Challenging Behaviour 1

Challenging behaviour and it’s effect/ my response as a coach.

father and son conflict

Today I was on the receiving end of challenging behaviour. It was the individuals way of telling me they didn’t feel comfortable with the situation they were in. Because it was a behaviour and as a direct response of something I asked that person to do it left me questioning myself. As a coach I always try to be the best I can be and when it seems I fall short of that standard for whatever reason I start to doubt myself; did I ask too much of them? Did I move a skill forward before they were ready? Was my support of that skill incompetent, therefore leaving that person feeling unsafe? Is progressing a skill what that individual needs or wants?!

I think sometimes as coaches we can sometimes lose sight of a participants reason for taking part and allow ourselves to make decisions for them. Are we doing things for the right reasons? Have we become so preoccupied with the big picture or long term goal that we’ve lost sight of the individual and what they want.

Thanks a blog is so full of questions I guess it does show exactly where I am in the thought process here- I’ve not yet made my mind up about the scenario today and I think it needs a) further thought from me but also b) another perspective. I’m going to speak to the participants old coach and find out how they used this progression and see if they can shine some light on the matter and help me to feel better and more confident about what I do going forward. My personal goal is to prevent any further behaviours as to me this is a clear indication by the individual that we’ve not quite met their needs at the time. If the reason for that turns out to be me failing at the support, then I’ll have to rethink whether I should be doing that progression. If I picked the wrong day/ time to use the progression then I think I need to get to know the participant better and pay more attention to them and less attention to what progress I want to see out of a session. Ultimately the #lessonlearned here is that it’s really important as coaches that we always have the individuals needs front and centre of our mind and place them ahead of our own and ahead of any of our goals. I don’t think there’s ever a time when the goal for the individual comes before their present needs.

There was another situation that occurred recently that I felt bad about and have already vowed to change, and that is when another coach and I became too involved in a discussion for our own benefit during a session; so much so that the client we were working with received very little feedback or engagement from either of us. That wasn’t fair on them, so I’ve already made a mental note to stay client focussed and always ensure that the client’s needs come first.
I hope this is at least food for thought, and relatable to other aspects of coaching and life despite perhaps not offering much of a solution! If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments below! In the meantime…

Keep bouncing! ~Bella


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!

‘Ten years of coaching without reflection is one year of coaching repeated ten times.’ Nick Ruddock

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 giving it all she got.

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?


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 ~ 😉


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

Freedom and Responsibility

Happy 4th of July to any American out there and anyone else who celebrates Freedom & Independence!



With freedom, comes responsibility–the responsibility to exercise the power that your freedom brings you in a way that makes you worthy of your autonomy and demonstrates the value you place on having liberty.

Coaches, each time you have a group of children who you are instructing you have the freedom to create a lesson that matches the goals you have for the group. You also have the responsibility to create a lesson that builds your athletes in a healthy manner, both physically and psychologically.

Gymnasts each time you are given autonomy to monitor your own conditioning or complete you assignment without a coach standing over you, you have the opportunity to show that you are trustworthy by doing what was asked of you.

Freedom may mean the right to so as one pleases, but there is two very important caveats: your freedom does not give you the right to impinge…

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Autistic children take things literally…

So one of the most useful things I gained from my disability module was a better insight into specific disabilities and some character/ behaviour traits that are useful to know so here’s my contribution to your learning! 😜

The first and most important thing to know about ‘Autism’ is that it’s a behavioural spectrum disorder. Often referred to as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) every single child is somewhere ‘on the spectrum’ and every child is unique. So for example some “high-functioning” children can cope well in mainstream sessions and hold conversations well, while other children on the spectrum may struggle in day-to-day environments and not want to engage verbally.


A second grade Autistic child’s response to the assignment

Another (illustrated beautifully above) is that some children interpret instructions literally. This is why you should never ask an autistic (or any other) child to “jump” off the trampoline. If the child takes the request literally and jumps down, they really won’t understand an admonishment, as they were simply following your exact instructions. So keep any instructions very clear and easy to understand.

One of the kids I teach “Oli” we’ll call him, often needs instructions in reverse order. So rather than saying “Can you do 10 seat drops in a row for me please Oli” it is easier for him to understand “Oli, seat drop 10 times”. Yes we do lose the “please can you” but to him this is superfluous information that is simply confusing and not something he needs to remember, so leave it out.

One of the things that struck me most about a class of children with similar needs being run was the order, structure and predictability of what was being taught. For example every child knew that the warm up was:

2 tuck
3 straddle
4 pike
5 seat drops
6 tuck
7 straddle
8 pike
9 seat drops and a full twist.

They also knew that “last goes” meant 20 seat drops followed by home time. This routine avoids melt downs, confusion and helps the children learn turn taking and what’s “fair” as well as teary tantrums of “I don’t wanna go!” Admittedly I once made the mistake of asking for 20 seat drops half way through a session, which prompted the child to ask “is it home time already?” Fortunately an explanation sufficed in that situation!

Another thing worth being aware of is many children have sensory sensitivities, such as an inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, which leads to difficulties concentrating. Other children may like loud noises and find it easier to concentrate while making a loud noise.

Finally, another point to be aware of is that children on the spectrum do not always perceive danger, therefore the rules in a gym need to be clear from the start, and understood, with a close eye on children who aren’t on the trampoline.

So in summary, when coaching – stick to a routine, keep instructions plain and simple and try to avoid information-overload! The best solution to helping a child is ofter to ask the parent or carer, who manage all of the child’s behaviours and may already have several mechanisms to help their child which you too could use to make the most of the time they have with you.

Hope that helps and if you have anything to add, please comment below!
Meantime… keep bouncing! 😉 ~ Bella Bounce