“You’ll never be the best at anything. The world is a big place with millions of people; it’s impossible to be the best. Just do your best, and you’ll be fine.”
We often get encouraged not to compare ourselves to others, or to compare someone to somebody else. We understand that individuals are exactly that... individual. Yet something in our make-up as humans always brings as back to this critical thinking.
As Gymnastic Coaches we all too often see children in our classes compare themselves to other gymnasts in their group. Before even trying an activity, they have already made a judgement of their own ability and their skill expectations... set entirely around another class mate's skill attempt.
As Coaches it is our job to set an environment that encourages safe risk taking and nurtures ALL attempts. Regardless of the outcome, technique, form or ability level. Every achievement... is a GREAT achievement no matter how small! The trouble is getting our young gymnast to understand this.
From the perspective of a child it can be extremely frustrating when you are not as "capable" as another student. As adults we can understand there are other determining factors that may determine why an individual might be progressing at a faster rate. They could be involved in a multitude of sports and after school activities. They might train more than once in a week. They may of been training for years before you even started! As a child none of this information is relevant or even thought about. All they can understand is what they are witnessing right in front of them. Someone is "better" than them, and it's not fair.
As adults its our role to help model a healthy way to deal with self criticism, comparison and critique. If around the home you are comparing things or people, they will take on this behavior as well. If you vocalize how one footy player for example is better than another due to X,Y,Z. Then there is a good chance that your little "information sponge", by that I mean your child, will notice that the better performing sportsman gets the higher praise while the other gets critiqued.
I know there are going to be times when comparison is going to be helpful and help keep a gymnast motivated and goal orientated! The issue there, is finding the line between inspired & obsessive. I have witnessed gymnasts who are brand new to the sport and have this ultimate will power to keep pushing themselves until they are impressive little tumbling machines. I have also seen older gymnast who see a brand new gymnast with all this motivation, and get disheartened because this new athlete is somehow gaining up to their ability level uncomfortably quick.
My point being comparison is not inherently evil or bad. It is the behaviors following the comparison that will determine if this mind set is healthy or not. As adults we need to be aware of what these behaviors look like and how we can prevent them from becoming destructive.
Signing off for now,
Humans are social creatures and require face-to-face interactions to develop, thrive and be happy. The relationships you form through out your life will directly nourish your developmental progress. These relationships are critical to the development of life skills such as empathy, communication, self behavioral management, emotional control, impulse control, body language, perception of non-verbal communication.
Facial expressions, gestures and body language make up a huge portion of communication that is non-verbal. If you remove these aspects from a conversation, it is very easy to be misdirected or have a miscommunication.
It takes years of interaction experiences for a child to grasp this concept. They need opportunities and exposure for them to master this skill! Your child will rely heavily on you, siblings and friends as a means of practice.
Have you been out and about and noticed an adult who may be sitting using their phone while a child in their care is off exploring, playing or trying to get their attention? From the outside looking in it is a lot easier to notice these things. Self reflection is a good first step to identifying what can be improved. Being able to identify how much time is being given to a child is a great asset to posses. There is nothing wrong with using technology in our day to day lives - in moderation of course!
Alternatively it might not be technology at all that is distracting. It could be your energy levels, your mood or having a long list of tasks that need to be completed in a short period of time.
Self awareness in this regard will not only benefit yourself, it will also benefit those around you - including that little human desperately begging you to watch them.
During a child's gymnastics class it is incredibly tempting to utilize that time to get work done or have personal time. Especially if they are in an 60+ minute long class. What a beautifully productive time slot that can be! However it can also be a very disengaging time, if you aren't making the effort to be apart of the spectating experience. I'm not saying you should sit with your nose pressed up against the window for a full 2 hours. If you usually drop your child off, and return at the end of class and rarely step foot inside of the building... maybe walking in with them for time to time will strengthen that relationship. If you pick them up from gymnastics, but usually sit in the car... maybe consider watching the last 15 - 5 minutes of their class. Making that little bit of extra effort to watch sections of the class from time to time will make for the perfect post class discussion with your child - they will be more likely to be engaged with the conversation as well as it is personal to them.
The more interaction you have with a little one, the more they will benefit! The more they will learn and have the chance to grow into a self reliant human being. So get out there, be present and enjoy the day with a little human!
