Coaching

My Latest Little Project

I’m really proud of this little video. I have a dream for my blog and YouTube channel and social media. This is the beginning…

Feel free to share my videos or any of my content from this time forward.

You Deserve This…

I watched an episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s show on YouTube. Ask Gary Vee is the show name. It featured the artist Jewel. I hadn’t seen or heard anything from her since her songs years and years ago. I was skeptical when I clicked on the video… But I’m glad. I will link it at the end of this little blog. She said something in the video that just completely struck me in a way I don’t think I had ever been struck before. Here is the quote…

“I was lonely. A lot of people are lonely. But I deserved to be lonely. Because I only told truth in one place and it was a notebook that nobody read.”

She was talking about mental health and her journey through life. If I remember correctly, I was almost moved to tears when I heard her say this. I realized in that moment why I felt the way I did and why a lot of experiences have shaped out the way they have. I have really only “spoken the truth” while I have coached over the years. Especially in the last several years. Let me qualify that a little more… I haven’t been untruthful or told lies. But the only place I have let it all out has been while coaching or leading people. I have had people describe these moments as bright lights or an energy that can be felt. I have referenced the “flow state” of mind before. That raw, unfiltered sharing of information and thoughts. I believe that speaking the truth and flow state are the same thing for me.

When I heard this little quote form Jewel, I immediately opened up my notes app and wrote it down but I had no idea where or how to share it. I wasn’t using my blog then like I am now. I want this blog to be a place where I can embrace “speaking the truth” and my flow state of consciousness. Again… I don’t mean speaking the truth as in truth and lies, but speaking unfiltered and raw and putting it all out there. I guess this will be my notebook and I hope more people read it. Here is the video… It is long but worth it.

Number Three

The third rule is particularly interesting to me. Especially given my life and how it has progressed. I have said several times in my life recently that all I have is the things I have done to help other people in this world. I have tried vigilantly to take care of the people around me as best I can. To reach out and to give them all that I have. I think this is the best gift that we can give anybody in this world. This talk hit me solidly in the chest. Simon is a wonderful mind and a great leader.

Flow State

 

I just can’t get enough of this guy. He has helped me to hack my own brain and emotions. I connected with this video so much. As I sat and listened to him talk I realized my own flow state and process. Coaching… Teaching… Helping other people is my flow state. Also traveling alone… Getting away. These times my self editing and self consciousness disappear. Anybody who has worked with me or around me has seen it. I can freestyle and talk and rant endlessly. I think this might be the reason why I like coaching and helping others. And love traveling alone so I can think… Get out of my own way.

These last several months have been that for me as well. I have been largely uncomfortable. On the move… Also consulting for coaching and helping other’s golf. I have found happiness in movement and action and I have found fear and anxiety and stress in any stagnation or lack of action. I believe that I crave this flow state. I am a daydreamer. I always have been. I believe this is why I can ramble to a camera on my vlog while driving or doing something so easily. I’m in my creative flow state that I crave. Editing videos is the same thing… It feels like killing the adult and letting the child run. And I believe that is what many, many people struggle with and would like to do.

Side tangent and I will wrap this little post up. I believe that children are mostly geniuses. I also believe that adults screw them up, for the most part. Think of the child questioning why to something the adult scolds them for. That’s the way it is. Be quiet. I said so… Do as your told. I believe that from a young age our creativity and desire to explore and create is largely stifled. I also believe that most adults are screaming inside to be creative and explore and create.

Last thing, promise. I’m gonna tell you a quick story about an athlete I coached. We will call her Bill, because that’s funny and I said so. Bill was trying to do a clear hip to handstand on a low bar. She could only achieve this skill by changing her body positions from an arch to a big pike and then back to a big arch and that is generally frowned upon for the skill and in the world of gymnastics. I heard many other adults scolding her for how “loose” she was in her core because of the observation of this body shape change. I was working with Bill one day while fully engaged and deep into a flow state and being highly creative. Bill achieved her handstand position in the way she knew how and I started to join along with the other adults and scold her for being loose. I stopped… Took a deep breathe, thought for a second, and then opened my mouth. I said… “You’re a genius. Everybody tells you that you’re weak and loose in your core. But you’re not… Your core and mid section are the absolute strongest part of your body. Because you were taught how to do the skill improperly and your shoulder strength has not been properly developed, you have figured out that the only way to achieve the skill to a handstand and keep up with the other athletes and be perceived as hard working and successful is to use your strengths to overcompensate for your weaknesses. Congrats, Bill. You’re a genius. Here is what you should do to strengthen your shoulders and this is how the skill works properly… Do these things and nobody will ever tell you how weak and loose you are again.”

