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Not trying or try harder

Discussion in 'Women's Artistic Gymnastics (WAG)' started by honu, Mar 13, 2018.

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  1. We have two new coaches in our upper optional program (level 8, 9, and 10).
  2. Sorry accidently, posted before I finished. Both new coaches sometimes resort to telling girls to "try harder" or will tell girls they are not trying. For my DD it is an issue with keeping legs straight in beam series for others it could be falling on a vault. DD has told coach she is trying and that is when she gets the "well try harder response". My DD would prefer specific feedback as in focus on tightening here or try this drill. Unfortunately, I don't think she is bold enough ask for that kind of response from the coach. Any thoughts on how to deal with those comments?
  3. Whenever my kid thinks she is trying and the coach thinks she isn't, it's because my kid doesn't understand the correction (whether she thinks she understands it or not). Her current coach knows this and will automatically rephrase corrections, have her do a drill to get the correct feel, etc. This seems to be a rare quality in a coach.

    If your daughter is an upper-level optional, she is old enough to start asking for the specific feedback she needs. She needs to learn to do this even if it makes her uncomfortable at first. It's a valuable life skill that will serve her well beyond gymnastics. Remind her that respectful questions are a sign of effort and coachability, and are appreciated by most coaches and teachers. Can you role-play some interactions with her? So instead of

    Coach: Keep your legs straight.
    Child: I'm trying.
    Coach: Try harder!

    It could be

    Coach: Keep your legs straight.
    Child: It feels like I am keeping them straight, so I think I'm missing something. I am squeezing [list muscles]. What else should I be doing? Can you please show me what you mean?
    Aero, esor, PRY9 and 22 others like this.
  4. ^^^^yes give her the words and time to practice saying them. Role play.
    Aero, auswi, GymDadWA and 6 others like this.
  5. Thank you both! I think that is a great idea to have DD specifically say one thing she is focusing on and to then ask for additional feedback. And yes it is exactly an issue of DD feeling that the legs are straighter than they actually are. They are not horribly bent but I do agree with coach there is room for improvement and DD knows it is an issue for her. I also know DD is trying. Honestly, at these levels I think most every kid is trying and wants to improve. They didn't get there without a lot of hard work and dedication already!
    Aero, my4buffaloes, PRY9 and 10 others like this.
  6. YDD 11yo L6 also has this complaint about one of her coaches. She was not assertive enough to ask for more specific feedback or she admits that sometimes she doesn't understand what the coach wants her to do, and they would both get frustrated.
    Now that we figured out this negative cycle, YDD will ask the coach to take a video so she can "see" her skill. YDD does have dyslexia and is a very visual learner, so this helps her understand the correction better, and it tactfully opens an opportunity for the coach to explain the correction differently than she had already.
    Aero, honu, LindyHopper and 3 others like this.
  7. A lot,of the time the problem is the kids belief system, rather than their actual physical inability to do the skill.

    Often when a kids says “but I am trying” it indicates a limited belief system, they believe they are not capable of doing the skills to the coaches expectations. The conversation may really be going like this.

    Coach: “all your casts need to hit handstands”. Translation - coach knows child’s cast don’t usually hit handstand but is putting the expectation out there, and pushing the gymnast to rise to that expectations.

    Gymnast “I’m trying”. Translation - I don’t think I am capable of hitting handstand, I do feel like i’m Trying but I also feel like I can’t do it.

    Coach “try harder”. Translation - I am not going to allow this gymnast to just not believe they can’t do it, if Imhold my ground on the expectations she will at least be pushed to attempt to cast higher.

    Doesn’t always work, but you get the idea.
    Aero, MBJ974, coachmolly and 2 others like this.
  8. I am certain that this very conversation has occurred between my daughter and various coaches approximately one million times. The problem with just saying "try harder" is that the kid is probably already trying everything she can think of, and the coach needs to explain exactly what "try harder" means. It does NOT mean (contrary to what my kid believed for quite a long time) just wanting very badly to do the skill. It means doing something different physically.

    For example, say you have a really little kid who is falling off the beam. She is trying her best to stay on and it's not enough. If you just tell her "Try harder," she will think "Don't fall! Don't fall!" even more fervently, but will not keep her core any tighter because she doesn't know that's how you actually stay on the beam. If you say, "Keep your belly tight," now she knows how to alter her behavior to produce the desired result.
    EGPtriumph, Aero, PRY9 and 6 others like this.
  9. Try harder is not good coaching. Coaches need to teach kids how to apply the correction. I do feel it could help to teach the gymnasts different responses as well though. The "keep your legs straight" correction is particularly hard. You have to asses why the legs are not straight. Is it flexibility, is it lack of proper technique on the skill, does the child not know how to feel that her legs are squeezed as tight as possible?

