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Nov 16, 2012
Hi guys!

I feel like I'm only posting here when something is not right. Sigh. It's time to vent again.

In September I started coaching in a new club in addition to my old club. So I now work for two clubs. The new one is a rec club and only has rec classes, boys and girls together. I coach 4 classes, 4/5 year olds, 6/7/8 year olds, 8/9/10 year olds and 11 and up. The last class has been pretty much a big fiasco. I coach with another coach who has coached that group for years, but of course just some of the kids have been around all the years. They don't have any kind of level systems so all the kids regardless of age go to the same class.
There are 20-25 kids at every practice. Some of them can do front fulls from mini tramp and some cannot do a proper front roll. So it's CHALLENGING!

Well, most of the kids in the last group are 12-15 year old coltish boys. They love to throw tricks but aren't that keen about warm ups, conditioning or stretching. Some of the boys behave very badly, they don't listen, go to the pit and tramp when not allowed, they skip half of the stations etc. Most of our time is used on disciplining the boys. There's also about 10 well behaving kids there too, but they have to suffer from the others not behaving and not listening since we stop talking when the kids don't seem to listen or start chatting. The gym is very small and there's a floorball field and an adults zumba class going on right next to us so there's always noise.

So today I got and email from our executive director. Se re-sent me an email she had got from one parent. The email was very inculpatory. It said that we only sit in the corner and chew cum and let the kids just do anything. We are not invigorating and we don't give the kids any "tips or advice" and we always rotate the same stations. The worst thing is that after re-sending me that e-mail our director sent another very similar complaint to us. I don't know WHO sent those messages because they didn't want their names to be shown.

That made me feel really sad. I have REALLY tried my best. We have set rules and the kids have signed the papers but it seems to have no impacts. We use a naughty spot they have to sit in when they break rules. At every practice one or more boys sit in it. It doesn't seem to bother them too much.

The other problem is that after the class we have to clean up the gym with kids and put the equipment into warehouse so we have to start cleaning up 10 minutes before the class ends. The boys hate cleaning and it's a huge struggle to keep them away from the pit and trampoline while they SHOULD be cleaning up so it TAKES TIME.

I answered to the director and explained how the things really are but she still insist me to come to her office to talk about this. What can I say? She never comes to watch practices and she takes the complaints very seriously.

I can only tell that I haven't sat down during the classes more than maybe two times. My knee was operated less than two months ago and I really FEEL it when I stand but I don't want to sit because I know it looks like lazy.

I feel so bad I almost cry. Some of you might remember this is not my first time handling complaints from parents - I have had very hard time with my team girls too (they are teens).

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Well since you don't sit down during class that is just not true, since these are older kids maybe the parent got this from their kid, rather than firsthand, and that was how the kid presented it.

The director should explain the problem behaviors to the parent and invite them to watch a lesson.

However, a "naughty spot" is not age appropriate discipline for 12-15 year olds. Assign one of them to lead the warm up each day and they have to use the appropriate warm up area. Assign another two to lead stretches, and tell them they need two from each group (coaches will walk around and correct the kids during so they don't appear to be sitting).

Stations will be one child per station from now on, and they won't rotate until one minute is up. That way they can't talk or run around. If they want to skip it, they can choose from sit ups, push ups, etc instead for that one minute. If they don't do that, then note it on a log so when a parent complains you can document the two choices the child has that they chose not to do.

When tramp or pit is off limits have a mat nearby to cover it. Then it won't be as fun or enticing or easy to get on. A little more work but worth it.

Have a point system where earned points translate to being able to lead warm ups, or have tramp time, or something else.

That said this seems like willful disobedience at this age rather than impulsive behavior. Really, they need to be kicked out of the class if they don't listen to the instructor at this age. I'm not sure if you have any way to do that :/
A little update:

Me and the other coach went to talk to the director. We had a good discussion and tried to find out ways to make it work again. We agreed that we shall stop using naughty spot and if they don't follow the rules or go to the pit when not allowed they are no longer allowed to go to the pit or tramp during the rest of the lesson. We are also scheduling a talk with parents and gymnasts and set new rules and have the parents also sign them, not just the gymnasts.

The class was on Wednesday and at first we told them about the new rules and tried to make them understand WHY it is so important to follow the rules and that it's all about their safety. They took it well and actually behaved much better and we had FUN with them. And we made the cleaning up a contest: HOW fast can we do it? It was really fast when everyone helped, just a few minutes.

During conditioning and stretching they behaved much better and we tried to point out the importance of both. And we also made the warm up a contest between boys and girls which they absolutely loved!

The same parent who was watching last week also was up there again. She didn't come to us - of course she didn't which upsets me a little - but she had emailed the director after the class and thanked and said the class looked like much better this time. I'm happy she's happy but it bothers me she couldn't just come down and say that direct to us.

But it the end there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel!
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