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