Habits of Productive Gymnastics Coaches

This will be the first in a series of articles that I intend to write. Some will be here, hopefully some will be published in magazines that I contribute to. (But don’t worry- if they don’t get picked up- I will put them here!)

Heading to the Region 6 Development Camp last week Neil Resnick and I had a great conversation about what the most successful coaches do (possibly differently from others). What makes them a success.

The most successful coaches I know are also the most productive day in, day out. They run incredibly efficient training sessions.

photo 3“Productivity” is such a buzz word these days that hundreds of books, apps and systems have popped up hoping to teach us the magic formula.

But at the end of the day, really getting the most out of your practices comes down to the fundamentals.

Successful coaches  have known for years that to stay productive, it’s essential to build habits that organize your day and help you get the most out of your training time.

Here are 3 of the habits that I feel highly productive coaches do every day — even when they’re pressed for time. (and please- if you feel you are a successful coach and disagree or want to share your thoughts- do so. This website has always been about the sharing of information and knowledge).

1.) They’re early risers.
There was probably a period of time in your life where it was easy stay up late into the night (or early into the next morning) trying to get things done. If your anything like me, however, that period was over a long time ago.

Recently, I’ve come to realize that all eight-hour periods just aren’t created equally.

Even when we do not have morning training before school I try to stick to a schedule. Going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 5 or 6 a.m. is exponentially better than going to bed at 3 a.m. and waking up at 10 or 11 a.m., even thought the time frame is the same.

Early risers really do have a distinct advantage when it comes to mental clarity, acuity and energy. Simply put: Waking up early works better than any other strategy for becoming more productive. But you have to make sure you get enough sleep to back it up. So get to bed!

2.) They start every day with an intention, focus or meditation.
Starting your day with a clear idea of what you want to do changes everything.

Have you ever had a day where as soon as you woke up, there were already missed calls, text messages and emails screaming for your attention — and you felt like you were struggling to stay afloat before breakfast? Oh, that sounds like every day, you say? That needs so stop.

If you like, you can meditate. You know, cross-legged, a candle, with some nice music playing in your ridiculously expensive Beats headphones.

I find the time I spend with a coffee before anyone else is up in the house is very centering and helps me focus for the day.

But if that’s too much, you can just “take 10.”

Take 10 quick breaths, think about your main objectives for the day, and then get moving. This seems too simple to have an effect, but it’s not. If you’re used to getting up already in battle mode, then you’ve probably forgotten how it feels to have a moment to yourself.

Take a few of those minutes back and refocus yourself. It really helps.

3.) They train their bodies.
Working out is probably the highest leverage tool in your arsenal that can make you feel predictably better and keeps you both physically and emotionally healthy year round. If you want to have the mental energy to take on an endless competitive season and countless training sessions,  you need to be physically (as well as mentally) strong.

What are your thoughts? What do you do to be more productive?

Let us know. Share your thoughts and keep the momentum going.


November 4, 1994

First day in the gym.  My Gym. Wow. This place is HUGE. I hope we can get to 280 students this year. This is going to be great!

November 4, 2014

Tuesday. My Gym. Things are really tight in the gym. I may have to cap enrollment at 600. I wonder if I should expand or look at opening up a third location? This is going to be great! 


The last 20 years have been pretty amazing. (Read Letter To Myself) On the way into work this morning I was listening to Carlos Santana and thinking of all the great things that have happened here. All the great gymnasts, parents and coaches that I have been able to work with. The TONY I am today is because of the interaction I have had with everyone through the years.  THANK YOU ALL!


1. Run With Blinders On

We spend a lot of time wondering what is happening over there in the gym. “What are they doing over there? What is that group doing? Wait, why are they doing that ” At best this is wasted energy, and at worst a real distraction that keeps you from being fabulous you. It is a surprisingly simple message: run like no one else matters.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean be an isolationist and it doesn’t mean you don’t work with other people, but if you see yourself wondering what someone else is doing and it isn’t something you can directly incorporate into making you better, it is wasted energy – pure and simple. Put your blinders on and focus straight ahead – all of that other stuff wont matter.

2. It Is All Personal, Not Business

Contrary to Hollywood screenwriters and every movie Michael Douglas has ever been in, business is personal. Telling yourself anything different may be a necessary rationalization to help you sleep at night, but the sooner you admit it, the quicker you can learn to lead. Every decision you make to “buy” or “not buy” has another person on the other end of that sale that impacts them directly.

