The proper use of humor, analogy, and metaphor appropriate to the topic can provide benefits in the gym. Better comprehension, increased retention, and a more comfortable learning environment have all been attributed to the effective use of these strategies. Humor is valued by teachers, coaches and students and has been shown to enhance learning and reduce anxiety. Analogies and metaphors aid gymnasts’ in relating an unfamiliar concept to one that may be more recognizable, improving their understanding and increasing retention.
As educators, we frequently search for more effective methods of communicating information and helping our gymnasts to learn. . Several studies (see Garner, in press) have found that a number of strategies can be used to help students better assimilate and retain information. Among those strategies are the effective use of humor, analogy, and metaphor.
Use of humor, analogy, and metaphor can be valuable in the learning process. From a psychological perspective, humor, analogy and metaphor can be viewed as nonthreatening to ones self-esteem; thus, bypassing the natural resistance to change (Earle, 1995).
Glenn (2002) has suggested that there is frequently a link between humor and the use of metaphors in learning. He reported that the use of metaphors and other strategies can “increase retention by as much as 40%” (p.1). Similarly, Hill (1988) found humor coupled with the use of analogy and metaphor provided students with added positive associations and they were more likely to remember information.
In using humor, analogy, and metaphor in teaching, however, one must recognize that differences in culture, age, belief, gender, and other distinctions can influence how the information is perceived.
The effective use of humor, analogy, and metaphor by coaches and teachers can increase student attention, reduce anxiety, improve critical thinking, enhance concept learning, and create a positive environment (e.g., Bryant and Zillman, 1988; Bryant, Comisky, Crane, & Zillman, 1980; Garner, 2003, in press).
Students report that teachers who help them learn by using such strategies create a less intimidating environment that is more relaxed and allows the students to become better listeners. As a result, there is an increased level of comprehension and cognitive retention—and of equal importance—a more enjoyable class for the students and the instructor.
I frequently use humor, metaphorical examples, and analogies when coaching team; however, I must remain cognizant that some gymnasts are not attuned with my “personal sense of funny.” As a result, my choices in technique and examples are carefully selected to provide the greatest appeal for the widest audience. I always remind myself to “Coach the Age” not the level. A 10 year old is a 10 year old. Regardless if they are a Recreational class student or a Level 10.
Please remember that SARCASM is NOT funny for most of your students because it tends to single out a student for ridicule. Sarcasm should be avoided in the gym.