Raise The Bar

Sometimes not knowing where the bar is can help your performer reach it…

qgwaczuzsmui569xpz0h_gymnastics_barsSounds mad right? I’ll explain. I recently attended a coaches development workshop with a few coaches all working towards the level 3 qualification(s) in Trampoline. If you don’t already know; there are four modules with different skills and you can work on up to two at a time. In order to ‘pass’ competency must be shown of the taught skill and your ability to catch it. The workshop was set up by myself and group of coaches predominantly from the same club, but we work with different performers at different venues and so some of the kids we were working with we knew of but either hadn’t worked with before or it had been a long time since we’d worked with them.

The conclusion I came to was that one of the coaches was surprised by her athlete’s willingness to complete a prep skill without the mat. Now I’d worked with the performer one or two summers ago and remembered her having done this skill (a 3/4 back SS* *somersault to front landing) directly to the trampoline and having been competent then, so felt not qualms about asking her to perform the skill without the mat. Her main coach stepped in and clarified to her athlete that she knew she didn’t like doing these and we weren’t going to force her to do anything she didn’t want to do… Can you imagine the response from the performer?

Much to her coach’s surprise, she replied that no, it was fine, she’d be comfortable doing it without the mat. (My reasoning behind asking her in the first place was to work the cody progression 3/4 back SS, back pullover; my theory being if she’s not progressed a year later, she needs to work this little step for about as long as the 3/4 back before maybe even considering she might be capable of taking it any further.)

I saw the surprise on her coach’s face and it got me thinking… If you know, or think you know exactly how far you can push your performer, perhaps as coaches we could be preventing or slowing down a gymnast from reaching their full potential – by not pushing them that little bit further. I’m hoping to ask the coach what she’ll be expecting from the athlete at the next session/ in the future with regards to this skill, so will keep you posted!

Here’s another example; we’ve recently had a performer (lets call her Hettie) learning a ‘full’ (Full twisting back SS), but it’s frequently short of twist, despite also making it 3/4 of the way around on most occasions. We put her in our new twisting rig to see if we could aid the twist without the fear of flying off the trampoline, and again the same result. After much analysis and giving the gymnast all the tools the coach could think of, Hettie was still coming up short. But I didn’t think it was because she didn’t have all the skills and knowledge she needed and how they needed to be applied… I wondered to myself if perhaps the gymnast indeed had all the skills and the know how she needed, but was simply over thinking the technique and analysis of the skill and not <em>giving it all she got.</em>

I was spotting and briefly discussed with the gymnast the benefits of the rig and how she could leave all inhibitions aside, not think about all the skills’ steps and techniques we’d given her and just trust that her body knew what to do and how so all she had to do was “allow herself” to do it (try her best to get round to where we wanted her. Aided with that, and a call of ‘twist’ just after last contact to ensure this was initiated early enough, Hettie made it the full 360 on the very next attempt; and the one after that. She was beaming. I can now confirm that a few weeks later Hettie now has the skill nailed!

Sometimes a different expectation of the gymnast and a pep talk from someone else can be just what’s needed for a gymnast to take that leap of faith. The overall lesson learned here I’d say is that there is huge benefit to a second pair of eyes.

I think I now see the purpose in a summer camp away from your usual coaches where you can go work with other coaches and performers on skills in a different environment where the usual bar isn’t there. I know on the rare occasion I visit my old club in the South that I do sometimes get the opportunity to try stuff I usually wouldn’t do here. (Incidentally they are often incredulous I’ve not yet tried some skills, but that’s a discussion for another day!)

How could you Raise the bar in your club?



EQ – Emotional intelligence in coaching

The first thing I was told when I started working in the field of Disability Gymnastics is that it would make me a better coach.

There are skills you hone in this field that are important in all walks of life, but absolutely critical in this line of work. Here’s the first of hopefully many examples of skills I’ve been honing over the months and years I’ve been working with children with special needs.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something that coaches should have in abundance due to the nature of our interactive roles.


Each time I work with a child whose behaviour is not A-typical I have to make the conscious decision as a coach not be frustrated and instead to think of a creative way to get to the result I’m after. Often children who are not neuro-typical or who have a learning disability don’t think or feel the same way we do. They’re not ‘naughty’ kids, they’re just wired differently; they can’t read frustration or urgency so these are useless emotions to share with them. They can understand praise and a smile and many know a high 5 as a good thing, so these are positive behaviours to display and set an example for children to learn from.


How To Coach

I’m undertaking a L1 qualification in a new discipline, so I’m going back over the tips on how to be a good coach. Here’s a few of the tips and pointers I’ve come across in part one of the course.


To be a good coach, you need to be an effective communicator. It’s not just a one way street though, you need to be able to send and receive a message successfully. This includes being aware of potential communication barriers that could prevent your message getting across. To ensure communication is effective, you’ll be wanting to check with questioning and feedback if your communication was effective.