Knowing this is personal should not stop you from doing what is right for the business and the hardest decisions I have had to make have been about whether to hire or fire people. I have had the privilege of hiring someone (who had been out of work for awhile) on Christmas Eve and of making tough decisions to let someone go. The faster you can get used to personal, the quicker you can learn how to properly react to your business decisions and garner the respect of your ecosystem.

3. Think Marathon, Not Sprint

Your world will get smaller and smaller as you grow in it. You encounter the same situations and people over and over. After awhile, you wont even bother saying “deja vu” anymore. With this in mind, often the best decisions are made with a long-term goal in mind, even at the cost of sacrificing short-term gains. But, thinking of this as a long-term race, instead of your short-term goal this week, will help you make smarter decisions.

4. Find A Mentor

Always have someone as your coach, your confidant, and your advisor. This can be formal or informal, but you need a “go-to” person at every stage of your life. This person may change and you may add mentors over time. Find them. In case you were asking, “why would they help me?” it is because they get the better end of the deal. I see that now that I am fortunate enough to be a mentor several times over.

5. There Are Incredibly Smart People Who Will Help You If You Ask

One of my mentors told me how he would reach out to people he admired and ask them a few questions – their expert advice. Always done in a respectful way and mindful of their time, he was significantly more successful than not in getting some great counsel and often a new friendship or relationship with this person. And damn if he wasn’t right – it totally works.

6. Leadership Doesn’t Need A Title

Don’t wait for the title to lead. Leadership is about helping the business succeed and helping those around you make that happen. Leadership is also about trust and those around you knowing you have their back. Too many young employees, head coaches and/or gym managers feel like “When I get that title, I can really guide this place.” You should be thinking about how you can show leadership on your first day. If you know nothing else about what is going on, start to get to know people and what they are doing or working on, their background, and what makes them tick. Your influence starts with orientation. Good leaders don’t wait for titles.

7. Learn to Eat S**t

Everybody has someone who has power over him or her – no one is immune. For you proud, independent sorts – this one will be a challenge. Get used to doing things you don’t want to, don’t like doing, or aren’t in your comfort zone. Yes, you can quit or complain or stage a sit-in or whatever. But there is another big plate of it waiting at your next job.

Oh, by the way, starting your own gym and being your own boss doesn’t get you out of this – you have parents or MORE kids, possible investors, partners, and customers who own you. So, get used to it, accept it, and grow your career so these times are fewer and farther in between. Or plan on winning the lottery and living alone on your own island, but then you are going to want satellite TV and now you are dealing with DirectTV and now you are right back to having to eat s**t – never mind.

8. Your Business Network Should Grow Inversely Proportional To Your Personal Relationships

When I opened up my gym I was 28.  In your 20′s, you will have access to some of the greatest people who will eventually become life long friends. You cannot predict who these folks will be – some that I was sure would be with me for life have dropped out of sight, only to be replaced by some fantastic friends who I did not see coming. You will have a bigger network of friends and personal acquaintances at this age as you aren’t saddled with bigger responsibilities of life (kids and their schedules, aging parents, etc.). Meanwhile, your business network is in its infancy.

Over time, your business network should grow, as you see your personal relationships grow smaller in numbers (fewer, but – hopefully – deeper relationship). Knowing this is coming can help you select your core friends and help you effectively grow your business network.
9. What Is More Important Is How You Handle The Big Screw-Up

If there is one thing I have gotten good at- screwing up. AND THEN FIXING IT. Over time, you are going to make some colossal blunders. Epic screw-ups. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist.  I have a history of making all the right moves – uncannily so. Then 1-2 big missteps sent me rocketing backward. When failure eventually happens, how you handle it will define you. Do rise to the occasion and accept responsibility or do you fall in a pit, never to be heard from again? Do you blame everyone else, or do you face it head-on, smile, and say, “what’s next?” How you handle it sends a clear signal of your mettle to both friends and your business network. Leadership is as much about defeat as it is about success.

