Expectations and Their Consequences

So, here’s something I was thinking about recently….What is it that makes certain coaches able to get that little something extra out of their athletes?  What characteristics do these coaches have that others are missing? 

The reason I thought about this is that I consider what we (at our gym) do to be very strong fundamentally.  We believe in the basics, including shapes and levers and handstands and strength and flexibility.  I have, at times, been so determined about this “perfection”, that it becomes a fault.  This fault lies in my level of expectation and the consequential effect that this has on my athletes’ level of expectation.

When you are as intense as I am about these basics, then your expectations sometimes become extreme.  The expectation is that everything has an ideal execution, and if the athlete is not close to that ideal, then there is really no point in moving on to the next thing.  I have worked very hard over the last few years to do a better job of balancing reality and perfection, thanks to long conversations that I have had with several different coaches.  And I think, as a matter of practicality, I have become better at this. 

The problem, though, is that these expectations lead to constant disappointment.    Currently, for me, my challenge is the difference in my emotions between summer training and “during the season” training.  In the summer, it seems there is nothing but potential.  There appears to be so much time before the season, that it is easy to get excited about what the athletes will be doing when it finally rolls around.  Because my expectations are so high, it is almost impossible for my athletes to live up to them when the season actually starts.  So, at that point, for me, it seems like a constant struggle to just get out and compete what they can and do the best with what they have.  I know that the reality is much different than what I feel, but it is what I feel.  And if I actually stop and think about it, I am very proud of everything that my athletes have accomplished, as I am well aware of the incredible hard work and time they have put into their training.  Many times, however, my  “in the gym” coaching, involves completely different emotions.  And, in as much as I would like to believe that I can operate around my athletes without my frustration affecting them, the reality is that I cannot always do this.

Now, back to my original question.  What is it that some coaches have that gets that something extra from their athletes?  One of the things that I think they have is a genuine excitement about their athletes and their potential.  They have an overwhelming belief that their kids are going to get better.  This is even true of some coaches who are not necessarily the strongest technical coaches.  There just seems to be certain coaches that have the ability to get athletes to do more than they normally could have just because the athlete can feel that optimism and excitement from the coach.   I think that this leads to more excitement in the athlete, and more accurately, her belief in her own potential, and in turn, more success.  It is comparative to the times when a coach is “new” to a certain team or group of girls.  With that “newness” comes very little expectation.  The coach doesn’t really know the athletes yet, and so everything they do earns fairly positive remarks and excitement.  Everything they do “looks” like potential, and not the lack of achievement that coaches often see in athletes whose potentials they have already decided on.

Sounds simple enough, right?  So, why do some of us have so much trouble with something that seems so simple?  The question itself, makes me understand a little better the failures that some of my athletes have with mental challenges that I consider very simple.  Some of the most basic mental challenges in front of us are the hardest to break through.  I can remember being a teenager, and being very aware of how terrible I was making my mom feel with my disrespect toward her, and feeling pretty horrible about it myself.  I truly wanted to change and be more respectful, but could not always make myself put that desire into a practical effort.

My guess is, that we sometimes get an idea in our head, and depending on the intensity or passion that we have for that idea, we just cannot compromise with it.  It is such a powerful thing that it even clouds our reality, and makes things even worse.  I am assuming that we have all had those days where no matter what our athletes do, it looks bad to us.  The reality of this situation is probably not nearly as bad as our perception.  Unfortunately, our perception creates our response and our response affects our athletes.

I just talked to a coach today who is going through some of the same types of feelings.  So, what do we do?  I am asking all of you to contribute an opinion to this topic.  I do have a few ideas myself, and will share those after some feedback from everyone else.  I know that the first step is recognition.  I, personally, have done that.  But, I am not afraid to admit that I could use any and all advice I can receive, and I hope, in turn, that people who read this and are in the same boat, can benefit from my very public therapy.  Thanks everyone.

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One Comment on “Expectations and Their Consequences”


  1. Wow Troy reading your post is like reading my thoughts on paper amazing. Like yourself I have the exact same issues, and I have been really trying to not allow my frustrations get the best of me and effect my coaching however as you point, in practicality this is not always easy. I find it particularly hard to not get frustrated when I see a kid not doing something to the best of his/her ability when it is clear they can. I haven’t found anything that really helps me with this problem, so like yourself I am very interested to hear what others have to contribute.

    I did star doing one thing at the end of trainings last year that helpped me to keep things on perspective and that was to ask the gymnasts what they felt they had Improved in during that session (thinking about it more I also should have asked them what they felt they could have done better and how to they could fix it next time). I found that helped me to remember that even though things might seem like they are were I want them to be (level or performance wise) with each step we are getting closer. The definition of the kind of coach I aim to be is “easy to work for, but hard to please”. I don’t particularly feel that having realisticly very high expectations is on any way detromental to the gymnast or myself, the problem is really always one of motivation and the fact is that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic and maybe it’s not that coach is able to get more out of the gymnast but rather the coach is able to get the gymnast to want to get more out of themselves. I will have to think really hard on this…. I look forward to all replies

    ps. Sorry for the poor post, it’s late and I am not thinking right but I will definitely be thinking on the matter of this topic


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