Preparing for the new season comes under various areas for all involved, the Physical, Psychological & Social, and for various people, The programme (Coaches), Athletes and Parents (The 3)
Setting out realistic goals as a programme, athlete and coach matters. It could be based around skills, fitness and or situations, however they need to be achievable. We often create huge unachievable goals with a low commitment vs realistic goals with high commitment. Goals also need to be SMART https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/essential-guide-writing-smart-goals Sharing them with The 3 matters. However, beware social media. We love to share and being supportive and nice matters, however over sharing reduces the competitive edge you have at times. Find the balance.
Write out expectations for everyone, as an athlete and parent we expect x of you. But what is x?
Holidays and set dates around comps are always an issue. You’re no different to any other gym as they all have the same issues. Be clear. There are people who will always turn up and always be there. It isn’t fair for someone else not to. If someone says I can’t make this comp or that date is that a good example? Parents will scream and say no way and that’s not fair. That will pull you into either a cross place of indignant response or a younger place of how can I stand up to them? (I am covering this at flight school) the skill is to remain present and state clearly these are the expectations, boundaries and the consequences for everyone.
We often don't define what is wanted clearly and expect people to be mind readers. So, get organised, define what you want and when and from whom, what it looks like and how you know it has been achieved.
Focus in not out, comparison is so detrimental and doesn't help in training, in comps and hey life! Start small, focus and improve small things, the basics incrementally, celebrate achievements. Don't get involved with drama that WILL happen around you. It is not IF it is WHEN, so plan responses. Have boundary communication with parents and athletes. When a person holds a secret often they tell one person, that person does the same. So, work out what type of atmosphere you want in your gym and create it. Athletes will copy the way you handle things. Set out expectations of behaviour and again stick to it, with parents and athletes. Avoid negative social media and don't comment unless you feel in an adult place. When you hold a boundary, the gym will come in line.
Create a workable schedule that has time for a wholistic approach. Basics, skills, tumbling, stunting, choreography and don't forget fun, team building, psychology and chats, go on the odd trip. Use reward structures for achievement as well as boundaries and reward behaviour. A coachable athlete is better for a team then a talented one with attitude.
Use communication portals with parents and be factual and supportive. Have an easy calendar. Provide progress reports, share ways they can help their child improve and share expectations. State expectations around parent behaviour too (alcohol, gossip, you name it) For example that practice is mandatory as well as comps etc. Again, state the consequence and remove people that cause you grief. Have “understudies” of athletes who could cover at short notice as a reward for them.
Share expectations from haircuts, to attitudes (athletes’ coaches and parents) to jewellery, mental health (what’s your policy on open self-harm wounds for example or panic attacks and eating disorders) and ALL you can think of that will impact your gym, team and competitions.
Pre-mortem work out a mind map of anything, no matter how ludicrous, of all good and bad things that could happen. From head lice to death (yes, I'm serious) and write bubbles from each situation on how you'd handle it.
Set up cheer buddies in your team for new athletes. Those that are experienced can guide the new ones.
Set up eating and drinking and homework expectations for practice. Do you have any? Athletes need more calories when practising and at comps, not less, so eat with them, promote eating effectively. Grab a chocolate milk for example (Curd fat protein) after a practice and show them it is ok. They need to hydrate so show them by drinking too.
Practice going wrong with the team, practice every count, every segway with counts and possible wrongs. The brain remembers recovery if you practice it.
What’s your policy on mental blocks and accidents? What’s your recovery strategy? Injury strategy etc
Get your gym fit! Physically and mentally. Comps are hard enough, if your athletes aren't fit, the end of season is too tough. Schedule rests however and fun things to do. Teams are often created at the end of a season, reverse it. Set up how you handle issues from bullying to goals openly as a team. Open facilitated discussion is so effective. Catch negative thinking early and create an environment where people can share. Discuss sacrifice up front and values. Choosing cheer over a party feels huge to athletes.
Motivation isn't a thing you pick up, it is created from within and from those around us, so promote accountability and self-reflection. Physical and mental. Injuries occur with over use and thinking I'm safe and done too soon, so promote physical awareness.
Be the person you want your athletes to be.
BA Hons PG Dip