9 Suggestions to Help Your Gymnast Hear, Receive and Implement Feedback

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“Are you even listening to me?”

This phrase escaped my lips many, many times as a parent and as a coach.

And yet as frequently as we might complain that kids do not listen, how much time do we spend actually teaching the skills necessary to cope with feedback?

Hearing, accepting and implementing feedback is a critical skill for life. And gymnastics is a great place to learn this important aptitude.

So here are 9 quick tips to teach kids:

Wait after your turn to get feedback. It may seem like common sense, but ask any coach how often they are talking to the back of a gymnast as she walks away and you would realize that it is not common after all. Stop after your turn.

Look the coach in the eye. Eye contact is a good way to signal to the person talking that you are hearing them. Reminding teens to make eye contact may help them remember not to do their favorite thing with their eyes which is to roll them.

Keep an open body posture. Arms crossed are defensive. Hands on the hips are confrontational. Arms to the side, palms facing forward are open.

Nod. Nodding communicate you are listening.

Repeat the correction back. Again, communicates you are hearing and can also be used to check to make sure you understand what is being said.

Ask for clarification. If you do not understand a concept or phrase, please ask for clarification. I will never forget watching one of my coaches tell a gymnast to tap earlier and the kid clearly had not a clue what “tap” meant. The problem: the coach had been instructing the kid to tap earlier for at least a year. Because she had never asked what “tap” meant, the coach assumed that she understood but simply was not listening.

Ask for guidance. Sometimes coaches give the correction without giving the how to achieve the correction. “Can you help me understand how …” or “Are there drills I can do to …”

Be clear on next steps. Only once you understand what you did, what you are supposed to do and how you will do it, have you effectively listened to the feedback of the coach.

Smile and say thank you. Because you are polite after all!

Maybe these seem obvious but to a kid they are a set of skills that need to be taught with patience and love.