Archive for the 'Gymnastics' Category

06
Sep
17

A Letter To My Coach: Mickey

Hey Mick

I just wanted to shoot you a note that says Thanks.

You’ll never believe where I am. I am writing to you from my office at my own gym. I opened it in 1999, I think you were coaching in California then. It has grown each year and in 2014 we even expanded the building. I get to coach the most wonderful kids I have ever seen. We do great gymnastics but, even better, we help them grow up into great people. I owe a lot of that to you.

When you were my coach, you helped me to see that Tumbling and Floor Exercise was truly the best event, must be, as gymnasts we both specialized in it. I learned that all skills are basically born of the floor, tumbling skills are foundational for beam, vault and even bars. I learned so much about the sport from you. I have been fortunate enough to have had many great mentors as a technical coach, My brother Harold, Leonard Isaacs, Eugene Shanderay, Doug Davis, Mel Leinwander, Gary Aspinlitner, and even from young guys like Matt Lea. But You Mick, you were the guy who taught me the most.

I remember you telling me that a gymnast is a leader; in school, on their own team, and in life. Gymnasts, you said, set the bar for other athletes. You always made me feel like I was special, like a 6 foot tall kid who somehow was outstanding among a world of shorter, stronger, more organically talented athletes. I felt like I had a gift. I felt like I had opportunities that other kids would never see. After my near fatal accident, you told me that I got to have a choice that others didn’t. I could retire satisfied knowing I did all I could with the frame and time I had, or I could fight my way back and be someone. I could be the guy that others talked about; the guy who didn’t let a broken neck slow him down. I could be the guy who trained twice as hard as everyone else to be able to, in the end, surpass everyone’s expectations. You made me want to be that guy.  I think today, as a coach, business man, and father, I still try to be that guy. That guy who works hard, never gives up, and eventually wins.

So wdownloadhy am I sending this note now? Well Mick, I was standing there today, coaching, and it dawned on me that I won. I have a great life. I’m married and have 2 sons, I own a gym, and as you know I dreamed of having my own gym since I was a kid. I work with the best people on the planet, my staff earns my respect every day. My team kids work harder and smarter than any gymnast’s I have ever known, and my team families, Mickey, you won’t believe it, they have the same vision I have. They know their kids are extraordinary and they value what we can do to help their kids exceed everyone’s expectations. I owe so much of my success to you Mick. You set me on this path and helped me develop the tools I needed to make it all real. You even told me once, when I had doubts about being a teacher, that I should be the teacher who teaches from the heart, not to worry about the books and the quizzes. Do you remember that?

Mickey, it’s been over 15 years since you died. It breaks my heart that I never got the chance to show you what you helped me become. I never got the chance to say thank you. I think about you all the time, and though you probably just remember me as a gawky gymnastics wanna be, just one of among the hundreds you coached, I will never forget you. I don’t think that in this life we understand that even momentary encounters can often change a person’s whole life. I know that coaching a young person who loves the sport in both head and heart can be the deciding factor on many of that kid’s life outcomes. I don’t underestimate the gifts that gymnastics gives. I saw it in my case with you and I see it in the young women I coach. When you offered wisdom and compassion it shaped my entire life.  I guess I just wanted you to know that.

I miss you Mick, even though you are with me every day.   J.

 

 

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26
Jul
17

Feelin pretty OK

Do you have a person (or people) who hold such respect from you that their words carry more weight? Like if they told you that you were “doin’ OK” that you would then feel like you were? I have several people like that. Some are from business, some are teachers, some are coaches, some are just friends.

The other day, during team practice, one of my respected friends stopped in for a visit. He was passing through town and made a point to come by.  His name is Lon Arfston. He was one of the, as I call them, founding fathers of Wisconsin gymnastics. His club, LA Academy, produced the youngest National Champion ever, back in the 80’s.  Lon has coached all over the state, master coached at camps, clinics, and workshops. His experience led him to equipment sales and gym design after a brief retirement from coaching. Then he returned to the gym (none of us ever really leave the gym completely). He trained kids from pre-team to higher levels for many more years before officially retiring a few years ago.

