Managing Your Gymnastics Program

“The best boss I ever had.” That’s a phrase most of us have said or heard at some point, but what does it mean? And what can we do to have our employees say this about us?

The first thing we need to do is answer a few key questions:
What sets the great boss apart from the average boss?
What do great managers actually do?

While there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest:They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.checkers-chess1

 Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess.

The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.

Think about some of the techniques you used in the gym when you were “just a coach”.

You had some go to drills for certain skills to get you started but then you had to individualize training based on the physical and psychological needs of each gymnast. The longer you were in the gym you were able to spot trends. “Paige reminds me a lot of Lexa. Her shapes are similar. I will take the same path on her Tkatchev”. Then as you get further down the road you individualize even more. Possibly based on new pieces of equipment now available or just things that meet Paige’s needs better.

Managing your gym is no different. You need to know what makes each person tick. A critical part of you job, therefore, is to put people into roles and shifts that will allow them to shine—and to avoid putting clashing personalities together. At the same time, you need to find ways for individuals to grow.

Emma is a former level 10 gymnast who competed through college. I almost didn’t hire her because I thought she was a bit of a “princess”. During our cleaning week before we started our fall classes I asked her to clean and straighten up the bar area. A job which should have taken a few hours took her ALL DAY and it was not done that well. The next day I asked her to clean out the pre-school closet (where we keep all the props and things for lesson plans). In a very short period of time she had that closet organized with the props that were used the most in the front, everything in a very logical and easy to get order. Give Emma a generic task, and she would struggle. Give her one that forced her to be accurate and analytical, and she would excel.

3 important steps

First, identifying and capitalizing on each person’s uniqueness saves time. No employee, however talented, is perfectly well-rounded. Find the right job for that person. Time is much better spent carving out a role that takes advantage of someone’s natural abilities than to try to turn your preschool teacher into your head team coach.

Second, capitalizing on uniqueness makes each person more accountable. I didn’t just praise Emma for her ability to execute specific assignments. I challenged her to make this ability the cornerstone of her time in the gym. To take ownership for this ability and to teach others. Emma’s confidence bloomed and has become one of the strongest and most organized teachers in my program.

Third, capitalizing on what is unique about each person builds a stronger sense of team, because it creates interdependency. It helps people appreciate one anothers’ particular skills and learn that their coworkers can fill in where they are lacking. In short, it makes people need one another. The old cliché is that there’s no “I” in “team.” But as Michael Jordan once said, “There may be no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there is in ‘win.’”

To excel at managing others, you must bring that insight to your actions and interactions. Always remember that great managing is about release, not transformation. It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be given free rein. Your success as a manager will depend almost entirely on your ability to do this.

checkers-vs-chess

Shiny Objects

As the ancient Greeks understood, great athletes not only accept the ordeal of competition and the trial of strength inherent in it, but also show us a connection between what we do each day and something that is larger than we are and lasts longer than we do.  Bill Bradley via Bill Sands

Crow%20with%20a%20Shiny

Crows are attracted to shining objects. Are you a crow? Are you immediately attracted to shining objects? Crows in coaching are those who are constantly attracted to the newest shining object in the form of fads, they believe the hype and marketing, they are always looking for the latest greatest shortcut.

In all my years of gymnastics I have never really found a shortcut. If anything every time I teach a new skill to a gymnast I find myself using more and more drills.

Hopefully you are not a crow but a critical thinker with a sound foundation in training principles and finely tuned BS filter so that you can ignore the shining objects.

How to Write a Tweet to Increase Twitter Engagement for Your Gymnastics Club

hashtag-birdMany gymnastics clubs use twitter to try to increase traffic to their website, get information out and market their club.

Gym Momentum posts all articles on twitter but also to send out quick information and link to other articles that and posts that I think Gym Momentum followers may be interested in. As a middle age guy- I am never 100% confident that I am using Twitter most effectively to generate interest and traffic.

Hootsuite is the platform that I use to schedule tweets. It is easy and pretty intuitive. As a bonus- they post some great articles on marketing. Kristina Cisnero  is Hootsuite’s Inbound Marketing Specialist. Each day she focuses on bringing small businesses valuable content on social media marketing. She posted a great piece recently on ways to increase twitter engagement.

See Original article here.

You Can’t Spell ‘Twitter’ without ‘Wit': How to Write a Tweet To Engage Your Audience

A study done by researchers at Cornell University, backed by the National Science Foundation and Google, found that style may trump substance when it comes to Twitter popularity. This research found that including an engaging call to action at the beginning of the Tweet—for example, “please retweet, retweet, plz, pls”—can increase people’s engagement rate on Twitter. Now, what does this mean for US?