    I see the gymnast saying, "I'm trying" to thus mean, I don't know how. As they are doing all they already know to do and it doesn't bring about the correction. responding with, "try harder" is totally unhelpful in that case.
    Aero, PRY9, gymcoach1 and 8 others like this.
  10. It's language I try to avoid in general, but I'm sure it slips from time to time in moments of frustration. I think the appearance of "not trying" can be caused by any number of things- not understanding a correction, a sense of resignation that they won't meet expectations (similar to what Aussie_Coach was talking about), fatigue, fear, and, in some cases, a kid really just trying to cut corners. As a coach, you tend to get a sense for those who are all too willing to cut corners and try to pull something over on you and the ones who typically give it their best, even if they're not having their best day and getting the results either of you want. I try to remind my kids to always give their best effort, and that might not look the same from one girl to the next or from one day to the next.
    Like others have said, help her find ways to express herself. That she is trying, that she doesn't understand, that something hurts, she's tired, or scared.
    Aero and sce like this.
  11. I appreciate all the responses and having some coaches perspectives. It may very well be coach is pushing for a higher expectation (especially with states and regionals coming up). DD is not fearful and has done this series for awhile. I think mainly it is combination of a habit and flexibility. I don't foresee DD ever to have the beautiful straight lines on beam that some girls possess, but she can improve and being push to her personal best is good.

    I tried to gently give her some advice about responding to the coach. I am dealing with a teenager so tread lightly is a requirement. Apparently she has already done some of the "this is what I'm doing...they feel straighter...what else can I do". She rarely shares details about practice that amount to more than one or two words, so it's hard for me to get a full picture of the interaction. And she shut me down promptly with not wanting to discuss it more!

    So I am back to she can handle it and more importantly she does not want my help. I think what she does want is simply support to say: I hear you, I see you, I know you work hard and I love you. This has be par for the course and nothing new, but sometimes I forget and want to jump in and offer advice.

    All the responses were very helpful to me. It helps me understand why a coach might be using a "try harder" comment. It's not a comment that I thought to be particularly useful so I have gain added insight. And if DD ask me for help or advice, I'm better able to give her some different perspectives. Parenting is not easy!
    Aero, NY Dad, duyetanh and 7 others like this.
  12. Such an important takeaway and one I needed to hear and remember too!
    Aero, LindyHopper, auswi and 2 others like this.
  13. I think coaches often give general feedback (e.g. "try harder!") either as motivation/encouragement, or because they don't have a technical understanding of what the gymnast needs or how to communicate that to the gymnast. Sometimes the coach misinterprets a technical issue as a mental state issue and thus gives feedback that isn't helpful. Since this coach is new to the team, it's possible that they will learn how to give more precise feedback after getting to know the group and what their needs are.

    I think the mental state vs. technical error confusion is especially common with seemingly simple fixes at the optional level - e.g. not sticking landings, bent legs on a beam series. The coach sees a capable, accomplished gymnast making "small" errors and thinks the gymnast just needs a reminder to focus on the issue or encouragement to give it their all even when they are tired. The coach might be missing that the gymnast actually doesn't know they need to open up earlier to spot the landing, or that an error is so ingrained that they need to go back to drills or need new ways to think about it.

    I struggled a lot with getting coaches to give concrete feedback when I was around level 6-7, especially on tumbling. I had very little awareness of what I was doing or how to improve it, and the coaches that I had for floor tended not to give very specific feedback even when I asked questions. In my case, I think the coaches just didn't have much technical understanding of tumbling at that level. E.g. coach would say something like "You need more height in the front tuck" and I would ask "how do I get more height?" and the coach would be perplexed. Over time I wound up feeling frustrated and believed I was just not made for tumbling, so that created some mental issues with it too.
    Aero, PRY9, NY Dad and 3 others like this.
  14. She sounds like a typical teen. But it also sounds like she is handling it well and it's great that you are there to listen when she needs you.
    honu likes this.
  15. Lol, "try harder" is equally as helpful as "nice try" and "good try" (both of which one of our groups hears a LOT). Then, one day they had a different coach - one who gave ACTUAL feedback and the difference was AMAZING, lol.

    SPECIFIC feedback is much better than generalities.
    iluvgym, aerials, sce and 1 other person like this.
  16. Nice try isn’t always bad feedback. When i give one of the girls a correction, and its almost-but-not-really-there the next turn, i sometimes say Nice try (i only do this with the kids i know Will respond the way i want them to). The next turn they try to overdo it even more and voilla, issue fixed.

    And i know Some kids respond to that, Some kids respond better after doing a drill etc.

    And if i really feel a kid is not trying, i always say, i know you can do it or i wouldnt let you try it. It usually gives them a little more confidence and they usually do it the turn after (this is mostly for rec)

    So i don’t think Nice try and try harder are bad, as long used on the right kids in the right way
    Aero likes this.
  17. But if the entire feedback ... every time is nice try or try harder with no explanation of HOW to fix something, it isnt good feedback.
    This coach I am referring to never offers tips on how to fix something and never offers drills. Any attempt at all is a "nice try" if unsuccessful or "good job" if successful (even if there are form issues to fix).
    Aero, ldw4mlo, esor and 1 other person like this.
  18. Amen! I get frustrated when I hear coaches say things like "you need to go higher" "make it (duh!)" "go bigger". Yes but how about telling them HOW!? Anyone can stand there and say go higher. Tell them how! If you can't tell them HOW, then you need some technical training.
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