Years ago, when Gymfinity was first being planned, I ran several ideas past Lon. He was always very free with advice and I liked that he placed trust in me, telling me that I was going to have a great gym one day. He helped me design the floor plans for Gymfinity and made sure that our traffic flow plan in the gym would benefit the most kids with the least congestion. I also ordered the majority of our equipment from Lon’s company To The Core. That was way back in 1998-1999

Through the years Gymfinity grew and developed into the program we have now, a training center for high level athletes that focuses on helping kids in the gym and in becoming productive, respectful and forward focused young adults. I was offered the safety educator position for of USA Gymnastics, and ran it by Lon to get his thoughts on either taking or leaving the opportunity. I took it. Later I was elected to the state board for USA-G and again, got input from Lon and others as I represented not only coaches from the big Wisconsin gyms but coaches from small gyms too. I represented businesses in the industry and businesses in the community of gymnastics. I often sought advice from Lon and others, and found such value in his wisdom.

Gymfinity and Lon Arfston

Lon with Taylor, Kacey, Addie, and the Trolls (Level 10 State 2017)

Last year at State Championship Lon was walking by and photobombed a team picture. The girls thought it was funny but had no idea who he was.

So, there I am coaching beam last Friday and in comes Lon. He had brought me some tools he used as a coach (motivational insights printed on cards), and books about technique and training structure. He thought that it might be something I could use. I gladly accepted them because it’s exactly the type of things I love to get, I study so many books that I could teach a course on coaching (I do by the way).  I was so honored that he thought of me, with so many other coaches that I’m sure he could have gifted this knowledge to. As we sat and talked a bit the other team coaches took over my group to allow me some conversation time with our guest. But Lon couldn’t help being a coach, he periodically interrupted our conversation with a correction to a near-by gymnast. I do the same when I’m in a gym, I even coach while watching gymnastics on TV, honestly it’s an obsession, but I digress. When it came time for him to leave, Lon shook my hand and told me that he always knew I would do a good job with a gym. He told me how proud he was of me and how Gymfinity was one of the best gyms he has ever seen. I joked with him and reminded him that he helped design it, but honestly his approval and respect filled me up.

After he was gone I explained to my team, who he was and reminded them of the photobomb at State. I explained how his opinion mattered to me, and I thanked them for being who they are and doing what they do. It’s because of them that I get to hear compliments like his.

There are days when, as a coach, business person, or even as a parent, that we wonder if we are doing it right. We wonder if we are screwing up our golden opportunity to make a good thing or to make a difference. There is always doubt. But having a man like Lon tell me that I was doin’ OK, made me feel like I was doing, well, OK. It was the shot in the arm I needed to get through a rough week and anxiously be able to tackle the week ahead.

So if you have a friend like that, be appreciative of the power they have. Be sure that you check in once and awhile to get their feedback and just touch base. It will validate you, or give you a chance to course-correct.  And if you are a friend like that, know the power you wield. Dole it out generously, because what the world needs now more than ever, is people feeling OK.

30
May
17

Being Reasonably Fit

Being fit as a trend or short term is not healthy, in fact it’s just the opposite. We have to know the reason we maintain a healthy lifestyle. We should be able to have healthy pursuits in a way that our happiness is not impeded. This is exactly why “getting healthy” as a new year’s resolution never works; we obsessively push ourselves to be unhappy out of guilt and shame until we just give up and validate our poor self-image. Sounds odd for me to say, but sometimes chasing a healthy lifestyle is not what people need.

To clarify, it’s the chasing, the never satisfied, pursuit of being fit that is the problem. Fitness, like all things, needs to be balanced with being happy and living a satisfied life.

I try to stay healthy. I run a few days a week and as a former competitive athlete I sign up for a few races each season, just to add meaning to my exercise. But there are some people who go too far. Training 7 days a week, obsession with calorie free, carb free, flavor free food (that always seem to be posted in food photos online) that seems to add salt to the wound, but not really because the diet is also salt free. Geesh.