Are you able to get your message across without misunderstanding in a simple, succinct way? Are you able to vary the types of communication you use in order to increase effectiveness and engagement?

There are 3 types of communication: Verbal, Non-verbal and Questions. Some examples of each which you might use in your coaching include:

Verbal- Giving an instruction of what you would like the gymnast to do.

Non-Verbal – Show gymnasts a video demonstration of the skill or technique you are looking for, or employ a ‘Bendy Wendy doll’ (below) to assist!


Questions – after a demonstration by one performer, question others for feedback and greater understanding of the skill executed.

Communication Barriers

Reasons your communication could be misunderstood or misheard include the environment, a disability, expectations of what is being communicated, attention and the language used to communicate in the first place.

In working with preschoolers I’d assume lack of attention is a significant barrier in a child knowing what you want them to do. It’s too easy to be distracted in a big hall with lots of interesting things to do and play with!

Someone with a disability such as sight loss isn’t going to be able to learn through a demonstration or video, so that’s disabilities should form a key part of your session planning – have you thought of an alternative way form that person to learn?

Using Instructions Effectively

Stop and gain everyone’s attention, outline your Aims, explain What you will be doing, give a reason Why we’re doing it, explain How and Who will be doing it, define When or for how long and Check everyone understood.
Good coaches are good listeners! Don’t just use instructions, define and explain the relevance of an activity – when was the last time your gymnasts were reminded why they warm up?

Don’t make assumptions
Be clear and specific
Give examples and alternatives
Set Boundaries
Combine instructions with different coaching styles

The three main coaching styles utilised in gymnastics are:

  1. Show and tell – ideal when a skill is new or more risky
  2. Set up and stand back – Great for experiementation and gives gymnasts some freedom/ control
  3. Question and involve – A great motivator and encourages thinking and self-development  NB. Open questions are often more useful as coaching tools

Coaching Styles work hand in hand with different Learning Styles. These include: Visual – learning through watching a demonstration. Kinaesthetic – learning through physical practice or experience. Auditory – listening to instructions. Adapt your style to meet not only the needs of the participants but also the requirement of the activity. Most coaches will develop a general style that works in certain situations, but try to vary it a little to keep everyone engaged.

Below are some really good examples about how the language and types of questions we use as coaches can help to better the types of responses we are looking for from an athlete. Examples of Open versus Closed Questions:

Closed: Are you happy with…

Open: How could you have improved…

… your performance today?

Open: What did you enjoy about…

Closed: Did you enjoy…

… today’s session?

Closed: Please can you…

Open: Why do you think we…

… do it this way?

There are times when open questions can be less helpful due to their less specific, abstract nature. If you’ve noticed a specific part of a skill that you would like the participant to think about, you may need to be more specific when referring to it to get the desired response. Specific questions or feedback are best for encouraging thought and encouraging motivation for a positive change. Questions which cater for preschool aged children and individuals with a learning difficulty would be different to those for older children or adults.

Try to include all participants, especially those who are quieter or easily distracted

Take time to practice good listening behaviours

Make a note in your session plan of relevant open questions you might ask participants

If feedback is always positive or always negative the participant can become demotivated

Good feedback should help to reinforce or change what we do – it is most useful with both positives and negatives as well as reflection and planning for next time.

Look for positive outcomes when presented with negative feedback. Give your own feedback in a sandwich- positive, negative, positive.

In the next post: Session Planning and Safety! I hope you’ve found this insightful, and if nothing else, it’ll make a great revision aid for me.

In the meantime, keep bouncing! Bella ~ 😉


Warm Ups

Some warm up ideas I’ve gathered – I’m hoping to try each of them out and recommend what works with the different groups I work with. I’ve also outlined the important aspects of warming up participants.

Fun – Can you use a game to warm up participants? These could be Competitive, against the clock or another participant, (avoid elimination games so everyone is warming up), Cooperative to encourage team work and Command games which focus the mind, encourage listening and remembering as well as the ability to react with good control and timing. Try to mix it up a little, always doing the same game is not fun.

Help Deliver Session Goals – Does the warm up prepare participants for the session you have planned? It’s important that the body and mind are focused on the session ahead.

Raise Pulse with fast movement such as running, jumping etc.
Activate Muscles with strength and balance exercises
Increase Flexibility with dynamic stretches

The pulse raiser is designed to circulate the blood flow into the muscles, increase alertness and raise heart rate.