Recently, Hootsuite (HS) conducted its own Twitter experiment to see what its followers found engaging. They found that knowing more about their audience, using images, and taking some risks really helped boost its Twitter engagement rate (TER). This helped them increase their TER by 180% in two months.

How well do YOU know your audience?

Researchers at Cornell gathered their findings and created a tool that uses an algorithm to automatically learn what kind of wording works better for Tweets. This tool, however, may not work for everyone because it still doesn’t factor in humor or personality—which they (HS) found was a key factor in how we increased our own TER.

Cornell University’s tool is a great start on learning what kind of content to use in your Tweets. But since Hootsuite’s experiment yielded some findings that weren’t accounted for by university researchers, they decided to add to this research. They’ve put together a template to help you know how to write a tweet that people will want to engage with.

Here’s a template demonstrating how to write a Tweet:

Tweet-Anatomy-KC-rev-1

Breaking down this how to write a Tweet template:

You’re probably thinking, “Great, a template, but what does this template mean?” Don’t worry, I’ve put together 4 key takeaways that will explain the graphic and teach you to write engaging Tweets.

Write engaging content that speaks to your audience

The first part of your Tweet should be around 90-100 characters. This text should be engaging, show off your brand personality, and include a call to action. Yes, Twitter’s character limit is 140; however, if you’re going to ask people to retweet your Tweet, make sure you leave enough room for them to add ‘RT’ to the body of the Tweet.

Include a URL (or a shortened URL)

For majority of businesses, Twitter is used to drive their followers to their website, or to a landing page. If this is your goal, make sure to include a URL in your Tweet. Better yet, include a shortened URL, using a URL shortener like ow.ly, so you can track click-through rate and save your character count. Make it easy for people to get to your gym’s web page or the event you are hosting.

Wrap up your Tweet with a hashtag

Increase the reach of your Tweet by using a relevant hashtag. Hashtags will increase your Tweet’s visibility on the network, and help you join the bigger discussion going on around the topic. For most reading this you are going to be tweeting about GYMNASTICS. #gymnastics, #preschool, #tonyisfunny

Include an image, a GIF or a video

Still images, GIFs, and now videos can dramatically increase the engagement rate for your Tweets. Make sure the images that accompany your Tweet are relevant and high-quality. There is really no more VISIBLE sport than gymnastics. Include photos and videos in your tweets.

Crafting Tweets doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. Just remember to always have your audience in mind whenever you’re writing a Tweet, and you’ll see your Twitter engagement rate rise. The best way to know how to write a Tweet to suit your audience is through practice, tracking, and constant improvement based on your engagement metrics. Happy tweeting!

How do you compose your Tweets? Hit me on twitter @gym_momentum and let me know!

Planning for Gymnastics Success

pen5-1024x682We are at the point in the season where many coaches have expressed their frustration to me. The season is almost over and things aren’t going the way they want it to. They feel they have put in the time, they have worked hard and still they fall short at competitions. With many of these coaches what I have seen is a failure to come up with a comprehensive plan OR failing to plan at all!

When I was a rookie coach I was told to practice the “6 P’s” Precise Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. It took me a few years to understand everything that must go into a plan and to this day I always feel that I am adding small categories of things that need to go into my plan. I am adamant that my plan must be written down. That way if something works- I don’t have to remember it! If something doesn’t work I have a reference to go back to.

Planning: the preparatory work the coach must do to structure training systematically in alignment with the themes and objectives of training and the athlete’s level of conditioning.

The process is the result of the experience of the coach coupled with applicable sport science concepts.

Jan Olbrecht, Belgian sport scientist, likens the training plan to a table of contents in a book. It should be comprehensive, covering all aspects of the athlete’s performance.

The training plan (Table of contents) should include:

  • The competition – classified as to their relative importance
    Crucial
    Important
    Developmental
  • The specific training goals
  • The specific competitive goals
  • A broad overview of the means and methods of training.
  • A projection of the number of training sessions, as well as volume and intensity of the main training components.
  • The dates of in gym tests and the actual test to be used. (Physical abilities, 1/2 routines, stuck dismount day, etc.)
  • Non-training commitments (school holidays, vacations, Exams)
  • Contingency Plans. EVERYONE needs a back up plan.
  • Some related Posts

Do You Have A Program Part 1?

Do You Have A Program Part 2? 

I also know that we will have a session on planning at Gym Momentum Training Camp. 

Because Gymnastics should be enjoyed not endured

I found an article in the Huffington Post on ways to Inject JOY into Youth Sports. I adapted it to fit gymnastics. 