The right motivation

landscape-1445011678-rbk100115fitbitessay-002I have a friend that posts every run on social media. I always felt that social media was great for staying in touch with friends you don’t see every day, but having to review the training plan for old college pals seems weird. I’ll see him face to face in the future and we’ll talk, he’ll say, I saw what you’ve been up to online, and I’ll say, I see you can do an 8-minute mile. Perfect, all caught up. I often wonder if he, or countless others would continue working out if they couldn’t post a “Look-at-me” on Facebook. I feel that it’s like the gymnasts I train doing the sport just to hear applause at meets. The focus in fitness needs to be the same as the focus in the gym; pushing your own potential and maintaining a healthy and highly functional body.

Information vs. Obsession

I have been around label readers, calorie counters, sodium intake monitors, and fat analyzers before and I believe that sometimes it is valuable and necessary to compare products to make good decisions. I commend people, like my wife, who take the time to look and read before deciding. Our FDA has done a good job of requiring the labeling of ingredients and nutrition information on products even though most people don’t read it. However, though I commend those people who do make decisions based on that information, I also believe that, for some, it can go too far. Reading everything on the label, only choosing based off a particular quality often leaves out an important factor…. taste. I have long been a follower of the middle path, leaning toward neither extreme. Though I look at labels when comparing types of butter, I won’t avoid butter because it’s “unhealthy”. It’s also delicious and though I don’t slather it on everything-Paula Dean style- I do occasionally like to cook with it.  Choices.

There is more to life than working out

I’ve been around people who only seem to have conversations about their workouts and I can tell you, it’s boring. I’m even in the workout business, and I find it boring. There is so much that people can share that make conversations enjoyable, why stick to only one topic. It’s likely due to one of 2 reasons. Option 1; they are obsessed. Every waking thought is a delusional fear about how they will die instantly if they do not push maximal training, run faster and further, lift more weight and more times, take another boot camp or spin class, and even eliminate anything enjoyable from their diet. That type of obsession is not only potentially harmful but often really tedious to your friends who just wanted to order a pizza and watch a movie.

Option 2: they are insecure about their body or their training and they want you to validate that they are OK or that they look good. I make it a point to never comment on either thing. The closest they get from me is “Well, how are you feeling?”

Walking the walk

If we want to help other people feel healthy, and don’t get me wrong, that is one of my industry’s driving forces, then we need to lead by example. We need to walk the walk of the talk we talk. Being obsessed or shoving diet choices down other people’s throats will cause them to rear back from health rather than embracing it. Not to mention it makes our lives less enjoyable to be unable to occasionally have a treat without guilt. Your body doesn’t implode if you have a cheat day, or even a cheat week. If you have clear and precise thoughts on what is healthy and what is not, then your diet can be made on choices and smart thinking not binge, purge, and self-hatred. Diets in moderation allow a healthy lifestyle and an enjoyable life.

If you can discern between staying fit and obsessively working out, then you will not only feel and look great but others will see you as the result of healthy pursuits rather than the poster child for crazy obsessive fitness.

24
May
17

Lessons from a ghostly guide

This year the team traveled to New Orleans for the Jazz Invite. It was a great meet, and a lot of fun. But one of the highlights for me was the “Ghost Tour” we took through downtown New Orleans. I went with a few team girls, their parents, and some strangers on a walking tour of the French Quarter and areas outside the Quarter.

