How do we help kids be successful?
A few posts back I went on and on (and on and on) about the benefit of failing. Let’s change our perspective for this post to success. What do kids need to succeed? I have always believed that gymnastics develops skills in kids above and beyond the gymnastics skills. In this post I want to define what it takes to be a successful gymnast here at Gymfinity, but that limits this audience to locals only. I know by my site analytics that there are people reading this post from as far away as Russia, India, Africa, and Australia. I am sure that at least some of them are not hackers (I hope). So, to adapt this to your situation; substitute “Kid” every time I say “Gymnast”. Switch “Gymnastics” with “Life” because they are, after all, interchangeable.
To be a successful Gymfinity gymnasts now-a-days need more than skill and hard work. We ask that kids understand the hows and whys of what they are doing, so they can make adjustments to learning as they go along. This insures that they do not have to be led as much as they have to be guided. We also insist that they be good people, because gymnastics may end next year, or in four years, or in 10; but it does end, and then you are left with the person. As coaches, we hope that we leave them better for having been in gymnastics in the long run.
Many of the skills and traits we try to pass along are not tangible. They cannot be posted on Instagram, they cannot be shown to the neighbor over the backyard fence. I would argue though, that they are on full display. What then are we charged with developing? Here are my top 6.
(cue the record scratch sound) Whoa, did I get you right off the line? You thought this was going to be my usual snarky commentary? (That comes later, don’t worry) Metacongnition is the ability of a person to think 2 or more things at the same time. For example, knowing math skills and being able to calculate the tip percentage for your server. Two related, but different sets of skill. To be a successful gymnast we ask that kids not only understand the skills and are able to perform them, but can assess themselves as they go along, what needs to be done, where extra effort needs to be applied or any changes that have to be implemented. Example: A gymnast does a routine and falls on a leap to jump combination. As she continues, she knows she is short on value skills and has to add an additional jump into the routine somewhere to get full value. She is thinking on performance as well as assessing value parts, and reworking her routine to be sure she hits maximum value. Metacognition. In today’s day and age, it’s important to focus not just on what skills to learn, but how to use them to the best of their ability and for the most benefit.
Professionalism, really? Yes, really. It is very important that the gymnasts identify with the gym, the team, the coach, and their family as a “tribe” unit. They should want to represent their tribe the best they can. Of course, I am speaking about technically and during judged routines, but more so I am speaking about the way they carry themselves. The way they approach and present on the award stand, the way they great other gymnasts, or talk with other coaches, the way they put their gear away in between events, and even the way they line up to be introduced to the judges. Every little action is an opportunity to present themselves as “professional”. By that I do not mean actually being a professional gymnast, but rather looking like a representative of the “tribe.” I want to be proud of my teams when they win or lose. I want to be proud to say “these are Gymfinity kids, and look at how they act.” I believe that this translates later in life as being on time to work, dressing well, being respectful, comfortably networking, and maintaining relationships. These are traits that not all of us have mastered, but wouldn’t it have been nice if someone would have shown us how when we were younger?
All Gymnasts want to do well in meets. All want to qualify to the championship, or the next level of competition. Gymnasts are competitive. I love a gymnast that knows when to compete and when to let the chips fall, as some situations are not meant to be competitive. But all gymnasts should aspire to improve. They all want to grow. They all want to add new skills, or one more half twist on the flip, or one more flip around. In any case they are shown that aspiring to reach a new skill should be what inspires us to move forward. I believe that these aspirations drive us through life. As adults will they someday aspire to a new position at the company. A new job? A raise? A better this or that? And they should. Those aspirations and the skill to make them real is what we should be showing kids. I am not a big “have more-earn more-bigger house-faster car” kind of guy and that is certainly not what I want kids to aspire to. But being happier is always attainable, and that itself is aspirational.
Competitions can be evaluations of how we are doing. Sometimes the judges come back and tell us that we are not doing as well as we thought. What then? Do we break down and cry, or get back to the gym and train our weakness off? Life is not always a game. They have to be able to dust themselves off, get off the floor, smile, and try again. (Read the last post on this blog, if you want more).
A Big Nose
Yes. A big nose. Kids need to understand that meticulous effort in anything they do will lead to success 10x before luck can produce success even once. Putting their all into everything they do is very important if they aspire to be more through their life. Hard work, failure, and assessment are things that kids should befriend. It’s a lot easier if you know what you should be working on. Please tell me: what needs work and where can I improve? Then we must let the gymnasts put in their effort. I have seen kids with huge amounts of talent fritter away opportunity and I have seen kids with no innate skill become champions. It’s all about how hard you work your plan.
I also want them to know that there is security in preparing well. If they have trained well and given every effort, then their outcomes will likely be more positive than someone of which the opposite is true. Gymnasts can value winning by a tenth vs. winning by a point. They know that the difference is in the preparation before the meet. If they can learn that then they will know that effort throughout life won’t just give them enough to get by ( a tenth) but will provide endless potential to grow and succeed (a million points).
Oh, the big nose part? It is for being able to still have a snout after always keeping it to the grindstone. Yeah, maybe not funny to you, but I crack me up.
I love to train a kid who asks if the skill value would change if they added a turn, or if they changed it from tuck to pike. I want them to ask why something happens, or why it’s easier when they keep their head in for example. Having a curious child is not only fun to teach but it tests us as coaches. Do you know what or why yourself? If not, you better find out. I had a gymnast named Hannah, who used to ask me to explain every drill and share what they would learn by doing it? Is there another way to do it? She drove some coaches quite insane, but I loved the challenge. And in the end, she coached for Gymfinity for a few years and she was phenomenal. She knew every drill and how it applied. I beamed with pride watching her coach.
Gymnasts, and regular kids, benefit from sports by learning soft skills like these listed above. Can they learn the same without participating in sport? Of course they can, but sports, like gymnastics, is just so much more fun.
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