“Wait? What happened to the perfect 10?”

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This question will be on the lips of many a casual gymnastics fan, confused by the scoring system at the Olympics this week.

“What the heck does a 15.877 even mean?”

Well, aside from meaning that’s a really great score, the 15.877 (and all the other odd to three decimal places scores we have and will continue to see) are part of the evolution of the sport of gymnastics.

Once upon a time, there was the perfect 10. Gymnasts constructed routines to meet certain requirements and would have to put in a certain amount of difficulty to gain some “bonus” tenths that made their routine have a 10.0 start value. From there the judges would take away tenths for errors in execution.

But there was no incentive to go beyond making a routine have a value beyond 10.0 because there was no reward for doing so.

This “closed” system of scoring meant that innovation was not rewarded. Pushing yourself to try new and harder skills and combinations was only relevant when the governing body of the sport changed rules or requirements every four years.

The new system is complicated. (For a complete explanation of the new system, clickhere). In sum, there are three panels of judges.   One panel of six judges arrives at the Difficulty score (or “D” score).   The second panel of two judges arrives at the Execution score (or the “E” score), and there is a third panel called the reference panel who correct the E score should there be a mistake. The “D” and the “E” scores are added together and averaged and then any neutral deductions (going out of bounds or overtime on floor or balance beam) are subtracted from that total to arrive at the final score.

The new system demands innovation. In fact, it is probably no accident that in the women’s program 11 new skills were introduced and asked for inclusion into the Code of Points (the international rule book for the sport of gymnastics) this Olympics.

The new system still demands a superb level of execution.  In fact, falls which were a .8 deduction in the past now command a full point off!

So while the new system challenges us to understand the math and deal with decimals to the third place, it also challenges the athletes to challenge themselves.

And isn’t that what sports is supposed to do?

The Importance of the “Soft” Stuff



The 2016 JO Nationals lit up Facebook with Jaymes Marshall’s Vault. Then a recent article came out that interviewed her in Inside Gymnastics.

In the interview, this very talented and highly accomplished 12 year old gymnast was asked, “What’s some of your favorite gymnastics memories?”

Now keep in mind, this is a child who has won JOs, qualified to the Secret U.S. Championship and is being compared to Simone Biles.

Her response, “When I went to dinner and mini golf with my entire team.”

Love this response for a whole host of reasons, but mostly because it points to one of the most valuable parts of what it means to be part of team: the happy childhood memories that come along with.

The slumber parties. The beach days. The pizza parties. The amusement park trips. The sleepovers. The out of town trips. The swim parties. And yes, the miniature golf games.

Gym parents, if you want to be involved, organize these things. Coaches, please help facilitate too. These things. These are the things that make kids happy, help them feel connected and are fun.

Thank you anne josephson for the great reminder of the importance of the “soft” stuff.

The Pre-Workout: 10 Tips to Making Practice Great Before You Even Get to the Gym

Gymnasts: want to have a great workout?

Here are some things you can do before you even get to the gym:

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep.  Getting sufficient sleep is difficult with school and gymnastics demands.  But it is essential to performing at a high level.  Lack of sleep impairs your reactions and can make it more difficult to tolerate frustration.According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents (ages ten to seventeen) need between 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per night. Yet, the average adolescent gets only 7-7.25 hours of sleep per night.
  2. Have a Snack and Hydrate.  While a large meal before practice is likely to make your feel too full and cause digestive issues, working out on an empty stomach is also not a good idea.  Aim to eat 1 to 3 hours before workout.  Here are some ideas of good snacks.   We often think of water intake during workout, but did you know that it is important to arrive at the gym well hydrated?  Drink approximately 16 to 24 ounces of fluid two hours before practice
  3. Check Your Mood.  Several studies have found that listening to music can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your mood. Laugh.  Or take a few minutes to meditate.
  4. Check How Your Body Feels.   Check in with yourself.  Notice any areas of your body that might need some extra stretching or rolling out with a foam roller.
  5. Pack Your Gym Bag. Make sure you have what you need.  That will help you feel prepared for practice.
  6. Make a List.  Make a list of any non-gym related things you need to do after practice.  Don’t hold in your head any of the “to dos” you have to do after practice, instead write them down.  By writing them down you free your mind to focus on practice.
  7. Get Dressed for Practice and Do Your Hair. Showing up to practice in ripped sweat pants doesn’t create the right intention for the day.
  8. Set An Intention.  Speaking of intentions, set one for the day.  This practice, which I stole from my yoga class, helps to get you into the mindset for a good workout.
  9. Get There Early.  It at all possible, arrive at practice 10-15 minutes early.  Rushing in at the start time of practice exactly, rushes feeling prepared.  Give yourself enough time to put your things away, greet your friends and use the restroom before your coach calls line up.
  10. Smile and Greet Everyone Cheerfully.  Act like you are happy to be at practice and the feeling will follow.  Bring in energy to spare for your coaches and teammates.