Our guide was a long haired, trench coat wearing Cajun. He spoke English but would occasionally spout out a word in French/Creole and then admonish us with a look of disdain for not understanding . As we walked he spoke of the city’s rich history from slave trading to torture, from heroic battles to voodoo rituals. It was creepy, at times, but even more, it was fascinating. As he spoke he would beg us to understand “his city” and it’s growing pains. He would stare into the eyes of one of the group as he spoke, and underline his comments with “Do you see?”  He was weird and creepy, but we were so

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Here I am, freaked out,  in the seance room of a ghostly hotel.

engaged all through the tour that the time seemed to pass too soon.  In fact, the next day (during some free time) I went back to a few of the sites on my own, in the safe light of day, to see more of the historic area. But my favorite part was that night, when the tour was over, about 11 pm. The group dispersed. All but the Gymfinity portion of the tour had gone on to experience the nightlife of the Quarter. Our guide stayed and answered questions and followed up with us until it was just too late to be out. His responses covered architecture, history, and of course, the paranormal. But as we reached the end of the night, he made one more comment to our girls. I, for one, felt that his closure was worth the full price of admission.

He told the girls that they needed to understand that each one of them was their Great Great GrandMama’s dream. Those women, from so many generations ago, dreamed of a day when their offspring would be allowed the strength and freedom to become the people that they wanted to be. A world, or a time, when those future girls could live out their lives however they wished. He explained that today’s generation of young women have more opportunities than any generation that went before them, and he wanted to be sure that their for-bearers efforts were not delivered in vane.

He asked them if they were good in school? He told them that their ancestors would be ashamed of them if they didn’t use the tools they are given to make their lives extraordinary. The past generations could only imagine, in their wildest dreams, the day when a young woman would be allowed to challenge the world unfettered and unencumbered by the belief that she was incapable simply because of her gender. He stared into their eyes and asked if they saw that these old women worked, sweat, and bled for these girl’s ability to live that once only dreamed of life. He asked them if they wanted to make their Great Great GrandMama’s dreams come true. If they wanted to make those long-gone women proud of them. He wanted to know if they thought that what they were doing would allow those generations to feel that their own lives were validated. He explained that by living the embodiment of their grand-generation’s dreams that they would allow those spirits to rest. Were they willing to live their lives in a way that would allow that?

I had 5 team girls there, from age 10 to 17, and each one stood with their jaws clenched, their arms tight, and their spine strong and tall. Their posture answered his questions; Yes, they saw it. They knew that their lives, like all of us, are the embodiment of our ancestors dreams.

What a beautiful message to these young women and what a great end to the night, and some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard. That wild, weird, trench coat wearing Cajun, hit a nerve with each of us. My girls went home knowing that they had dreams to live up to, and not only their own. Powerful.

I love when life places people, in unexpected places, to teach us lessons. Page back through these posts to read about the time I got a dose of reality from meeting Picasso in, of all places, San Jose California. (page down from here). https://gymfinity.wordpress.com/page/10/

02
May
17

Advice to the new Gymfinity parent

Way back many years ago, when the world found out that Steph and I were expecting our first baby, people stepped up to advise us. People who had kids and had already done the baby thing made themselves available for Steph and I who were feeling pretty anxious about being parents.  “Sleep when they sleep, sometimes let them cry, don’t give him potato chips…..J”, and other nuggets of advice really helped us out.  In that spirit, I wanted to offer some advice to parents that might be considering joining the program at Gymfinity.  I am a parent, and I get the parenting concerns. My kids have been in our program and in other sports too, I have seen the best and the worst of kids activity options. I am a coach too, I have answered many questions and concerns over the years, so I feel particularly qualified to offer a few “remembers” to you here. So here are 10 things you should know about your time at  Gymfinity.

  1. Remember that coaches are people too.

We work for you and we have goals and aspirations for your kids just like you do. We have knowledge of skill and a basic understanding of child psychology, but we are human. There will be times when we say something that may be misconstrued, but we are not mean people. We might forget to return a call, that doesn’t mean we don’t like you or your child. We might ask your child to work hard, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand that they are human too and sometimes get frustrated or tired.

  1. Remember that this is for your child’s development

Our program naturally provides skill and confidence, but we also have the goal of teaching kids to think. Analytically, like why do I lose balance when I wave my arms? Critically, like I know that I can do it but I want a mat under the beam too. And independently, like asking for consideration like a mat or permission to try a new and different skill. We want them to be able to not only do gymnastics but to understand gymnastics and how to think things through. Gymnastics is a great vehicle for understanding many broader concepts outside the skills they are taught.

