Typically your level 4 team is your youngest competitive group in the gym. Over the course of the year, this group will spend about 400 hours in the gym on their gymnastics education. Your Level 10s may spend about 1300 hours in the gym on their gymnastics education.
How much time are you spending on YOUR gymnastics education?
A coach here in the US may spend a few hours every 4 years taking the Safety and Risk Management course. They may go to Congress and sit through some lectures. They may read Technique, The USECA News Letter, or other gymnastics news letters.
In the end, Coaches in the US do not spend nearly enough time on their own education. Would it be fair to ask your self to spend 1/10th of the time your Level 4s spend in the gym on your education?
Recently I realized I have been involved in some informal mentoring but the more I get involved with it, the more I realize that we can all benefit from a mentoring relationship. Mentorship is a beautiful thing, but only if it is beautiful. Only if it is pure.
For the vast majority of us, someone has been down this path before. Someone has already made the mistakes. Why not benefit from their experience.
The mentor wants to give answers, the protege wants to learn these things. The mentor gets the satisfaction in knowing they helped the next generation and made GYMNASTICS better. It is up to the protege to take that knowledge and do something meaningful with it. Then pass it on.
When I first got serious about coaching there were a few coaches who were always available to answer my questions, no matter how annoying those questions might have been. I hope that I am as available to others as they were to me.
What A Mentor Can’t Be
A good mentor shouldn’t be too friendly. Sometimes you have to give honest and supportive feedback that is focused on brutal facts. I am by nature a pretty friendly guy and I have a difficult time telling some one. “You’re wrong and here is why…” Being a good mentor is about getting someone out of their comfort zone and maybe getting someone to work smarter AND harder. A protege can not think, “If I find a mentor, they’ll take care of me; they’ll show me the ropes; all I have to do is lean back and follow them.” That’s not the way the world works and I think that is a dangerous expectation.
If you are looking for a mentor- find the person who is professionally admirable. Someone with a style of coaching that you agree with. They should obviously be successful and stable and MAYBE a little intimidating. It could be someone in your gym. It could be your boss who is no longer coaching.
THE PROTEGE CHECKLIST
- Have at least 5 years less experience then the mentor
- Be eager
- Be affable
- Ask questions, but not too many
- Be complimentary but not an ass kisser
- Be solicitous but not over eager
- Want the mentors job someday
- Want the mentors “life” someday
- Be deferential
- Be loyal (but not at the expense of ones career)
- Never say “No”
- Work to be as smart as the mentor
- Follow through on what you have learned
Many of the best mentors don’t even know they are mentors! If you are successful and utter the occasional intelligent comment while standing at the bar after a competition, it’s possible that you may be looked up to as a mentor. When someone asks you to have a meeting to discuss a possible job that you have NOTHING to do with, that’s mentorship. Most mentorship is incidental. The best mentors are the ones who lead by example without acknowledging they’re easing by example. The ones who are best at it are probably the ones who don’t even know they are doing it.