27 Things Parents of Gymnasts Should Avoid


Here are 27 things parents of gymnasts should avoid doing so they don’t interfere with the positive benefits:

  1. Don’t compare your gymnast’s progress with that of other gymnasts.
  2. Don’t become overly ego-involved with your gymnast’s success or lack of it.
  3. Don’t take judge’s scores too seriously, especially at the lower levels.
  4. Don’t forget the need for fun in gymnastics.
  5. Don’t stand for unacceptable behavior from your gymnast during practice or competitions.
  6. Don’t participate in gossip about anyone in the gymnastics community.
  7. Don’t interfere with coaches and their coaching duties during practice or competitions.
  8. Don’t pressure your gymnast regarding skills or competition.
  9. Don’t set unrealistic goals for your gymnast.
  10. Don’t predicate your love or attention on your gymnast’s competitive success.
  11. Don’t base your own ego or self-esteem on the success of your gymnast’s progress or competitive success.
  12. Don’t lose your long-term perspective about the importance of your gymnast’s participation in the sport.
  13. Don’t let yourself care too deeply about your gymnast’s competition results.
  14. Don’t undercut your gymnast’s confidence in their coaches or coaching.
  15. Don’t show any negative emotions while watching your gymnast practice or compete.
  16. Don’t try to make your gymnast talk with you immediately after a gymnastics meet, especially if they performed poorly.
  17. Don’t do or say anything to make your child feel guilty for the time and money you are spending on their gymnastics or any sacrifices you feel are making for them to participate in the sport.
  18. Don’t badmouth your gymnast’s coaches, your gym or other gymnasts in front of your gymnast.
  19. Don’t attempt to coach your gymnast yourself.
  20. Don’t alienate your gymnast’s coaches.
  21. Don’t predicate your support for your gymnast’s participation in the sport on any expectation of a monetary return like receiving a college scholarship.
  22. Don’t try to recreate your own career or live out your own sports dreams through your gymnast.
  23. Don’t do anything to make enemies with other gymnast’s parents.
  24. Don’t expect anything more from your gymnast except their best effort.
  25. Don’t ever do or say anything that will cause your gymnast to think less of you.
  26. Don’t use sarcasm, threaten or use fear to try to motivate your gymnast.
  27. Don’t expect anything more from gymnastics than physical fitness, life skills and fun for your gymnast.

Remember this:  the evident look of pride, contentment and joy that gymnasts have every time they win even the slightest little thing.  It will always be amazing to see how happy they can be, even over 11th place!  The competitiveness in parents is one thing we need to always stifle.  Because in the end your gymnast will be a happier, more well rounded person if they are more of a team player and less of a competitor.

What is Your Biggest Regret?


In the middle of New York City, a black board was hung with the simple directive:


People approached somewhat apprehensive but then began to pick up the chalk and jot down their thoughts.  Initially, the thoughts were as varied as those who were writing them.  Then, as the chalkboard became crowded with the things for which people were sorry, a pattern emerged.

The pattern: NOT.

The things listed were almost all exclusively something someone had NOT done, said, tried or pursued.

While some of the regrets could no longer be righted, some could.

And, even for those of us who might pencil in something that cannot be revisited, each and every day brings new opportunities.

Think about what you might regret NOT doing and get busy doing it!