  1. Remember that coaches very rarely bite

We know that some kids are shy, but we need them to communicate with us and share their fears, goals, and concerns. When we better understand your child, we can better serve them. Shy works for a 6-year-old, on an 8-year-old it can be tolerable, but after that we need kids to speak up for themselves. This is a goal for us, to have every child in our program be able to speak their mind.

  1. Remember that we really do like your kid

There will sometimes be occasions when we tell your child that they are doing something wrong. There will be times when they may be corrected and they feel like we picking on them when we make corrections. We are not. Once we get to know a kid we generally like them, that’s why we are in this business. Our job is to be critical and to make corrections, sometimes it may make your child feel deflated. Through correcting and applied effort, together, we will get your child to feel great about their outcome. It may take a while, and it will require patience on all sides.

  1. Remember that we are striving to surpass your expectations

Our staff is background checked, safety trained, and under constant supervision. Every one of us has a required amount of continuing training credits that we must fulfill each year to stay on staff. We travel to seminars, clinics, and conventions to learn to be the best we can. We bring in national and international trainers in our industry to teach us to be better teachers. We will never stop trying to be better than we are right now, but if we don’t live up to our reputation or your expectations we will gladly help you pack and move to another program.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics is not the world.

It’s close, but c’mon. In the end, it’s a game. It’s a sport that you play for as long as you can and you hope it leads to good things while having an amazing time. If your child struggles with a skill, or they have a rough performance it does not diminish their effort. The game has ups and downs, like life, and sometimes it makes us smile, sometimes it makes us cry. These are both OK. Don’t value your child on how well they compare to anyone else, nobody is like your child. They are wonderful, warts and all. Just know that they may be great at this. They may not.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics can be the world.

When your child is in a sport like gymnastics, it can feel like it’s everything to them. Some of our kids go on to do college gymnastics and some become coaches too. When I was a young gymnast it was how I identified myself. It was why I didn’t party in school. It was why I did my homework. It was what I wanted to do my whole life. If my mom would have told me when I was younger that it was not important, I think I would have been crushed, or in the least, resented her for saying it. Should they choose this sport, let them love it.

  1. Remember that you hired us to do this.

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    We’re here to help

You hired us to provide your child with something. Some want their kids to develop confidence, some want their kids to be more coordinated, some want their kids to make friends in a positive place with good fun and fit objectives. Let us do that for you. This is what we know. We’ve been in this business for many years (I started coaching before some of the parents that bring their kids here were born). You came in, saw the program, met us and tried us on. Be sure you let us do what you expected us to do. Sometimes it’s hard to let go, but trust us. It will be worth it.

  1. Yes, we know your child is special.

Every child has the right to feel special. But when we have a group of children in a class, we try to make every child feel loved and appreciated. No one is entitled to be special-er than anyone else. Part of the process of growing up is sometimes taking a backseat to someone else on occasion. Everyone will get their turn in the front seat. It’s OK. Re-read number 4.

  1. Remember that even honeymoons end.

When a child starts a new program, they usually have a great time for the first few weeks running on the novelty alone. The gym is great, the teacher is awesome, the class is their favorite thing ever! But then the novelty wears off. It’s still a great class but they may not seem as excited. This is pretty typical. There are stages to their involvement, the first is the honeymoon, and everything is amazing. The second can be a slow down, motivation is lessened and they seem to have lost a little interest. Kids may seem to lose some of the passion when they are getting ready to come to class, but they do fine once they’re here. This is a time when your encouragement and support is needed to deliver a little bump to get to Stage 3. The third phase is a renewed interest and an acceptance that this is THEIR class and they are now a part of a bigger program. They feel at home and their renewed efforts start to produce skills and smiles. It’s phases one and three when they are doing cartwheels all over the house. The only time cartwheels stop is phase 2 and when they leave for college (sometimes not even then).