I’ll preface this post by saying that I don’t have many answers. I’m simply asking questions and making observations as we navigate one aspect of our lives: youth sports.

Another preface is that my wife and I were both fairly decent gymnasts in our youth.We weren’t unbelievable, but we were athletic. A few more caveats:

I love coaching. I never really enjoyed coaching my kids. Watching and just being DAD was so much better.

I believe that competition is a good thing.

I believe sports in general and gymnastics specifically have the ability to teach valuable life lessons.
I want my kids to do their best and I will support them however I can.

I always remind myself in the gym that I am teaching WAY more than gymnastics. I want the kids to create some positive lasting memories.

Here’s the big question I’m wrestling with regarding youth sports: Where is the joy?
Have we traded it in for competition? Or preparation? Or even comparison?
I’m not talking about International gymnastics or truthfully even college gymnastics, that’s not reality yet.

With regards to families- I’ve seen it all.
Angry parents. Frustrated coaches. Bitter kids. Schedules on the brink of disaster.
Screaming, hustling, shuffling.
Demanding, spending, comparing.
More dinners out of a bag in the back of the car than around a table. More time apart than together. More chaos than peace.
For the love of our kids, can we please inject some more joy into gymnastics?
After all, are our children competing in gymnastics because they love it or because we want them to love it?
Because it teaches them something about themselves or because it validates something about ourselves?
Because competition brings out the best in them or the worst in us?
Chances are very small that any of our five children will ever earn a penny from playing a sport. (Unless they hustle younger kids on the playground. “Hey- I’ll do a back flip for a dollar!”)

In light of that reality, wouldn’t it be amazing if our youth gymnastics coaches and parents filled these kids up with joy for the sport instead of over-competition? Joy instead of frustration?
With encouragement instead of criticism?
With a slap on the back instead of chastising them?
I’m not pretending to know all the answers. But I do know that, in the name of giving our kids an opportunity, we’ve stolen joy and replaced it with anger many times.
This isn’t a battle we’re shying away from and youth sports aren’t something we’re going to stop pursuing. After all, our kids love it for now.
So practically, here are ways to inject more joy into youth sports:

  1.  Give kids permission to quit a sport if they don’t love it. Not in the middle of a season. But if they gave it their best shot and didn’t enjoy it, they can quit no questions asked.
  2. As a coach and/or parent, be aware of anger. Yelling so kids can hear, speaking loudly and demanding attention is part of a healthy and respectful view of sport. But man, it’s a fine line between yelling and screaming. Authority and anger. My goal is to ensure that when my voice is raised it’s to encourage them, not berate them.
  3. Eat dinner around your own table as often as possible. Realistically it doesn’t happen every night and it’s not always glamorous, but fight like hell for more time together not less.
  4.  Choose one sport per season. Especially bigger families with multiple kids, it’s impossible to juggle even one sport per kid let alone multiple sports. Let’s not over-commit, over-extend and burn our kids out.
  5.  They don’t need extra lessons. At least not yet. Our son doesn’t need a swing coach at five. Our daughters don’t need private soccer lessons before middle school. Maybe there’s a time for that, but it’s not yet.
  6. Don’t feel pressure to attend every kid’s every activity. Prepare your kids for that time when mom and/or dad won’t be at that practice, meet, tournament, recital, whatever.

 

This is a sensitive conversation that I’m sure isn’t fully exhausted here, but it’s one I think we should start having more honestly and openly. I’m hopeful we can all start to play a part in the solution.

Because Gymnastics should be enjoyed not endured.

This post was adapted from Justin Ricklefs’ blog.

Follow Justin Ricklefs on Twitter: www.twitter.com/justinricklefs

SOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO BE A GYMNAST

 

 

A parent of a gymnast I work with posted this on my Facebook page. It is a great reminder that what we are doing is WAY MORE than just coaching gymnastics.
1614605_10206140687303346_8821733885739582903_oSOMETIMES IT’S HARD TO BE A GYMNAST… Sure, it’s hard to flip backwards on a 4 inch beam and YES it’s hard for their tiny bodies to defy the laws of physics & gravity in the way that they do…. BUT what’s really hard is to watch my child balance the world of being a gymnast and being a teen. It’s hard to watch her spend 15-20 hours a week in the gym while juggling her time to be a great student and a great friend. It’s hard to watch her suffer through injuries while all the time watch her anxiously await the green light to go back to what she knows & loves. And yes, it’s gut-wrenchingly hard is to watch your child feeling left out of things her school friends can do and she cannot.

