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Injecting a Daily Dose of Fun into your Coaching Style

Posted on 5/4/2018

When your reputation earns you the nickname, “Fun Master”, you’re the person everyone wants to be around.  This is the reality of Randy Parrish - Flip Fest entertainer, coach, presenter, Tumbl Trak Ambassador and all-around good guy.  

In his wife’s gym in South Carolina, Randy has a coaching style that gets results without taking himself too seriously. For the same reason people flock to him, (literally - if you’ve ever been to a National Congress, just look for the crowd), his athletes are inspired to be in the gym and work hard because Randy makes it fun to be there.

At Flip Fest Summer Camp, Randy is the Warm Up and Games King, delivering dance moves that beg you to follow along and get into the groove.  We caught up with Randy, the man, the myth, the legend, to find out his secrets that earned him his claim to fame name.

(Q) How did you earn the title “Fun Master”?

I earned my “Fun Master” title when I was working for John and John [McCready and Rothlisberger, owners of Flip Fest Camp].  When I was at meets promoting the camp, I would perform at awards ceremonies, helping announce and entertain the kids. I would tell jokes and do silly contests. In 2006 I started doing one of the dances as warm ups. From 2006 on, it caught fire and more and more people wanted me to do awards and “the dance” and soon followed “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”.  From that point on, it’s just history.

(Q) Have you always incorporated fun into your coaching style?

Honestly, it’s just in my personality to have fun, so I coach that way.   We work hard, but we play hard too. I’ve always kept to the mantra, “Are they healthy, happy and hungry???”  That’s how I know I’m doing my job.

Flip Fest is a great example.  The company, the staff, the campers work super hard - but we make sure to leave time to play, which is like the fuel that keeps us hungry and wanting for more.

(Q) Do you think having fun is important for training at all levels?  If so, why?

Yes, it IS important for all levels, but every level has a different kind of fun.  For the younger kids, gymnastics is EASY to make fun. Games and play are part of the learning.  For the older kids we aren’t necessarily playing the same games, but instead, we’re reminding them why they got in the sport in the first place.  I try to incorporate competitions, games and challenges in their training that keeps them laughing and enjoying the sport.  “I think of it like sharpening a saw - and giving them a fresh blade to get at their challenges.”

(Q) Did any of your own coaches inject fun into your instruction as an athlete?

When I was an athlete, the culture of gymnastics was way different.  The thing that stood out for me as an athlete was the care that my teachers and coaches had towards me.  My PE teacher recognized my talent and pushed me in the direction of gymnastics. My coach was like a second dad.  As an athlete I loved the recognition that gymnastics gave me.  I competed for Illinois State University, but after 2 years, they dropped their club. Which led me to opening my own club!  And, then came Mary Lou Retton in the 80’s - and my enrollment doubled!

(Q) What is the most fun coaching experience you’ve ever had?

I’d say, (1) every time a kid learns a kip, (2) when an athlete gets their first 9, or (3) when a kid stands on the awards podium and everyone around them offers congratulations.

Another thing that I love is when former athletes come back and let me know they appreciate what I did for them.  They remember the fun things - they are the most memorable. Never have I had an athlete return and recall the medals they won, or meets they attended.  It’s the experience of gymnastics and awesome childhood memories that I want kids to gain from the sport.

(Q)  Do you ever get tired of doing the dance/warm up?