Every young gymnast has heard of the Final Five, the gymnastics dream team that won the third team Olympic gold medal for the United States and the second gold medal in the women’s team competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They are the first team since the1992 Summer Olympics to medal on every event, including the team and individual all-around. The names Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman have inspired young gymnasts everywhere to dare to dream about the possibility of becoming champions themselves one day.
What these emerging gymnasts must remember, and what we as we, as parents and coaches, must remind them is that the skills they are learning today create the critical foundation for the skills of tomorrow – that every champion was once a beginner. This understanding will help them stay motivated and focused on perfecting ‘little’ skills such as forward rolls, handstands, and cartwheels so that they will be prepared to learn ‘big skills,’ such as back handsprings, tucks, and aerials.
So, how do I help them stay focused and take pride in every day excellence so that they maintain the strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, and spatial awareness that are so important for all gymnastic levels?
- Well, we all know that kids love to do things that they do well. I make sure that our young gymnasts are able to keep improving their performance levels so that they can experience the joy of competency. They learn that working hard leads to success, and I give them plenty of opportunities to take ownership of their success by including them in goal setting and training plan implementation. Along with that line of thinking, I also give them choices and allow them select from a number of training options so that they are more invested in what it takes to succeed.
- It’s also important that young gymnasts feel that their coach genuinely cares about them personally. They will more likely work harder in order to meet their coach’s expectations as well as their own.
- While gaining mastery of beginning skill sets is important, rising up to new challenges is also a way to inspire excellence. Boredom can quickly deplete the enthusiasm of a budding gymnast. With that in mind, I make sure that their training program includes introducing them to skills that are at a higher level than their current competitive level.
- Finally, I build in measurements of success and celebration. I track and post daily progress and conduct regular evaluation meetings with all gymnasts individually to make sure that they are continually motivated to improve their performance. And finally – we make sure that there are plenty of occasions to celebrate achievement!
Through motivation, support, accountability and celebration, we make sure that young gymnasts never lose sight of what it takes to be a future champion!!