Where do we look for Australian gymnastics and high performance levels? How a coach defines what high performance is will have a direct effect on how a young gymnast develops skills. A gymnast, like any athlete, is limited by the competency and attitude of her or his coach.
The best skills displayed by a gymnast in a competition can be deemed high performance. The gymnast may be called a champion yet the overall standard be at a very low level.
Another way of defining high performance is by the accomplishment and mastery of specific skills. The FIG (International Federation of Gymnastics) code of points is the defining guide for gymnastics. It lists which skills are included and how they should be done. Points for difficulty and points for execution are added together to give a gymnast a total score. This guide gives a coach the basis from which gymnasts can be brought to elite levels of performance.
Coaching for High Performance
Gymnastics is developing the skills of controlled falling to avoid injury. Yet many coaches and clubs promote the idea of a gymnast as flying. A gymnast becomes very aware of the force of gravity and its effects on balance and strength.
Just as a baby learns to walk, by mastering a change of balance, before learning to hop or skip, so should a gymnast be secure in a basic skill before moving on.
A gymnast should be able to repeat a skill and remain balanced at the completion of it. This is achieved when execution is given great importance, so that each move is polished and consistent. Drills to develop specific strength and flexibility in preparation for more complex skills come next.
If a gymnast shows a higher level of expertise than most, where to then?
Australian Gymnastics High Performance Centers
Australia has one facility for male gymnasts at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. There are currently two National Centers of Excellence for elite female gymnasts, one in Perth and the other in Melbourne.
The National Center of Excellence in Perth was threatened with closure in mid 2016. Gymnastics Australia came to the rescue and it remains open. Now the program in the Melbourne facility is under threat over leasing arrangements but GA cannot assist in this case. The proposal from Gymnastics Victoria is to allow individual clubs to coach our elite gymnasts in their own regions.
Attitude to Competition
A highly performing gymnast is one who can demonstrate a high level of skill under the pressure of competition. The attitude of the coach can guide the gymnast to be the best that he or she possibly can be when the pressure of competition is greatest.
On the other hand, the misguided attitude of an incompetent coach can undermine the efforts of a gymnast in a competition. The gymnast can only perform up to the level of the coach's competence and no higher. Without highly competent coaches we cannot expect our gymnasts to demonstrate high performance.