Training with Other Programs

This post is in answer to Julie Pickering’s comment below: 

I am a gym owner not a coach. How do you get parents of low level gymnast, say level 4 and 5, that tumbling is a progression? I have a gymnast whos mom takes her to a cheer facility to progress her tumbling. It aggravates me and the coaches. Also in the town we live in most people want to do tumbling at the cheer gym because they are quick to teach a bhs etc. How do you get parents to understand this besides saying it is a safety factor. It really hurts my tumbling classes.

The best way for me to answer this, I think, is to simply tell you what we do and why, and hope that helps you with your situation.

In our gym, the team kids and their parents are told and given literature from the very beginning, that they are not to train or even perform gymnastics outside of our supervision without first gaining our permission.  This includes summer camps, talent shows, and sports performance enhancement specialists.  We inform them of this through the rules that we give out at our annual parent meeting.  The parents are told that failure to follow these rules could result in dismissal from our team program.

The explanation that we give to parents has a few points to it:

  1. All coaches teach a little differently, and this can be confusing to your child.  It is not necessarily about what is wrong or right in terms of this coaching, but more about keeping things simple for the athlete.  To insure that your child has the best possible chance to succeed, it is better to have information coming to her in a consistent manner.
  2. There are, unfortunately, coaches in our sport who take shortcuts, and while this may be appealing in the short-term, it is detrimental to the athlete’s career in the sport.  We have a very specific, proven approach to helping children reach their goals in this sport through a patient, progressive system of coaching.  While this system may be slower than some, it is, in our experienced opinions, better for the long-term career of the athlete.  We have often used the explanation that we don’t want the gymnast to hit a “wall” with her skills, because the foundation was not built the way it should have been.  If the basics are learned correctly and the proper progressions are followed, then learning a double back someday can be just as easy as it was for the athlete to learn her cartwheel.  If this approach is not followed, it is our opinion that the athlete may hit this “wall” earlier than they might have and could find herself stagnating in her skill acquirement.  This can be a very frustrating thing for the athlete, and something that we work hard to help her avoid.
  3. The parents need to make a decision about who they trust to train their child in the sport, and then, by example, teach their child to trust those coaches.  Taking their child to another gym to learn a skill is, in effect, telling their child that they do not completely trust the methodology of the staff that they have chosen.  This is one of the worst things that can happen in the development of the athlete.

Unfortunately, many times, this situation can be the determining factor in whether a child stays with our program or not.  We believe in our system enough that we know that it is what is best for the athlete who really wants to be successful in the sport.  We also know that our program is not for every child, and that this is why there are many programs in our community.  We never hold hard feelings toward any parent or especially the athlete if they decide that they would rather be a part of another program.  This is why we stick to our standards so strictly.  It is what makes our program what it is. 

I hope this helps you, Julie, and anyone else who might be going through something similar.  As I have said before, these are just my opinions.  It is what works for us.  I am still interested in hearing other’s opinions on this and any subject.  Thanks all.  And thank you very much, Julie, for the question. 

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One Comment on “Training with Other Programs”

  1. Just Another Opinion Says:

    I think one of the many reasons that makes this subject difficult for some parents to understand is that they don’t have a good understanding of what gym is. Specifically, they don’t understand that gym is NOT school. If Mom sees her daughter struggling in math class, and has the time and financial means, she probably wouldn’t think twice about taking her daughter to a math tutoring company. And in reality, most math teachers probably wouldn’t be opposed to that, either, because most math teachers are probably struggling themselves to teach the other kids, so they might welcome one of their students taking a proactive approach and seeking external help because ultimately, if successful, that would relieve some of the day teacher’s burden. Now, I’ve had professors who think differently and are afraid that external help will teach the wrong material or emphasize the wrong points, etc. So I’m not speaking in terms of a universal truth. But at an elementary or grade school level, I doubt many teachers have that much of an ego or a concern where their students learn information, just so long as they do.

    The problem with this lies in the differences between gym and school. In fact, school actually does a comparatively terrible job of teaching, and school could learn a great deal from the educational theories and philosophies of gym, and I have unsuccessfully pointed this out in the interviews for every teaching position I’ve not been hired for. Go figure.

    The difference is this: In school, you’re learning material to pass a test and be moved through school. In gym, you’re learning material to be a better gymnast. Moving from 8th grade math to 9th grade math does not mean you’re better at math. It means you’re now in 9th grade math. But for most good and well-run gyms, moving from year to year, whether changing levels or not, means you are a better gymnast. In theory, your level 10 not only can do the most impressive skills, but can also do the most basic skills the most impressively. The same cannot be said about a high school calculus class competing against a 3rd grade class in a multiplication contest. There will undoubtedly be 3rd graders who know their “times tables” better than the seniors, because they’re the ones actively practicing and learning it, and the seniors get to use calculators and, thus, have forgotten what 7 times 8 is.

    Especially in gyms where a gymnast has a coach on an event through multiple years and multiple levels, it’s not an ego thing that the coach needs to be the one who successfully brings the gymnast through Skill X, it’s a program thing, a trust thing, and a building thing. Yes, Coach may have one way of doing something that might be slightly different (or supremely different) from some other coach in a different gym, and yes, there may be some confusion there which ultimately harms the girl’s progress, but I think even more than that what you’re actually doing by seeking outside help is undermining the relationship the girl has with her primary coach. In school, it doesn’t usually matter, because once the kid leaves a grade level she’ll never see that teacher again, so they’re only concerned with completion. But in gym, if coach is going to be building skills on top of skills, he needs to be able to tell the girl who is struggling on something, “hey, remember when we struggled with such and such three years ago? And we got through that? We’ll get through this, too.”

    This is one of the reasons I hate private lessons for kids who don’t normally train with a coach on a certain event. What if Coach A has been working with Susie on her high beam backwalkover for a year and it’s just not happening. Then Coach B does a few private lessons with Susie and she gets it. Is Susie (or Susie’s mom) ever going to trust Coach A again? Maybe, maybe not. This is all around a bad situation. If Coach A actually is a weak coach, then he shouldn’t be coaching in your gym, and if he’s not, then his legs have just been chopped out from under him, and resentment will start breeding in that gym (between the coaches, between the parents, between the coaches and parents, coaches and kids, and on and on) and that’s a quick way to nasty-town. And if Coach A is a weak coach in just this aspect and otherwise has potential, then Coach B needs to educate Coach A and they need to get on the same page, which can’t be done if Coach A is in one gym and Coach B is in some alternative facility.

    I know that was long, but thanks for reading.


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