For Coaches First time coaching problems

GymOwl

Coach
Coach
Gymnast
Feb 6, 2021
14
17
Country
USA
Hi all! I have read tons of forums on this site, but I am fairly new to the chalk bucket community, so please forgive me if I have made a mistake in this post.

I train as a level 7 gymnast and help coach beginner and intermediate classes, as well as my level 4 and 5 teammates. I've been coaching for about 8 months, and have coached a few classes with my other teammate and head coach, however I tend to struggle a lot with engaging with the kids (mostly ones I am new to) and keeping everyone under control (especially kids who have trouble listening and paying attention)

I do pretty well with spotting techniques and working with kids at different stations, but when my coach puts me in charge of, let's say, a small group of beginners (about 3 to 4 kids), I have a hard time thinking of different ways to help the kids understand what we're working on, and how to keep everyone focused and under control so no one gets hurt. I can be assertive and firm when it's necessary, but only with kids I have worked with for a few classes.

Any tips and/or ideas on how I can improve? I'd love some feedback as I plan on being a coach for years to come.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

Former Admin
Gold Membership
Coach
Former Gymnast
Jan 21, 2007
4,276
Baltimore, MD
Country
USA
Hi all! I have read tons of forums on this site, but I am fairly new to the chalk bucket community, so please forgive me if I have made a mistake in this post.

I train as a level 7 gymnast and help coach beginner and intermediate classes, as well as my level 4 and 5 teammates. I've been coaching for about 8 months, and have coached a few classes with my other teammate and head coach, however I tend to struggle a lot with engaging with the kids (mostly ones I am new to) and keeping everyone under control (especially kids who have trouble listening and paying attention)

I do pretty well with spotting techniques and working with kids at different stations, but when my coach puts me in charge of, let's say, a small group of beginners (about 3 to 4 kids), I have a hard time thinking of different ways to help the kids understand what we're working on, and how to keep everyone focused and under control so no one gets hurt. I can be assertive and firm when it's necessary, but only with kids I have worked with for a few classes.

Any tips and/or ideas on how I can improve? I'd love some feedback as I plan on being a coach for years to come.
Here's the biggest advice I can give you: coaching is theater before anything else. Your first task is to engage your audience.

Do you have any drama/theater experience? Any sort of theater classes will likely run you through a number of drills and exercises to help out with this, but what you need is stage presence. Your movements, your voice, your mannerisms, make them larger than life. Take up space. When you are pouring out a lot of energy, you'll be amazed at how much more focused and engaged kids will be.

I know we're looking outside the gym on this one, but bear with me: in my opinion, every coach should watch at least a few movies with Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey. Maybe throw in some Abbot and Costello as well. These are all actors/characters who excel at making everything they do big and dramatic and larger than life; you want to be like that when you coach.

The Mask would be a great place to start, if you haven't seen it before. When Jim Carrey is wearing the Mask, everything he says and does pretty much takes up an entire room; he speaks loudly without yelling, every move he makes is comical and exaggerated, and you know perfectly well that in any room he walks into, all eyes would be on him. You want that kind of energy (or at least, a more family-friendly version of it). Kids (and adults, for that matter) want to pay attention to things that are big and loud and funny; if you can be big and loud and funny as a coach, your kids will be engaged and have a blast.
 

GymOwl

Coach
Coach
Gymnast
Feb 6, 2021
14
17
Country
USA
Here's the biggest advice I can give you: coaching is theater before anything else. Your first task is to engage your audience.

Do you have any drama/theater experience? Any sort of theater classes will likely run you through a number of drills and exercises to help out with this, but what you need is stage presence. Your movements, your voice, your mannerisms, make them larger than life. Take up space. When you are pouring out a lot of energy, you'll be amazed at how much more focused and engaged kids will be.

I know we're looking outside the gym on this one, but bear with me: in my opinion, every coach should watch at least a few movies with Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey. Maybe throw in some Abbot and Costello as well. These are all actors/characters who excel at making everything they do big and dramatic and larger than life; you want to be like that when you coach.

The Mask would be a great place to start, if you haven't seen it before. When Jim Carrey is wearing the Mask, everything he says and does pretty much takes up an entire room; he speaks loudly without yelling, every move he makes is comical and exaggerated, and you know perfectly well that in any room he walks into, all eyes would be on him. You want that kind of energy (or at least, a more family-friendly version of it). Kids (and adults, for that matter) want to pay attention to things that are big and loud and funny; if you can be big and loud and funny as a coach, your kids will be engaged and have a blast.
I never thought to look at it like that! Thank you so much, that actually makes a lot of sense. A lot of kids I coach love how we introduce, let's say, a new skill. We like to use fun terms and it gets them very excited and interested in what they're learning (even if it's on their least favorite event)

I'll have to check out The Mask as well
 

JBS

Administrator
Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Former Gymnast
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Sep 3, 2005
6,319
Wisconsin
Country
USA
Here's the biggest advice I can give you: coaching is theater before anything else. Your first task is to engage your audience.

This is great advice. I was told when I first got a coaching job that the gym was like Disney World. Each day before entering the facility I needed to be "in character".

Also... when I started I coached many preschool classes... over 25 per week. One of my 3 year old classes was recorded as an example for a staff meeting. It was a really hard class with very young 3 year olds. I really had no idea why until I was told at the staff meeting. As the recording was played it was shown that I used the names of the kids almost constantly through the entire class to keep them engaged. Never once did I use "buddy" or "hey you". The owner of the gym went on to say that she counted during the entire class and I used their names over 700 times... or more than once every 4 seconds.

Hard classes I would always keep close with very few stations and I would move them very fast. As the class "learned to learn"... I could use different teaching techniques. Many times I would just draw a big chalk circle on the floor and have the kids march around it. As they learned to follow the line... I would drop one station on top of it. The kids would have to do the station and follow the line all the way around and do it again. If the class as a whole can't do this... then you can't add more stations. I am now a head coach... I still use this technique on a regular basis while coaching the team.