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Coach Mike

Feb 23, 2014

My name is Coach Mike. I'm going to warn you that this post is probably going to be long, and for that I apologize. I wanted to get some insight/advice from other coaches. This is my first post here on this site, but not the first time me looking around for advice/information on other matters.

First off, I am 30 years old, and have been coaching since I was 19 in Southern California. I started coaching working with cheerleaders for tumbling, then moved onto kids doing kinder tots, level 1-3, and then eventually moving to the competitive arena. During this time I was going to school and got my MA in education, with a credential in P.E. I was actually looking for a normal P.E. job when I found a school that had gymnastics/circus classes, so I applied and got hired. I would have loved to continue coaching at my previous gym, but with my wife in school full time for nursing, 20 hours a week coaching and privates wasn't going to cut it, since she was unable to work. This school is a middle/high school that emphasizes performing arts, so they have dance, acting, singing, etc. I'm payed a teachers salary with benefits. This isn't a competition atmosphere, they do this as classes and performing.

My experience at this school has overall been fine so far, but I've hit a wall. The space that I'm working in as my "room/gym" is very poor. I'm in the theater room that has a stage with risers (seats). I would say I have about 12 feet wide by 50 feet long of concrete with cruddy carpet over, then I have the stage which is probably another maybe 16 feet wide by 50 feet, made of wood. I have 9 panel mats total, which I use on the bottom ground portion to cover, stretch, and tumble on top of. I also have 3 cheese mats, 2 back handspring rollers (small/big), 2 smaller crash mats, a spotting block, and some cut up squares of roll out cheer floor (I didn't do this).

What I am here to ask is some advice on how to run my class. I feel kind of stumped on what to do now. Each class has about 20 students, ranging from only knowing how to roll and beginning cartwheels, up to students who can do back handsprings and some tucks(cheer backgrounds). It's usually a ratio of 5 extreme beginners, 13 average, 2 advanced in each class. I usually start the class off with warmups then stretching. I'll give you an example of my warmups today. 2 sets of 1 leg box jumps (30 sec each), 15 nadias, 2 sets of 30 tuck opens, 3 sets of 15 dip push ups, 3 sets of 30 sec hollow body holds, 100 toe risers, 100 crunches. I change my warmups everyday for the students concentrating on different areas, then we do our stretching. After that is where I'm sort of lost. I've tried doing stations with the class for the beginning half of the year, separating them into groups of 3-4 depending on class and room. I usually had stations ranging from running tumbling, to rolls on the cheeses, handstand flat backs on crash mats, standing back bends, etc etc. and then I would have them switch after an few minutes. Problem with this was that I had many students (since this is high school and jr. high) that are lazy and don't put forth alot of effort, or are constantly sitting, and not working. Now I've had my share of turds at my gyms, but not like this, since their parents were paying for the classes, I never had this issue. My gymnasts loved me, and worked hard for me most of the time. Teenagers on the other had at a school look at this different, and I just feel disorganized sometimes.

I've also tried having them line up together, and just work on basic tumbling drills for a period of time, but same thing occurs. overall laziness, some people will try to hide in line and not go, or people will start complaining we are doing the same thing over and over, and not doing enough new stuff. Now as a coach, I know that in order to move onto advanced stuff, the basics should be good, if not mastered in order to achieve the harder skills.

I guess I'd like some ideas on how other coaches would run this type of class in the same atmosphere I'm in, with the same limited resources I have. Next year, I can ask for more equipment, but until then, I'm stuck with what I have. I have 4 periods a day, block scheduled, and each class is 1 hour 30 minutes. I usually give about 15 minutes total time for dressing and and getting mats ready, so 1 hour 15 minutes of actual class time with kids age ranged 13-18, with around 20 per class, mostly female.

I've talked to my team coach at my previous gym to get some insight from her, and showed her pictures of my area, and equipment. She was surprised I can work in an area like this and get the kids to do anything lol. But her advice and drills she gave me were similar to what I was already doing. So I wanted to reach out to the coaching community and get some more insight/advice.

Again, anything would be much appreciated on how you would break down this class in terms of time alotment, and drills you would do, and what you would emphasize working on. If you need any other information about me or my environment please don't hesitate to ask. I took some pictures on my phone, and will upload them later tonight when I get home.

THANK YOU so much for anyone who replies, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

Coach Mike
You could always try acro skills! Try googling beginner acro skills and see if you could incorporate some partner or trio skills into your class. To get my teenage class actively learning (I no it's crazy a teen coaching a teen class) I incorporate tons of competition like stations like they have a handstand comp in their group of 3-4. Get one person out of the group to judge who's roll is the neatest and rotate that around etc... Hope this helps!

You can use your stage as part of your equipment. Any way you would use a spotting block to set up drills with. It depends on how tall the stage is.

I think laziness in gymnastics class can sometimes be attributed to physical weakness. If you can break some drills down to even smaller pieces, it might help. It doesn't take long for a kid to get tired of attempting something they can't do well or that hurts. There's a coach in my club that makes the new kids do tons of bridges and handstands. They always look like they get tired of it pretty quick. A lot of them just stand and look around.