But here’s what’s NOT HARD: It’s NOT HARD to watch my child set weekly goals… It’s NOT HARD to watch her fall down only to get back up again. It’s NOT HARD to see her experience what it’s like to fail and then in turn what it’s like to succeed. It’s NOT HARD to watch her truly learn the lessons she’ll need to be successful in life. It’s also NOT HARD having coaches who practically co-parent her on a daily basis, who want what’s best for her and who set the bar VERY high in terms of maturity. So sure it’s HARD to be a gymnast, but what’s NOT HARD is all of the other REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF

10 Reasons to Get your Child involved in Competitive Gymnastics

 

10 Reasons to let your child get involved with competitive Gymnastics (or any competitive sport)

If you are reading this you are probably somehow involved in competitive gymnastics (or you are at the WRONG website? ) You probably can give your own 10 reasons. We’ve been hearing for years that youth sports build character, persistence and teamwork. I’d like to get a bit deeper and explain very specific reasons why parents should get their children involved in competitive gymnastics and why I am glad my children competed in sports. My daughter was a gymnasts and went into Color Guard. My son started off in gymnastics and now is a runner. My wife and I have had a number of live in gymnasts through the years. They were just part of our family. As I see any of “our kids”  react to challenges in the workplace in college or in relationships, I am very grateful for these lessons they learned through competition:

1. Dealing with difficult people.
In Gymnastics, it was difficult coaches and teammates. In the real world, it’s coworkers or neighbors or even in-laws.
My daughter has dealt with coworkers who remind her of arrogant high school teammates. Her sports experiences gave her the ability to see past the annoying behavior and seek to understand.
2. Doing a job under pressure.
Recently, when Colby (one of our live in gymnasts) faced pressure as she was trying to become a pilot, I knew she would stay calm. As a gymnast in high school and college, she was the anchor of the team on Beam. It was imperative she stay calm under pressure.
It’s hard on Mom and Dad to watch their kids compete under stress, but that pressure is a breeding ground for growing the ability to stay calm when they grow up and life throws them curve balls.
3. Sticking with a hard task.
In Gymnastics, your child can learn to keep working towards a goal, even when it feels hopeless. I see this daily in my daughter, who is working hard to achieve a personal goal in her life. She has faced numerous setbacks, but she will not give up.
That type of persistence is only learned as one faces and works through challenges. She learned this as she fought for every skill she ever learned.
4. Ignoring Doubters.
There will always be naysayers and haters. We have all heard them when we coached teams that did not live up to expectations. We heard them when kids made mistakes and parents struggled to believe in their abilities. Our kids heard them from teammates who second-guessed each other.
If your kids learn to ignore the negative voices in gymnastics, they will be ready to do the same in life.
5. Understanding the Boss (i.e. Coach)
As a coach and parent, I wasn’t perfect, there were times when the girls could not understand what I was asking. All kids had coaches who were difficult to read. You need to tell them their job is to strive to understand what the coach wanted and needed them to do, even if he wasn’t clear in his instruction. This endeavor to try to understand others before judging will help them through many relational and workplace problems.
6. Expressing needs and wants.
When you insist that your child confront the coach themselves instead of jumping in to do battle for them, they learn to express concerns to a person of authority. I see how my son and daughter have become confident communicators because we didn’t do their talking for them.
7. Exercising patience with people who can’t keep up.
There was always a gymnast who needs more help than others. The beauty of gymnastics is that it is an individual sport and children will all progress at their own pace. As adults, gymnasts are able to give encouragement and compassion to coworkers, friends, or neighbors who can’t quite keep up in life. I have no doubt that they learned this partly in the gym.
8. Respecting and benefitting from the strengths of others.
The ability to appreciate the skills of others and support their talents makes for a great team player, in the gym, in the office, in the home.
9. Finding Worth.
Your children can learn that they are defined by who they are, not by what they do.
When integrity, honesty and hard work become the true measure of a champion, and not just stats, trophies and accolades, then your kids will not base their self-esteem on performance — in the game or in life — but on who they know themselves to be on the inside.
10. It’s Fun
I miss watching my kids play sports. All sports. From little league to youth soccer. I miss watching my daughter compete in gymnastics. and Color Guard. Today, watching my daughter coach her Color Guard Team is just not the same. But as I see them apply their sports lessons to the real world as adults, I feel like a proud dad watching from the stands all over again.

I just read your new article! Well, that was a shocker when I saw my name in there. Great article. I can’t agree more, gymnastics has paved a foundation for the rest of my life that I countlessly depend upon.

You have had a VERY large part on who I am today! I use lessons you’ve taught me on a regular basis and I still do ‘what was the best part of your day’ whenever I can remember to. It was learning to get through the adversity of gymnastics that keeps me going today and what allowed me to finish 3rd in my Pilot training class (after being 1 ride away from failing).