Reference Check

As our industry has grown the knowledge has greatly expanded and so has the number of experts. People that have probably forgotten more than most will ever know, like James Speed and Debbie Love, have passed on what they know to so many and that next generation has expanded on the knowledge base and passed it on again. It’s been a great way to share knowledge with those that want it and make the industry better.

The concern is knowing who the new experts are or aren’t, and therefore knowing who to take advice from. Many people that portray themselves as experts aren’t and it seems like they are more likely to present themselves as experts than the people that truly are. Combine that with the ease of self-promotion via social media and suddenly every “expert” has a platform to spread their lack of knowledge. The takeaway from this should be to take advice with a grain of salt until you are sure the person giving the advice is credible.

First Look in the Mirror

I recently had a couple conversations about the reasons given for things not going as well as expected at a gym, such as lower than expected placements and athletes leaving a program. One coach talked about their program’s team placements being low, but as a program they didn’t have a great understanding of the scoring system. They looked at the judges as the problem, saying the judges needed more and better training, but didn’t have anyone on staff attend training on the scoring system, didn’t have anyone that judged, overall didn’t do anything specific to gain a better understanding of the scoring system, and left easy points on the table due to their lack of understanding of the scoring system. The judges may not have been ideal at their events, but this program wasn’t either by not excelling at the things under their control.

Another coach talked about the owner saying rising costs were the main reason athletes leave the program despite the owner being a large influence on the total cost by being the one picking expensive uniforms, competitions, choreography, music and clothes. Yes there are expensive options for each of the products and services, and some vendors are raising their prices year after year, but there are also less expensive options available that would allow costs to remain the same.

An owner of a different program also cited costs as being the reason most athletes left the program, but one of the coaches I know at that program questioned that stating several athletes that left the gym continue to cheer at other programs, including several athletes switching to a program that is a couple hours away and known to be more expensive. The coach said the main problem was more likely the lack of organization and the owners often coming in from vacation sun burnt while a pile of work sits on their desk.

I say all this to remind you that you are the main influence for your results. If athletes are leaving your program and blaming rising costs, you need to look internally to find where you can lower or control costs before blaming outside forces. If you aren’t getting the scores and placements you believe you should, you need to take steps to ensure you properly understand the scoring system before saying the judges need a better understanding of the scoring system. You need to start by evaluating the things you can control before looking to the things out of your control.

Take the Stairs

Too often when there is a conversation about adjusting what’s allowed in a level I hear someone say it messes up the progressions. I generally disagree with this statement. To me the progressions are the steps taken to get a skill, a backward roll before a back walkover, a back walkover before a back handspring, a back handspring before a back tuck, a tuck before a layout, a layout before a full, a full before a double, etc., along with many steps in between these skills. These would be followed even if there were no levels.

The levels are different. They allow us to group similarly skilled athletes and teams together, largely for the sake of competition, which is great because they allow athletes to successfully compete the skills they have, without being rushed to gain new skills. The levels are progressive, allowing more and harder skills as the levels move up, but not the same as the progressions. I believe you are doing it wrong if you look at the maximum skill allowed in each level as the only steps in the progression because you would be skipping many steps and skills.

I think of the levels as the floors to a building and the progressions as the stairs between each floor. There are many stairs between each level and that’s how I believe we should think about the progressions between each level. I also believe you should take the stairs between each floor. Don’t take the elevator to skip the stairs. Also don’t rush or skip stairs because that is eventually going to cause you to trip.