Signing off for now,
I'm going to ask you to reflect upon your primary school years for a moment. Do you recall your school teachers having these strange 3 sided pencils? Or what about the rubber grips that went around a pencil instead? Did you have a teacher who always seemed to correct you on how to hold your pencils? Or maybe that wasn't a focus at all when you were in school.
The Pincer Grip is a developmental milestone in all children, that is highly encouraged by educational figures in there lives. It also should be encouraged and trained at home!
So why is it so important? Your child will be learning/developing these skills in primary school or kindergarten as you did, right? Incorrect! They will be learning how to refine this skill every day. Regardless of who is teaching them.
I have the suspicion that a majority of people are under the impression that the Pincer Grip is a skill for writing and drawing - and as we head further into the digital age the need for the ability will decrease. I would like to take the time to really discuss the significance of finger dexterity as we age and develop!
As teeny tiny babies, we don't really know we have fingers. We keep them curled up into our palms and occasionally give them a stretch. We start to discover these important digits when we start chewing on them, and sticking them into our mouths. As we grow and our brain develops, we start to process new sensory information. This means we start to understand how touch works.
Babies use touch & taste all the time to get an understanding of the world. If you give them a chance, they will place just about anything into their mouths to give it a chew... including pool noodles! We have all seen that before.
As they begin to grasp the idea of the world, they have a better understanding on how to get things they want. For example, that super shiny set of house keys on the floor! If they want to play with them, and you aren't going to hand it to them... they need to learn to be independent. During this developmental stage your infant will start to develop neural pathways on how to grasp, hold and move objects with their hands. For the first few months of this stage they will use their palm to drag an item to themselves. However, as they grow they will begin to use their thumb & forefinger to retrieve items. This is the first stages of Pincer Grip development!
As the child grows they will use this new finger dexterity to feed themselves, learn to hold utensils or how to pick up their drinking cups. They will need this ability to pick up toys, to scratch themselves or to touch sensory objects. It will also be used in every day life such as brushing teeth, buttoning shirts, doing up zips and even developing into touch typing abilities.
The Pincer Grip is a fine motor developmental skill as it requires finesse and control of a small range of motion. There are lots of activities you can use to help them master this skill! We use a lot of them ourselves in our Playskills programs - including our Wombats & Geckos!
Do you know a little one in your life that could benefit from one of our classes? Don't forget to tag them!
Signing off for now,
In recent times we have observed an influx of recreational fitness programs marketed and programmed directly for the senior citizens of the world. In the global sporting world, we are noticing that more fitness centers are considering the importance of supporting and nurturing our elders.
"This Program has boosted their confidence and they now believe they can do activities they never thought they could do before."
- Chanelle Gunderson, Recreation Coordinator for Waterford. Delta Gymnastics
As children, we are often told "respect your elders". Yet it seems as soon as we become adults ourselves, we seem to forget this a bit. It is no longer a larger priority of ours as we become consumed with the personal matters in our own lives.
"Aging isn't just a biological process - it's also very much a cultural one."
In an article by huffpost they mention their observations of cultural constructs regarding the elderly from Eastern and European, compared to Western countries. "While many cultures celebrate the aging process and venerate their elders, in Western Cultures - where youth is [idolized] and the elderly are commonly removed from the community - to hospitals and nursing homes -- aging has become a shameful experience." The article goes on state that "People themselves, when they're aging feel that there's something wrong with them and they're losing value."
This is why it is so fantastic to see programs and companies showing their support in changing these ideas!
In the past year a gymnastics club, Delta Gymnastics, has launched a program by the name of "Seniors Can Move". The program was a pet project of sorts for Chanelle Gunderson who envisioned the program as a game changer. Chanelle notes each week her gymnasts making progress with their confidence, balance and flexibility.
In a previous blog post, I discussed how movement is crucial for the health and well being of our older citizens. It greatly reduces risk of falling, broken bones and mentally stimulates those who lack the social opportunities in their communities. Movement programs also reduce the chances of developing Dementia. You can read that blog post here.
Chanelle also notes how her senior gymnasts met the program with reservation and a little fear initially. However, Coach Chanelle invited anyone who fit the bill to check out the facility and the program, even walk on the sprung floor before joining the program. "They took a leap of faith and decided it was good for them."