It’s often a new experience and it takes some getting used to. But thankfully there are veterans around who can offer advice and guidance on this journey. Many of the parents of kids in your child’s class started out with questions too, it’s OK to talk to them. And, as always, feel free to ask us, we are always available for you.

18
Apr
17

How we do things here.

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with my team kids. We do a Word of the Week that focuses on character and motivation and the word was “Role Model”. I explained that it wasn’t the words that were important, it was the concept. The concept that, good or bad, other people are observing us and we are showing them what WE are like. I explained to the girls about a study that was done involving monkeys and I actually wrote about it in a prior post about 5 years ago. Here is a clip from that post:

The first is a study of monkeys placed in a cage with a set of stairs. If any monkey stepped on the top stair the entire floor surface was given an electrical shock (minor, but uncomfortable). The monkeys started to think communally and punish any other monkey who attempted to climb the stairs, even if they did not reach the top. The offending chimp was pulled to the ground and physically punished.  When some of the chimps were replaced, the remaining monkeys were quick to “teach” the new inmates about the repercussions of the top stair. Over time the trigger was deactivated. Still no one was allowed to reach the top step. When all of the original monkeys were rotated out, the beatings still continued because the remaining monkeys, who had learned the lesson from other monkeys though never experienced the shock personally, felt compelled to teach the new simians.

The study demonstrates that culture begets culture. It shows how we have no problem teaching the new kids, or new monkeys for that matter, that this is how we do things here.

SaaaaaAZ team in NO

Level 8’s, February 2017, New Orleans Jazz Invite.

I explained to the team how we present ourselves matters very much. When younger kids in classes look to the top-level kids; they are evaluating how it looks to be a team member, a high level, or even how to be a teenager. I asked them how many times they said hello to a class kid, or how many times they watched a younger gymnast and commented on their effort or their skill. I explained how much impact it would have on a little gymnast to be recognized for trying, by someone like them. I asked them if they knew how many kids ask us if, in our pro shop, they can get leotards like “the big girls” wear. What would it mean to compliment an up-and-comer on their new leo? I asked them if they remembered when they would play gymnastics at home and they got to be a team girl for a day. They remembered because it wasn’t that long ago that their role models were on the team, and they were just starting out. It was only a few years back when they dreamed of being in This group.

We talked about what they show the other kids in the gym when they have a tantrum, or when they cry because the training is sometimes hard. Is this how we do things here? And we talked about how they joke with, and support each other as team mates, how they cheer when one gets a new skill, or how they get loud when pumping up a team mate to “go for it”. Is that how we do things here?

The gist of the conversation is that everyone is being watched and evaluated every minute. Every one of them is teaching new generations how to behave and what to expect as they progress. Every one of them is showing our parents in the lobby that this is the program that they have their kids in, good or bad.

Now, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of our team. They get it. They know they are evaluated by class kids, parents, and young team kids too. They represent themselves, their families, their team, and their gym with pride. They are not only great gymnasts but they show everyone that they are great people as well. After all, that is how we do things here.

21
Mar
17

So, you coach girls. Why?

 

Small talk at a party: “So you coach gymnastics. Boys or girls? Why?” I’ve been asked this about a hundred times, and everyone is surprised when I say “girls.” I think most people just think that a guy coaches boys and a woman will coach girls.  Not true.

So why do I  coach girls? I’ve tried coaching boys; it didn’t go well. I found that I spent more time watching wrestling and saying things like “I can wait until you are ready to listen….” Than I did actually coaching. It takes a special kind of a person to coach boys. I am not that special.

My standard answer when people ask “why girls” is that “girls listen better, pay attention more, and are usually smarter”. Then the universe graced me with two sons. So, I can’t use the “smarter” quip anymore, but the rest was pretty true.

