You wouldn’t send your children to a school with unqualified teachers, so why would it be different with gymnastics? Rosanna Trigg explains the importance of educating, training and developing coaches in Singapore.
Gymnastics is a relatively young sport in Singapore. As much as its popularity has increased on a national scale, many coaches involved in the sport still have a lot work to do.
Coaches are key in ensuring your children enjoy what they’re learning, and play a huge role in them deciding whether they want to continue doing gymnastics recreationally or competitively.
As a first-time parent and also a qualified gymnastics coach, ensuring the safety of my child is of the utmost importance. In a sport like gymnastics, having professionally trained and experienced coaches can and should be a large part of a parents’ decision when enrolling their children into gym programmes. This is why:
Performing and coaching are not the same
Being a current or former high performance gymnast is always helpful for credibility as a coach, given the excellence of past achievements. However, this alone should never be the benchmark for a qualified coach.
Coaches from high performance backgrounds are at the top of their game because of their hard work, the hours they dedicate and their natural ability. This experience is useful, but when it comes to taking a child through the progressions of a skill – such as the step-by-step of accurately performing a handstand – they have a lack of coaching experience to draw on. While they understand how to execute the skill (it will be second nature for many) they may lack the coaching experience or memory to effectively coach someone else through the progressions.
This lack of formal training could hinder your child’s progress. It’s not to say all athletes make mediocre coaches, but it’s important to understand that performing and teaching are two completely different disciplines.
In addition to being knowledgeable about the sport, formal training assures coaches are aware of all health, safety and child protective guidelines they are required to incorporate into the classes they conduct. After all, no athletic activity is worth the time if it’s not done safely.
A trained coach will be able to easily identify moments when children are performing skills that are testing their physical limits. They will also quickly spot the smallest faults in their technique and are able to quickly adapt their coaching method to suit each child.
Remember, as a parent, you are well within your rights to ask about the qualifications of the coaches teaching your child. If a gym’s coaches are qualified, they should be promoting this and happy to discuss it in detail with you. The more parents actively inquire about standards and qualifications, the sooner it will become the industry norm.
Every child progresses at a different pace
Children all start doing gymnastics with varying levels of strength, weaknesses, motivations, fears and goals – this means there is absolutely no such thing as a one-size-fits-all method of coaching.
Coaches must have a certain level of intuition to recognise the needs of each child – be it physical, emotional or psychological – in order to make a difference in their development. This comes with proper training at each skill-level, where coaches are taught to approach physical preparation, skill breakdown and performance in various ways, making the sport accessible to a wider audience.
But beyond this, coaches must have a way with children – keeping classes fun and interactive, yet staying firm and fair when the situation calls for it. Needless to say, finding people who encompass the above qualities is no easy feat, but anyone running a gymnastics programme should be putting in the extra effort to find the very best people.
It’s all about self-development
Qualifications aside, a coach should want to actively develop him or herself, picking up news skills and knowledge from fellow coaches or external educational outlets.
In truth, my experience in Singapore has been somewhat mixed with regards to the quality of coaching available. Some coaches are hugely passionate about the sport and dedicate themselves to getting involved in educational opportunities where possible, while others lack the interest to push the sport forward, doing courses solely for the paper qualifications over the developmental aspects.
As a parent, the last thing you’d want to do is to place your child in the care of the latter type of coach. The early development of your child’s physical preparation and skills will lay the foundations for what they can achieve in the future.
About GWM Coaches
It’s compulsory for all coaches to be equipped with a base level of recognised coaching qualifications before they step into any of our programmes and courses. GWM invests heavily in bringing in global experts and sending coaches abroad to gain experience and further qualifications. We are huge advocates of the British Gymnastics Accrediting Certificates, as well as the local NCAP qualifications. Many of our coaches are also FIG (International Federation of Gymnastics) certified – the highest recognised qualification globally.
Join the Coaches Development Programme (CDP)
Together with GWM's in house British Gymnastics tutor and examiner, we have put together the CDP to provide continuous learning for coaches at all levels. Please go here for more information and the course opportunities available.