Can you "teach" presentation skills?

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Proud Parent
Aug 16, 2008
Our head coach told me today that one of the reasons my DD does not score as high as some other girls is that she is shy and she does not have great "presentation" skills like some other girls do. She also said that presentation is not something you can teach. She said it is something you just have or don't have...and that for some it just takes longer and they will "get" it. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I agree that some naturally "have" it, but to say you can't teach it? :confused:

What do you think? Can you "teach" presentation skills in gymnastics?
You can kind of teach presentation-IF the athlete wants to improve. Some shy kids just are not comfortable showing off- and they can improve w/ work & effort- but it is diffcult. They just really never look as good as the kids who do it naturally- but it can definitely improve w/ a lot of work on both sides (IMHO).
Of course you can teach presentation skills. I recommend you take your daughter to watch some higher level gymnastics competitions. Some elite or college comps would be great or if not some optional comps. Have her watch and pick out the kids who stand out to her and talk about why.
I totally disagree with not being able to teach presentation. It might not happen right away, and the gymnast might not be as "showy" as the girls who naturally show off. However, when she feels confident and finds her own presentation style - she can shine.
My dd came from a gym where her coach had the same philosophy about presentation - either you had it or you didn't. Luckily, when we moved her new coaches had a different philosophy. They spent time teaching her presentation, as they teach all their girls, but a presentation that fits her personality. She is a different gymnast.
Maybe if you talk to you dd about her presentation. She doesn't need to be showy. She needs to find her own style. Perhaps she is more flow-y, or projects confidence in her skills. Talk to her, tell her she doesn't have mimic the other girls, but to just shine as herself.
I think it really depends on the child. It certainly does come very naturally for some, for some it comes with time and experience, for others with hard work, and to some never at all. I am a painfully shy person and smiling at the judges when I saluted was about as good as I could get. I watched tons of elite and college meets live, saw girls really performing, and it was just something I could not do.
But I don't think you can make the generalization that it cannot be taught at all. I certainly improved with time and work. It probably didn't look like much to people on the outside, but it was an improvement for me and my circumstances. I think there is some natural level of charm and presentation that you are born with or you aren't, but that certainly doesn't mean if you weren't born with it there is no hope! And I have a hard time believing all college and elite gymnasts were born with that level of "stage presence"! It is certainly something that can be improved upon.
I think to an extent it can be taught.

With my compulsory girls, we play with different ways of doing the routine...zombie routines, hyperbouncy routines, robot routines, ballerina, Super Mega Confident (caps required), etc..because what looks good on one girl doesn't look right on another. If they're comfortable with it, it looks so much better even if they're not as showy as the next girl who's not comfortable with what she's doing.
Some just have 'it'. Everyone else needs to fake it till they make it. I hope the coach did not tell your daughter this; it’s a quick way to stifle creativity/presentation if a child knows they have already been labelled.
My DD did not have good presentation skills her first year. She is shy and has general anxiety. She looked like a scared little puppy out there. Now in her second year she looks much more confidante and polished.
I'm in the "to some extent" camp. I've seen girls with years of ballet, I work with them individually every day, but they're still kind of just...not there. Lack of turnout, lack of flexibility, lack of extension (this is one of the more important things for the current compulsory routines so I kind of zero in on it...routines can be much improved just by improving this.)

But it can be taught. Generally I would say it's almost always apparent when a kid has a dance background. Now perhaps some of the kids are selecting dance for so many years because they are good at it. But I'm not good at it, and I took years of ballet just because my mom signed me up and older sister did it, and by the time I was a compulsory I always scored really well on floor, and by the time I was L6 won states. I'm really not that good at any presentation. But by L6 I was able to get good enough at that specific routine (last cycle's...the one with BWO back extension at the beginning) to score well. However I have decent turnout, very flexible feet, R/L oversplits and probably more body awareness than an average compulsory (I continued in gymnastics). So overcoming my shyness/lack of fluidity, I had a few advantages. I have some kids that can literally barely point their toes by my's an uphill battle...
I'd take that to mean your coach does not like teaching it (no matter what she actually said). Not that it cannot be learned and that a coach or other adult cannot help speed that learning.

How does your DD feel about learning it?
Well to some extent presentation is you have it or you don't however this is with everything even the very basics of gymnastics you either have the talent or you don't. I see kids that despite attending training they would struggle learning a cartwheel and other kids that pick it up straight away. Some are just naturally good. This is not to say she can't learn it because if the kid who struggles with the cartwheel practices it enough she will get it however it takes longer than the naturally gifted. Same goes for presentation she may struggle with it but will get it at some point. I know being in high school that it is hard thinking you will be judged but i take the philosophy sing like nobody's listening and dance like nobody's watching as you are generally more showy then
An older, higher-level gymnast gave me this piece of advice before my first meet this year (as I tend to be extremely nervous until I get up on the apparatus...and sometimes remain nervous, especially on beam): "Don't worry about the meet. Think about all the hard work and long hours up to this point - this is your chance to show other people what you can do. Show off. It's an opportunity to show that your hard work paid off."

