Spotting an athlete – and the myths surrounding it

Hey guys, it’s me, Coach Rebecca! Today we are going to talk about spotting. This is for all the coaches, I’ve heard many thoughts and rules that vary from gym to gym about spotting and when and where it’s allowed and when it will cause an athlete to be dependent on it. But I have a secret to share…. that is all a myth.

Spotting – a crutch or a skill?

It is easy to see spotting as a crutch when really we should view them as bridges. Sometimes all an athlete needs is a little bridge to become confident enough to land a new skill. What do we ask of an athlete when we don’t see spotting as an option. We often send them backward, back to the lower beam, back to the pit bar. That is such a limiting thought process to hand an athlete. It sends her backwards mentally, and physically, and her confidence can go backwards with it.

Sometimes a spot is all she needs

When instead, we could keep our athlete on the bar and offer her a spot and most of the time after a try or two they have nailed it and are back to doing it on their own without that spot. When we allow them to learn kinesthetically, their confidence can grow right along with the skill. Now obviously, every athlete is different and they all learn differently. But if we can offer a bridge it just might get them to land a skill independently, faster. Sometimes an athlete just needs to feel a skill, they need to feel what they are afraid of so they can fight through it.

A dip in confidence

Occasionally, an athlete has what I like to call, a dip in confidence. There is confidence there, but its lacking a little. When we run into that dip in confidence it is so easy to make it an even bigger hole. If we make the wrong move, we might have a bigger problem than just needing a spot. But if we might the right move which might look like spotting her for a repetition or two, we can build both her skill and her confidence and get rid of that dip altogether.

What can she do right now?

What is the hardest progression she can confidently do right now? That question will be your best friend. That is a question I ask kids all day every day, what can you do? We get so caught up on what we can’t do and what’s not working. Our athlete can get caught up on ” so I’m either stuck on the low beam or failing on the high beam, and both of those KILL confidence.

How long to spot for?

We don’t want to create a crutch. Here is how I go about doing that. We at Performhappy are always aiming to push our athletes to achieve new, big things. I like to play the numbers game with my athletes. Ask how confident they are on a scale from one to ten. Typically, if they are less than a seven we need to work on the confidence before we move on. If they are less than a seven they are going to bobble and aren’t ready to add some more difficulty. If they are above a seven it’s time to move on!

It might be time to remove a few matts from under the bar, have coach use only one finger to spot, or even move up to the higher bar. Each kid is going to move on their own path on their own time but we don’t want to create a crutch we have to remove later.

It’s not always a lateral progression

Now just because on a Tuesday she comes into the gym at a 10 feeling her best and nails her skill 15 times doesn’t mean she won’t ever struggle with it again. Maybe Friday she comes in and she is running late and didn’t get enough sleep last night and she can’t seem to land it.

That is okay, and totally normal. You just have to find the in between step where the confidence dips and work from there.

Spotting – a step in the progression

Spotting is just a stop on the way from learning a skill to mastering a skill. We have to follow the progression map there are many many stops and everyone’s maps look different. Each athlete takes a different path and each athletes confidence grows and slows differently. Having a spot may be needed often or never and at different places.

Coaching is difficult to manage as it is, don’t let blanket black and white statements like “no spotting ever” make it even harder. Allow yourself and your athletes to grow the way the need to!

If you are looking for a free place for coaches and athletes alike to hear from the top coaches and olympic athletes join us on May 14th for our Confident Gymnast Summit. Click here to register for FREE!

If you or an athlete you know might need a little extra support and want to see if Perform Happy is for you, sign up for a FREE consultation with one of our amazing coaches!

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.