Gymnastics Trampoline Coaching Philosophy Part 1.5

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Developing a Gymnastics Trampoline Coaching Philosophy Part 1.5

Four Phrases a Gymnastics Trampoline Coach should Never Say to a Student

Do or do not, there is no try

-Master Yoda

Let us think of this portion of text as an extension to all the tools we have available as Gymnastics Trampoline coaches. Whether we are coaching Gymnastics Trampoline classes or instructing another person in the wonderful science of physics, we must always be mindful of the language we use to impart this knowledge to our pupils. There is in fact no other tool available to humans to measure and deliver knowledge and accessing other peoples’ mental and emotional state. Think here about the challenge of teaching a particular skill without being able to utter a word or even the name of said skill. But before we proceed to gracefully attempt to eliminate several words and phrases from our vocabulary, we should remember that language is much more than the words we use to declare statements. Body language and other aspects of a person’s communication vastly affect the meaning of the things we say, and at times the entire outcome of an interaction.

If language has such a profound impact on our behavior, should we, as Gymnastics Trampoline coaches (of performance) be fully aware of how what we say to our students affects their progress? ABSOLUTELY!

In this document I have included four of the most damaging words and phrases I have encountered throughout my trampoline coaching and business career. For each one of them I explain why they are harmful and provide substitutions that have worked for me and others whom I have helped to become instructors in different disciplines.


1: TRY

Of all the dirty words in the English language, this seemingly caring and harmless way to ask a student to attempt something new is the most cringe-worthy. It is fraught-full of contempt and disrespect for the person receiving the request; it is vague and devoid of personal responsibility – it simply implies the possibility of failure – it shows no confidence in our students’ ability.

Inherent in Master Yoda’s exclamation is the profound knowledge that one cannot simply try to be successful; one must do what it takes to get there.

Likely borne out of an attempt to political correctness, or to perpetuate the illusions of fairness throughout all aspects of culture, the phrases “try your best” or “As long as you try”, have been allowing members of our society, and sadly mostly our youth, to contemplate failure as a viable outcome and to celebrate mediocrity.

Instead of saying “try this” when asking a person to do something for the first time, gymnastics trampoline coaches should always request that their athletes attempt it, always keeping in mind that having done something more than once disqualifies the person from attempting it again, and makes clear the responsibility to get it done. Our students must always receive the request to do their work, to get things done, making it also clear to them that their coach is confident that they can.  As a business consultant I have personally refused to work with individuals who use this dirty word too often.


2: DON’T

The most hindering command to performance as it triggers several mechanisms in the mind of the listener that make it extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the person receiving it to comply with it. This little gem of transformational grammar is directly responsible for triggering the Ironic Process of Mental Control that Dr. Dan Wagner identified and proposed in the early 1960s. Wagner explains that processes that undermine intentional control of mental states are inherent in the very exercises of such control.

The best way to test this is by asking yourself or someone else NOT to think of something. The most cited example includes a black cat – don’t think of a black cat! If you didn’t, after reading that last sentence, well…The principle is that our minds need to construct an idea before we can negate it. If we are constantly telling our student not to bend their legs, or not to move from the center of the gymnastics trampoline, we are adding unnecessary mental stress to brains that are already thwarted by an inherent inability to think clearly due to other natural processes. This word and any similar commands are responsible for delaying the onset of progress, and may at times produce diametrically opposite results to what is desired.  Instead, all requests should be made positively, we should ask our students to do exactly what we want them to do, in fact, and all commands should be given in their simplest form with elaboration/clarification provided only if required.

Stay Tuned For Part 2 Of This Fantastic Article

This article was written by Peyton Dracco, a Gymnastics Trampoline and N.C.C.P. Certified Coach at Airborne Trampoline North in Newmarket.

Follow Peyton Dracco on Twitter at @pdracco


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