Although I guess I'm a natural "performer"...even when my scores are pretty good but not AMAZING, all the parents say I'm beautiful to watch....and it's definitely not my "long lines" (LOL!) that give me grace. :D
I agree that some kids just have it and some don't. I do think it can be taught, but only as much as the kid wants to try.

At the compulsory level, it is hard to really know what a kid really has in her presentation wise because the compulsory routines, especially with the new music, are not that great. Some kids can make ANY routine/music look like their own, those kids with really great natural performing skills. Most can't and the routines all just look like everyone elses.

Optional level is when some kids come out of their shell, especially if they have a routine that brings out their best and music they like, etc. Which is why states that offer alternatives to the USAG compulsory level are great because the girls can really embrace their style and show off who they are!
I agree with Mariposa! Older kids, or kids who have decided to 'not like' the presentation part of performance will be harder to teach. It can be taught though!

One of my favorite things to teach is this! You can do this at home too. For starters, I like gymnasts to pick any song with lyrics. Then have them describe the feelings associated with the song. It's easier to do with lyrics. In front of a mirror, we pick a facial expression associated with those feelings. Then we move on to a pose. Then an actual skill where we finish 'in character'. We trade songs and whatnot too for variety. We then move on to composed music with no lyrics. The fun of it is in the play with expression, but all the talk about the emotion that goes into the music is where the learning is. Through it all you may be surprised at what they learn! Some kids end up liking music they thoroughly detested before once they look at it as an experience rather than entertainment.

The other is where they perform their floor routine, but after every tumbling pass and during every pose, they have to find a teammate and make eye contact. The girls can be all over the gym! We cover the performers eyes for 15 seconds while the others scramble to a spot. Once eye contact is made, the girl who she was looking at sits down. It helps them make a connection with their audience, and remember that they are there to make an impression on people. After all, judges are people too! Play it up, mix it up, have fun and turn that routine out! At home you could do this with some dance with their friends, siblings, grandparents, you, your dog, etc!
Thank you to everyone for all the great thoughts.

We had a little "gym drama" this past week after a big meet where one particular girl on our team did not score as well as her parents wanted.:rolleyes:

Anyway my DD kind of got dragged into the mess with the drama and our coach (looong story). The coach told me that my DD did not have "it" (presentation) like some of the other girls on our team who are scoring 37's every meet.

Now, I don't really care if my kid scores 37's. This is L4 and she is 9 years old. I want her to do her best and have fun...and I would prefer her to NOT have to repeat L4. :rolleyes:(she has scored consistent mid 35's to mid 36's all season.). I agree with many of you that the compulsory routines are a little hard to "show". I mean especially with the hideous music :p. But I also think it can be taught, at least a little. Whether the kid picks it up or not depends...but I think it should be taught a bit!

I really hope my DD sticks with it and makes it to optionals...we have a long way to go..but I really hope she does....because I will love her being able to show off her own stuff instead of repeating every single move of the compulsory routines 50 zillion times...:). Oh, I am so ready for L4 to be over!

Thanks for reading all this and for your thoughts!
I think you can teach presentation skills it is just really hard for some. I was always really shy when I was little and did not like to show off. I always scored well on vault and bars but did not have good presentation on beam or floor. My current gym is really good with presentation so now as a level 9 I am learning. Some kids it is natural and some it isn't. It was not natural for me but I am slowly learning.
Some just have 'it'. Everyone else needs to fake it till they make it. I hope the coach did not tell your daughter this; it’s a quick way to stifle creativity/presentation if a child knows they have already been labelled.

I agree with Pinapple Lump. "fake it till you make it" is what I was going to say. It will take some kids longer, but it can definitely be taught. It will be easier once she gets to optionals and can have routines choreographed to suit her personality. At this point, help her choreograph some points in the routine to smile.
OK, I'm a male coach and I can teach dance presentation for beam and floor. Yes, some kids take to it more naturally than others but if I can teach it on a beam and these girls can learn it, a coach that is more accustom to beam and dance should be able to teach it easily.
I had to laugh--my own dd, Beth, complained during compulsories that she couldn't possibly smile during her floor routines because it wasn't "smiley" music. Now as an optional she does smile and show it off more, but she's just not naturally a performer--she has picked it up though because her coaches make her!
My dd coach, said the same thing to her, as she didn't score very h igh in her first comp. since then we changed coaches, and her new coaches teach it everyday, now her presentation is the best in class. It just takes time. It took my dd around 6 months to really get it. She is a very shy girl, but when it comes to gym you would never no it. Some things my dd does in her class for presentation is they walk on toes from one corner of the floor to the other , with their arms up in the present and once the reach the end they do their little things with their head and finishing pose. It looks so cute.
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