For me, it was Monday night. Full throttle, classes full, coaches teaching team, rec and preschool, all existing (and flipping) in the same space. The gym was packed and supersonically loud. While I love a busy gym, it can be challenging to keep your preschooler’s attention when there is so much going on around them. Young children aren’t built to have amazing focus yet, so you’ve got to set them up for success in a busy gym (and who can blame them, those Level 4 routines with the same music over and over are pretty cool for the first 100 times).
Because kids who come to class at night deserve the same awesome class as your day kids, here are some ways to keep your little gymnasts engaged when the gym is super loud and busy:
Keep ‘Em Close
This is the key to making your gymnast’s eyes (and attention) stick to you like super glue. The farther you get in proximity, the harder it is to keep their attention. Keep your gymnasts super close to you and they’ll be able to focus on your instruction in a more meaningful way. When you have gymnasts close to you, they’ll also be able to hear you and you’ll be able to stay on top of your class management by re-focusing their attention quickly and effectively. The farther away you are, the more likely their attention will be snatched away by another class, or area.
Keeping ‘em close also applies to transitioning to another part of the gym. It can get hairy trying to lead preschoolers across a busy gym, so make sure you’ve got some ways to move in a line or a group that are engaging and fun, but don’t touch each other (if you’re out of ideas for transitions, check these out).
2. Keep It Small
After you’ve modeled what to do with your gymnasts close to you, they begin their work and your job is to stay close to them. Make sure your circuit is super small if needed. Sometimes, this may mean you have to cut the existing circuit in half and have two mini rotations during your time in that part of the gym. This allows you to get close to your gymnasts, and instruct them by being down on their level, keeping their attention. By having two smaller circuits, you will keep them moving in a new way throughout your rotation time. Changing it up will help keep them engaged.
3. Rotate Like Magellan
A tight rotation schedule takes the guesswork out of where everyone is and where they’ll go next. If you do not have a designated preschool area, a tight rotation schedule is vital to navigating the busy gym madness. Rotation schedules are also a safety issue for preschool classes. It’s hard enough moving seven four year olds though a busy gym, you’ve got to know exactly where you’re going and take the safest route to get your gymnasts there. Knowing where everyone is going allows you to find places to take your preschoolers if you need a brain break or to regroup between rotations.
4. Embrace the Chaos
This should be the motto for all preschool classes, am I right? :) When the gym is busy, embrace the wild night classes and jam packed gym by gently adapting your coaching style. Try carving out a quiet corner to work on handstand stations or play a quick game of parachute.
You can even start to have ‘secret meetings’ with all of your gymnasts, on their bellies, in a circle, gathered around you. This gets your gymnasts really close to you (see tip #1) while you give them instruction. Having a secret meeting is especially effective before you rotate and walk across a busy gym. You get to have your gymnast's full attention, while they get to hear what’s coming next.
Last, try a (counter intuitive) whisper to grab your gymnast’s attention. Whispering is unexpected, and may keep your gymnast’s focus on you while you give instruction. It’s like your class is having a little party only you guys know about.
Busy Is Beautiful
Busy gyms are a beautiful thing. I loved Monday nights and flowing with all of the bananas classes and noise. With all of the stuff that comes with growing your program, don’t forget to take a breath and remember that having a jam packed gym is a great problem to have. A busy gym means so many kids are getting to do gymnastics and so many coaches are honing their teaching skills. Cheers to your busy, loud, crazy and perfect gymnastics nights!