What to do when they refuse to try???

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Jun 12, 2008
I have a couple of 2s and 3s who just literally seem to hate the sport. Their parents keep them in it regardless (they are aware of the situation and we have discussed it), and as a coach, it is my job to do the best I can with what I am given. The problem is, I have a couple of girls who do not respond to anything! Positive motivation (special priveleges on a good day, little surprises, etc.) does not work for more than 1 day, negative motivation (conditioning, sitting out, etc.) does NOTHING at all besides inducing tears. I am trying very hard to make them as productive as they can be whilst they are at the gym and to get them to enjoy themselves, but the bottom line is that they do not enjoy the sport and if they do not start to show improvement, I will not take them to competitions. I have had gymnasts outright admit that they just aren't trying. I feel that I am firm but fair as a coach, and VERY positive. Any advice?


Sadly, if they are only there because their parents are making them - I'm not sure there is anything you can do to make them try. It sounds as if you are trying to make it fun - but if the kids do not enjoy the sport - nothing is going to make it fun for them (kinda like kids who hate math - no amount of games or trying on the teachers part is going to make them say, "yea Algebra, my favorite). It sounds like you are in a really tough spot - good luck.
Jul 12, 2007
Are you a USAG coach? How old are your level 2's & 3's? How many hours do they train?

I read in another post that you had only "inherited" this team a few months ago. From the childs perspective it may be a new coach takes some getting used to. I don't know how long they were with their last coach, but children do get attached. This may be a situation where they just need time to be able to trust you. In the mean time, I would not focus on their weaknesses at all. Only on the positives & if competition time comes and they are not ready, then they just don't compete. That may be the fire they need to get motivated - if this is indeed the problem.


Wow - little girls who don't want to be on level 2 or 3 team - why are they being forced to do it? Do you think a "mock meet" might help? You know, an in-house meet for just the level 2 and 3's with ribbons for awards? You could get the other coaches to judge - or maybe the level 9 & 10's could judge it? Once the "problem girls" get a taste of competition they may decide they really want to be on team after all.......or it may be that they can convince their parents that they really do not like competing and the parents would let them go back to rec classes


Jul 5, 2007
I've had a lot of kids like that in the younger classes, although usually the older ones are better about at least participating, even if they aren't overly enthusiastic. None of this is very close to competitive in our system. I just try to come up with something like playing catch from beam to beam and stuff like that, that is somewhat productive with balancing skills but breaks it up and keeps everyone busy. I try to make it like "if everyone finishes and works well, we can do this at the end. Don't be the person who messes it up" (although I won't yell at them in front of everyone or anything, if I see them about to do whatever I'll remind them. Making it in terms of a team effort holds them more accountable and they're less likely to just think that they'd rather sit out anyway so who cares about listening).

The other thing that might help is evaluating the structure of the program and how clear the objectives are. Do they have skill sheets they are working towards checking off/getting a sticker on/etc? If not, I would make them. All 4 events plus strength/flex. You may need to sit down for 5 minutes and have a talk about expectations. At the end, have them tell you one thing they improved and one thing they want to work on next time.


i've read the above posts and i agree with them, but if that doesn't work you should talk to another coach or talk to the parents and say that they are disruptive to the other gymnasts that actually want to learn gymnastics, because it is not fair to them.
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