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Sunday, August 2, 2015

FROM CHEATER TO CHEERY

When you spend a lot of time coaching or teaching kids, you are bound to see cheating. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, given enough time, it will happen. So, as educators, what do we do when we see our athletes cheating? A few days ago I had the opportunity to make that decision.

During conditioning, I watched one of my gymnasts perform 3 to 4 rep’s less than asked for at several consecutive stations. Not sure if what I thought I saw was really what was happening, I watched for a few minutes. It was true. She was holding back, cheating, lying, call it what you want.

My first reaction was to use this as a lesson for the entire team. I was going to send this gymnast home from practice because she had cheated on her conditioning. She would be allowed to return to practice the next day. I would tell her and her teammates of my decision during our line-up prior to separating into groups and going to events. The other girls would learn from her transgression. I would make my point that cheating was not allowed in my gym and would not be tolerated.

Then, thankfully, that little bit of time between the end of conditioning and when the girls had lined up was enough to let me clear my mind and come to my senses. Humiliation was not allowed in my gym either. Nothing would be gained by making an example of this young, talented gymnast. There was nothing good about what she had done, but maybe there would be something gained by the way we handled the situation.

When the girls broke their line and headed to the events, I called this gymnast over to me and told her what I had seen. She didn’t deny it. I quietly asked her to sit out for 5 to 10 minutes and think of a reason why she still wanted to be on this team and why her teammates and coaches should allow her to stay. She would be allowed to return to practice after telling me her reason. When she came to me later, fighting back tears, I was expecting to hear “I won’t cheat on my conditioning anymore.” This gymnast was nine years old and I would have accepted that answer. But, I was hoping for more and she gave it to me. “I want to stay on the team because I like being here. It’s fun. My friends are here and this is what I like to do” she said. To which I replied “That’s a good answer. That’s the best answer you could have given.” Damp eyes and a happy smile were her way of saying “I get it.”

There was nothing mind blowing about this episode. These things happen every day in gyms all over the world. A young gymnast was reminded that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and an experienced coach was reminded of the same.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

From one gymnastics.coach to another, great job! Thanks for the reminder...

Anonymous said...

My daughter is a gymnast and she sees this all the time from her teammates, and she has no doubts as to why they can't do better at their routines, (they take the easy way out) I just wish some one in our gym would take your approach and bring this situation under hand.