At FCGC we wholeheartedly support the rise of senior gymnastics programs. Alongside our own Fitter For Life Program, we hope to transform the day to day lives of all those who participate. We intend to strengthen our gymnasts so they can be independent and function well into their later years.
Do you know of anyone that could benefit from such a program? We would LOVE to have them be involved in one of our classes!
Signing off for now,
I would like to touch on a topic that should be held highly in the hearts of all parents/carers/teachers etc. It's the importance of idols and leaders that our youths look up to. Those who inspire, teach and help our children grow into focused and driven adults.
Our children are going to admire several people of importance through out their childhood. Each member of their inspirational chart will be selected for a specific reason, that is instrumental to a chapter of their growth.
I would like to mention an article from August 19th of 2016, from ABC News.
The article is about a 6 year old gymnast named Nyla Miller, who had only been partaking in Gymnastics classes for a year at this point; who dreamed of being just like Simone Biles & Gabby Douglas. Young Nyla first witnessed the strength and grace of both Olympic Athletes during a live broadcast of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Nyla saw herself in these elite gymnasts and aspired to be just like them. They represented something for Nyla, which is irreplaceable in a child's life. Nyla's dad Miller was quoted reporting on the importance of these idols for his daughter.
"She's been able to look at them and see that anything is possible. I am possible."
A photo of Nyla sporting a Blue, Red & White leotard similar to Simone Bile's leotard was posted on her dad's social media. When unsuspectingly Simone Biles saw the photo she had been "tagged" in and shared it to her own personal social media for all her fans to see. Nyla's family was so surprised to see their daughters idol had shared her appreciation for Nyla on her social media to her 3.3million followers.
This story is just one story out of millions. Each person, each child will have somebody they once or still do look up to. As adult's it can sometimes be difficult for us to relate to those our children look up to. We may not see what they see. However there is something in them, that they can connect with.
It seems quite common for young children to idolize their Primary School teachers for example. This maybe for a variety reasons. It may be the case that they are consistently exposed to a familiar leader in their day to day life. It may be that they see their teacher as confident & kind and they wish to be like this also. It might even be that they see their teacher as an intellectual representation of themselves.
It is fair to say that young people will after a period of time come to realize that their idols are just "ordinary people" just like they are. Flaws & faults included!
Listen as best you can to the children in your life. Help them find people to support them, to inspire them, to build them up.
We won't all have our idols reply to us on twitter or Instagram, as lovely as that would be. However helping to expose our children to positive representations will only help to encourage our kids to reach their full potential.
Do your children have somebody they idolize? Are you unsure? Now is the perfect time to ask them!
Signing off for now,
Every week you take your children to their gymnastics classes - sometimes staying to watch them train. We all know the incredible benefits gymnastics has on children but have you ever thought about what having a child in the gym is teaching you?
How to trust in the process:
This is a life lesson for both the parents and gymnasts - kids aren’t going to learn how to flip and somersault their very first lesson which is what most people associate with gymnastics. Instead there is a big foundation of body shaping, body tension, strength and many, many drills before gymnasts start hitting the harder skills. This process is so important to ensure gymnasts don’t
hurt themselves throwing skills they are not ready for - however can be slightly frustrating for parents watching. Parents with gymnasts quickly learn that there is a process and how to celebrate the small successes with their children knowing they are one step closer to that skill they really want!
It can take a brave parent to watch their child do gymnastics for so many different reasons. Gymnasts have to learn to be brave and trust themselves and their coaches, but parents also have to learn this bravery watching their children train skills that they may find scary, knowing you can’t be right there to help. Sometimes this means watching with your heart in your mouth as your child tries that new skill on the high beam for the first time! Watching your gymnasts at competitions or events takes a lot of bravery too - sometimes children forget their routines or fall in their routine - which is all part of gymnastics, but as a parent it can be hard to watch!
So I applaud all parents who are able to watch their children train and compete and can stay relatively calm doing so. You are all learning to be so brave on behalf of your children.