10. Get Knocked Down 6, Get Up 7

This one didn’t make sense to me earlier in life. “Of course you get up,” was what my head said an age ago. ”Why wouldn’t you?” Over time, I have seen folks make a few mistakes, but find it harder to get back up the 4th or 5th time. Remember, this is a marathon so think long term. Keep getting up and stick it out, even when you want to just lie down on the mat for the 10- count. Those that keep getting up when life knocks them down will soon find that there are great leadership opportunities for those that are weathered by experience and keep showing up.

Bonus: Wait It Out

Change is inevitable.  The great economy now will falter. Can you stick it out until the next “Olympic Boom”? When the economy tanked a few years ago, we ran the gym on our credit cards. We used a line of credit. We became a stronger and more efficient machine. We knew it was going to be OK if we could wait it out.

Similar to “Run With Blinders On,” when you see some big new thing that you think is going to cause some disruption in your life, there is a tendency to want to react immediately to the situation. Don’t. Most of these are minor inconveniences – nuisances at worst. Take a breadth.

I have learned – over time and “the hard way” – that if something is standing between my goals and me, I can wait them out. They move on, flame out, and sometimes become my advocate. Usually they just implode and you are in a greater place for sticking it out. Wait them out (or see “win the lottery, move to island” strategy above).


Dealing With Difficult Parents

You probably never imagined contending with difficult parents when you dreamed of becoming a coach. Unfortunately, almost every coach is faced with an irate parent at some time. Not only is dealing with an angry or unreasonable parent upsetting, it’s time consuming. It’s only natural for parents to want the best for their child. Every now and then there are parents who refuse to accept that their child struggles in the gym. It can be easy for them to make excuses and blame others for their child’s troubles. Before you know it, you have a huge problem on your hands. Here are some tried and true tips to help you resolve difficult situations with parents.

Dealing with difficult parents requires that coaches first deal with themselves. There are few absolutes in gymnastics. Every rule has an exception and no matter how consistent coaches attempt to be, there are times when plans must be adjusted. But however flexible coaches must be about some things, there are a few absolutes that involve the coaches own actions and approaches. I have a general rule. Never make the exception the rule.  The best advice I ever received was, “You do not have to prove who is in charge; everybody knows who is in charge.”   Think about the best teachers you had in school. How often must they prove who is in charge in their classroom? Almost never. Now think about the least effective gym managers you know. How often do they try to prove who is in charge? Most likely, several times every hour! And, as a result, the gymnasts and coworkers may often try to prove them wrong. This same idea applies when working with challenging parents.

Effective coaches and gym managers never argue, yell, use sarcasm, or behave unprofessionally. The key word in that sentence is NEVER. There are several reasons to adopt this credo. One of them is that in every situation there needs to be at least one adult, and the only person you can rely on to act as the adult is you. I also believe that it isn’t a good idea to argue with difficult people. You will not win. Difficult people may argue a great deal of time in every aspect of their lives. They argue at home, are confrontational at work, and probably have a great number of tense conversations on a regular basis.

People can control how many arguments they get in. People also determine how often they yell or use sarcasm to make a point. As a coach you can teach others—students, parents, and other staff members—new ways to interact, not merely polish others’ inappropriate skills. If I, as a coach and gym owner believe that the difficult people I encounter are doing the best they know how, then one of my missions should be to help them learn better behavior. I believe we gymnastics educators have a responsibility to consistently model appropriate behavior to everyone with whom we come in contact. We should do so 100% of the time. If you question this, ask yourself two questions: Do I expect the students in my gym  to behave appropriately 100% of the time? and Do I hope that parents treat me with respect and dignity 100% of the time? If your answers to these questions are yes, then you must behave professionally 100% of the time

