No matter what level or ability it’s always great to find different ways to develop as a coach. As part of the Elite Coach Apprenticeship programme Nick Ruddock, the British junior national coach for women's artistic, recently took a trip to WOGA Gymnastics Club in Texas to shadow world renowned Valeri Liukin (coach and father to 2008 Olympic Champion - Nastia Liukin) and reported back to BG on his experiences…
You’ve recently been on a trip to Texas to help develop your coaching skills, can you tell us a bit about this?
For Continual Professional development (CPD) purposes, every year I try and go to America in order to accelerate my learning as a coach. What really spurred me on was being part of the Elite Coach Apprenticeship Programme with junior men’s national coach, Barry Collie. The programme allows us to improve our skills that we think we need further development. My aim was to make sure I maintained a high level of technical knowledge, for me to be able to do my job efficiently I need to be able to stay up date with all technical aspects of the sport. The programme therefore allowed me to go to Dallas, Texas to WOGA gymnastics club to shadow Valeri Liukin who has been a mentor to me for over six years, to watch and learn from him with specific objectives to bring back.
What was your role over there?
My role was just to watch and learn, so I wasn’t in any sort of coaching capacity at all, I was shadowing Valeri and he was there if I needed to ask questions at any point. I did some filming and took some notes and for me that’s the best way to learn, if you’re not sure on something you need to go out and find the information.
Why do you think learning from others is so important?
I would not be in my role now without the support of the other people that have helped me. The best way to get information in my opinion is to just go out and get it. All the fantastic coaches I have worked with have completely accelerated my learning; there is such a huge world of gymnastics out there. Sometimes all we see is what’s in front of us in our community and that’s great but there are so many different ideas and ways of learning and if you don’t see it you may never know it. It’s completely different seeing, hearing it and feeling it whilst in the environment, so I would encourage everyone to just go out and give it a go.
How can coaches who do not have the resources to go as far as the US learn in this country?
I think it’s a good idea to try to and build up relationships and contacts with other clubs, because there are plenty of coaches that are happy to accommodate others just to simply sit and watch and learn. I think as long as you make them aware you are just volunteering to learn from them it can be a great coaching aid and open your eyes up to what’s outside your gym.
Why do you find this kind of learning beneficial?
You learn many different things for example learning an alternative approach to teaching a skill, in terms of a different break down, even if you end up with the same result. You can also learn a different approach to coaching. For me personally now I’m learning more about the system as a whole, as I am a national coach I find it beneficial to learn about all the stages of development and study the national squad programme from a different angle. I spend my holidays learning abroad for me I eat breathe and sleep gymnastics and it’s the novelty of working in another environment.
Do you think this sort of learning is only appropriate for coaches already within elite gymnastics?
Not at all. I began as a recreational gymnast and I did two hours a week for ten years and that was all, but I loved it. I then moved on to recreational coaching once I finished structured classes and In time I was chosen with potential to do some work with the elite side of the sport. It was when I was coaching recreationally that I first approached other coaches in this country and America to begin learning from them. I didn’t have any knowledge of elite gymnastics myself even up until the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 but that inspired me to go and seek it. I think you just have to have the right characteristics as a coach, such as a positive attitude, being really passionate and the ability to communicate with children. The most important aspect is to be open minded to different people’s opinions and learning strategies and if you tick those boxes all the technical aspects will come much easier. If you want something and your passionate enough there are opportunities out there you just have to go and grab them.
Note: Picture courtesy of John Davis, Getty Images