Through high school, university and even when I started my “grown-up job”, I coached gymnastics. For 11 years I watched kids succeed and I watched them fall down, I made up silly dances and improvised ridiculous games, and I learned a lot about kids, responsibility and people in general.
Last week, I had the opportunity to go back to my gym for a visit. Ever since, I’ve been all nostalgic about my time working there and how much growing I did.
Here are a few things I learned coaching gymnastics.
Kids bounce. 9 times out of 10, if you don’t make a big deal out of a kid falling, they won’t either. And that one time they do, you know to take it seriously.
Kids think it’s funny when you act like a monkey. So do their parents. As ridiculous as it feels, being silly wins. Kids will be silly too, and the parents love seeing teenagers get to that level with their kids (at the appropriate time, of course).
Difficult conversations are worth it. For a big chunk of my time coaching, we had to deal with a very grown-up situation. In hindsight, it’s even more grown-up than I had realized at the time. Eventually I had to initiative a conversation with the “big boss” and tell her some really big concerns. I shook the whole time. She listened, asked me some hard questions, and then afterwards took action that eventually resolved the issue. When doing a hard thing has a positive ripple effect, that’s a big thing for a 17 year-old.
Jumping is a skill that has to be taught. Toddlers innately do this adorably weird gallop thing instead of jumping with two feet. It’s actually pretty difficult to get them to jump properly.
Projectile puke is a real thing. And it doesn’t come out of foam pit.
Part-time jobs allow teens to have a life outside of their school friends. For me, this was huge. I had the best high school friends imaginable – we’re still close. But to have my own “thing” outside of that group was good for me. In fact, it’s where I met the amazing Ali.
Boys are very different than girls. It boils down to this: boys think it’s funny to fart on each other. Girls think it’s gross.
Part-time jobs aren’t always about money. No exaggeration, my first paycheck was $3.25. But I kept going for a few hundred more paychecks (which did get slightly larger…)
When a kid you coach becomes a coach, that’s weird and really cool. Last week, we visited with a gymnast that I coached for probably 8 of the 11 years I worked there. Now she’s running summer camp. I feel old…and really proud.
You find yourself saying the same thing that coaches said to you…even the things that didn’t work. I didn’t go very far in gymnastics because I was scared of everything. When I began coaching, I found myself saying the same thing coaches said to me when I tried to get a kid to do something they were afraid to do. It didn’t work on me and it rarely worked on them.
You can fake confidence, then it becomes the real thing. When I turned 18, I started leading Parent & Tot. I had to tell parents way older than me what to do with their kids – and what not to do. I had no idea how to be that confident, so I faked it. Eventually, it got easier and felt normal.
I’m so grateful for those 11 years of coaching. I still see these lessons pop up in my job, my relationship with the kids in my life, and my relationships in general. It so defined who I am today.