1. Let upset parents know that your goal is to help every child succeed. Look for ways to find common ground. Tell parents that both of you want what’s best for their child and that you want to find ways to work together. When parents are able to look at the big picture and realize that you are on the same side, you can begin to work together to help their child succeed.
2. Be sensitive! No matter how tense a situation becomes, always remember that the gymnast is also someone’s precious baby. Open your conversation with parents by acknowledging the child’s strengths before you focus on areas of concern.
3. Good records that document dates, times, notes and decisions about the gymnast can be invaluable if problems arise. Keep track of communication you’ve had with parents throughout the season. I know record keeping is a pain in the A$$ but keeping track of the everyday progress of a gymnast can make your life so much easier. We all know that the parents are only ever getting one side of the story.  Often you will have near constant communication with a parent. I would encourage you to also keep detailed records of these meetings. Your job may rely on it. Make a set of parent communication folders by labeling file folders with the names of your gymnasts. Staple a few blank sheets of paper inside each folder. Use these folders to jot notes with details of important conversations and keep notes from parents organized. Inside each folder, write the date, name of the parent with whom you spoke, and any actions that need to be taken. Make a separate folder on your computer and keep every e-mail and letter you send. After making phone calls to parents to discuss problems, take a few minutes to record any important information that was discussed. Parent Communication Files come in handy if you ever need to document how you’ve involved and informed parents after an incident at the gym.
4. Be proactive! Contact parents as soon as you see  problems or negative behavior patterns develop. You’ll have a better chance to change these patterns if you catch them early. Here are some things to discuss with parents:
• areas where their child excels
• if their child is attentive during practice
• their child’s progress
• specific areas where their child experiences difficulties
• specific ways they can help their child at home
• how well their child gets along with teammates
• allow parents to share their concerns and ask questions
• if you are unsure what a parent asks about, request specific examples
5. Be prepared to give specific examples to illustrate the points you make. You may need to show parents examples of average and above average work the level. DO NOT USE NAMES. The idea isn’t to compare students to one another, it’s to give parents a clear idea of exactly what your expectations are for your gymnasts.
6. Have you ever been caught off guard by a parent and answered a question in a way that you regret later? If a parent asks you a question that floors you, don’t be put on the spot. It’s fine to let parents know that you need some time to reflect on their question before you respond. Let them know that you’ll get back to them. Relax—you’ve just bought yourself time to explore options and perhaps bounce ideas off of a colleague before you respond to the parents.
7. Don’t be afraid to end a meeting with parents who become confrontational. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to provide an opportunity for all parties to cool down and reflect on the issues at hand by bringing the meeting to a close. Set a time and date to meet again. If you feel threatened, ask a colleague or your boss to attend the next conference.
8. It’s awkward when parents share too much information with you. While it’s helpful to know things that directly impact a gymnast, it can be problematic when parents disclose too much personal information. It’s not your job to be their therapist. Remind parents that during the limited time you have to speak with them, that you need to focus on their child and not on them.
9. Sometimes neighborhood issues spill over into the classroom. Don’t let yourself get dragged into disputes between families of children in the gym. Problems escalate quickly if it’s perceived that you’re siding with other parents. When parents begin to share information about neighborhood squabbles, jump right in and tell them that it’s information that you don’t need to hear. Let parents know that you’re receptive to their thoughts and ideas about their child, but you must stay out of personal issues between the families.
10. Watch for parents who hover relentlessly. I had a parent my second year of coaching who expected to volunteer in the gym   every day. I welcome parent volunteers for some jobs (press releases, communication etc), but this was ridiculous! I let her know that her daughter needed the space to develop social skills and gain independence.
11. Be prepared for a worst case scenario. Read your contract or board policy and make sure you understand your rights and the steps to follow if a parent files a formal complaint.

Managing difficult parents can be one of the hardest parts about coaching and working in a gym. It’s easy to dwell on negativity and begin to question your skills as a coach. Instead of worrying about how those parents perceive you, approach them and offer them the opportunity to join you as you help their child have the best year possible. Chances are the vast majority of parents of students in your gym are thrilled that you are their child’s coach! Focus on all that positive energy and have a great rest of the school year!

27 things parents of gymnasts should avoid

I recently came across the article. I cannot remember the first time I read this but I remember being a VERY rookie coach handing this out to all the parents of my current team. It was written by J. Howard, Professional gymnastics coach since 1980, Tumbling, Double mini and Trampoline coach since 1986, gymnastics author of 26 books, Gymnastics/Sports hypnotist, Coach of Gymnastics, Tumbling, Double-mini, Trampoline and Cheer-leading State, Regional, National, Jr. Olympic National, Jr. Elite National and Jr. World Age Group Champion medalists, commercial gymnastics web site designer, consultant and owner, gymnastics business consultant, Gymnastics staff trainer, Gymnastics equipment and facility layout designer, NCAA Division I cheer-leading coach for two years, Company CEO, business, business strategy and computer consultant. Enjoy…

Gymnastics in and of itself is beneficial for gymnasts at all levels of participation.
Here are 27 things parents of gymnasts should avoid doing so they don’t interfere with the positive benefits:

1 Don’t compare your gymnast’s progress with that of other gymnasts.
2 Don’t become overly ego-involved with your gymnast’s success or lack of it.
3 Don’t take judge’s scores too seriously, especially at the lower levels.
4 Don’t forget the need for fun in gymnastics.
5 Don’t stand for unacceptable behavior from your gymnast during practice or competitions.
6 Don’t participate in gossip about anyone in the gymnastics community.
7 Don’t interfere with coaches and their coaching duties during practice or competitions.
8 Don’t pressure your gymnast regarding skills or competition.
9 Don’t set unrealistic goals for your gymnast.
10 Don’t predicate your love or attention on your gymnast’s competitive success.
11 Don’t base your own ego or self-esteem on the success of your gymnast’s progress or competitive success.
12 Don’t lose your long-term perspective about the importance of your gymnast’s participation in the sport.
13 Don’t let yourself care too deeply about your gymnast’s competition results.
14 Don’t undercut your gymnast’s confidence in their coaches or coaching.
15 Don’t show any negative emotions while watching your gymnast practice or compete.
16 Don’t try to make your gymnast talk with you immediately after a gymnastics meet, especially if they performed poorly.
17 Don’t do or say anything to make your child feel guilty for the time and money you are spending on their gymnastics or any sacrifices you feel are making for them to participate in the sport.
18 Don’t badmouth your gymnast’s coaches, your gym or other gymnasts in front of your gymnast.
19 Don’t attempt to coach your gymnast yourself.
20 Don’t alienate your gymnast’s coaches.
21 Don’t predicate your support for your gymnast’s participation in the sport on any expectation of a monetary return like receiving a college scholarship.
22 Don’t try to recreate your own career or live out your own sports dreams through your gymnast.
23 Don’t do anything to make enemies with other gymnast’s parents.
24 Don’t expect anything more from your gymnast except their best effort.
25 Don’t ever do or say anything that will cause your gymnast to think less of you.
26 Don’t use sarcasm, threaten or use fear to try to motivate your gymnast.
27 Don’t expect anything more from gymnastics than physical fitness, life skills and fun for your gymnast.

W200 Course Metro South Gymnastics. Canton MA

I will be teaching a USAG W200 Course at Metro South Gymnastics Academy in Canton, MA

Register through USA-Gymnastics 

This is a live, six-hour, hands-on training course designed for school age, pre-team and Level 1-4 coaches. This is a NEW course developed for pre team, level 1-4 coaches and even school age recreational coaches. Course topics include warm ups, conditioning, lesson planning, hands on spotting and lecture for all Olympic events. This is a great hands on experience of drills and skill progression with instructors demonstrating practical examples of coaching level 1-4 gymnastics.
The W200 Development Coaches Course: HOTD has been developed to:

Enhance the status of beginning level competitive gymnastics programs throughout the United States.
Establish certificate program requirements which will help identify competent pre-team and competitive (Level 1-4) gymnastics coaches.
Provide appropriate skills, drills and techniques for entry level competitive coaches.
Help standardize pre-team and entry level competitive gymnastics teaching throughout the United States.
Provide resources, instructional materials, and assistance at levels 1-4 coaching
Provides Hands on Spotting on all four Olympic Events.
U200 Development Coaches Course: Sports Science (online) is a companion to W200: Development Coaches Course: Hands on Training (HOTD). It is highly recommended that you complete U200 prior to W200. However, it is not a requirement to take U200 first. U200 covers the sports science aspects of coaching this level athlete including nutrition, biomechanics, injury prevention and psychology.
Attendance to the W200 course is eligible for 6 hours of CPE credit.

11/15/2014 3:00 PM Metro South Gymnastics Academy 255 Revere St. Suite A&B , Canton, MA, 02021

Kids Learn from our examples

I was recently reading this article in The Huffington Post. Unfortunately I cannot find the original article to give proper credit. But it made me think of how we can be better examples to the kids we coach. You may want to share this with all the parents on your team.  I also wrote about this in my other blog Vacilando. 

Remember the 1987 PSA about kids and drugs? A father finds drug paraphernalia in his son’s closet and questions him about where he found the drugs, how he even KNEW about drugs. The boy starts in with the standard excuses and finally explodes I learned it from watching you, Dad!

