COVID-19 outbreak many fitness gyms and personal trainers in order stay engaged with their clients transitioned their business into online training. Gymnastics club owners and coaches also decided not lose time and started online, live, Zoom classes with recreational and team children. Today lots of clubs are being creative, they are making entertaining workouts, posting challenges and motivational videos and pictures. There is a place for discussion on how effective ZOOM, Facebook live or any other online training. I won’t go deep into how online training will affect studios, gyms, clubs and other fitness businesses in the long term, but I will focus on how beneficial online coaching from teaching and educational standpoint.
Since distant/online training became only the alternative to real training I will not argue, it is necessary to keep kids physically active. While any kind of trainees and athletes’ engagement is necessary during quarantine, it needs to be understood that there is more harm than benefit from online type of education. Parents, students and coaches should be honest about whole online training situation, this is more of the entertainment, keeping kids generally active and physically and mentally distracting them. Online training could be beneficial for self-motivated, well-educated and willing to train adults with background in physical fitness, sports and training. For children and young athletes who are still growing and learning how to walk, run, jump and fall, with not well-developed movement patterns and motor skills this form of training is quite too early. There are more chances that they will learn the movement wrong way because they weren’t corrected at the right time. Experienced coach is saying “monkey see, monkey do”, that is how kids are learning. Now imagine, how hard to process for children’s brain the 2D information from the screen and to apply it in 3D reality. They don’t have that skill yet but even so, they need someone correct them, guide them by touch, gesture or with change in mimics or voice tone.
There is another good point. Will we, coaches, develop any new skills, more strength, speed or agility without real time testing, assessing, providing with challenges, changing the environment or set up, would that environment be safe, how high would be the injury rate without direct supervision and spotting. I would say, very questionable and unsafe. My biggest fear is that most of the athletes without progress and not being able to learn safely new skills, without competitive part of the practice which is physical presence of coaches and peers, and the athlete simply will burn out.
While most of the people finding themselves spending time online, scrolling through new posts and videos, there is increase of online content with gymnastics-like challenges that can place kids that will be trying to repeat them at risk for injuries. Few years ago, very popular and so much inspiring Iced Bucket Challenge “mutated” into life threatening Tide Pod Challenge. The question is, how far would the T-shirt Challenge will go. Without necessary adult, professional coach’s supervision, spotting, critical thinking, strategic thinking etc. in gymnastics-based sports many of these challenges will have bad consequences.
At conclusion, every person, trainer/coach, parent athlete/ trainee should understand and be honest to himself and herself that online training is not as skilled as in person training. If almost everybody can start gymnastics from watching educational videos, doing online study why bother coming to the gym and pay for in person coaching, someone can buy equipment, rent the gym floor etc and have same level of success with less time spent in the classic group or class practice. Practicing and coaching require a lot of hands on, especially while talking about gymnastics type sports, last second decision making, psychological assessment, building confidence, trust between student and the coach.
Please, keep in mind online studying or online training should only supplement but not replace the real practice.