While there are a ton of factors in keeping your gymnasts engaged, learning, and trying new things, there is one HUGE part that many coaches miss: I call it the 90/10 formula.
The 90/10 formula is this: 90% of your stations are designed to be completed independently by your gymnasts, and 10% of your circuit should be assisted.
This means, if you have a set up where there are seven stations, at least six of them should be independent and one should be your spotting station.
It’s important to make sure that one station remains outside a gymnast’s ability to complete alone, while six stations require skills that they need practice to perfect. For young children, repetition and having a chance to practice on their own is a huge part of acquiring new independent skills.
You know those weeks where you feel like you’re running from one station to the next, ‘herding cats’ more than coaching gymnastics? It’s likely your independent/dependent ratio is off and your gymnasts need more help than you can give. These weeks are tricky because you never get to truly teach anything at all, but rather ‘manage’ the whole class from start to finish.
If you’re thinking, “My gymnasts could never focus on their own for that long!” it’s just not true. The trick is to make sure your independent stations are meaningful, gymnastics-focused, and age appropriate for your gymnasts.
While there are many factors that go into creating independent stations, here are a few tips:
-Use props to cue their memory of what to do on each station. Simply using a set of poly hands and feet will remind them that you’re doing forward rolls (or whatever you’ve got planned) today.
-Keep gymnasts close to you: make sure your circuit—at least in the beginning—is quite small. You want gymnasts to be able to figure out how to move from one station to the next on their own. If your circuit is too big, they’ll get lost and will not be successful in completing the circuit independently.
-Independent skills should focus on work your gymnasts have done before, but still need to practice. Don’t be afraid to modify stations to allow gymnasts to complete them independently. If a beam needs to be a little lower so they can do the work, go ahead and lower that beam!
A big caution for your 90% stations: Don’t mistake independent for easy. Your 90% stations should still be rigorous and engaging. They should not fall into the dreaded ‘busy work’ category. Choose stations you’ve done before, but put a new spin on them. Gymnasts will rise to whatever standard you set for them.
Your gymnasts learn best in what’s called “the zone called zone of proximal development” (ZPD), where they are familiar with the task, but can not complete it on their own.
This is where you come in, and spot this skill in your circuit. The ZPD is where the magic happens in learning. Gymnasts will come away with a new learned skill because of your help, you’ll stretch what they’re able to do, and eventually help them acquire a new skill. If you’re curious about what else happens in the ZPD, check this out.
Your 10% station is the stretch, the place where gymnasts need your help the most. This is where your amazing coaching skills will shine! This is where your gymnasts will learn some awesome gymnastics skills. Eventually, your 10% station will become a 90% station because your gymnasts will complete it independently. Then, you can move on to harder skills for your spotting station.
The 90/10 formula allows you to dig into one station, supporting your gymnasts in getting a skill, but also empowers your gymnasts to rise to the challenge of completing the rest of the stations on their own. Young children love and thrive on being independent, so it’s best to lean into that and set your gymnasts up to win.
The 90/10 rule is a factor on the weeks when you’re constantly talking and coaching kids as a whole group. When this happens, your voice loses its impact. You actually want gymnasts to have a break from hearing you during class. Your spotting station (the 10%) allows you to have a softer approach, and really teach your gymnasts, one on one. The spotting station is super effective for building personal relationships with your gymnasts.
Mulit-Task Like a Mutha’
The 90/10 formula does not mean gymnasts don’t need direction while they are independent. While you are helping your gymnasts on your spotting station, you should keep an eye on that independent work, giving small corrections and asking kids to try again, praising hard work as you see it.
Creating a balance between assisted and independent work can be tricky at first, but once you get rolling, it’ll change your classes for good!
Put the 90/10 Formula into effect for a few weeks, then let me know how it goes on our Facebook page. Already using the 90/10 Formula? Tell me about that too!