Mutual respect needed from coach and pupil

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For years I have enjoyed gymnastics. I love everything about the sport- from the fast-paced tumbles, to the high pressure events, and even the harsh body conditioning that you have to endure at the start and end of every training session.

In the past few years, I feel like my knowledge of the sport itself has broadened with the progression that my display team have made and the gaining of my Level One coaching badge. What I have come to realise in the past couple of months, however, is what it actually means to be a coach and that everything you do whilst under the roof of the gymnasium can have a massive impact on your gymnasts.

When I was younger, I had a coach who was undeniably terrifying. She used to sit down, shout and dictate to our class, stuff her face full of food and make horrible remarks to us about how our gymnastics wasn’t “good enough”. Those memories have stuck in my head since I first started the sport, and so when I was made a coach, I vowed to myself that I would never treat my gymnasts like that.

Looking at it from the perspective of both a gymnast and a coach, however, it’s a difficult task to find the healthy balance between saying what you believe is the blunt truth, or saying what you mean in a slightly more positive tone. Of course it’s frustrating after spending hours working on a particular move or a section of a routine and gymnasts still aren’t picking it up, but I’ve come to realise that there’s a certain level of mutual respect that needs to be shown.

I am the first to admit that I am not the perfect coach, nor the perfect gymnast. But please remember – we need motivation, positivity and respect from coaches in order for us to try and feed it back. It’s this feeling I have as a gymnast now that I hope will soon reflect in my coaching practice too.