How do you manage assistants during gymnastics training?
In this blog we are going to explain how you can recruit assistants. And especially how to keep assistants during your training sessions. It is a question that is asked by many gymnastics trainers. Both by trainers who just started with their license and by trainers who already have a lot of experience. It is not easy for every gymnastics trainer to manage one or more assistants in a lesson. So I am going to give you some tips that you can work with during your own gymnastics training.
Assistants are indispensable
We start by looking at why assistants are so important for the gymnastics class. First of all, assistants are of course future trainers. In addition, this is a way for the club to recruit trainers internally. The shortage of trainers is very big in the Netherlands. If you look at the number of trainers active in the Netherlands, almost every gymnastics club has a shortage of trainers. By having and training a lot of assistants, you have a greater chance of having more trainers in the future. And eventually you will no longer have a shortage of trainers. In addition, people who are trained within the club stay many times longer than people who come to the club as trainers from outside.
Training of assistants
It is very important to recruit and train assistants. This gives you more freedom as a trainer in your lessons. Because you can use other assistants you can have more freedom in your lessons and do other things. This allows you to help the gymnasts more instead of always being the only trainer in the hall. You also get better quality lessons because you have more space to give assistance, but also more space to give technical tips.
When the assistants are teaching the groups, you can walk around and guide people. You have your hands free to steer when a gymnast gets stuck and to provide targeted help. This also makes for safer lessons. As a trainer, you get a better overview because the groups are already well supervised by the assistants, so you as a trainer can walk around and make sure everything is safe. This way, the learning efficiency for the gymnasts is optimal.
When is an assistant suitable?
So how do you look for an assistant and how do you know who is suitable? Largely it is a matter of feeling: you have to have a feeling for it in order to be able to see which gymnasts would be suitable to assist. Often you can see it already a bit by the own initiative that some gymnasts take. They often help other gymnasts without asking, they often take the initiative to help each other. They are also often the ones who are suitable for your own gymnastics training to be used as an assistant.
Sometimes it can also be a bit of experience, if they have been doing gymnastics themselves for a long time or have assisted before. You can base your choice on this. Often we also look a bit to the character; not that you necessarily have one kind of character for an assistant. It can of course be of great added value to have different characters in your room with the various assistants. Usually they are caring and can often take the initiative to guide the gymnasts. This of course also depends on the competences that the gymnasts have. That is why it is very nice that when you have several assistants in the hall, they have different characters and competences. Within that, of course, you also look at whether they fit together. For example, if you put two assistants in one group, they go well together.
How can you recruit assistants? I am going to share some tips with you.
The best thing in general is to approach them personally. Usually you can already see in the gymnastics class which gymnasts help each other and which ones would be suitable for it. You can go up to the gymnast in question and say "I see you have helped this person, you are doing so well". That is how you empower someone and let them know positively that you are happy that they are helping others. Then you start a conversation with them from there and say "Would you like to come and help us in class? Would you like to help me with the gymnastics lesson?"
If you then communicate with that gymnast or assistant, helping is often more approachable than assisting. They will not know all the younger children, so if you ask a gymnast to assist, it is often more difficult than if you ask them to help. Helping sounds more accessible and does not sound like something structural. It is also good to choose for sociability, so also check if the potential assistant fits in with your class and if she fits in with the group. Is she suitable for the lesson group? Maybe they already have a friend in the lesson group who they would fit in well with. These are all things that make an assistant stick around longer.
Investing in your guidance
Another important point for gymnastics trainers is that we often have the tendency to ask gymnasts to assist with the aim of "Now we have filled our class and been helped". We also need to look a little more at the "What's in it for me?" piece. Where you indicate what the assistant actually gets out of it, so what do you mean for them? Do you have time for them to assist and why should they invest their time to come and help you with the lessons? You should think about how you can ask them to assist anyway. This is an important point that is often forgotten but can help a lot to recruit assistants and also to keep them longer at the club.
Then we move on to the approach to assistants. How do you ask an assistant to assist you and how do you make sure there is a good chance they say 'yes'?
The most important thing is of course the positive approach. Make sure that you first pay a compliment, for example, before asking to assist. So start by doing things small. It also has to do with the law of reciprocity. So first you give someone something and the moment you have given them something, there is a greater chance that they will also say 'yes' to your question.
Then you can let them taste it first, so first you indicate that it is not without obligation. You ask a gymnast if they want to come and help out once or maybe twice so that they can first try what it's like to assist you. Often a potential assistant does not even know what they are supposed to do, then you can discuss it together and see if it works for both parties. Then you should also make sure that you evaluate with the assistant at the end of the lesson. That way you can indicate that they did well. Then you can empower them again and finally you can see if you can extend the course.
- positive approach
- let us "taste
- extend route
After step 4, you look at what kind of trajectory you can start together. Preferably not immediately after one time commit to a year but say "Well, you did really well, thanks for helping me. Would you like to come three more times or maybe even four times? And from those four times you go on to maybe two months, six months and finally you go to maybe a year. That's where you eventually start to ramp up the responsibilities more.
How can you then supervise an assistant? You look at what tasks you give someone, so see how much experience an assistant has and see what tasks you give them. Find out if they can stand alone in a group, for example. What I sometimes did when I had a new assistant and I already had several assistants in the group, especially if we knew each other, I let for example two gymnasts accompany a group together.
That also works very well to keep them at the club for longer. You see that there is more conviviality in it and with that you get more confidence. So make sure that they gain confidence with the environment, both in the sociability and in the confidence that you as a coach have in the assistant. Don't expect too much from them right away either, but support them and above all give them confidence.
In the boys' groups where I taught, I happened to have a lot of ladies as assistants and they really enjoyed doing that. Of course, boys are not always easy to coach and I found it very important to protect the gymnasts who were assisting them. In that respect, I always stood up for the assistants. As a trainer you have to show that you guide them and that you stand up for them, especially when they are younger. I have also had gymnasts who went to assist who were younger than the boys who came to train. The moment you give them confidence and show that you are there and act when necessary, it is not bad if a gymnast is younger than the group itself. That can also be of great value.
Then I have a few tips for guiding assistants.
1. Little experience? Build up slowly!
If they have little experience, make sure you build it up slowly. First make sure they can participate in a warm-up and a lesson. Then you give them the opportunity to give a warm-up or a wrap-up, for example. Then maybe one time a core and from there you build up to the extent that the assistant can do more. So first build it up slowly and only then make sure you give them more responsibility.
2. Let us experience without obligation
Let them experience it without obligation, so helping them in the beginning is much more accessible than assisting them from the start. Let them come once or twice first and then scale up from there.
3. Often young and insecure
Also remember that assistants are often younger and therefore insecure, especially if they are in their teenage years. Therefore, make sure you give them confidence and self-confidence and give them a positive experience from assisting.
I hope these tips have been of use to you. If you need any more tips, we have several tools on our website that you can download for free. For example, we also have our trainer recruitment scorecard for clubs. That is interesting to download in order to score your own club with a test. For trainers we also have a tool to give feedback on our platform and which different coaching methods you can use which also partly have to do with coaching assistants and of course other tools for your gymnastics classes.
In addition, we also have a trainer recruitment course for clubs and board members, in which we teach clubs how to recruit trainers and assistants and how to coach them step by step and keep them at the club for longer.
Good luck with coaching and recruiting assistants!