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  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses and we all walk our own unique path. Comparing ourselves to others just robs us of our happiness.
  2. Eat more fruits and veggies. As an athlete, your body needs nutrient rich foods but the bonus is that 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day may increase your happiness as well.
  3. Play great music during workout. It’s backed by science that listening to upbeat music makes us feel happier.
  4. Tell your inner critical voice to shut up. Do you have that voice in your head that tells you that you are not good enough? Most of us do, and it robs us of our happiness. One way to stifle that nasty voice is to ask yourself if you would say to your best friend what you say to yourself. If the answer is no, then tell your inner voice to take a hike.
  5. Say thank you more often. Practice gratitude enhances your personal happiness. And it can spread happiness to others as well when you say thank you to your coach for a great workout or to your parents for driving you to and from practice.
  6. List three good things that happened at each and every workout. They don’t have to be huge things, like learning a new skill or overcoming a fear. Just take the time to jot down three good things that happened at gym that day.  Yes, even on bad days find three good things; you can do it!
  7. Set ambitious but realistic goals. If you are a level 8 gymnast, it might be too lofty to expect you are going to be an elite in a year, but shooting for being a level 10 might just be a good idea for your happiness. People with ambitious goals are happier than those who set conservative to no goals. So while you don’t want to set goals that are almost 100% likely to fail, don’t sell yourself short either.
  8. Keep your goals in mind. Exercising self-control with respect to your goals increase your happiness. Reminding yourself why you are working hard toward your goal helps you feel better about your efforts even when they are challenging.
  9. Let go of limiting beliefs. Let go of beliefs about what you can or cannot do or about what is possible or impossible. This year you are not going to allow these limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Every time you think you can’t, remind yourself that maybe you can!
  10. Be present in practice. Focusing on what your are doing at the moment make you happier. So leave your cell phone, your homework worries and everything else outside the gym and concentrate on your workout.
  11. Assess your teammates. This is similar to the advice I also shared with parents. Stress is contagious. So decline getting involved in gym drama and stay away from those teammates who do not want to work hard and who distract you from your workout. Remember the proverb: Not my circus, not my monkey. But just as stress is contagious, so is happiness. So hang out with those athletes who want to be supportive, work hard and help spread that positive vibe through the gym.  And make sure your attitude and actions put you in the category of positive teammate.
  12. Embrace your failures and lean into your struggles. Welcoming failure can actually make you more successful and happier in the long run. When you lean into your failure and resolve to get better you create grit and resilience, which leads to ultimate mastery. The result: happiness.

Keep working hard and remember… have fun!

10 Choices You Make As a Gymnast That Will Serve You Well For the Rest of Your Life


You might think that some of the choices you make as a gymnast are pretty big ones. Choosing a gym club, which summer gym camp or even their optional floor music can feel like a monumental deal with everlasting consequences. And, these choices are significant.

But there are other decisions that gymnasts learn to make that will serve you well after you no longer go to any gym or camp or have any need for floor music.

These are the choices that will serve you well for the rest of your life.

Here are some favorites:

DECISION TO FAIL. Doing gymnastics is a decision to fail because no gymnast gets through a career (or even a workout!) without failing. Making the decision to fail will serve you when it is time to take risks academically or professionally because you will understand that failure is nothing more than feedback whereas many of your non-gymnastics peers will think of failure as the end of the world.

DECISION TO TRY AGAIN. Every time a gymnast falls, the decision is made to get up and try again. Resilience is one of the hallmarks of successful and happy people.

DECISION TO DO SOMETHING HARD. Gymnastics is hard.   So are many other worthy things in life. People who are scared of doing hard things limit themselves. You are not afraid to do hard things.

DECISION TO KEEP GOING EVEN WITH IT HURTS. Pain is inevitable and gymnasts know how to work through it. Gymnasts learn to recognize pain that is the discomfort of growth from pain that is a signal of damage.

DECISION TO LISTEN TO FEEDBACK OF AN EXPERT. Coaches are experts. Seeking experts opinions and incorporating their feedback is a often overlooked life skill.

DECISION TO TUNE OUT THE FEEDBACK OF A NON-EXPERT. And there are plenty of non-experts who will give their opinion. Knowing who to listen to and to ignore is an important decision.

