The Myth of Fast Progressions
By: David Shawn Briggs aka Tumbleyoda
Every season we hear a version of this myth passed around from gym to gym, coach to coach, parent to coach, posted on message boards, on social media or shared athlete to coach.
“I feel I am not progressing as fast as I should.”
” _____ daughter started the same time as my daughter did and she is so much farther ahead of my daughter”
“We are leaving the gym because we haven’t learned anything all year”
“He will never get the skills he wants if he is not put on a team that requires him to have those skills. He will just waste another year doing things he can already do.”
“_______ coach or gym said that you are holding the athletes back from their potential.”
“She can already do a BHS and a Tuck but she needs a layout or full in 3 weeks for school tryouts”
I can go thru many more scenarios I have personally heard and seen play out in over 33 years of coaching. Whether in gymnastics, cheerleading, tumbling, power tumbling, or teaching tumbling clinics, some variation of this myth pops up every season. I am also sure I can consult with coaches in various other sports disciplines and they would wholeheartedly concur. While I refuse to diminish the feelings behind these statements, I can guarantee you they they are built on several fallacies.
Things we must always consider:
Fast progressions are a recipe to injury. You should run like the wind from anyone who like a snake oil salesman promises quick progressions and results in minimal time and effort. What you want is proper, safe progressions that build on each other. This does not mean SLOW! This means proper. This means safe. This means building one skill with a view down the road to the next set of skills your athlete will be doing and not seeing it as a one trick pony skill. Any coach that teaches a BHS without a view towards it being connected to a Roundoff and a Layout or more is guilty of coaching ineptitude.
But how long? This is the impatience factor. Many do not plan for the moment properly and then are frustrated when they need a skill that they do not have. If I had a sure fire answer I would of retired a long time ago and sold the answer for a premium price. The correct answer I have is patience. It takes time. Each athlete will get thru this in a different time span. I often say in regards to tumbling that it takes 3 hours a week every week to progress safely and relatively quickly, barring sickness or injury. One hour for basics and body shaping, one hour for new skills and one hour for conditioning. Now to be honest most athletes don’t tumble – not be in the gym but actually tumble for more than 1.5 hours a week. Cheer practice, or hanging with friends at open gym does not count. I am taking about concentrated effort at tumbling. That automatically doubles the time right there. So if you are already putting in less time it makes sense that more focus and effort should be put in during the time that you are there. Maximize your efforts in order to maximize your results.
Every child learns at a different rate and pace. Every child. This includes your child. This is true in all areas of life. It is just often on painstaking display in sports. You actually see it right before your eyes. Yes it may be frustrating if you were the super talented and gifted athlete and your child is way more laid back and not as competitive as you were or still are. Yes it is frustrating when your athlete is looking up at the clouds when the play comes right their way. Yes it is frustrating when it seems like it is taking forever to learn this one skill – whatever it may be.
Please understand that measuring your athlete’s progress against another child is damaging your child so stop it! You don’t know what they do behind the scenes to get better. You don’t understand their level of commitment. You don’t fully understand how genetics plays a part in their body make up, metabolism, etc. Doing this constantly is a recipe for failure and frustration. Yours and your athletes.The percentage of kids that are able to use this as positive motivation is smaller than those who would be impacted negatively by this.
How many of you would throw your athlete overboard into the sea when you know they can not swim? Not one of you. Yet this is what many ask coaches to do when they demand their athlete that does not have skills be placed on a team that they do not qualify skill wise – just to be with friends, or to push them to work harder. You are literally asking coaches to help drown your athlete. And while there will always be a few outliers that will be able to survive and even fewer to thrive in this scenario, the truth is most drown. Blunt, but truth. Don’t ever plan on your athlete being an outlier as a path to their success.
The level an athlete is mentally, emotionally and physically conditioned to has a direct impact on their progressions. Even if we are aware that out child may not be as physically conditioned as another child, we quickly dismiss that as coincidental and not as a contributing factor. Where we usually always miss is the athletes mental and emotional conditioning and commitment. An athlete that is strong physically but weak mentally or emotionally is going to lose 9 times out of 10 to the athlete that is weaker physically but stronger mentally and emotionally. Good coaches know this. Great coaches build up all three areas constantly.
There is a time when the sport will get hard. I promise that. Every sport will get hard. More will be required of them than ever before. Coming out of comfort zones will be necessary in order to move forward. There are no other options. Even the athlete that learns fast will have that bump sooner or later. Some skill will become a nemesis. Some progression will have them leaving the gym in tears. This is when being conditioned mentally and emotionally as an athlete will truly come into play. My contention is we need to prepare for moments like this way before they ever happen.
This is also when they need you to be just a parent. Not a judge, not another coach, not offering bribes or punishment. Just a parent that loves their child unconditionally. A parent that will love their child if they are sitting on the bench or first string All American. Whether they just won Worlds or they were two teams from last place at a competition no one ever heard about. Whether they just competed that new skill or it is oh look it is the same ROBHS we have seen for the past three years. As simple as this sounds I can assure you as a coach, many children over the years do not feel you think this way about them. I can tell from the way they look up to find your eyes when they mess up. How you handle their performance if it less than perfect. How they drag their feet not wanting to leave the gym not because they don’t want to leave but because they dread the ride home.
Listen to your athlete without judgement. I have had so many parents speak of the big dreams they have for their child via sports and only to talk with the child and they say how much they hate the sport and want to do something else. Let me suggest to you that often they don’t hate the sport they hate the PUSH the parents are making for or against them in the sport. They wouldn’t mind if they learned to love it for themselves. But being forced to love something you don’t..well as adults we know how that works out. They must learn to love it for themselves.
Having an athlete is an investment. Of love. Of time. Of sacrifice. Of presence. Of memories. Of goals, dreams and accomplishments. Money is only a tool to accomplish the others. Don’t get it twisted and miss out on the most beautiful part. For if you do “verily ye have your reward.”
Now go make some beautiful memories this season with your athlete.
David Shawn Briggs is the Tumbling Director, Class Director, and Power Tumbling Director at Pride of Illinois in Collinville, IL, where he brings years of experience as an athlete, coach, judge, and mentor.
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Hi David! Very well said! Taking progressions slow ends up being more beneficial to the athlete in the long run. Developing proper technique is one of the best ways to prevent devastating injuries in tumbling. The idea of fast progressions is also mentally damaging to the athlete. Having athletes is absolutely an investment, coaches are investing into their future. We have to remember that the sport is about the athlete and not the parents, especially the parents who live vicariously through their child. As an athlete who was forced to love a sport I hated, because my mom had goals and dreams for me, I have vowed as a coach to not allow this to happen with my future athletes. It is simply not fair to them. Our industry needs more coaches like you to lead by example.