Why Spend More Time on Basics…part 2

The following is an excerpt from JAO‘s comment on the training of basics, and why some coaches don’t train them enough.  I think this is pretty accurate, and definitely something we should think about.

Coach A, maybe only even subconsciously, wants to prove to the world he’s an awesome coach. Why else would Coach A be coaching team? If Coach (A) *just* loved coaching, he could coach rec kids and not have to worry about levels and meets and stress and fears and injuries and crying and nagging parents (or at least not to the same degree). So, on SOME level, at SOME point, we’re all coaching competitive stuff because we like competing, and we like competing because we like winning.

So, we can probably agree Coach A wants to win, and accept that as a reasonable premise? Now, perhaps at some level, Coach A has begun to notice his kids aren’t winning at meets. That’s ok, Coach A thinks, because there are other ways of measuring how good his kids are, i.e., how good of a coach he is. Coach A can persuade his girls, his parents, and most importantly himself, that it’s ok not to win at meets, for any of a number of reasons (we don’t train for this level, we train for the next level, the other teams have older girls, second year girls, they only practice meet stuff and we work on next year stuff, etc.) And those are all plausible, believable, and even potentially valid reasons for why Coach A’s girls did not place very well at a meet. Indeed, there are effective gyms that train ahead, practice other things, and only compete at certain USAG level because they have to in order to move their girls up, etc. But that’s not Coach A, and Coach A doesn’t understand that.

Coach A’s problem may be that he subscribes to a very dangerous and sadly all too common perception of gymnastics, which incorrectly states: If Coach A and Coach B both have a girl competing the same skills in Level X, but Coach A’s girl is younger, then Coach A must be the better coach, because he got his gymnast to do Level X before Coach B.

For a million reasons, we know that’s not a true conclusion. But it is in Coach A’s mind, though Coach A might not even admit it out loud, it nonetheless exists on some level to some degree. We’ve all been guilty at some point of seeing a team with a dozen babies at whatever level and thought “holy cow, I wish I had that.” (Which is the sister perception, also incorrect: If Coach A has 10 kids in optional level X and Coach B has 5, Coach A is a better coach)

So, if this is an operational thought in Coach A’s mind, it’s going to affect his philosophy and approach toward coaching. Which means instead of trusting patience and discipline, he’s going to equate greatness with earliness, and if he’s in a large enough market or has even just a little bit of luck, there’s going to be a girl who moves through his program every once in a while (just frequently enough to convince him his approach is right) who is going to be able to pick things up at the speed at which he coaches. She’ll look narsty, (that’s intentional) but he either won’t care or won’t know. It will justify him to himself, and be reason to be upset with the other girls who aren’t picking things up.

So why would Coach A spend any more time on a handstand than is minimally necessary? He won’t, because he needs to feel like he’s a great coach, and, unfortunately for him, he thinks that means getting kids to do things before other people can get their kids to do things. If he slows down, he’s going to feel like he’s behind, like he’s losing the race, and like he’s a bad coach; and his kids, who have been raised on speed, will suddenly be resistant to this new type of slow coaching, which will create chaos, argument, etc., and he won’t have the courage to keep the foot down, the kids and parents will run over him, and he’ll be forced back into speed-coaching in a few months with nothing to show for it but a few angry quitters and some mean emails from parents accusing him of not knowing what he’s doing, which is every insecure coach’s nightmare.

I think the key here is that JAO‘s description of this type of coach is exactly the opposite mentality of what I wrote about on my post on “Why Spend More Time on Basics”.  Coach A is mostly concerned with his own ego and reputation.  Coaches who are more concerned about their athlete’s well-being and goals are much more likely to spend the time necessary on basics for ALL of their athletes to be more successful, and not just the ones who would be successful in any program. 

Thanks, JAO for an awesome comment!

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One Comment on “Why Spend More Time on Basics…part 2”

  1. Just Another Opinion Says:

    That cat is a genius. Someone should give him a job.


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