I hope anybody that reads that can understand the power of the words to the athlete. The validation of effort and the direction of focus. The smile that flashed across her face was something you should wish to be able to bottle and hand out to everybody you interact with. Instead of condemning her to a life of unsuccessfulness and failure, I validated her efforts and focused her in a positive direction with enthusiasm and sincerity. The results were magic. I’ve done this hundreds of times with athletes by thinking differently, reverse engineering what I want, using empathy, and being positive and enthusiastic in what I say and do.

Thanks for reading! Back soon!

 

 

 

The Old And The New

So… Here it is. Before I show everybody the new gym, I thought it would be more appropriate to show everybody the place that we have been in for the past five years.

And now… the new gym. It isn’t totally complete. I didn’t take pictures of the preschool area or the parent area, but I will. I need to install three more low rails and do some more maneuvering of equipment. It will be completely and totally finished very soon.

I want to say thank you to a lot of people. Thank you to the people in the gymnastics community in the state, region, and nation that have helped me to grow and develop as a coach. There are tons of you and I hope that all of you know who you are. ¬†Thanks to all of the parents and athletes. Without you all none of this would be possible. Thanks to all of my co-workers. I can’t do this alone and I know that. Thank you to my wife for not killing me over the years, and especially this week. Love you! Also… Thanks to everybody that has helped with this project. From the backers that put up the money for it to the people who have cleaned, moved, and helped the gym for the past six months.

Without all of you, this gym wouldn’t be possible. So thank you to everybody involved, near and far. All of you are greatly appreciated.

What’s New

Well… It’s been a long time. I haven’t been on here for several reasons. I was just down in Charlotte, North Carolina again last weekend for the camp at International Gymnastics and I had some good conversations with people down there that told me they still read my blog. I was surprised at that because I see the numbers, but it was encouraging to hear and made me want to start getting more information out. I also confessed to some people that I felt like nothing I did on here would ever be as important or relevant as what I was able to do in the wake of Andrea’s accident. Seventeen-thousand people viewed that blog post in about a week, which was incredible for me and for her friends and family. Not that I want to one-up that, but it just doesn’t feel as important.

I have also had my fair share of struggles recently. We have two level tens, two level nines, and a level eight boy. I have been working with several kids in the afternoons, which has kept me really busy. This is my first experience with having athletes at this level in my own gym and there has been some learning I have had to do. I have started to do TOPs with my kids and that has me pretty excited. My level eight boy finished third at Future Stars Regionals with a bad showing, but still qualified to Nationals in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He did well there, but ended up finishing just barely in the bottom half of his age group. On top of all of this… I have been devoting almost all of my free time to golfing. I have gotten to the point where I can shoot even par or several over just about every time I go play. The other big thing that has kept me busy is the best news of all. We purchased the building, property, and equipment from the other gym in town and we are in the process of renovating it to be a world class facility. It won’t be huge, but it will be laid out perfectly with pits and resi mats for every event, boys and girls. We will also have a trampoline into a pit and a resi mat, which I am excited about. I will hopefully get to flip again like I use to!

Here is a little bit of what we have been doing…

I haven’t done a very good job of videoing everything that I want to. The two nines have been doing well and so has my other ten after being out of the gym for another sport. The boy has been working on, and getting, a bunch of skills that will stick with him for the rest of his career. Tippelts, Yamawaki, Diamadov, Stutz, ect. It is an exciting time for me and for my gym. We have several youngsters that I am excited about and all of the kids have been working hard for the season. I have also begun to work every week with all of the coaches in the gym to share my knowledge and experience with them and try to make them better at what they do. We are going to continue to meet every week to try and make SOGA the best facility for gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading that it can possibly be.