Learning to watch your child fall:
If you’re an experienced gymnastics parents you’re probably nodding your head at this one - if you’re new to the sport it may sound a little crazy. Falling is a massive part of gymnastics but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch! Gymnasts first learn how to fall properly before they start doing bigger skills (and yes there is a right and a wrong way to fall). If they know how to fall
properly it lowers the chance of injury! Some falls will be funny, some will be frustrating and sometimes a fall can be pretty scary. Parents have to learn to watch these from afar without being able to do anything for their child. This one also links back to bravery as well. Being a gymnastics parent isn’t always easy!
Just remember next time your child falls - it’s an important part of the sport and is helping them in the long run, try using positive words when you talk about it after practice.
Bars, sweet bar. So much fun but also so much ouch! We love bars but yes, they do hurt your hands - especially while in the process of making your hands strong and tough. Sometimes your children come home with a dreaded rip and you have to somehow make it better! I guess we could say gymnastics is teaching you wound care as well, aren’t you lucky! If you are struggling
with how to help your child with their rips here are some top tips.
1.Make sure their hands are washed clean to get all the chalk out of the rip
2. Cut of the dead skin surrounding the rip - if this gets left on it can rip more
3. Get a wet tea-bag and have your child hold it on the rip for 5-10 minutes
4. You can put some antiseptic creams on it following this as well
5. Cover the rip for the next practice.
If you’re bringing a child to gymnastics we think you’re amazing and are so glad we can help teach you some life lessons too!
Thank you for helping support your child's development through this wonderful sport.
- Coach Saskia
Every individual that walks through our gym is going to learn in a slightly different way. Some require verbal ques (linguistic) to understand a process, while others might require a kinesthetic approach by trying the activity themselves. There are many other ways to learn that include Visual (spatial), Aural (auditory), Logical (mathematical), Social (interpersonal) and Solitary (intrapersonal). All of these methods of learning will help our gymnasts to fully understand and grasp a concept.
In our gymnastics classes we try to use as many of these learning styles in each class as possible. This way all of our gymnasts are getting the most out of their experience.
Our learning styles have a large influence over the way we recall information and the way that information is internally represented. Research has shown us that each of these learning styles activates different parts of the brain. By increasing the number of parts of the brain used, we remember more of what we have learnt. Resulting in a more effective learning environment.
In young children, it is especially vital to take all of these learning styles into consideration. As children often learn through play, they will be using nearly all of these learning styles simultaneously.
In our Playskills programs - such as our Gecko's program - we utilize these learning styles through use of "learning cards". These learning cards are accessible through out the gymnastics circuit to the children and their grown ups. The learning cards will contain imagery of the gymnastics skill (visual), a worded description of the activity (linguistic) as well as the opportunity to work on their social skills (interpersonal) with their grown up and the other gymnasts around them.
This is the perfect learning environment for young children to develop their neural pathways in their brain, that will lead to a successful opportunity for learning into their adult hood.
It is also a great opportunity for parents/grown-ups to observe the manner in which their child is engaged through learning.
Do they seem the most interested when the group plays a game of "Follow the leader" (Kinesthetic)? Do they constantly ask you to read the learning cards to them? (Auditory)? Do they need to see how a skill is achieved before they try (Spatial)? Take as much as you possibly can in. The more you know about how they learn; the more you will be able to help them learn.
Do you know how you learn best? Do you think your child learns the same way you do?
Let us know in the comments below! We would love the hear you responses.
Signing off for now,
Class management is a topic that is very broad as there are many aspects that we can look at in regards to class management but for now, we are going to focus on only a few; a few that I personally find very important.
Getting to know your Gymnasts/students/families and members:
Let’s start with a scenario situation. Let’s go back to our school or university days. You are there many hours, you see the same teachers every week, it’s a month into starting the year and you know your teachers name and you probably have at least one thing you remember about them but… they do not remember your name or, they call you by a different name or better yet, they ask you where you’ve been because they’ve marked you as not present. However, you have been attending the classes? How would this make you feel? I know I’d defiantly feel let down and almost uncared for.
It is so important that as coaches, at the very least you know who’s in your class, by name. Here is where we shift a little bit to transparency.