It was a groundbreaking commercial back in the day when stirrup pants were the rage and Bon Jovi was on the stereo and Dirty Dancing was in the theaters.

Here we are, a zillion years later, and things have changed. And stayed the same. Stirrup pants have been replaced by yoga pants — Bon Jovi seems to get better looking every year, and lines from Dirty Dancing are still quoted regularly (right now you are saying to yourself “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” — admit it).

There is one thing about the drug PSA that hits home in today’s modern world. Actually, it’s a phenomenon that’s always been there.

Children learn from their parents.

And our gymnasts learn from us. You can tell them what to do over and over and over again, but it’s really by watching that they learn. We’ve all witnessed gymnasts (for good or bad) mimic the behavior of their coaches.  We have see toddlers ‘cooking’ like mommy or mimicking their father’s voice or copycatting something on television.

Why, then, are we so surprised that the teens in the world are attached to smartphones? Addicted to their devices? Aren’t we, too, “just checking Facebook” or “sending a quick text” or “making a call” when we are with our children? Aren’t we teaching them by example?

I had a parent come up to the front desk at my gym and she was checking her phone for 30 seconds or so until she acknowledged me. She was attempting to sign her child up for classes and during to 5 minutes it took to do this she sent and received a dozen text messages. Completely ignoring her child (Who was pretending to text on what I HOPE was a pretend cell phone) A recent study by Boston Medical Center shows some scary facts. According to the Boston study, 40 out of 55 caregivers at a fast food restaurant used their devices and their “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.” I think the word here is distracted.

Parenthood is not an easy job, and the few minutes parents of young children get to themselves is precious. I know, because I’ve been there. Anyone with small children has been there — that moment when you think if I don’t get 13 seconds to myself I am going to lose my mind. And parents need that. Everyone needs that. Really.

The bigger issue is how we interact with our children when we are, in fact, trying to interact with them. Are we constantly on our iPhone, checking work email or Facebook or whatever?

Technology is not going away, so it’s our job to use it wisely, and, by doing so, teach our children how to use it wisely. There is a place for technology — it’s just not at the very tip top of the list. I hate sitting with my friend, a smart, attractive, interesting young women who lives way too many miles away, whom I rarely see and happen to think the world of, tapping on her cell phone. I want to say HEY — OVER HERE! I AM YOUR FRIEND. I AM BUYING YOU DINNER! I THINK YOU ARE, BY FAR, THE ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE AND I LOVE YOU AND I WILL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BACK!

I don’t say that, of course, because she would be horrified and I would be on the first bus to the asylum.But if I am feeling that way about her lack of attention, what would my kids be feeling about my lack of attention? And, more importantly, what would they be feeling about my lack of attention if they were still three years old and thought I was still magical?

Along with our many, many other jobs as parents, we have to model a healthy relationship with technology. We want to have a real relationship with our children so they can forge real relationships with others. I don’t know about you, but I am hoping for grandchildren some day. If I don’t teach my children how to connect with the human race, I may miss my chance. Sitting around the Thanksgiving table with a bunch of little iPhones just doesn’t have the same je ne sais quoi, does it?

Here are a few tips on ways to form relationships with people you coach and work with instead of dependent relationships on inanimate objects:

When you are in the gym, DON’T BRING YOUR CELL PHONE IN WITH YOU.I know you “just want to video that skill” Don’t just put down your smartphone, put it away. Once it is out of site, it’s less likely to distract you and shows your gymnasts that they are  priority.

If you have to use your phone- let people know why.  “I am going video a routine and then post it on our youtube page for college coaches to see”.

Create boundaries around technology and apply the rules to everyone, gymnasts and coaches. If you’ve agreed to a no phones in the gym  rule, it should apply to everyone, not just the gymnasts. (Revisit the “I learned it from watching you, Dad” commercial when tempted.)

Teach your gymnasts the art of conversation by practicing with them. Ask open-ended questions of them and answer their questions to you thoughtfully and thoroughly. Skip the one-word answers or the distracted “uh huh” when you are with them.

When you do, in fact, have to  call them on their phone, set the expectation that they should answer or call you back. Too often phone calls receive a text in return. Why? Text is easier, safer and less taxing than a phone conversation.

