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Here are some things that set GREAT coaches apart from just the GOOD coaches.
They do NOT “know it all”. When faced with a problem they give it thought and can find an answer based on their experience. SOMETIMES the answer is not obvious. They have to call some friends (old coaches) to help come up with a solution. Every gymnast is going to be a little different.
The best coaches recognize and embrace their potential to have an impact on the life of an athlete well past what happens in the gym. By promoting positive values, including tolerance, learning how to deal with success as well as failure, understanding the struggle of those around them, they are helping send well adjusted adults into the world. Adults who have the potential to change the world. This sense of moral purpose is the engine that drives the best coaches.
Encourage gymnasts to shoot for the stars. Good coaches set goals for themselves and help gymnasts as they work to set challenging and attainable goals. Gymnasts who have experienced what they consider a “great” coach will often use the word “inspiring”. Having the opportunity to inspire and be inspired by young people is something all coaches should actively seek – for themselves and the gymnasts.
Face challenges head on. Great coaches plan how to anticipate, address and learn from challenges – even the most difficult ones. Only by going through this process can a coach overcome an obstacle, learn from it and continue to move forwards. Sometimes you have to be the bearer of bad news. You must tell a gymnast they didn’t qualify. You must tell them to take a skill out of a routine. Step up. Meet the challenge head on. It is NOT easy but dancing around the subject only makes it worse.
Know how to listen. Doc Massimo told me that the most important thing I could do was to listen to my gymnasts. I have embraced that through the years. The girls need to know that I hear them and I care. Coaches get busy but we should never be so busy that we ignore the important opinions of the athletes. We live in a time where everyone talks and few people listen. Where a lot is being said but most has little value. Break the cycle. Make every word you say important.
A love of learning. Every great coach that I have known or had loves to learn. At Gym Momentum camp when all the kids are gone, all the coaches just sit around and talk more gymnastics. Technique, drills, and progressions as we try to solve each others problems.
They can adapt and overcome. We live in a fast paced world, and our gyms feel the effects of that pace. The double back that once took all summer to teach and get into a routine now has to be completed in June. We come up with a set of drills for each skill but then all of a sudden, it doesn’t work. We must adapt and overcome. We must use that piece of equipment in a new and creative way.
They are able to connect the dots. The truly great coaches know where each skill they teach is going to lead. They have a plan not just from point A to B, they also understand how A relates to Z and the path in between.
They recognize the privilege. Gymnastics is not a profession that should be entered lightly, it is not for the fainthearted, or for those who are trying to make a quick fix. There are LONG hours of coaching followed by endless weekends at competitions. Few drive expensive cars or fly first class. YET, IT IS THE MOST REWARDING JOB. It is a privilege to be a coach, to have the opportunity to impact positively on the lives of so many young people, their families and ultimately their communities.