“I coach so many kids a week, how am I supposed to remember all their names?!” I hear you ask, it’s as simple as being open, honest and transparent. I often find that people avoid using gymnasts’ names because they don’t remember… but that method is NOT going to allow you to remember names, you will continue to use words like “mate, sweetie, buddy etc” which is not personal and for some, it can feel uncomfortable. Here is my handy hint:
Learning your Gymnasts name is a form of respect, without mutual respect, you can easily run into issues with your class behavior.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you feel respected if your coach/teacher/employer didn’t know your name and never bothered to learn it? You wouldn’t feel respected and you probably wouldn’t have a lot of respect for them.
Boundaries (rules) Positive reinforcement and consistency:
Boundaries, along with positive reinforcement (we will get to that next) is probably one of the KEY topics when it comes to class management. Kids and Young People thrive off having clear boundaries.
At the very start of every lesson, let the Gymnasts/students know EXACTLY what you expect from them but do NOT overload them with rules. Something I start off, nearly every class with is:
NEVER GIVE UP! If you stay consistent and follow through with what you say, they will learn, it is all about LEARNING! Learning names & learning boundaries. You’re learning and they’re learning too and a part of learning is pushing boundaries to see whether you, as the coach or teacher, will follow through with what you say so do not give up, do not feel mean. If you say to a Gymnast or student that if they don’t listen to you, or if they run away from the class or if they push inline you’re going to sit them out, you MUST follow through with that consequence. I personally do not like sitting people out UNLESS they are being unsafe and could injury themselves or somebody else. So I came up with a system to avoid that.
So often as humans, we find ourselves focusing on the negative, how easy is it to say;
It is something that you have to CONSCIOUSLY do as it probably won’t come naturally and that is okay!
To assist this process, I implement a “chances” system into my classes, everyone starts off with 3 chances. They can build upon these chances or they can loose these ‘chances’. (I find the word "warning" to have negative connotations to it so I avoid using it). If I notice a Gymnast doing a skill really well, or listening really well, I will give them a chance, but ANY Gymnast, not just the “difficult” Gymnasts can loose chances. The positive of this, is if they are on 1 chance, they can easily build it back up again. They aren’t ‘Doomed’ to be on the verge of sitting out. If they loose all their chances, the gymnasts know they require a minute of two to recompose themselves before joining back in. Once a minute or two is up, we have a quick chat about why their behavior wasn’t acceptable and then they join back in. Once they rejoin the group, they have 3 chances again that they can build upon.
If you are consistent with what you say, the Gymnasts will know that you won’t accept anything less, therefore, learn that what you say goes, leading to a positive class.
Things to remember:
By the time we see our Gymnasts, they have been at school for the bulk of the day. They’re tired or they could be hungry. They’ve done a lot of learning already. As coaches, yelling or disapproving of our gymnasts are not going to help them. If you see one of your Gymnasts not themselves, simply have a chat with them, ask them how their day was, ask them how they’re feeling, ask them if they had a good weekend. Children and Young People go through things too. Their friendship circles change, they may have family stuff going on, they may be finding school difficult, they may have recently moved schools, etc.
They are people too and we cannot expect them to be perfect and their behavior to be perfect. If they aren’t feeling great, that is fine, it is okay to say to them:
We aren’t perfect, they know this. Children and Young People truly do respond well to transparency.
It is so important to figure out what works well with your class in terms of:
Every class, every Gymnast is different…. The most important thing is to seek help from whoever you report to. Some kids are a challenge, and that’s okay, find someone who can support you through class and back you up.
I hope you enjoyed today's blog and you find some of its tips helpful.
- Coach Beth
By definition conditioning is "the process of training or accustoming a person/animal to behave in a certain way or accept certain circumstances."
In this instance we won't be talking about animal training, shame I know. Instead we will be talking about training muscles to get stronger and the mind to get accustomed to the feeling of training ones muscles.
There are a lot of reasons why conditioning is crucial for gymnastics. I think the most important reason of all, would be for safety. Any gymnast is at risk of injury and often times if a gymnast has stronger ligaments and connective tissue, an injury may be prevented or the severity of an injury can be minimized. Other reasons why conditioning is important include stability, strength, mental toughness, team work, responsibility for personal progression and resilience.
Now we know WHY we do conditioning, let's talk about HOW.