Keep private information private. What might seem cute or funny or endearing to you (Your 8-year-old son dressed up in his sister’s dance costume! Your 3-year-old is finally potty trained! Your high-schooler made the chess team!) is not for public consumption. Show your gymnasts you respect them by using discretion at all times. THAT GOES FOR YOUR LIFE TOO! Your gymnasts would be horrified if they ever saw some of your Facebook statuses!

Most parents and coaches  are hoping to instill a strong sense of self-esteem in their children. We want them to be capable, responsible, happy, healthy members of society. Sitting with heads buried in laptops or eyes scanning phones tells them that we think very little of them. We devalue them.



Saw this in the Huffington Post the other day. Always a good reminder

Shannon Babineau, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Director of Pediatric Headache Medicine, The Mount Sinai Hospital

A new school year has begun. Playgrounds are full of children chasing, tumbling and climbing. Sports fields teem with young athletes practicing football, field hockey, and soccer. And, emergency rooms this fall will see thousands of pediatric concussions resulting from head injuries sustained during these and other activities. Unfortunately, sports-related concussion is a common injury among children and adolescents, and symptoms can seriously intrude on children’s lives, especially if not recognized and addressed early on.

What is a concussion?
A concussion results from either a direct blow to the head, face, or neck, or to another part of the body where the force transmits to the head. Because it changes the function — not structure — of the brain, we cannot see a concussion by taking a picture of the head with a CAT scan or MRI. It’s as if the nerve cells are shocked and their electrical signals malfunction for a time; with proper treatment, the brain eventually will “reset” itself and the concussion will end.

What symptoms does concussion cause?
In concussion, short-lived impairment of neurological function will quickly follow the head injury. This can range from feeling dazed or “out of it” to experiencing such symptoms as headache, dizziness, nausea, or changes in personality or levels of awareness, such as temporary loss of consciousness; however, one does not need to be knocked unconscious to have suffered a concussion.

What should I do if my child shows signs of concussion?
Fortunately, most athletic trainers and coaches have been trained to identify concussion, and know to immediately remove the child from the sport or game. If your son or daughter suffers a blow to the head or has a big fall during an unorganized sport or on the playground, immediately stop the activity. If he or she is awake and communicating well but complaining of symptoms like headache and dizziness, consult your pediatrician and try to get your child evaluated in the next couple of hours. If your youngster loses consciousness or seems confused and not aware of who or where they are, it’s time to call 9-1-1.

How is concussion treated and how long will it take my child to recover?
When a child breaks a leg, we put a cast on it and tell the patient not to walk on it for several weeks. With concussion, we can’t apply a cast and tell children to stop using their brain entirely. Like a broken limb, their brain needs rest and time to heal. It’s difficult to predict which children will take a couple of days and which will take several weeks to recover from concussion. On average, most kids recover in 10 to 12 days, but it can vary from three days to a month or more, according to a recent study in Pediatrics.

Usually in the beginning, we want them to avoid all the stressors and stimuli of school, so we recommend they stay home and rest for at least a couple days. This means no physical activity, no homework, no reading, and limited screen time. It’s difficult to get kids to quit their electronics altogether, so we try to give reasonable limits, such as an hour a day in 15- to 20-minute increments. But if light aggravates their headaches, dizziness, or nausea, we recommend that they stay away from all screens — smart phones, computers, television — and instead try a more restful activity like listening to books on tape.

When can my child go back to school?
One of the more frustrating aspects of recovery is that every kid heals at a different rate. Headaches can linger, and children may have difficulty paying attention and concentrating. Typically, we want children’s symptoms to improve before they return to school. We often will recommend they start on a modified schedule, such as a half day, with no homework assignments, and build up from there as symptoms allow. Communication among the child, parents, doctor, and teachers is critical during this period.

When is it safe to return to sports?
Light aerobic activity, such as walking, is okay as long as their dizziness has abated and their headache is mild or gone, but children should be 100 percent symptom-free for one week before returning to their sports program. Most athletic trainers and coaches know about the “return to play” protocol in school sports, which calls for a graded approach, rather than putting the kids back into full competition mode. For instance, youngsters may start with basic running and if their symptoms don’t return, they progress through sports-specific drills, then practice, then — if still symptom-free — they can return to the full game.

We know that children who receive a second concussion while already suffering from an initial concussion have more symptoms and take longer to recover. Some schools screen their athletes at the beginning of the year with a computerized “baseline test” to evaluate a child’s ability to pay attention and focus. Then, if the child suffers a head injury, subsequent tests can support a concussion diagnosis, and help in determining the child’s readiness to return to sports.