I mentioned before that I was in North Carolina again… The camp was amazing. They added Alex Bard, a Canadian National Team coach and repeated Olympic coach, to the roster of great coaches this year. I met Alex several years ago at Woodward and he is amazing. Camp was great for all the kids and the coaches and I look forward to going back next year. The week before I was in Cincinnati at Gym Nation to work the Region Five Forward Progress camp. That was also great. The region looks strong and ready to do great things. It was wonderful to be able to work a high level camp with so many friends and I learned a lot from them while I was there. I am finally home for a couple weeks and then I get to go back down to the TOPs A camp at the Karolyi Ranch.

So… I am posting this and then I am going to work on bar changes and the tap swing in every flip, possibly some other posts. I know I have a lot to learn and I am extremely far from the best coach around, but I want to share what knowledge and experience I have with everybody. So… here goes. I guess since it is cold I have time to devote to this instead of golf.

Sunrise

I woke up this morning angry, frustrated, and disappointed. These emotions quickly were replaced with confusion… I forgot about the time change. After I realized that my smartphone was smarter than me, I went back to being frustrated and exhausted. Yesterday was tough, to say the least… And six in the morning has never agreed with me.

I got ready and took off in my car. I was headed to a meet in the pitch black darkness of the morning. I continued to brood and steam as I drove for the next forty-five minutes… And then… I looked in my mirror.

I saw no headlights, no darkness, no problems, no frustration. I saw the beginning of the sun rising. I began to think about how beautiful it was. Quickly all of my emotions changed. My thoughts did as well.

I realized that this could very possible be the last time that I ever get to see the beauty that is a sun rise. I realized that every day is another chance to get it right, to get better. Every day is another chance to live beautifully. I remembered that we aren’t promised anything in this life and to appreciate everything you have and make the best of every opportunity and situation.

It is amazing how something so simple can change your attitude completely. I just wanted to share this experience with any potential readers.

Quick Thoughts

I have a ton of things I needed to get out of my head in out into the world. Here they are.

Education is not an option. It is a requirement. Not just gymnastics. Nutrition, psychology, kinesiology, exercise physiology, teaching, coaching, and everything else that is related to our sport. Can you ever get too smart? Can you ever know too much? Uhm… No! So keep looking for new information, training plans, ideas, and anything else you can find to help make you a better teacher, mentor, coach, and person.

Use your brain. Just because somebody said it or did it, doesn’t mean that it is best or right. Not all information is good information. You have to filter what you see and hear. For examples, I got a ton of information from a congress this summer and I set up a bunch of drills everyday. The kids did the drills really well, but I found that their vaults were getting worse. They were getting really good at doing all these drills and not at vaulting. I cut all the drills out and had them do their vaults and a couple drills that simulated the actual vaults. Since then, our vaults have gotten much better.

Organization is not a good idea. It is necessary. Every rotation, every day, every week, every month, every year, and even years down the road. You have to be organized. I don’t want my kids to get bored by doing the same thing, but I want them to know the plan for the event, day, and week. They should know what is expected of them and how they are going to get to where they need to be. My kids all know the rotations each day, the length of the rotations, and how we will work during the rotations. Most of my kids even know what the other groups are going to do as well. We are consistent and we are organized.

Having a plan isn’t something you do when you have time enough to think about it. Failing to plan is planning to fail. See above. Planning and organization make everything so much easier. Every kid, every skill, everything. It all needs to be planned. And after you have a plan, you need need to have a backup plan. And the backup should have a backup plan. There are so many uncertainties in this sport. Plan it out and then have backups. Follow your plan, but be flexible enough to adjust as needed.

Strength, flexibility, and basics are the most important thing in gymnastics. I believe that pain is weakness… If it hurts, it is weak and needs to be strengthened. Many injuries come from a lack of strength and/or flexibility. Every muscles and joint needs to be strong and flexible. Also… For me, bad basics is bad gymnastics. Period. Bad basics usually lead to some sort of injuries as well. Put a lot of time and effort into strength, flexibility, and basics and I am certain you will see better gymnasts and better gymnastics.

