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5 Things you can do TODAY to improve your athletes by Nick Ruddock

Posted on 2/12/2016
In my various roles as a personal coach and national coach, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many clubs, countries and continents. Throughout this time I’ve learnt that irrespective of where you are in the world, athletes and coaches face the same struggles day in, day out. 

Gymnastics is, well gymnastics. There may be different styles, different methods and different philosophies, but the key principles will never change, and with that in mind, I’m never too surprised to come across the same common barriers holding athletes and coaches back in their pursuit of high performance results. 

I’ve compiled these into a ‘top 5’ common barriers holding athletes and coaches back: 

1. Improve your Physical Preparation program.  No question, this is number one. I’ve written in previous articles about the importance of a ‘layered’ approach to coaching elements, and a solid foundation of physical preparation will always give a great return. You can’t build a house on sand, so how can we try teaching an unconditioned athlete to backward giant or kip cast to handstand?  If you could only focus on one part of your coaching education, this would be it. 
2. Look at the Volume of Training You may be working with a great athlete, and coaching in a technically sound way, but without the necessary time to practice and consolidate it just isn’t realistic to expect an athlete to fulfill their potential. Sorry guys, 10 hours a week for a 12 year old just isn’t enough at top end … Of course the quality of training is as essential as the quantity so increasing your training by 5 hours a week will only be beneficial if the ingredients are of a high quality! 

3. Improve the Work Ethic of your Athletes (and yourself) What does work ethic look like? It’s the athlete that works FAST, for the opportunity to perform as many repetitions as possible in a session, making use of all the time available to improve. It means running between apparatus, moving equipment fast, not wasting time in the changing room etc. The result? More practice! A few extra repetitions on each apparatus soon multiply over time. Do the math and you’ll be astounded of how this plays out over a year … Remember, an athlete’s work ethic is often a refection of the coaches. ! 

4. Set Gold Medal Standards.  What’s acceptable to me may not be the same as what it is acceptable to you. High performing coaches all have one common factor, high standards. They understand the benchmark they are working to achieve and will continue to work towards the finite details. The details are the difference that makes the difference. Could you raise your performance expectations? 

5. Review your Talent ID.  I’m not a massive fan of the term ‘talent’ but nonetheless, many coaches I see are trying to polish rocks, not diamonds. They have international aspirations but simply are not working with the right athlete to accomplish this, irrespective of how good the program is or the coaching. 

Getting more kids through the door so you can sift through sand to find the gold is key, and a process that should be ongoing! 

Taking a step back and reviewing your program from time to time will give you and your team a blueprint to find opportunities to develop. Improving all areas of your program by just 1% each will have an outstanding contribution over time. What about 2%? Of even a 20% improvement in the way you approach your physical preparation!?

Good luck!

Editor's Note: This article is geared specifically towards competitive gymnastics. Please understand that the level of gymnastics described in this article may not be the end goal for all gymnastics facilities.