If you do more drills, it will seem like you are doing new stuff even when you are basically doing the same thing over and over, just with different setups. I just saw this on a coaching site the other day. The kid sits between two folded panel mats, roll back into candle stick, roll forward and place hands on mats pushing up to a pike hold.

Was going to try it in my class, but had a snow day. Can't wait till next week.

I did get to try a cast drill I saw on a coaching site. The kids thought it was fun. It's the one where they kids lay on a panel mat in a seal stretch position. Then they rock off the mat and onto the floor.

I know there are coaches who who see the arch shape and wouldn't want to use the drill because of that. A coach at my gym were saying I shouldn't let them arch when I did this drill with the kids. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm in a super rec class. My kids are weak 9 yos that saw gymnastics on tv and want to try it. I've got 5'5" 13 year old beginners who can't touch their toes. These kids that have no strength are exactly the kids that you should have do all those little technique drills that you don't have time for in a club gymnastics class.

My goal is to get them moving. From what I've seen, it's best to be sneaky about it. Most kids are not going to be interested in doing a whole lot of pushups but if you give them a little floor routine with music that includes a log roll to a push up among other movements that have fitness potential, they'll practice a lot more and get stronger as a result. Here's a "dance move" that will help your kids improve their flexibility. Have the kids stand on one leg, bend their standing leg until they can hold their free leg out in front of them parallel to the floor, then straighten their standing leg while still trying to hold their free leg straight in front. Fairly soon, kids who can't get their free leg to horizontal unless they bend their standing leg a lot will be able to do it without bending their standing leg much.

Have your kids put a fitness routine together. Tell them they have to include certain elements. Do the routine for a week or two until somebody does the routine to your satisfaction and wins. The winner gets to pick the next piece of music. You probably figured out how this works. Your routine includes two pushups. Normally it would be tough to get a kid to practice two pushups at home. If a kid likes the routine, they practice the routine and the pushups included. They might practice it more than once even. In class they gradually get better and better at those 3 sets of 15 pushups that are in the warmup. Some of your kids will not practice but some will get stronger and then it's time for them to make a routine with harder elements in it.

I think you were on the right track with stations. If there's 20 people in your class, set up 10 stations. Not all of your stations have to be based on acrobatics. Some can be there to improve flexibility. Some can be there to help the kids learn a dance phrase. Some can be there to help improve shaping. If your kids are in pairs, they can measure each other's improvements which they track in a fitness journal. For example, with the standing leg stretch I described, each gymnast's partner can measure how high the heal of their free leg is off the floor.

In a 10 station setup, you can spot one station. Then you have nine other stations. Five of these stations can be working on things like full turns which you will of course break down to the atomic level. Balance on one leg, Demi ronde de jambe, etc. The other four stations can be strength and acrobatics. Also broken down to the atomic level. This will also help your more advanced kids improve their technique.
First off I would like to say thank you for the people that replied, I really appreciate your comments and suggestions. I have used Acro in my teachings this year. I did a small acro unit that was about 1-2 months and they had to put together a routine for me. That seemed to work out well, except for the fact that many just wanted to tumble and not do acro. My gym had both acro and artistic gymnastics. Gymkateer I liked your idea with incorporating multiple different types of stations that use both acro, conditioning, stretching, and tumbling, I think I will try that. One issue though is the problem of creating 10 stations with my limited mats, but if I'm making different types of stations like mentioned before, I think I'll be ok, so I'll give it a try.

Iwannacoach, I do circus with 2 other teachers on the other day of the block scheduling. So basically it's 'A' days and 'B' days. A days are all gymnastics classes and B days are all circus. I"m by myself on A days.

Pam, I like the idea of competitions, I used to use those all the time in my level classes at gymnastics. Only issue is some of my kids are on one extreme skill wise while the other is opposite. I wouldn't be able to put some in a group for a contest because they flat out can't kick up to handstand, while everyone else can, and while a small potion can completely hold it longer than others. But maybe I'll tell the ones that can't hold they can use the wall or something to work on while I work with the contest people.....We'll see, I need to look more into this, but thank you

Anyways, here are some pics of my work environment, don't laugh lol. Remember I'm coming from using a awesome gym facility to THIS!

Yup, that definitely looks like a space to work on a lot of shaping and dance! Your stage is not what I pictured but it looks like you do have wall space so that's a plus.

What do you want to teach your students? If you have something in mind, that will help to make picking out the drills you want to use easier. I teach my rec kids the USAG compulsories basically. It just gives a nice framework.
Well since none of my kids are going to be gymnasts, I thought about doing basically a tumbling program, since we aren't ever going to get equipment other than tumbling stuff. So I'd say a mixture of both tumbling and acro. Next school year is going to be a bit easier because I'm auditioning all the kids that want to be in the class, and I get to pick what level they are in and which class. This year I was just given these classes and that's why the skill levels are completely mixed.

I start auditions on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday next week to evaluate the kids and put them in appropriate levels. This is mainly just to find a way to finish the rest of the year this year, and get them used to a program, and not just warm ups, stretching, tumbling lines, and few stations. I want to try to keep them moving, its just hard because out of 15-20 kids, they are ALL different levels and are constantly whining they can't do something or need help.

I think I want to mix it up and have stations that involve tumbling, acro, stretching and possibly agility.

Thanks again Gymkateer
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