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Risk management tips in gymnastics: Curriculum and lesson planning

In gymnastics the standard for teaching is based on progressions – skills taught properly and sequentially in a step-by-step manner. We call these progressions “curriculum.” When progressions are utilized, learning becomes easier, safer and within the boundaries of the legal duty professional instructors are required to follow.

Risk management in gymnastics

Parents and children often don't understand the importance of following proper progressions. They don't understand the concept of “Learning Readiness.” They will ask to work on skills without being experienced, strong or flexible enough to perform them safely. An example many of us experience happens just before cheerleading tryouts each year where it seems that everyone wants to learn a back handspring in a matter of days. But without being ready to perform a back handspring properly, someone could be seriously injured.

Having a sound and progressive curriculum can help students and parents understand the risks of violating progressions and the benefits of long term enrollment. This can help educate them to appreciate the importance of following proper steps and being prepared to avoid possible injuries.

It should be noted that the USA Gymnastics Safety Manual and Risk Management Course has for many years stressed the importance of documenting what students are taught and when they have demonstrated mastery. This information, following a sound progressive curriculum, may be vital in disputing claims of negligence in the event of an injury.

Challenges in using a structured teaching system

Some of the challenges we face in using a structured teaching system include:

  • Someone must be responsible for teaching systems at the business.
  • The staff needs to be trained and effectively work the system.
  • The best planners are the most experienced, so how do new teachers plan effectively?
  • How are plans communicated to all staff?
Managing a teaching system requires some organizational skills and planning. Ultimately, if you don't have a curriculum system in place you may be negligent in failing to follow the standard of progression based teaching. But if you have a curriculum system in place and you fail to follow it, teaching skills out of sequence, you also may be negligent.

It is everyone's duty to have a structured teaching system in place and to follow it.

About the author: Jeff earned a B.A. degree in Physical Education from CSUN, and has more than 30 years of coaching experience. Jeff received the USAG Business Leader of the Year Award in 2006.