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reannybeanz

New Member
Mar 29, 2022
6
20
I recently got a job as a gymnastics coach for kids classes. I did cheer for 6 years and I have taught kids classes before, so I was very excited to get this job!
Today, I taught my first class (by myself). It was only 5 kids, who were all between the ages of 3 and 5. I set up a whole obstacle course and had a plan to do stretches, warmups, games, and the course but it didn't go to plan at all. They didn't listen when I tried to get them to sit down and do some simple stretches (like butterfly/pike), and they kept running around playing on the equipment. Two girls did eventually listen and did a few stretches with me but it was frustrating when I had minimal control over the class. I ended up letting them play on the obstacle course for pretty much the whole class, with a lot of guidance and persuasion. (They kept running around/ destroying the course) A few kids did great and listened by the end, but others never did. What can I do to get their attention, and make them listen to me? Any ideas to make the class more fun?
Side note: Two of the kids in the class clearly has some form of a mental disability (No judgement whatsoever). My guess is down syndrome and maybe autism. They did not listen to a thing I asked, and I didn't know what to do as I have zero experience with children with disabilities. Any advice on this as well would be greatly appreciated!
 

reannybeanz

New Member
Mar 29, 2022
6
20
From the begging of your post I was wondering if there weren't some developmental delays at play. For those kids, what does your gym typically offer (an aide? an extra instructor? a private lesson instead?). That situation should be addressed first.
I honestly didn't even think of that, I'll have to ask my boss if an aide or extra instructor is an option!
 

PreciousJ

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Feb 16, 2021
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Is there a separate room that can be used for warm up? A room that is not the main activity room (where the obstacle course/equipment is) ? I'm thinking that perhaps the kids would be more likely to pay attention if the "good stuff" isn't immediately in view...less of an immediate distraction. Or, have the kids help to set up the course, as part of the activities? Stretches could be incorporated as they carry foam blocks or bean bags, for example.
 

Janneke

Proud Parent
Feb 12, 2022
45
Speaking as a parent, my then 3-year old would have found it difficult to do things like stretches/warm-up unless it was disguised as a game. She would also need to lose quite a bit energy first before being able to focus on anything remotely looking like gymnastics.

I also don't think it is fair on you to be expected to teach your first class all by yourself. Even if you did take kids' classes before, it was in a different, albeit related, sport. Did you teach children that young before? Did they help you make a lesson plan and things like that? Were you able to shadow a more experienced coach?
 

rd7

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Aug 18, 2011
191
I would expect the children to be able to sit and wait for the class to begin. If they cannot do that (with encouragement) they are not ready for an independent class as they are unable to follow basic instructions that will keep them safe. Do you have a parent and child class they can attend?

Try to have a theme for each class and have a quick discussion time with them before the warm up - eg animals, what's your favourite animal, what noise do they make etc - this will get you a little bit of attention and investment into the first activity. Make this activity very physical - running, jumping like a kangaroo, walking sideways like a crab .....

Use hand equipment for stretching, eg ribbons, balls etc and keep it short.

Set up obstacle courses on different equipment so you could do bars, trampoline and floor in one session for example and again, keep it short. Try to relate some of it to the theme for the session.

Kids this age respond to praise really well, so lots of praise for listening, trying hard, doing the right shape and so on.

A song at the end with actions always goes down well.

Good luck, it is challenging teaching this age group but also great fun
 

reannybeanz

New Member
Mar 29, 2022
6
20
Is there a separate room that can be used for warm up? A room that is not the main activity room (where the obstacle course/equipment is) ? I'm thinking that perhaps the kids would be more likely to pay attention if the "good stuff" isn't immediately in view...less of an immediate distraction. Or, have the kids help to set up the course, as part of the activities? Stretches could be incorporated as they carry foam blocks or bean bags, for example.
That's a good idea, having them help set up after warmups! Also no, I only have the one room. We rent out spaces/gyms to host our classes. :)
 

reannybeanz

New Member
Mar 29, 2022
6
20
Speaking as a parent, my then 3-year old would have found it difficult to do things like stretches/warm-up unless it was disguised as a game. She would also need to lose quite a bit energy first before being able to focus on anything remotely looking like gymnastics.

I also don't think it is fair on you to be expected to teach your first class all by yourself. Even if you did take kids' classes before, it was in a different, albeit related, sport. Did you teach children that young before? Did they help you make a lesson plan and things like that? Were you able to shadow a more experienced coach?
I have taught classes with very young kids before, although I've never had an issue with them listening for whatever reason. I did shadow a few coaches for a few days before my first class, although the lesson plan is all up to me. They allow me to make the classes whatever I want them to be, which I think is fun.

