Being a gymnast coach for children and teens is hard work. You've gone through your own struggles to become a great gymnast and you want to pass on your skills. But you have a hard time expressing motivation without being mean. However, you need to, because kindness, rather than harsh criticism, is crucial to a successful young gymnast.
It's Psychologically Backed
You may remember your gymnastics coach yelling harsh and derogatory terms at you when you struggled. Did this compel you to try harder? Probably out of fear, but did you truly enjoy it? At the time, probably not. But you probably figured it was worth it when you landed that difficult jump and won a state championship.
The problem here is that studies have shown that compassion and kindness is the best approach towards promoting success. Don't be cruel when they struggle with a simple floor routine: simply break down their mistakes in a kind way and help them grow as an athlete. That will help build up more confidence, help them have fun with the sport, and compel them to move past negative emotions on their own.
How You Can Encourage Your Young Gymnasts
Let's say that you have a young female gymnast who really wants to master the Pommel horse. However, she keeps hitting her legs and seems to lack the upper body strength to hold herself up. Do you tell her she's not good enough or scream at her to quit? Not at all: instead, you steer her gently towards another event (such as trampoline) that doesn't require such intense upper body strength. Or you start a weight routine to help build her muscles.
You can also try printing motivational posters to help compel your gymnasts to try harder. A few poignant, yet funny, ones make light of the so-called "toughness" of football: "If gymnastics were easy, it would be called football" and "After a day of football a gymnast would be sore, but after a day of gymnastics a football player would be dead." These quotes can make your young gymnast feel strong and confident before every practice and event.
Helping Them Learn Through Failure
Gymnastics is a sport of split-second decisions and years of struggle that coalesce into moments of success. As a result, your young gymnasts are going to fail at some point during a competition. It's inevitable and for many it can be heartbreaking. The important thing is to let your gymnasts know that failure is a part of obtaining success.
Share a story about a time that you failed in life, preferably on the gymnastic field. Discuss what happened and how you felt afterward. Then discuss the ways you used the mistakes you made in that failure to master a skill you didn't have before.
Importantly, you need to do is stay calm and kind, even a small mistake costs your team a championship. Screaming at your player and reaming them out will certainly make them understand the impact of their failure, but it won't help them learn from their mistakes.
And that's your role as a coach: teaching your gymnasts skills not only about the sport but about life. Success and failure in sports helps young people prepare for the competitive world of adulthood. And if you serve as a kind guiding light, you can teach them how to do the same to others. For more information, contact another coach that teaches gymnastics for kids.