With the horrible and disgusting recent act of a parent trainer cowardly punching a teenage volunteer referee, I thought I’d take the opportunity express my thoughts on my personal experiences, views and how being involved in sport has affected me over my lifetime.
My involvement in the sport of trampolining started in a small community based youth club run by volunteers and coaches on minimal money (barley enough to cover weekly petrol costs). It was the time and effort they put in along with the loving unconditional support of my parents that helped develop my trampolining career and achieve the goals and milestones that I am so proud of achieving. Some of these milestones included 7 national championships, 2 Australian age teams a handful of national and state medals. Although I am extremely proud of my achievements I was never someone bidding for an individual gold medal, World Championships or Olympic selection. All of which was achieved thanks to time and effort put in the volunteers and minimally paid coaches that got me there. I have been lucky enough through a great deal of my own sacrifice and perseverance to be coaching within a facility that pays me and my coaching team around me.
I was recently lucky enough to accompany two young athletes to a training camp held at the AIS. One of the seminars that was presented was the role of a coach and the role of an athlete. Remembering all participants within sport are athletes on some level whether they are working towards an International and Olympic career or participating at a recreation or low level form which is more participation and fun based/focused. We were provided a quote by Bruce Lee which goes as follows:
“A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine. Each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and consistently adapting. A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favourite pattern. A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence. A teacher is never a giver of truth: he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself!”
Although this is quite deep, it holds great truth across both a sporting career and in many areas in life. We as coaches have the knowledge which we have gained over our lifetime which we use to point our students into the right direction to achieve their full potential. Whether that potential is to one day be world champion or just too simply attend a class where they go to keep fit, enjoy themselves and building lasting friendships. This is something I feel my team of coaches always strive towards. As a coach we quickly learn that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method, all children develop at different rates, there is no magical crystal ball that can tell us whether or not a particular child will one day develop into a National or world class athlete. We make ever changing, always evolving educated guesses on the best path way for each and every participant.
This brings me to the role of an athlete. We as coaches can only do so much and cannot force students to reach their full potential; a great deal of the development process of a student lies within the student themselves. They need to want it! No matter how much we as coaches or parents want our children to be the best, the students need to want it themselves. The role as an athlete is to take what the coach says and translate the instructions into what you try to do.
The athlete must:
• Be mentally involved in training
• Try to take your coaches instructions to change the way your body feels
• Be responsible for your performance every single repetition
As parents, it is important to be mindful of this and to remind the children that nothing in life will ever be handed to them. They need to learn that they need to do their part in order to achieve the best possible outcome. That outcome may not always mean they will be a winner. Sometimes they will try their hardest and fail, but it is what happens next which will define whether or not they keep failing. There will many times your child will come home from training upset for any number of reasons, they got into trouble, they couldn’t do anything right during that particular training session and they are having trouble with a skill or exercise that once came easy to them. It is important to remember these bad sessions never outweigh the good sessions and good times they have within their time in the sport. Obviously if your child is coming home every night for an extended period of time with a negative outlook towards training there is a problem but if it is one offs and rare occasions, the worst thing we as parents and coaches can do is to make a mountain out of a molehill. If our immediate reaction is to leave, change classes/programs or kick up a fuss the moment this happens and we carry this onto other aspects of our life, most people are going to be unemployed, because I am yet to find someone that steps out of work every day bursting at the seams with positivity and excitement. It is important to assess whether or not what seems like a mountain at the time is actually a mountain or in fact a very small speed bump in the road to success.
This brings me to the role of a parent. Sometimes as parents, I am one myself, it is easy to lose focus on what is important in both the bigger picture and at the time. Yes we all want the best for children in all areas of life, what is the best is the million dollar question. The best for some might be a gold medal performance, where as the best for others might simply be a personal best performance or simply participating and fun, social, self-worth that comes with it. This funnily enough is exactly what we as coaches want as well. We just have multiple classes of children of all different abilities and backgrounds, which we are trying to do the best for not just our own children. Parents must always be mindful of this! Your child will not always have the coaches undivided attention, they will not always achieve something new in every session, they will not always and may never win every competition, but if they are becoming ‘their best’ that is always the end goal. If your child is not in what you persevere as the top or appropriate class, if they have not progressed through the program as other children they were once the same as or better than, or not achieving the goals or standard you had hoped they would. It doesn’t mean they never will or being involved in the sport/program is the wrong choice. Your child may be a late bloomer, they may have had a growth spurt which can positively or negatively affect them or may have reach their physical capabilities but have many more skills to gain which can include social, behavioural, physiological and confidence.
I don’t expect every parent to believe the 100% of skills, drills, structure, methods and approach to different situations to be the best option. However, I do expect every parent to believe that coaches will always do things for the right reason. Remembering that we are the ones with the experience of coaching this sport, we are the ones with the experience of using different methods to coach the wide range of skills and the order of which they should be taught and we have the technical knowledge of our very unique sport. What may seem illogical to the average person can be for a very logical important reason to help achieve the best for all children. Keeping this in mind it is devastating as coaches that want to put everything we have into the sport and our jobs when we hear rumours of slander against coaches and other children/athletes, complaining and unnecessary fighting coming from parents. Like we tell the children you don’t have to like everyone you deal with but you do have to co-exist. If these rumours are true I would hope that parents can set a good example for their children and show that we as parents are there to support our own children and want the best for everyone. Over my many years of coaching I have had a number of parent try to engage me into a negative conversation regarding a child that is their own and it is my opinion to not bother. The old saying we as children all were told of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ still rings truth as adults. If as parents we all endeavour to improve on our parent’s mistakes and in turn our children improve on our mistakes eventually society will have this parenting thing down pact. Until then just like how we want our children to do their best, we should be doing our best to be supportive, to be positive and be the best role model we can.
As coaches we are involved in the sport for a number of key reasons. ‘Love of the sport and for the children’ defiantly not for the money! We know not every child is going to reach a high level of competitive success, we know not every child is as naturally talented others and each child has different strengths and weaknesses. With all this in mind we will always do what we feel is in the best interest of each individual child. As coaches we have made and continue to make great sacrifices for the job. This includes countless hours of volunteer work, sacrificing many areas of our personal life when it comes to social aspects, financial security, psychological and stress levels. Many of the top trampoline coaches throughout the country have had their own personal relationships sacrificed due to their dedication to the sport. A direct quote from one of the current National coaches was that he believes ‘to be an elite coach at the top level it is a single person’s life’. The amount of time, the time of the day any financial dedication required in such a sport, that doesn’t have the financial support and backing as such sports like AFL and Rugby League, means that our coaches sacrifices may come at a greater expense than someone being able to do a 9:00-5:00 job which allows them to switch off when they walk out of the office/workplace. I am in no way diminishing the requirements other careers, jobs and industries; I am simply speaking from my direct experiences.
All this considered I hope that it can be understood the great sacrifices, passion, efforts and love for what we do that coaches put in day in and day out. I personally have the upmost confidence in my coaching team and believe they will always follow the values of being a coach that I have highlighted. We will always endeavor to do the best for all children whether that mean we help guide and develop them into the next Olympic/World Champion or make them feel accepted and supported within a fun filled environment.
‘Love of the sport and for the children!’
Lifelong Trampoline enthusiast
Shane Roberts has been coaching for 15 years, (both in Australia and New Zealand) and is currently the Sydney Gymnastics and Aquatic Centre’s trampoline team leader. He is also a Fig 4 judge and was part of the 2015 WAG judging panels.