I am so happy to have Eddie Umphrey, coach at Twin City Twisters, on the blog today. Eddie was kind enough to do a fantastic interview for Swing Big! Here is the first part of it.
Q: What is your job right now, what are your responsibilities? Levels you coach, interaction with lower levels/pre-team etc.
A: My official title is Team Coach at Twin City Twisters. I currently coach L7-elite. I do mostly UB and V, but jump in if needed anywhere. Mike, Rich and I share the spotting duties around the gym.
Q: How would you describe your coaching philosophy and how has it changed from when you started?
Gymnastics is a blessed gift. When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I’m in the business of saving lives and building champions. I love winning in the gym, but gymnastics is much more than that. I don’t feel that there is any other sport that challenges someone physically, mentally and emotionally like gymnastics can. On a daily basis gymnasts are forced to learn and build in these areas. These are the daily challenges a gymnast must deal with, which build the character to be a champion in life. Each day in the gym is a fight. We fight fear, anxiety, distractions, pain… the list goes on and on. I believe the fight we fight each day in the gym lays one block carefully to an aspect of our personal life until we have built a perfect wall of personal success. That wall can be anything from building the courage to speak in front of a crowd or the discipline to keep your grades up. Everyone’s goal is to win gold, but not everyone will be an Olympic champion, an NCAA gymnast or even a L10 athlete. A medal is great, but did you learn along the way? That is the real truth behind the madness. Some athletes will be in the sport for the next 15 years. Others might decide to move on tomorrow to something else. Regardless, the athlete should be able to take what they have learned from gymnastics and apply it outside the gym walls. Gymnasts share an advantage over the rest of the world in being presented with this gift of its knowledge. My philosophy… USE YOUR GIFT! That is what I took from gymnastics as an athlete and I have always encouraged my athletes to do the same.
Q: If you are struggling with something as a coach, what resources do you turn to?
A: I keep a close circle of communication with other coaches and judges and teammates that I’ve worked with throughout the years. People I can talk to for encouragement, motivation, technical advice or just run an idea or plan by them for feedback. It is always nice to get different perspectives on things. I might see something one way, but they might see it another way and add a component to the idea or skill that makes it click. I also turn a lot to my brothers Greg and Chainey. Both former national team gymnasts so they know all there is to know about gymnastics. I can’t go wrong turning to them for anything and everything.
Q: What is the composition of your coaching team (pre-team – elite)? How much and what kind of collaboration do you foster there?
A: Currently my main duties are UB and vaulting with our L7-elite girls. The training times with our compulsory team and optionals overlap so I don’t really coach outside of optionals at this time other than assisting the compulsories if they needed me to.
Q: Do you have any advice for up and coming coaches?
A: For coaches at any level, you cannot ask too many questions. Gymnastics is an endless book of knowledge. Take the time to make yourself ask questions whether it’s a question to a coach in your gym or a Facebook message to a coach you don’t know. There are very few coaches out there who won’t help you if you come to them for help. Asking makes you seek. Seeking leads you to knowledge. If you think you have all the answers then you have cut yourself off from growth.
Don’t be afraid to make changes. Gymnastics is like a computer. Everything might be up to date today, but it never stops evolving. There are new techniques and ideas that grow rapidly. A newer and faster computer will come out tomorrow. If you don’t update your “system” you will eventually have glitches, get passed up and fall out of date.
There is no room for an ego. Work with others and allow them to work with you. Share your knowledge and absorb what everyone has to offer. It is too hard to play this game by yourself! Keep yourself and your athletes in check. Know how to humble them without humiliating and how to lift them up without flattering. Overconfidence and timidity eventually finish at the same dead end.
Feed your athletes properly. Children will take whatever you give them. Give a child only candy, they will eat it and grow sluggish and sloppy. Give them vegetables and fruits, they will eat it and grow stronger and healthier. In the same way feed your athletes good advice and techniques. Take the time to shape the basics. Take the time to grow a person. Accept a higher standard. They will only jump as high as you set the bar.
Be you, honestly express yourself and have faith in yourself! Your athletes are your own art and personal creation. They are the truest reflection of your work. Each artist has their own personal styles and trends. Express your own artistry and style in your coaching.
A big thank you again to Eddie for doing this phenomenal interview. I hope this gives you some insight and inspiration to go out and make your gymnasts great!