Scary gymnastics should result in at least a five point deduction. Coaches should be fined… Or maybe thrown out of the meet. I understand the occasional silly mistake, but kids should not be allowed to continually practice or compete scary gymnastics. For instance, I saw a girl do a really, really horrible tucked yurchenko vault. She nearly missed the landing mat entirely. Her next turn she did one of the prettiest layout full twisting yurchenkos I have seen. She messed up and it scared some people, but she obviously didn’t do scary gymnastics all the time. That same meet I had to tell my kids to turn away and not watch the other team warm up or compete their events. Scary doesn’t begin to describe what these girls were allowed to do. Dangerous comes to mind. Hideous does as well.

If you teach “chuck it” gymnastics, you should be chucked off a bridge. That is kind of harsh, but I really hate the whole “chuck it” mentality. There are a few “do it” skills in gymnastics, but there are no “chuck it” skills. For example, double fronts. Especially into pits. There have been many times that I have given kids instructions on how to do double fronts into a pit, what they will feel, and what they should avoid. I have then said… Do it and then we will talk about what you need to change and do better. These kids have all had the ability to do double fronts into a pit and they have always been successful on their first try, as well as every try after. I have always made sure to give them as much information as possible before they try it. “Space for your face” is a concept I always teach. I tell them to spread their knees a little bit so if they hit their feet first they don’t smash their face on their knees. I have never had a kid “chuck” a skill, but I have had them do some skills to get the fear and nerves out of the way. On a side note, I believe that pits and resi mats have helped to further the whole “chuck it” mentality.

I could be wrong, but I don’t see any of the best coaches in the world saying they don’t spot. Get your hands on the kids and work with them. I am really curious to see if I am wrong about this. Every great coach I have ever met or seen has spotted, or at least been able to spot. I believe it creates trust and helps create a bond with the kids. I don’t mean you should always spot or that is all that is important, but I do believe that it is a huge tool that should be in your tool box. I know a few coaches that don’t spot at all. I know a few coaches that don’t spot on certain events. I also know coaches that spot everything, all the time. I have a previous post about spotting that I think you should read if you are interested in spotting. Simply put… I believe you should know how to, when to, and why to spot. And be able to do it!

I don’t believe that injuries are okay, ever. Aside from the random freak, uncontrollable accident, most injuries can be prevented. I said before that strength, flexibility, and basics can prevent a lot of injuries. I believe that proper organization and planning can help as well. Knowing your kids, reading their body language, and communicating with them will help also. Chucking skills is never safe. Allowing scary gymnastics to be practiced or competed is asking for injuries. There is so much that goes into keeping your kids safe and healthy. I get really tired of hearing people say that it is just the sport or shrugging and saying… “What are you gonna do?” I do think that there are some random, freak accidents that will happen in this sport and any other sport. But if your athletes are strong, flexible, have good basics, are mentally conditioned and prepared… Don’t you think they will tend to be healthier?

Just because you have been coaching gymnastics forever or you coached one or two good kids, that does not mean you are good. I believe that you are only as good as your worst kids. I read that after winning a world all around title, a coach and athlete both said that they knew they were only as good as their next meet. I absolutely loved hearing that, especially after winning a world all around title. At the risk of over sharing my thoughts…. I want to have a kid sweep every event in all around and event finals in the Olympics. I want to have an entire Olympic team come from my gym. I have lofty goals and they are probably out of reach. If I ever do reach them… Then I have to repeat! My point is this. I have met tons of coaches that hang their hats on what they have done in the past. I have respect for previous accomplishments, but what have you done lately? Keep putting everything you have into your athletes and your staff. Always try to get better and make your athletes better. No matter what you have done in your career, there is always something more you can do.

If you are in this sport to make money, you are in it for the wrong reasons. I believe that you can make a good, maybe even great, living in this sport. If money and profits are the main concern, I don’t believe you will be successful. Focus on your plan, organization, and coaching the kids. I am willing to bet that you will start to see more profits when you have a good plan, organization, and good coaching.

