfortunately, the only answer I have for you is to go back and make them prove skill by skill that they want to compete. Draw a line in the sand and challenge them to step over it. If they don't...oh well...maybe tomorrow.

Of course you can't just change your coaching style one day, or you will really piss people off. Maybe just walk in and say, "We're going to try something new...you show me what you can do by yourself." Maybe give points for skills and be extremely strict, but the attitude about skills has to be changed from "Please do it" to "Show me, and I will help you."

Good luck...I know it's not easy.
 

Gymtastic

New Member
Jun 12, 2008
22
Thank you! You seem to know just what I am dealing with! I inherited this team about 3 months ago, so I'm not exactly sure what was going on before, although I do know that they had a good coach. You may be right. I think I might try giving points for these skills. I do like giving points because it really steps it up a notch, but I must admit, I do get frustrated when they are suddenly performing like never before just because it happens to be a contest, but, if that is what it takes to motivate them to at least ATTEMPT the skills to the best of their ability, then I'm happy :)

And you are absolutely right about the various reasons kids do gymnastics nowadays. I was put into classes because my parents couldn't get me to stop climbing on the furniture and after the first class, I was an addict. Not so much with kids these days.

You are right about expectations regarding moving up a level. This team was moved up after competing well in the previous level, but without necessarily demonstrating the skills necessary to compete at the next level yet. It is just assumed that they will aquire these skills before they need to compete. Perhaps a system that only allows them to "move up" AFTER they have all of the necessarily skills to compete at the new level, it would really encourage them...unfortunately, it's not my call at this point, I just have to work with what I have (which by the way are some AMAZINGLY talented and wonderful girls!)

Will try points tomorrow :) Wish me (and them) luck!
 

lannamavity

Member
Sep 13, 2007
409
way out West
Thank you! You seem to know just what I am dealing with! I inherited this team about 3 months ago, so I'm not exactly sure what was going on before, although I do know that they had a good coach. You may be right. I think I might try giving points for these skills. I do like giving points because it really steps it up a notch, but I must admit, I do get frustrated when they are suddenly performing like never before just because it happens to be a contest, but, if that is what it takes to motivate them to at least ATTEMPT the skills to the best of their ability, then I'm happy :)

And you are absolutely right about the various reasons kids do gymnastics nowadays. I was put into classes because my parents couldn't get me to stop climbing on the furniture and after the first class, I was an addict. Not so much with kids these days.

You are right about expectations regarding moving up a level. This team was moved up after competing well in the previous level, but without necessarily demonstrating the skills necessary to compete at the next level yet. It is just assumed that they will aquire these skills before they need to compete. Perhaps a system that only allows them to "move up" AFTER they have all of the necessarily skills to compete at the new level, it would really encourage them...unfortunately, it's not my call at this point, I just have to work with what I have (which by the way are some AMAZINGLY talented and wonderful girls!)

Will try points tomorrow :) Wish me (and them) luck!


Sounds like you have a great attitude. Keep it up even through the tough times. You know good gymnastics and know what you are doing!
 

Aussie_coach

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As coaches it can sometimes be very difficult to understand kids who have a personality different to your own, but it really does just sound like you have a group of kids with different personalities. Remember that we often seem to attract kids who have a similar personality to ourselves, perhaps the last coach was more like these kids and thats how she or he ended up with a team of them.

Many kids with fear take up gymnastics, often because it is one of their goals to be able to overcome these fears, but that takes hard work and committment, and it will come with time.

Young kids often have no fear because they do not use forethought. When it comes time to do a skill they dont think ahead to the possible consequences if they mess it up. Forethought usually begins to develop somewhere between 9-11 years of age and the kids go through a stage for a couple of years where they have more fear. Because for the first time in their lives they are thinking of the consequences and it is scary for them. Most will grow out of this if they stick with gymnastics and come to a stage in their life where they do have forethought but also the confident self knowledge to know that their bodies can do the things their bodies have been trained to do.
 
B

Billy

Guest
One thing to think about with young kids is that their thought processes aren't always logical. For example, my DD has recently been afraid to jump to the high bar after a scary fall a couple of weeks ago. Well, yesterday we were discussing why she is still nervous even though her coach broke her fall and she didn't get hurt. She said she is afraid because "Miss Laura is standing on a block to spot me; what if the block tips over?" I told her in that case, Miss Laura would fall over, not her. But the point is that she wasn't thinking so much about falling on the jump as she was about her coach not being able to be there for her.
 

eeyoretumbles

Member
Jul 13, 2008
234
rainy washington
Hi I'm a gymnast, and I can see where the kids are coming from. Sometimes I will just randomly get a fear, or sometimes I get a fear because of a past coach I had or a past thing I've seen. I've found a way to help me, is sometimes if I don't throw a skill, my coach will pick me up lightly and gently and do it for me. This helps me because soon I go for myself. Another drill I found helpful is when I tell my self to stop, breath and just go! If i don't think and someone yells go I will just go for it and my problem is solved. One last thing, though this may be silly, is some trust excercises. Like falling into the pit, and catching the kid, things like that. When I was really little that always seemed to help. Goodluck!
 
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