DECISION TO WHOLLY COMMIT TO SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO YOU. To learn to make choices that others might view as sacrifices because you want to achieve mastery of something is a decision that great leaders make every day. You learned this as a young gymnast.

DECISION TO CONTINUALLY IMPROVE. There are no miracle solutions or overnight remedies in gymnastics. Just continual improvement day in and day out from putting in the work.

DECISION TO OVERCOME YOUR DOUBTS AND FEARS. There were times you didn’t think you could do it. There were times you were scared to try. But you did anyway. Those decisions taught you to choose the best version of yourself instead of the frightened version.

DECISION TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE JUDGED. To stand up and have a number assigned to your effort is not an easy thing to do. Yet, when you make the decisions to become comfortable with others judging your work you free yourself from the fear of their criticism and are able to see it as feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Mary Lou Retton said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”  The choices you make in gymnastics will pave the road to achievement!

Why Should a Coach Make Sports Fun?

Aren’t coaches supposed to teach sports skills, develop competent athletes and develop a winning mentality?

Aren’t sports about learning life lessons like coping with failure, good sportsmanship, discipline and goal setting?

Well yes, of course, but sports are also about fun.

However it’s important to remember that “fun” is not just light-hearted amusement, but can mean finding an activity meaningful, pleasing or interesting.   So when we talk about having “fun” at sports it isn’t just the sugar and spice model of fun, but also the deep purpose and passion model that we need to keep in mind.

How can we actually make sports more fun? Here are a dozen suggestions:

  1. Asking the kids if they are having fun. Checking in with your athletes by simply asking them, “Are you having fun?” or “What was fun about practice today/this week?” serves two purposes.   The first is obvious: it gives you feedback about what they found fun (if anything). The second is that it reminds them (and you) that fun is an essential part of their training!
  2. Finding out why the kids are participating and what they want out of the experience. Too often, sports leagues are designed around the wants, needs or expectations of the adults. In a 2014 George Washington University study, 9 of 10 kids said “fun” is the main reason they participate. When asked to define fun, they offered up 81 reasons— and ranked “winning” at No. 48, with young girls (our primary customer in gymnastics, ranking winning dead last).
  3. Acting happy to see the kids and encouraging teammates to bond with each other.Belonging is a critical component to our ability to enjoy ourselves.   And when we see ourselves as a part of something larger, we are more connected to your experience.
  4. Developing kids’ self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, the belief that we are able to perform well or learn the necessary skills to eventually perform well, is key in enjoying what we do. If we feel hopeless at a game, sport or task, we are not likely to consider it to be fun. Coaches can help athletes develop their self-efficacy by ensuring quick success at the beginning of learning and making sure that even as the athlete advances that there is always some success in practice.
  5. Coaching in a positive manner. A coach that is supportive and encouraging in giving feedback is terrific in helps athletes have more fun and quit at a much lower rate. Encouraging and acknowledging kids effort over their out come is key as is treating all the athletes with respect.
  6. Making the mundane interesting by using games. Conditioning can be boring and tedious, but when it is gamified it can be a lot of fun. Relay races and contests can create excitement and energy in the gym.
  7. Using external rewards on occasion. Again, best used for things that are tedious like conditioning or numbers driven like stuck routines.   Rewards can be silly, like stickers or a juice box, or the selection of a privilege, like earning an extra trampoline rotation.
  8. Scaling the difficulty of practice to reach the “Goldilock’s moment.” For something to be enjoyable it cannot be too easy or too hard, but like Goldilock’s bed, it needs to be just right. This means paying attention to each athlete and adjusting the challenge of the workout accordingly.
  9. Varying workouts. Variety is the spice of life and the antidote to boredom (which is not fun!). Mix your workouts up. Keep it interesting. Nobody wants to do the same exact thing day in and day out.
  10. Giving kids some choices in what they do. Enjoyment and engagement increases when we have some control over our work. So let your athletes choose the order of their assignments, give them the option between two different conditioning exercises or let them choose the music playing in the gym.
  11. Playing music. Speaking of music: play it. Music makes people happy. It’s backed by science.
  12. When our athletes are learning and seeing their progress they are much more likely to be enjoying themselves. Sometimes they need help in seeing how much they are learning.

