For many, if not for most coaches an office is not their typical workplace setting. Instead, you will find these individuals in a gym training gymnasts from the Preschool level all the way through the JO and Elite Programs.
As in any work environment, a certain amount of professionalism is expected from coaches not only in the gym but also at competitions.
“Professionalism … means conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence” according to dol.gov.
As a professional member of USA Gymnastics, it is understood that you will adhere to a set of principles that help to guide the behavior of its members. These principles are outlined in a Code of Ethical Conduct found in the Women’s Rules and Policies.
An area that tends to be overlooked by some coaches at a competition is the concept of “fair play” or sportsmanship. As coaches, your responsibility is to do what is right by the athlete, all athletes in a competition, not just your own and to assist other coaches as necessary.
Under Section II of the Code of Ethical Conduct, titled “Participation” (2015-2016 Women’s Rules & Policies, pg. 12), it states:
Every Member participating in a USA Gymnastics activity or event has an obligation to participate to the best of his/her abilities. It is inconsistent with this obligation for any Member to:
…Engage in behavior that is so disorderly or inappropriate as to interfere with the orderly conduct of the activity or other Members’ participation in, or enjoyment of, the activity or event.
At events like Bars, it is sometimes necessary for coaches to help each other get the bars set for warm-ups and/or competition. Helping each other is a professional courtesy that should be reciprocated. Walking away from the bars while others still need assistance is not professional nor it is beneficial to the timely running of the meet.
“In order to have organized and timely sanctioned events the coaches and judges must follow all rules and regulations that are in place for the safety of all athletes, coaches and judges. If all adults, Professional USA Gymnastic Members, act in a professional manner events run smoothly,” states Deb Kornegay, Region 8 Administrative Committee Chairman.
Cheering for your athletes is always welcomed but not when you are on the opposite side of the gym at a competition. Nor is it acceptable to yell across the competition floor to a parent of one of your athlete’s to let them know their child’s score or that they scored a 9.0. This not only interferes with the concentration of athletes, judges, and coaches focusing on their athlete’s on an event, it is rude and disrespectful and intrudes on the enjoyment of participating in the event for everyone involved.
In Chapter 1 (Section IV, Subsection D) of the 2015-2016 Women’s Rules and Policies it lists responsibilities of Professional Members, specifically Coaches. Some of these responsibilities include:
- Display good sportsmanship.
- Dress in attire reflecting the best image of gymnastics. At State meets and above, the coaches’ dress code is as follows:
- Athletic shoes with rubberized soles. Athletic warm-up pants or “Docker-syle” pants (No jeans).
- Athletic or tailored shorts that are of a reasonable length. No holes, tears or short shorts.
- Collared shirts, business casual shirts or T-shirts with gym logo. (No spaghetti straps, low-cut tops or midriff revealing shirts).
- No hats or visors
- The use of cell phones (talking, texting, etc.) or any type of wireless communication device is prohibited while on the field of play (competition area). Coaches are permitted to record their OWN gymnasts’ exercise for personal use but should not in any way interfere with the competition.
- Set an example for the athletes by displaying a positive attitude and exemplary conduct.
A competition can be a stressful situation for all involved; following a rotation sheet with scratches, moving mats, running young athletes to the rest room, dealing with athletes who are nervous, and dealing with other coaches who may be stressed due to all the same reasons.
As a professional it is your job as a coach to remain calm, collected, and level headed when at a meet in order to set a professional example for your gymnasts and parents. Getting into a battle of words with other coaches or judges, not assisting fellow coaches with moving mats, or commenting on the scores of other athletes is not demonstrating good sportsmanship to your athletes.
It is not only the coaches job to teach gymnastics, it is also a coaches job to teach athletes how to be a team player, a humble winner or loser, and a respectful competitor.
USA Gymnastics and each club have a standard for what their athletes should wear and look like. This “uniform” represents your club and sets a standard of what is acceptable attire. Just the same, USA Gymnastics outlines what is expected for coaches to wear while on the competition floor. These clothing expectations are general guidelines that still allows coaches to wear a “uniform” that represents their club, just like their athletes.
As experienced gym owners or coaches, it may fall on your shoulders to remind younger, less experienced coaches of what should or should not be worn at a competition.
In Florida, Toni Rand, FL State Administrative Committee Chair, sends out many emails prior to the start of the season and prior to each state meet reminding coaching about professional attire. In addition, at Florida state meets the floating Meet Referee walks around monitoring professionalism and coaches attire and gives “friendly” reminders as necessary.
Recently at a state meet, the Meet Referee had to ask a coach to put shoes on and had to suggest to a few female coaches that a tank top with thin straps and exposed sports bra, may not be the best attire for a gymnastics meet based on USA Gymnastics guidelines.
Brad Harris, Region 8 JO Chairman, states, “Professionalism by the USA Gymnastics coaching community while at competitions is paramount in setting an example for the young people we work with. If as adults we act in a positive manner, we have a much better chance of our young athletes following our lead and enjoying their athletic experience.”
If you have an expectation of your athletes to look and act professional while out on the competition floor, why would you not set an example and look and act professional too. Your athletes look to you for guidance, why would you not guide them in the right direction?
USA Gymnastics, 2015-2016 Women’s Program Rules and Policies