Taking a Virtual Approach

Posted on 02/11/2020 in Rhythmic

Taking a Virtual Approach

Faced with the challenges of the last seven months, I have been impressed with the creative response that our clubs and coaching workforce have taken to support gymnasts at all levels. We have seen clubs across the country run everything from online training sessions on platforms like Zoom to newly created YouTube channels with videos of home workouts and challenges as well as many more brilliant ideas to keep children and young people motivated and active. 

These responses really embody Benjamin Franklin’s famous words that “out of adversity comes opportunity.” Just as our clubs have had to adapt, be creative and respond to the challenges, our performance team has also adapted and been motivated to find creative ways of supporting gymnasts and coaches in our programmes.

Our starting point of going virtual was creating online videos on our social media channels with our #TuesdayTutorial, #WorkoutWednesday and #ThursdayThoughts series. The support and engagement on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram from clubs, coaches and gymnasts in our performance and pathway programmes and from our wider gymnastics community has been fantastic.

Both our #WorkoutWednesday and #ThursdayThoughts series gave profile to some of our top Scottish gymnasts who have either competed for Great Britain at various international events and championships or for Scotland at a Commonwealth Games. It was great to highlight the development journeys of these role models to aspiring gymnasts across our membership. 

Opportunities also presented themselves in our #TuesdayTutorial series and being able to share technical knowledge across the disciplines. The series kicked off with some top tips on the handstand from our men’s national technical advisor Scott Hann MBE and had fortnightly input from our physical preparation lead Paul Coyle to support those at home training programmes. We were also fortunate enough to have guest appearance from Scottish Ballet soloist Thomas Edwards.

You can still see all the videos from our #TuesdayTutorial series in one place on our absorb learning platform.

As the months have gone by and many gymnastics clubs have restarted indoor activity, our online tutorials have evolved into our Bitesize Brilliant Basics series hosted by our pathway development coaches in men’s artistic and women’s artistic. These are great resources for our coaches and gymnasts as they rebuild their skills by developing the basic foundations.

Check out Bitesize Brilliant Basics 

Like many of our member clubs, we also ventured into the world of Zoom and hosted a number of virtual camps for our national performance programme (NPP) and performance pathway programme (PPP) online. One these first adventures of navigating mute buttons, breakout rooms and camera positions was with our rhythmic technical symposium.  Although limited by space and equipment at home as well as internet connections, these were balanced by creating opportunities out of the pandemic: having access to technical experts we would not normally have in one room because of busy schedules; being joined by clubs and coaches whose long car journeys would normally make it impossible to attend; and we were even able to include some development camps for gymnasts. 

When the school summer holidays arrived, we hosted a programme of virtual camps - 37 in total! This covered all the disciplines with NPP and PPP programmes in place: over 170 gymnasts took part and over 60 personal coaches joined too. 

After spending most of that five-week period on Zoom, you can see the challenges of coaching virtually and as one coach on the programme shared with me, “it’s like coaching through a letterbox”. As I went from one call to the next, admiring the energy of the gymnasts and the technical expertise of the session leads it soon became clear that these virtual camps were not just about the great training taking place, but also keeping everyone connected and bringing coaches and gymnasts from different clubs up and down the country together. 

It was refreshing to see everyone supporting and motivating each other in such challenging times and made even better by the mums and dads helping out by holding feet or moving the camera angle as well as the odd interruption from little brothers and sister or even pets – including my own dog! Trying to do a handstand or demonstrating a drill with the ‘assistance’ a 30kg Weimaraner always brings a smile to the faces on the other side of the screen!    

Jamie Bowie
Olympic disciplines performance manager

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