Depending on the level a gymnast is, it will reflect the type and duration of the conditioning they will part take in. However, the younger gymnasts will still be introduced to some of the movements and the idea of strength based challenges through games, group activities, and fun circuit stations. For the older gymnasts in Gymstar and ALP they will be working on a larger array of conditioning tasks.
As our gymnasts enter the gym for their class, they will make their way over to a designated area with their coach where they will part take in a group warm-up followed by stretching and fundamental shapes in gymnastics eg. dish, arch, front support etc. From here the coach may take them through some conditioning to help prepare the muscles for high action and full range of motion.
At FCGC we are very lucky in the regards of coaching resources. We have access to class planners on tablets that can aid or provide inspiration for all of our coaches through lesson plans and apparatus stations. Through out an apparatus training session, the coaches will assign conditioning stations among the skill development stations. We do this for several reasons. It helps to give the gymnasts a rest, and it breaks up the back to back skill development that can quickly wear out even the strongest of gymnasts.
Here are a couple of examples for conditioning at an apparatus:
- Chin ups (rings, p-bars, bars)
- Dish/Arch Holds
- Squats or Lunges
- Resistance band exercises
- Exercise ball activities (eg. sit ups, tuck snaps, stability.)
- Bar Toe Touches
- Dorsal Rocks/Inverts
- Leg lifts (Beam, Floor, Pommel)
Among a training session, the gymnasts will be given multiple opportunities to be working on their conditioning. Either worked into a circuit as previously discussed or in its own designated time/space. Each coach will have their own modifications to a strength based task or new ideas that will keep gymnasts engaged through out the session. This gives gymnasts the perfect opportunity to try varying challenges through out the entirety of their gymnastics experience.
Here are some methods you might see used in the gym:
- Timed Intervals
- Partner based exercises
- Whole class strength holds
- Challenges of strength based on repetitions
There are endless possibilities for a good conditioning class structure! So much so, that I can hardly scratch the surface through this blog post alone. If you are interested in some more ideas, the internet will be your best friend! Just remember when trying a new exercise you should always take it easy to avoid injury or strain.
Here are some examples of conditioning at varying levels of difficulty:
Finding a cohesive and functional conditioning plan is essential to the smooth running of any gymnastics class. As you can see there are many ways to go about this! Take your time when trying new activities. If you are frazzled the gymnasts will be as well.
Does your gymnast do extra conditioning at home? Has this given you a few ideas? Let me know in the comments below.
Signing off for now,
Vestibi-what? What is this complicated word and what can it possibly have to do with your child? The answer is, it has quite a lot to do with your child. You may not have heard of it, but I bet you are familiar with some of it's effects.
The Vestibular System is one of the first things to fully develop as it is so incredibly important and crucial to the functioning of the human body. The process is usually complete in the first six months of life!
This system is directly responsible for controlling the sense of movement and balance. It is also considered to have major influence over the other sensory systems that are found in the body. The Vestibular system is in charge of directing information from all the other sensory systems, from the brain to its rightful destination.
Do you remember as a child being able to spin endlessly and recovering quickly from the effects? Yet now as an adult, if you sit up too quickly... you get a head rush? That's your Vestibular system! As we age our senses age with us. This effects our reaction time to many things, including dizziness and nausea.
A study in 1994 by Cutson T.M reported the incidence of dizziness increases from 22% for adults between 65-69 years of age to over 40% for adults between the ages of 80-84 years.
So we know that this system is important... but how does it work?
1. Auditory functions through the cochlear nerve that is found in the inner ear, and sends information to the brain.
2. Balance and equilibrium functions that give us a sense of awareness in space.
3. Visual functions via all surrounding muscle receptors.
4. Tonic muscle control through stabilization of the neck and head.
The Vestibular system should act as one large piece of cohesive machinery, that is constantly working to keep day to day life functional and easy. When an infant climb and crawls across obstacles, their entire body is working together. The sensations from these outside stimuli are adapted into stimuli the brain can comprehend and process.
One of the most important functions of the Vestibular system is increasing & reducing the amount of neural activity, to keep a harmonious balance between all of the nervous systems. If the Vestibular system gets overloaded with outside stimuli, it can become overwhelming and produce a lowered response time. This often can be seen in the emotional responses of a child.
Did you learn anything from todays blog post? Let me know in the comments!
Signing off for now,