Updated: Aug 8, 2019
So how can you start your gymnastics coaching career off the right way and manage a group of kids and beginners effectively, ensuring they have fun - and learn?
It's important to remember when coaching younger kids, that they have the tendency to view you as a babysitter or a big brother or sister - and perhaps not respect your authority as a coach. But you don't need to go in whistle blowing and shouting to assert your authority. With a little preparation you can effectively manage a group of diverse abilities and personalities.
You need to bring the center of attention to yourself in your coaching routine. Here are some simple tips to set the stage and make sure everyone has a positive experience.
1) Back to Basics! Teach the basic terms.
Girls and boys who have never taken a gymnastics class before may not know a lot of the basic terms used every day in gymnastics. It is important to explain the basic terms like going on high toe, hurdling, pointing their toes etc. so they have a better understanding when you instruct them to do certain skills and how to fix those skills.
2) Lay down the Law! Rules of your class. It is helpful to your new students if they are clear of the rules of your class before they start their first class. If you don’t want water bottles or shoes on the floor, let them know!
3) Do it Again! Constant reminders.
If you have a new student, they need to be constantly reminded about everything! Remind them of the skills and rules of the class as well as what they are supposed to be doing on a certain station or event. Make sure they have these concepts and rules stuck in their heads!
4) Body and Coordination Awareness!
It is very important to teach your new gymnasts body awareness and how to use certain muscles and parts of their bodies! If they have never had to point their feet or straighten their knees before, they may not have the muscle coordination yet to do so easily.
5) Have a lesson plan.
Know what activities you're going to do - from warm-up, to which moves you'll work on, to the cool down. Know how long you're going to allocate for each activity and make sure you have more activities planned than you might need.
6) Avoid down time.
Nothing causes kids to "get out of hand" more than a little free time - you don't want to be searching for equipment or setting something up with ten pairs of eyes looking at you during a tumbling class. Those eyes and feet quickly start to wander.
7) Have a "Quiet" or "Attention" signal.
It could be a clapping sequence, an arm raised or hand on the head and make sure everyone knows about it. You start it and the kids who are paying attention will follow - and hopefully so will the ones not paying attention. Go over the signal at the start of every class.
8) Know your class.
Don't be afraid of splitting up talkers and pairing them up with quieter or "better behaved" children.
9) Don't be afraid to separate from the group.
When you have a child who just won't listen or follow the rules, you can separate them - have them sit off to the side and watch while others continue to participate.
10) Praise the positive and remind against the negative.
Praise the positive behavior of 'model students' while gently correcting that not so perfect behavior of others. You can also use a little low key competition and split the class into teams to see which ones do a better job of 'following the rules.' You can award the winners with stickers or stamps as positive reinforcement.
11) Stress safety.
Have the kids sit when it's not their turn. If a student is doing something unsafe during your gymnastics coaching, that might be the time to raise your voice. This way the children will learn to respond to raised voice rather than tuning it out. Make sure your students know what's safe and what's not.
With a little bit of preparation and the willingness to think like a teacher, your gymnastics coaching career can be off to a great start no matter how challenging the age group.