I was told once that it didn’t matter what you said or did to kids as long as they made nationals. Take a second… Digest that. Think about what that statement really says. I can verbally, emotionally, or physically abuse kids as long as they make nationals? I can have them vault or tumble onto hard surfaces when they are exhausted, even though I think it is dangerous? I can have them do skills that they aren’t ready for or haven’t had proper instruction on? I can sit on my ass and drink coffee while three groups work unsupervised? No… Everything you do matters. Every day. Results are a product of the process. There are so many things wrong with that statement and that mentality.

I might just be young and naive. I might just be idealistic. It is entirely possible that I am way off the mark. But I believe that the status quo in this sport isn’t where it should be.

More Memories

I wanted to share this video on my blog for everybody to see.

This was the routine that earned her a state title on bars. By no means was it perfect, but it helped the team win bars and helped them take second overall. I can’t remember ever being more proud of her than this day. I remember the feeling when she landed her flyaway. At the time, I choked back the emotions as each kid successfully landed. I was so proud of her and those girls for everything they did all year. I told Andrea’s mother that after I watched this video it brought all the memories back to me. All of the work we did together to get to this point.

The really sad realization that hit me at some point last night was that this was the last routine she ever competed. We finished on bars on this day. That was her last salute, the last high five that I gave her after a competition routine, and the last time she got to experience what she loved to do so much. There were many more high fives and memories in the gym and at camp after this, but this was the last time in competition. Around twelve hours before she was set to compete her first level seven routines, she was involved in the accident that took her from us all.

I am going to keep trying to acquire videos of her. I almost have enough pictures to put another montage together. To be honest… It has helped me to have the outlets that I have. The Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… I have been able to memorialize Andrea for myself and everybody else and it makes me feel so much better to be able to do that.

First Day Back

The first day back in the gym was hard, but good. It started early for me. I went to the gym to meet with a television news reporter so I could be interviewed about Andrea. It was difficult to talk about her so openly and especially on camera. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was telling the reporter about the girl I loved so much. It made it easier. An old friend walked into the gym just as we were about to start the interview. I got up and gave her a hug and talked for a little bit and then sat back down and started to talk about Andrea. I had to keep reminding myself to breath deeply and focus on keeping my composure, even though I knew it could be edited. Always the perfectionist, sadly. For some reason I couldn’t get my right foot to stop shaking. It kept bouncing around uncontrollably. I tried my best to tell everything I could about her that made her so special, but I am sure I didn’t get it all out. I wish I had more time with the reporter to try to get everything out that I could remember. All in all… I feel like I did an okay job for my first on camera interview. I just wish it was for something other than the death of an amazing child with a bright future. I just received a text message from a parent telling me that I did well in the interview. Not that it matters in the grande scheme of things, but I am glad I didn’t look like a retard.

I had some time in between the interview and the beginning of my work. I spent the hour slowly going around the gym and making sure everything was in it’s place. My mom taught me, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” I take that to the gym everyday. I usually take about 30 minutes to organize the gym, but I wanted to move slower today because I had more time and I wanted to think. I spent my time reflecting on all of the wonderful qualities that Andrea exhibited that I wanted to make sure that I also showed to the kids. Another quick side note, behavior can be changed. It takes conscious effort and attention to what you are doing at all times to change it. People don’t like change because it is uncomfortable. I constantly tell the kids that when they do something new or different, it will feel weird. I didn’t have to make huge changes, but they still took some conscious effort for me.

I had two privates. Both young level fives. One of them looked up to Andrea for everything and the other one did as well, but was also very emotional. I told the first one that we were not going to do any gymnastics until she talked to me. We sat and talked for a little while about Andrea and how to move on. There were some tears shed but after we finished talking the first little one did an awesome job. The same interaction happened with the second little girl and similar results. As I was talking and watching the second little girl the other girls started to filter into the gym. I took the opportunity to talk to them and remind them that I would be there for anything they needed.