I started thinking about why the difference was seemingly such a no-brainer to me but so hard to explain to others. As usual I ran the self-conversation during a long car trip and made frequent stops to jot notes. Then I did a little organizing research. Here’s what I came up with:

I was raised by my mom. I had a lot of respect for her and I aspire to be a parent like she was. She was confident, decisive, and strong. I realized that many of the girls that I coach have those attributes but often they don’t know it. So, on one hand, I think I want to help them develop those skills. Boys, it seems, are naturally confident, usually decisive (not right or wrong but decisive) and they usually show strength at an earlier age.  But why?

The best I can determine is that in terms of evolution males have always been more independent, had to show strength, and provide for the smaller weaker gender. Females were dependent, had to rely on the protectors and providers for survival, but today those traditional gender roles and attributes are in gray areas as women have become more independent and strong. when it comes to society we are slow to accept this and often the discrimination of our beliefs is unfounded. A big boat is slow to turn around, and this belief that woman are the weaker sex is a big boat of old fashioned thinking.

Developmentally, there is some science to this as well. As fetuses develop, female brains are bathed in estrogen as early as 8 weeks after conception and the hormone bath develops brain areas that will be suited to language, communication, and emotion. While male babies are flooded with testosterone, which develops areas of the brain that focus on aggression and more base needs. As children grow, society reinforces this with subtle prejudicial statements like “she’s so girly” meaning dainty and innocent, and “boys will be boys” which means boys will be rough, uncontrollable and dangerous.

Society tells girls that they need to make the tribe happy, provide harmony, and develop relationships. Meanwhile boys are taught to stand up for themselves, be assertive and challenge the world.

How gymnastics plays a part in development

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One of many reasons I am proud to coach girls, here’s me with Bri Slonim. 

Because females traditionally have been protected from risk they have not had the benefit of learning from their failures. I believe that this is where sports, particularly gymnastics, has a great developmental benefit. I think that girls can be shown that they can approach perfection, seek to surpass their own perceived potential, and encouraged to take risks. I believe that in so doing, children (not just girls) are given an opportunity to assess their efforts, learn from their skinned knees, and get back to their feet, try again, and grow stronger. Nothing is better than gymnastics at showing you that you did not do your homework. Our sport will let you know when you don’t work hard enough, and it will let you know in no-uncertain terms.

My mother, by virtue of divorce and strict Hungarian parents she had to learn that if she wanted something, she had to work for it. She never took breaks, and when she had 3 sons she knew she had to teach us those very lessons and values. I think that as a pre-parent younger coach starting in the industry,  I felt a strong sense of mission to share that lesson with children growing up. I think I gravitated toward coaching girls because they seemed more eager to learn from me. Boys, at least by the impression they try to give off, already knew everything.

Now I have sons and I get to see behind the veil of masculinity that though boys may show bravado, inside they are still pretty insecure and squishy. I think that too is evolutionary. I know that if I had to coach boys again,  I would see it from a different perspective. I have learned that boys tend to overestimate their skills, while girls tend to underestimate themselves. I have always fought for the underdog, and maybe it’s the “Yes, you can do it”-ness of coaching girls that fulfills me.

I have written before about confidence and how we can help children develop it. I feel as strongly about independence and being self-secure*

Sports show us there are winners and learners and that we will not always be on the top of the podium at every meet. I cannot stand the meets and games that handout awards to every child. It doesn’t allow a child to assess any plan for success. It doesn’t validate their real effort, and it doesn’t imitate life at all.

So, I like coaching girls. I think I understand why, maybe I can’t explain it in a short 3o second chat, but I know that I can help make a difference. I believe that I should help to turn the boat and do my share to help the world see that women are just as strong, just as smart, just as assertive, just as capable, and just as good and anyone could ever ask. I think I owe that to my mom, who truly showed it to me.

 

 

*I hate the term “self-esteem” because it’s such a cliche. It has come to mean an entitled attitude of loving one’s self and feeling good. I use the term “self-secure” on purpose because it indicates a feeling of, though sometimes we may get frustrated with ourselves in action and habit, that we are comfortable knowing that we are good and functional in a positive way. It think it’s a healthy perspective on our self-image as opposed to a glossy “everything about me is great” feeling, that is a lie, at best.

 

 




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