I believe you're right, maybe these kids are just too young to understand the purpose of stretches and warmups. I'll have to find a fun way to incorporate it!
 

gymgal

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Aug 22, 2008
4,655
For the couple who are having trouble focusing you could keep them close to you, have them hold your hand (or a partner), sit next to you, etc. provide visual cueing as well. Not through pointing b/c littles with delays often have trouble following the point more than a couple of feet in front of them. Making a visual schedule board (ex sit/stretch, run, songs, obstacle course) to help them understand the sequence of the class. Also, if parents are present, asking one to assist.
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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Managing children is a skill, which takes time for new coaches to develop, just like any other skill.

Young children don't know what the rules and expectations are, they need those rules and expectations to be taught to them. they have come into a new environment not knowing what they are, so they have to test you, to find out. If you are not clear and consistent their testing will become worse and they will be confused. If you are clear and consistent they will settle down.

Before entering the gym have them line up quietly. The way they come in will dictate the way the class goes. If its okay to just run in and run around, then that's how it will go on. If they are not ready they don't come in.

Before they come in, make sure they clearly understand what is to be done. Example "There are spots on the blue floor, we are going to walk in and sit down, with our bottom on one of the spots".

If you are showing them what to do for an activity, be really specific about what it to happen, show them where to line up, where to start etc.

When giving instructions, get their attention first and use a firm and clear tone of voice.

As far as keeping their attention, as a pre school coach you need to make sure you are more interesting and more exciting to listen to than the equipment. Use lots of different tones of voice, give praise and feedback and attention, make it fun and interesting.

Use lots of praise too, the kids want your attention and your love, if you praise and encourage the ones doing the right thing, the others will also want to jump on the bandwagon to get some of that praise too.
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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I'd start the class with something structured but active. A game, but a structured game, before getting into things like stretching. If you are going to show them a circuit, its best to do that after a quieter activity like stretches.

If you ask them to sit down and stretch, how did you do it.
1. its a race, who is the fastest to sit down
2. Its a game, lets be butterflies, what colour are our wings
3. Wow, I love how quickly xxxx sat down, she is so fast
4. Its a competition, who has the pointiest toes?
 
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reannybeanz

New Member
Mar 29, 2022
6
20
Managing children is a skill, which takes time for new coaches to develop, just like any other skill.

Young children don't know what the rules and expectations are, they need those rules and expectations to be taught to them. they have come into a new environment not knowing what they are, so they have to test you, to find out. If you are not clear and consistent their testing will become worse and they will be confused. If you are clear and consistent they will settle down.

Before entering the gym have them line up quietly. The way they come in will dictate the way the class goes. If its okay to just run in and run around, then that's how it will go on. If they are not ready they don't come in.

Before they come in, make sure they clearly understand what is to be done. Example "There are spots on the blue floor, we are going to walk in and sit down, with our bottom on one of the spots".

If you are showing them what to do for an activity, be really specific about what it to happen, show them where to line up, where to start etc.

When giving instructions, get their attention first and use a firm and clear tone of voice.

As far as keeping their attention, as a pre school coach you need to make sure you are more interesting and more exciting to listen to than the equipment. Use lots of different tones of voice, give praise and feedback and attention, make it fun and interesting.

Use lots of praise too, the kids want your attention and your love, if you praise and encourage the ones doing the right thing, the others will also want to jump on the bandwagon to get some of that praise too.
Great advice! Thank you! :)
 

LucyRobinson

Gymnast
Feb 27, 2022
133
Set a plan...and stick to it. Clearly explain the rules before class really starts. Give the kids warnings so they know when the activity will be switched. For example "five more minutes on the obstacle course everyone! Then it is time for stretching! Take your last turns!" Then make the next activity fun and exciting. Dramatically introduce the game. "Let's get in our butterfly stretch and see where we can fly!" Gymnastics is all about the coach. The best coaches are the ones who make anything exciting, the ones who are not afraid to totally weird out their gymmies with a new game, the ones who put on a show, especially when they are younger.
If it gets time to switch to the next activity and kids won't listen, be firm but not mean. Sit them down with Parent for a few minutes until they are ready to participate. Explain why you are doing what you did and calmly continue with the rest of the children. Check back in five minutes.

Throughout the day, keep structure and fun in all of the activities. Don't just let them freeplay. Make it a competition, race, showcase, or game. Try to give lots of praise. "Wow, Suzie did a good job getting ready for stretching!" Rather than "Sally, I am so disappointed in you. Can't you be more like Suzie?" Praise progress, form, enthusiasm, anything.

Create a signal that means STOP. If the teacher says 'Pineapple' that means it is time to stop playing and regroup. Even if this is just taking a deep breath and reminding everyone the foam blocks are not for eating before continuing, sometimes a stop and go can be good. It teaches them rules are still in place and the teacher is keeping an eye on them.
 
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