I finished up with my second private lesson and almost all of the kids were in the gym. A couple walked in right on time. I had already gathered the girls together and was going to start talking to them, but I waited for the others. I talked to them about Andrea for a little bit. I told them that I wasn’t healed or completely whole, but I was much happier because I had spent the whole weekend trying to make sure that everybody knew about Andrea and how amazing she was. For me, it made it easier to know that she had touched many other lives besides the ones in the gym. I told the kids that 11,000 people had read about Andrea. They didn’t seem to comprehend this, but it made my heart swell with pride. She was absolutely amazing and there were at least 11,000 people that knew it. I went on to quickly talk to them about remembering her and honoring her. We talked about keeping her in our hearts and minds. We talked about working as hard as she did, focusing as well as her, and trying to be the best that we could possibly be. The girls got emotional a little, but managed to keep it together quite well. I gave them a reduced warm up assignment and they got to it.

When they got finished with their warm ups I told them how my day went. I don’t normally do this, but it had to do with Andrea. I didn’t want to get up and go run. I didn’t want to run as far as I did. I decided that if Andrea knew I was being a wimp that she wouldn’t approve. I dragged myself to the gym and began to run. I wanted to quit early but I kept thinking that she wouldn’t stop until I told her it was okay to stop. I kept running because that is what she would do. I reminded the girls again that the best way to remember and honor Andrea was to make sure we exhibited the qualities that she did. I began to stretch the girls out after our warm up and they paid very good attention. As we finished stretching, I sent the girls to their first events. Things started well and continually improved throughout the first rotation. A couple hiccups for me. One little girl who decided she didn’t care about making improvements and doing what she asked continued to frustrate me. One other girl had done a great job for most of the bar workout and she took her last turn of the night. She was a little more aggressive than normal and ended up peeling off the high bar in a back swing. Her leg hit the low bar and she could have flipped over to her back, but she tried to stop herself and put her arm out. I believe this is a normal human reaction, but in gymnastics you shouldn’t try to stop a flip once you have started it, in general. She hadn’t started the flip on purpose because she had peeled and she flipped over more after contacting the low bar. Again…. she should have flipped on over but she tried to stop herself and extended her arm. The elbow completely dislocated.

I have seen a couple disgusting injuries in the past few years, but this one was pretty gross. The elbow dislocated completely. I could see a bone pushing very hard against her skin. Thank God it didn’t push out. As she hit the ground I thought… Okay she is good. After she completed her crash landing I saw her elbow and so did she. She let out an awful scream. I ran over and told her to look at me and to breath. She did a wonderful job of listening. She was a trooper. We ended up having to call the EMS because I was worried about damaging her arm further by moving her ourselves.

Several minutes later, the EMS came and got her. The kids finished their bar workout on one bar and then we switched rotations. The next group came over and started their bar workout as the injured girl was being taken out of the gym. I told the girls to let the injured one know that they all loved her. She gave us the thumbs up and a smile as she left the gym. The rest of the workout went pretty well. The optional bars improved and vault was alright.

After we finished our daily rotations, the girls came back over to me to get their strength assignments. Instead of strength I showed them the video montage I had made of Andrea. I shared some comments and texts that I had received as well. I told them again that I wasn’t healed or complete and that I felt like there was a hole in me still, but I felt so much better knowing that there were so many people knew about Andrea now. There were many tears shed in this short time. I told the kids that now the fun part began. They had to do some strength. We did a quick ten minutes of strength work (way less than normal) and then the kids went to stretch.

After they finished stretching, we talked again briefly about a few different things. The main topic was Tuesday morning and afternoon. All of these girls were going to have to be at the viewing and funeral of a friend, team mate, and sister. I told them that it was going to be hard as hell, no matter what. I told them that I would be there for them for whatever they needed and that they shouldn’t hesitate to ask me or anybody else. I finished by telling them all that I loved them and that they should never forget that and then I sent them on their way.

On their way was not very far, because two of the girls had a birthday on this night. They all had ice cream cake and hung out for a while. All in all… For the first day back ofter a terrible tragedy, tonight was great. The two black spots were one kid not giving full effort and the dislocated elbow. I learned about this time that the dislocated elbow would also require surgery because of a chip/break in a bone. Sad news. I wish I could have anticipated and/prevented this, but things happen in the gym.