Thursday, July 31, 2014

Diaries of a New Gymnastics Coach: July 2014

Over the past six years, I had practically reached all of my potential as a gymnast.  Yea my club has a USAIGC team that I had thought about trying out for, but I realized I had no time for more gymnastics than what I was doing, an advanced recreation class that met once a week for two hours.  Sometimes, I didn't even have time for that.  It was time to face the facts, as much as I love gymnastics, I had reached the highest level of gymnastics I was going to reach.  I had been working on getting my back tuck for two years, and I was not any closer now than I was a year ago.  So when my coach approached me in May about a job opportunity as a coach, starting this summer, I was more than happy to accept it.  I had no clue what it would take to be a coach, but I saw it as a great way to stay involved in my gym, and a nice summer job!  Since then, I have been coaching for about three weeks, and am starting to get the hang of it.  I still have a long way to go, but I am very excited to learn more and become a great coach!

My first job as a coach was to help during our annual "Olympics", which is our version of a recital.  The gymnasts rotate to all of the four events and show their relatives what they have been working on all year.  I stayed at bars the whole week, spotting the girls on their sole circles.  Basically, I lifted the girls hips while they straddled their legs and had to swing under the bar.  So basically, I became a weight lifter.  At the end of the week (which I was not paid for, my coach treated it like "training"), my fore arms ached, but I really liked spotting.  I became so much more excited for summer classes to start because that was where my knowledge of the technical side of gymnastics would come into play.  After the week, my coach sat me down and told me he was happy with how I was learning, and that this summer I would become a fill-in.  Since there were a lot of college kids that where working, he was not sure how often he would need me, but he assured me that I would get some work in.  

After the two week break (one week in between semesters and another so that four of our gymnasts could compete at the USAIGC/IAIGC World Championships), I called to see if I was needed.  Sure enough, that Thursday I was texted to see if I could pick up Thursday nights, and be at the gym in three hours.  With no transportation and canceled beach plans, I made it to the gym.  My first group of children were preschoolers.  What a weird experience that was.  Trying to teach a child how to do a forward roll was so weird for me, just because I was never taught how to do one, it just came naturally to me.  Trying to find the right way to phrase the corrections was the hardest thing I did that day.  After the preschool class was over, I coached the advanced girls.  It was pretty bizarre for me, as these girls were my classmates less than a month ago.  While I was giving a very frustrated girl corrections for her aerials, my coach called me over to help give corrections to the team girls on their vaults.  This was where I felt most natural, because it is what I have been doing online for years.  I mean, these girls were not doing hard vaults, just front handsprings, but giving technical corrections just felt so natural for me.  After class, my coach told me that I did great for my first time, but I have to increase my confidence and look less "lost".  Those were two things that would come with time, but were really difficult for me fix, because I felt out of place, as my coworkers had been doing it for so long.  I felt weird saying something because they knew what they were doing, and I did not.  

The next time I was called in, I got a text 15 minutes before my coach needed me.  My gym is 10 minutes away from my house, and I had woken up about ten minutes before my coach texted me and was still in bed.  I was such a mess that day.  I taught another preschool class and then helped with our day camp.  It was interesting, but I really enjoy helping the older kids more.  Nothing really important happened, but it was just great to get a chance to work.  

After that, my weekly schedule remained the same.  Preschool on Monday mornings (such a LOVELY Monday morning...), and preschool and advanced class on Thursday night.  Thursdays are definitely my favorite, even though I am there for what seems like FOREVER.  Today was my first day doing heavy spotting.  It is way more fun helping a girl get her back handspring than trying to get a four year old to walk across the beam with pointed toes.  

Each day that I am in the gym is a learning experience.  I have learned that kids are going to fall, it is simply a part of the sport.  In the beginning, I was terrified of letting a kid fall.  I know it sounds crazy, but I found there to be a lot of pressure when I am coaching.  I was (and still slightly am) scared of a kid falling, getting hurt, and it being all my fault.  Falls are going to happen, whether it is my fault or not.  I have learned that accidents happen, and I have learned not to let them faze me as much.  I have learned it is better to be safe then sorry, but sometimes you got to take that risk.  If a kid is ready for a back handspring and you show doubts, then that kid is going to have doubts, which is could be even more dangerous than the back handspring.  I have gained an exuberant amount of patience after starting this job.  Lastly, I have learned  that there is a time to have fun, but there has to be time to get serious.  I have learned to separate these times, and to enjoy the fun times, but be ready to get work done when we have to be serious. 

I have seriously enjoyed my first month of coaching, and am eagerly waiting for the next time I step foot in the gym to coach and spread my love for gymnastics!

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