BONUS: Just be silly sometimes.  The young athletes you are coaching are kids.  Play is the work of kids so don’t forget to include some playtime in your training.

What are your suggestions to make sports fun for your athletes?

18 Things Anyone Who Loves A Gymnastics Coach Should Know


  1. We work strange hours. We go to work when most people are thinking about going home. Sorry, the kids apparently have to go to school, which means we are beholden to their schedule.
  2. We get tired easily. We aren’t being lazy when we want to lay around an watch TV. Our jobs are physically demanding, so we are often just exhausted.
  3. Yes we go to work in sweat pants. No that does not mean we don’t have a “real job.”
  4. We have little patience for anyone who rolls his or her eyes at us. We work with teenagers, okay?
  5. Don’t watch gymnastics on TV with us if you aren’t prepared for our commentary (and our criticism of the commentators’ commentary). No the judges don’t give extra points for cuteness.
  6. We don’t know why the judges have to wear blue either. No one does. It’s a mystery.
  7. We have an irrational attachment to our stopwatches. It just is.
  8. We aren’t around much on weekends between August and May. Well, we hope May because that means we have kids at Nationals.
  9. We can take you to lovely vacation spots like Indianapolis, IN, Hartford, CT or San Jose, CA. Sure, we are there for USA Gymnastics Congress, but you can explore these wonderful cities.
  10. We aren’t going to be rich. Not with money anyway.
  11. We don’t mean to correct a kid’s cartwheel on the beach. But really, if she just started in a lunge, it would be so much better.
  12. Sorry about all the white powder on our clothes. But it’s not what you think.
  13. We are good at multitasking. Often we have 8 to 10 kids in our groups, all who have different needs and assignments. So yes, we can check emails and talk to you at the same time.
  14. It hurts our feelings when our kids stop the sport or switch gyms. We understand that you may not fully get that, but it does bother us so please be patient.
  15. We don’t mean to bark orders at you.  We are just used to being in charge.
  16. We also realize “eyes on me” is not an appropriate way to get your attention.Sorry about that.
  17. Starbucks gift cards are an awesome stocking stuffer. Yes, our blood is half caffeine.
  18. It’s okay if you don’t understand the sport. Just pretend to be excited when our athletes catch a Geinger or feel our pain when a full twisting Yurchenko is devalued by the NCAA.

12 Powerful Things to Say to Your Gymnasts


“Straighten your legs.”
“Run faster.”
“Hit the board harder.”
“Point your toes.”
“Tap earlier.”
“Drive your heels.”

These are just a handful of things coaches say on a daily basis at the gym.

But what are the things that we can say to the kids we teach that have nothing to do with correcting their gymnastics?

Here are a dozen ideas:

  1. I’m glad to see you. Everyone likes to feel like they matter. Greeting your athletes warmly sets the right tone for practice.
  2. How are you today? More than just a throw away formality, asking how your athlete is feeling is important in gauging what intensity of a workout you can do that day.
  3. Thank you. Showing gratitude is both good modeling and makes athletes feel respected.
  4. I’m sorry. If you mess up it builds your credibility (not reduces it) when you show your accountability.
  5. I believe in you. Believing in your athletes and their ability to learn and improve is essential in teaching or coaching.
  6. I am here for you. Sometimes that is what our athletes need to know, that we are here from them when they don’t feel they can get through things alone.
  7. It’s okay, try again. Normalizing failure and asking the athlete to preserve in the face of it not only creates great gymnast, but resilient kids.
  8. All I am asking for is your best effort. While athletes may not be able to control the outcome, they can always control the effort they put forth.
  9. I need you to… When you really need an instruction to be followed, tell your athlete that in clear and simple terms.
  10. It’s just one workout (or meet)… Helping an athlete reframe a rough day at the gym or at a competition by reminding them that it is just a snapshot not the whole picture places a bad day in perspective.
  11. I care about you as a person more than as a gymnast. We all want to be cared about for who we are, not what we do.
  12. Nothing.  Sometimes just listening is better than saying anything.

Is there anything else would you add to this list?