Coaches Coaching gymnastics vs. coaching ethics

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Oct 12, 2008
Hello all, this topic came up in another forum about fencing that I am a member of, and I was wondering what gymnastics coaches would say as opposed to fencing coaches. I still coach gymnastics, but I have started competing in fencing instead of gymnastics, and the enviroments are very very different. Here is my post on the other forum with a few edits to make it applicable to this forum:

Originally Posted by jBirch

*sigh* Sometimes I wish coaching were simply about teaching the kids how to move and how to use the blade instead of how to be decent human beings.


First off I am not a fencing coach, but I do coach gymnastics and have been involved in gymnastics for 9 or so years.

As a gymnast who worked out ~20 hours a week, usually with just one coach, my coaches throughout my gymnastics career had a huge ethical and moral impact on my views. I would not be the same person today if I had not had the tutoring and guidance of my coaches. Besides just coaching me on gymnastics, they also became friends and trusted advisors, I went to them with problems of personal nature, especially during a time in my life right after high school and I had to make major life decisions about college and other things which I will not go into here. A few of my coaches were of the strong opinion that if you were going to spend so much time with a child per week, then you had a moral responsibility to teach them not only gymnastics, but how to be a good person. Not anything specific, but things like respect, responsibility, work ethic, etc. where the gymnast became a better person were key goals of many of my coaches.

My point here is that if you spend any number of hours with an individual you have an impact on them, whether you wish to or not. I realize fencing is not as hour-intensive as gymnastics, but as a coach, how responsible do you feel for the character development of your fencers (or gymnasts), specifically your more advanced fencers (or gymnasts) who are in the club many hours per week?

Personally as a gymnastics coach I am not coaching at a level where I work with any individual more than two hours a week, and as such I do not have much influence, but during my classes I strictly enforce (especially with my boys, who like to get a little rough sometimes) rules about respect for other coaches and the many, many other girls in the gym. First warning is 100 push ups and second warning is they sit out for the rest of the class. This includes disrespectful behavior and downright bullying. If it happens again either myself or the gym owner will have a serious talk with the parents about their child continuing in the class.

As frustrating as it is, I think it is one of the more fulfilling aspects of my job as a gym coach to see a child change their behavior for the better or show respect to someone where they would normally not.

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I beleive coaching is less about teaching the sport and more about teaching life skills. That is why we teach sport. Through sport kids learn team work, dedication, committment, discipline, confidence, focus and so many more. Few ill grow up to be "professional gymnasts". Very few will ever do giants and back tucks again once their gym careers are oiver but the other skills they learn through gym will affect them for a life time.
They walk in the door for the sport.

They keep coming back for the fun, and because of the other stuff they're learning. The concrete proof that hard work pays off, the respect & other manners, the sheer joy of learning and achieving and all the behaviors and character traits that get positive, not negative, attention. They may not yet KNOW that's what keeps them coming back, but the non-gymnastics lessons are what will last them their whole lives.
Hmm, I never allow the boys to hurt the girls, but I tend to be territorial and very protective of the girls. However, I'm a playful tease at times and will put the gym girls who get a big head in check. Moreso, I don't like it if these girls are messing with or bothering my boys because they are older.

As a coach and with these kids, I have often thought they looked up to me and thus must impart to them to what I think to them are moral lessons. I am not only in charge of their physical care while in the gym but there emotional care. I need to know if something is bothering them during practice because it usually effects their training and if so, what I can do about it.

I know I looked at many of my coaches as mentors.
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