One, Two buckle my shoe,
Three Four, knock on the door,
Five, Six, pick up sticks,
Seven, Eight, lay them straight,
Nine, Ten, a big fat hen.
One, Two, go to the zoo
Three, Four, the lions roar!
Five and six, Monkey in a fix,
Seven and eight, birds on a skate,

B.I.N.G.O. There was a farmer who had a dog, Bingo was his name-oh! B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, Bingo was his name oh! [Replace first letter B with action & repeat, then first and second letters with actions etc until entire name is replaced with actions.]
B = Wave arms side to side
I = straight jump
N = touch your toes/ tuck shape
G = star jump
O = turn around

More nursery rhymes: Hickory Dickory Dock, Wheels On The Bus, Miss Polly, Bingo, Wheels On The Bus, One Two, Hokey Pokey, Wheels On The Bus, Incy Wincy Spider, Rig A Jig, Ringa Ringa Roses, I’m A Little Teapot, Old Macdonald, Head Shoulders Knees, Wheels On The Bus, Five Little Piggies/ 3 little monkeys, Rain Rain, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Ten In The Bed, Finger Family, Two Little dickie birds, Jack And Jill, Five Little Ducks, Humpty Dumpty, If You’re Happy, This Old Man, Rainbow song, Alphabets

Warm up 4’s:
Shake each wrist in the air 4 times
Circle each arm backwards 4 times
Circle each arm forwards 4 times
Turn your head looking left to right 4 times
Look up and down 4 times
From star shape bring right arm to left foot and left arm to right foot 4 times
Feet together and straight throughout stretch above head and down to toes 4 times
From star shape bend knee ‘skiing’ left and right 4 times
Leg swings on each leg 4 times
Hopping on each foot 4 times
Toes raises on each foot 4 times
REPEAT FROM THE TOP, counting faster this time.

Rebound Game

Hoops in a circle with ropes in between, use a different jump per hoop eg. tuck, star, straight jump, twist.

Gymnastics combines the science and art of balance and movement.

BG Academy Video

Competition Ettiquette

On the evening or Supporting Sunday and ahead of one of the busiest competitive couple of months I thought I’d lay out a few suggestions about how Coaches, Parents and Athletes can set a good example at competitions!


Athletes: Do

  • Applaud teammates and other athletes who do well.
  • Respect other teams and individuals.
  • Respect the judges’ decisions.
  • Applaud other team’s successes

Athletes: Don’t

  • Be aggressive or abuse the opposition.
  • Vocalise negativity or disappointment.
  • Question the judges marks or decisions.

Coaches: Do

  • Applaud a good performance, whether it’s your athlete or not.
  • Give encouragement and positive feedback on the competition floor, especially between routines.
  • Manage team and individual expectations.
  • Manage your own club’s parents and athletes!

Coaches: Don’t

  • Shout instructions during a performance, practice or warm up.
  • Instruct athletes how to do their routine.
  • Give negative reactions to a judge’s decision or mark.

Parents: Do

  • Applaud for all athletes, especially the ones who step back up after a fall- they’re the ones that need the most encouragement of all.
  • Applaud all the team placings, not just your own teams success.
  • Encourage your athletes to be pleased, whatever the result.

Parents: Don’t

  • Shout loudly and interfere with athletes’ performances.
  • Instruct coaches, athletes or officials on what they should be doing – it’s not your job!
  • Give negative reactions to the judges scores, accept their decision.
  • Speak badly of other athletes regardless of your thoughts on their performance, if you’re supporting someone else, your opinion is biased and unwarranted.


Happy competing everyone! ~Bella 😉

Stretching: Help or Harm?

I’ve recently been taking a good look at stretching, specifically the benefits and when during a training session you should or shouldn’t be stretching. Some of my findings were new to me, so I thought I’d share a general overview and some of what I learned.


What is stretching?

The movement of your muscles through their complete range of motion. There are two types of stretches: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is the continuous movement of a muscle smoothly through its complete range of motion, for example leg swings. Static stretching is placing a muscle in a stretch and holding it in that position, for example if you were to raise your leg at a height and fold your body over it, holding the stretch for a fixed amount of time.

Dynamic Stretching is great at the beginning of a session because it helps to improve metabolic activity and blood flow to the muscle. This in turn helps with the muscles range of motion and power output, as well as preventing injury.

Static Stretches initially cause muscles to contract, and are proven to decrease the power available in the muscle for a short period – not what you want before a training session requiring maximum power. However when held for around 20 seconds post-workout, static stretches are effective at helping muscles to recover and heal, gently increase your flexibility and relax your muscles.

When is it best to stretch?

Based on my research, Dynamic activation stretches are great to include in your warm up. Static stretching in a fixed position for 20 seconds are most effective after exercise, during your cool down.

For a brief dynamic warm up, check out the video below from 13’07”. This video also really makes you think about the best use of a training session, especially when as Nath discusses (11′ in) the most ‘efficient use of time for optimal training’ doesn’t include static stretching, which can be done anywhere at any time, instead of getting onto the equipment you’re there to work on. He also makes a good point when it comes to young kids and the lack of ‘fun’ in stretching as opposed to using the equipment in the gym.

I hope you found this interesting and informative. I know it’s helped to inform what stretches I use in my training and coaching sessions. I’d really appreciate your thoughts below. On a side note, I was taught a warm up is for both the body and mind, do you think shortening the warm up could pose a risk to a athlete being less mentally prepared? Comment below with your opinion, I’d love to hear it!

~ Bella