Coaches Body control?

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I have a problem. And I'm seriously stuck on how to fix this...

The majority of my compulsory girls have NO idea how to control their bodies! I have done everything I can think of... from spotting and talking to them during the element asking them to feel what they are doing, to giving a brief lecture on thinking about what they do before they actually do it (that one helped the older girls out a lot actually). The other coach I work with talked about visualization exercises, but most of these girls are young and won't understand the concept.

Now the younger girls are not going to be competing this season. So we have more time to work with them. But the older ones are, and I would really like them to be able to know what their bodies are doing while they are training. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!
Three ways I would combat this (sorry no quick fixes):

On the apparatus
Have drill stations which break some of the key skills down into parts so that the gymnasts can gain awareness of what it should feel like. Monitor these closely (or have them pair up) Make it very clear what you are looking for.
I.e. PB swings for casts
- Flat hips
- Shoulders beginning to lean forward as confidence grows
- Tight legs
- Encourage more height once they have mastered the desired shape
In this case have them start small (even if it is just holding support)

Holding key body positions arch, dish straight, handstands etc...
Accept nothing less than perfect from all conditioning activities. Leg lifts done with the slightest leg separation should be repeated.

Gym culture
- Make an example of what is good "Hey everyone look at Sarah's Handstand on beam, see how she has a tight bottom and a flat back" Most kids like a bit of limelight, it also it gives them a visual goal of the desired outcome. Most will work hard to be 'just as good as Sarah'. Be careful that you allow everyone their limelight; find something good from everyone during the week.

- Make it clear that doing a skill twice correctly is better than twenty incorrect skills. For beam you can have them practice five of each skill, before moving on, but only count the good ones. You may need to lower the success criteria to begin with, don’t expect a perfect split jump from nothing.

- Continue getting them to feed back about how the skill felt and encourage them to reach solutions from how the skill felt. Some kids are great at this; others seem to always rely on their coach to spoon feed every correction.
I've found that with younger girls who have trouble controlling their bodies, it helps to break skills into the different shapes they need to hit, and have them hold each of those individuals shapes. This can be as simple as holding front support on bars, with a tight body, and holding a hollow position with their toes on a panal mat and their hands on the floor, to imitate the top of a cast shape. They then "feel" the beggining and end shapes of a cast and can put the pieces together.

I also use contests a lot with younger gymnasts who lack body control. Who can hold a superwoman (arch on their belly) with such tight legs that I cannot pull them apart? Who can balance in releve lock the longest on beam without wobbles? Who can squeeze their bottom in handstand? I have found it helpful to not expect perfection immediatly with skills, but to focus on different parts. Okay- straight arms, now lets squeeze your bottom, not lets get your legs together. This way, they feel they are improving, instead of always being imperfect.
Lots of excellent suggestions! Another thing that helps is to let them "play" some, and allow them to see what "looks good" and what doesn't. I find it puts an awkward stress on a gymnast when they are singled out for their accomplishment - you need to do it in a "spur of the moment" sort of thing.

Second - visuals really, really help. Video or pictures of what you are looking for will come in handy. Getting a TiVo or similar record and play system helps a bunch too.

Finally, I agree - breaking things into components really does help. It's our job as a coach to see how far a skill needs to be broken down per gymnast. Sometimes a forward roll is just a forward roll; other times, it's a "look at your belly button and get your shoulders on the ground..."
I've also found doing some body tension exercises can help the kids get a feel for what a "tight" body feels like. Have them hold each other's feet off the ground while they are in a push-up position. They will have to hold their belly's in and their backs & legs tight. Then have the girl who is "holding" drop one leg and see if they can keep their leg up. Most of the kids think this is fun (at least initially). Switch legs and see how fast they can do it without dropping their legs.

Also, if they are little, having them hold a push-up position and then lifting their feet until they are in a handstand is a good way for them to learn how to hold their bodies tight.

I find that sometimes (not all the time) when girls have no body control it is because they have no idea what it feels like to actually have body control. These are ways that help SOME gymnasts "feel" it.

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