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Top 10 Most Important Things to Create a Successful Team Program:

Tom Jones asked Mike Hunger to share what we would consider the most important things that have contributed to the successes he had over the past 20 years. Following is a list of items that came to mind; from the last item, all the way up to the first (and probably most important) item that came to mind.


10) Enjoy what you do.

We all work too hard, for too little to not enjoy what we do. Tom Jones has always told me that any job you do just for the money, probably is not worth it. A favourite quote of mine is "find a job that you enjoy, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!"

9) Train the mental side of gymnastics. Train kids as a person, not just an athlete.

Teach your athletes how to train to be better gymnasts. Remind them that they will get better at whatever they practice. If they stand around a lot, they will get better at standing. If they spend a lot of time at the chalk tray they get better at chalking up (no medals given for that).

Teach them that there is more to being a good gymnast than just being a good athlete. You need to also be a good person, a good teammate, a good sport, etc. "You will only be a competitive gymnast for a few years, you will be a person for the rest of your life, so be a good one."

We have a jar filled with good inspirational quotes that we keep in the gym. Sometimes at the end of workout, we have two or three kids pick out a quote, read it to the rest of the team, and explain what the quote means to them. (We stole this idea from Mary Lee Tracy)

8) Airsense, airsense, airsense!

You can never spend too much time on tramp. Any time on tramp is not wasted time. Whenever you can get the kids on trampoline more, do it. Even if it playing, they are learning about movement, awareness, etc. We encourage the kids that come in early to play on trampoline, rather that just wait around until practice starts.

7) Don’t try to please everybody.

You may not be the program for everybody. Don’t compromise the way you do things just to try and please everybody. You can’t. Some kids may want to be a level 10, but only train 10 hours a week. That may work for some clubs but not others. You want to fill your program with people that have the same goals and ideas that you have. We run a two week tryout with kids wanting to move to our program to give both them and us a chance to see if our program is a good fit for them and they are a good fit for us. For a long time, we turned away more tryouts than we would accept.

Be honest with people. Don’t just tell people what you think they want to hear. Not every child will be an Olympian, so don’t tell them they all will be. Be kind and make them feel good about themselves, but don’t mislead them into believing they will go to the Olympics or get a college scholarship if that is probably out of their reach.

6) Create a productive atmosphere, where kids help each other.

I’ve always admired the great atmosphere that Todd Gardiner has created at IGI, where kids all work hard, all help each other. Not only do they have Todd and bunch of other great coaches, but they all help each other and all work hard, so it’s like a gym full of coaches. No wonder we all have such a hard time trying to catch up to IGI. We’ve tried very hard to create this same type of atmosphere in our gym. It’s an on-going process, and something you continually have to preach and improve on.


5) Achieve a balance between gymnastics and the rest of life, both with your kids and staff.

Keep things in perspective. If gymnastics is the most important thing in your life, you will put too much pressure on yourself. We try and emphasize to kids and staff both that gymnastics is only one part of life and we are as proud of everyone’s successes out of the gym as we are successes in the gym. I’ve always been impressed with how Chow has developed the best gymnast in the world and allowed her to have a normal life of a teenage kid in central Iowa. I’ve also liked the Gayle Sayres story "I Am Third" that became the movie about his friend and fellow football player, "The Brain Piccolo Story" (The Lord is first, friends and family are second, and yourself is third).

We also feel that our staff works better with this approach. We’ve been able to keep some of the best coaches in the business by being flexible with their families and other interests, so they can give us a 100% when they are in the gym. Most of our coaches have families of their own (that have to come first) or other outside interests.

4) Have fun! “Play” gymnastics!

Tom Jones taught me years ago that kids can learn as much "playing" gymnastics as they can through types of workouts. You need the structure and organization of well planned workouts to run efficient workouts, but kids also need to feel like it is play sometimes. Don’t we all work harder and have more fun at things that we do for play, than things we do for work? That concept was good enough for Tom to produce some of the best athletes in this country before Lake Owen, so we’ve tried very hard to use this, and has made our job a lot more enjoyable.

3) Walk that fine line between working hard and playing.

Tim Rand (the great coach from American Twisters) had a quote in his gym "Walk into the gym with a smile on your face. Crawl out of the gym with the same smile on your face." That quote says it all for me. We constantly tell our kids that their job is to outwork all the other clubs that they will compete against, and that also should enjoy their time in the gym.

2) Develop an attitude in your gym where you don’t care who teaches a kid something and you take ideas from anywhere and anyone.

We really try to promote an atmosphere where everybody helps everyone else. We don’t who teaches a kid a new skill, or how they learned it, it’s just good that they learned it. Kids help coach each other, coaches make corrections to anybody and shout corrections across the gym, and anybody asks questions from anybody. We never hear the comment I taught Susie this, rather Susie learned this. We also don’t hear my kids, or my group. We try to all work together as a group and all share the credit or blame for successes or failures. We try to make sure the kids get recognized for their accomplishments.

1) Surround yourself with good people, and let them do their thing.

I learned long ago that I would not achieve the kind of success I wanted or would produce the kind of athletes I wanted by myself. I am not a good enough coach to achieve those things without help from great people. I’ve been blessed with a string of good hires of people with similar philosophies. I love my staff and enjoy coming to work everyday to be a part of a great team of coaches. When you have great people, you can stay out of their way and let them do their thing. You can work together as a team to enjoy what you do and create great things!

Mike Hunger
Twin City Twisters Gymnastics




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