How can concussions in youth be prevented?
Accidents will happen — as will concussions. The risk for concussion is greater in certain sports, such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer. If you are worried about concussion or if your child seems accident-prone or has previously suffered multiple concussions, you may want to choose a lower-risk sport, such as swimming or cross-country. Beyond that, we don’t have good preventive measures. We think helmets may help, but there is no data yet to suggest they dramatically change the concussion rate, and we don’t want to give a false sense of security. The most important thing to remember is that early recognition and management of concussion symptoms are vital to helping your child recover fully and return to school and play.



Lately I have been writing a lot of leadership and that has created many questions. As an educator I feel obligated to find answers to these questions. Here was my response to a friend and colleague who was looking for ways to motivate staff.

What makes a leader great?
Ask most people and they’ll say “intelligence” for starters. Vision, drive, people skills, being able to communicate well, blah, blah, blah. Those are the crap answers you’ll get from all the Ivy League wimps who orate from behind their oak desks. They’re forgetting the big stuff; the stuff you don’t learn in prep school.
Sure, every leader needs brains (or in my case , people around them with brains) and vision, but that’s only to get the top job. Staying at the top involves possessing completely different skills. Not every clown has them. What are they?

1- Being respected — unequivocally and indisputably.
2- Being street smart — It’s self-explanatory, if I need to explain it, you’ll never have it.
3- Being feared — Make people around you pee in their pants.
4- Being a good bluffer — That’s the nice way of saying “being a good liar.” Just ask any politician
5- Getting your fingernails dirty — Leading by example.

Today’s lesson, my dear friend, is about the importance of number five. If you can do whatever you tell others to do, no one can ever say “I can’t.” Leading by example does two very important things; it inspires people and it garners you respect. It helps you keep your job as top dog and ensures you always get the big bologna sandwich
Get your hands dirty. Do the work and know your job and theirs! You don’t have to be the most advanced technician on the team, but you must have an in-depth understanding of your industry and your business. Leaders have many responsibilities, but it is important to work alongside your team. This is a great way to build trust and continue to develop your own knowledge and skills.
Watch what you say. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. For better or for worse. Be mindful of what you say, to whom, and who is listening. Always show support for all team members. If someone needs extra guidance, provide it behind closed doors. I have a rule- praise in public- punish in private. There are a few times when you need to break that rule. If you are especially close to an employee and they fuck up. Everyone needs to know you called them out on it. Years ago at camp- Jose’ came late to a meeting and then practice. As one of my best friends, I had to make sure everyone knew that I called him out on it. Otherwise I would have no authority.
Respect the chain of command. One of the fastest ways to cause structural deterioration, foster confusion, and damage morale is to go around your direct reports. All team members need to respect the leadership at every level. If tyou don’t respect the chain of command, why would anyone else?
Listen to the team. As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directive, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice. One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.
Take responsibility. As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Blame roles uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn’t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did. If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility.
Let the team do their thing. Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.
Take care of yourself. Wellness and fitness are essential for good leadership. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. The only way to build a fitness oriented culture is to lead by example. Get in shape and lead from the front.
Have a great day!


The other day I posted about being a good leader and a good example. I found this great photo the other day.


There is probably no better goal in life.

I recently taught a course on MOTIVATION for the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation. In general I do not believe in overt external motivation. These are children, not dogs. As much as sometimes I would like to, I am not going to hit their nose with a rolled up newspaper because they didn’t keep their legs straight. NOR am I going to offer them a piece of candy or a donut if they do keep their legs straight. I praise them when they make a correction and try to catch them doing something right (Thanks Doc Massimo for this lesson).

In they end I must remember that each child is an individual and to coach the AGE not the LEVEL. Developmentally children need different input at different times in their lives. Where as a younger gymnast will be motivated by the new trick (finish 5 of your old flight series then you can go on to front tucks) a more experienced gymnast may focus a little more on perfection and refinement as well as wanting to help the team. (As a team- we need to hit 5 Bar routines in a row with all handstands.)

Deliver your message at the right time and your job will be relatively easy. Stop trying to make an Apple into an Orange.

Actions always speak louder than words. Before you can inspire with your words you must inspire with your actions