I am again, VERY honored to have Eddie Umphrey on the blog today. This is the second part of the interview I posted last week. It can be read here. Eddie is a tremendous coach, and a huge asset to the gymnastics community.
Oh, and for everyone who as inspired by these interviews with Eddie as I am, I’d like to add that he also does motivational talks and clinics if you are ever looking to bring anyone in. He is obviously a huge asset and motivational figure. If you’d like to contact him his email is EdUmphrey@gmail.com
Question 1: Given that “every day is a fight”, what are your primary methods of keeping your gymnasts motivated and happy in the gym?
Every day is a fight, but you want ease the stresses of your gymnasts as much as possible. It is important to realize that there’s a time to push and a time to pull. There is a time to pat the kids on the back and say “good job” and there are other times when you need to be stern and push them to their limits. As long as you are still building them up and strengthening them as people/athletes then that is OK. To find what motivates the kids you have to find what way works best with your own personal coaching style.
For myself, I like to take my time with everything. In doing so I have to make the kids understand that everything in gymnastics is a process. Trust the process! Anyone can get on the bar and learn a double back in a day, but can you do a double that lifts off the bar higher than everyone else? Can you shape in the air? Can you do a double that I can look at and see that it will easily develop into an E or F dismount in the future? When I present gymnastics this way to my athletes then you can see they get it. They don’t work in the now. They are motivated to do what it takes now to be better in the future. You can train to be an elite who is just another name at an international competition or you can train to be like a Komova, a Nastia or any other athlete who stands out with a great understanding of ARTISTIC gymnastics. That is motivating enough for them.
Question 2: What are some of your overall goals as a coach?
My goal as a coach is to teach my athletes the incredible lessons I have learned from gymnastics. I truly believe that everything we learn in the gym as athletes can be taken outside of the gym doors to do something great for the world. I’ve been blessed to be able to share my experiences with schools and churches of how gymnastics showed me what faith is. I wouldn’t be who I am without the experience of gymnastics. Whether an athlete decides to quite tomorrow or continue for the next 20 years, they always take with them the gift of knowledge that only gymnastics can present. I am happy I have the opportunity to spread that as a coach and speaker. Along the way, as every coach, I hope to put athletes in a position to represent our country on the Olympic stage.
Question 3: What are some of your goals for your gym?
The goal and mission statement at TCT is to give everyone a positive experience. A great way to have a positive experience is to win and do it respectfully. Twin City Twisters was already a top program in the country before I came to MN. Our goal as a gym is to stay there! I felt a lot of pressure when I came to the gym because if we didn’t win then the only place to put the blame is where the only changes were made (me). To reach the goals we set for ourselves as a gym, every person has to do their part. In doing so I have to be my own hardest critic. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I love the pressure. The only difference between a simple piece of coal and a priceless diamond is the amount of pressure applied to it. If I apply the pressure then hopefully we’ll be that much closer to what we want to accomplish as a gym.
Question 4: Can you give us a brief overview of what a day at Twin City Twisters looks like?
A regular day at TCT is nothing crazy. A lot more simple than people would expect. We pride ourselves on our efficiency and productivity. Typically, our first group of girls will come in at 2:30. Our elites will come in a little bit earlier to get more work in. A second group will come in at 4:15. We will hit 3-4 events, conditioning and flexibility then call it a day. Nothing crazy.
Question 5: How do you go about planning bars and vault assignments? Could you give us an example of a typical one?
I write the assignments for the week at the beginning of the week. I always do individual planning for each athlete. It takes much longer to plan this way rather than a group as a whole, but it leaves no stone left unturned. Each athlete is different and has different needs so I plan accordingly. Each day is different and although I wright all assignment at the beginning of the week, it usually changes depending on what the athlete is doing. Gymnastics is a sport unlike many in that you just can’t stick to the written plan 100% of the time. You have to be ready and willing to adjust on the fly. I might have a girl who I will have doing doubles Monday and 1/1 doubles Tuesday, but I might get so happy with the good technique from Monday that I’ll have her repeat it Tuesday because it might now translate into a 2/1 double down the road. Just like I tell the girls to trust the process of training, I often have to remind myself to trust my own process of coaching too. There are other days when I might see a kid is really on so I might throw a little extra on her to take advantage of speeding the process. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to go by the playbook and other times you just have to run some trick plays. It is OK to learn on the fly at times. Read your athletes and adjust accordingly.
Question 6: Do you have anyone training elite besides Maggie Nichols?
Everyone knows Maggie Nichols. She is an incredible worker and I’m not sure there is a skill or sequence that she can’t learn. We do have a couple junior elites who are up and coming. Abby Paulson just competed at her first P&G Championships. She was one of the youngest competitors in the entire competition. Olivia Trautman is also on the elite scene now. Olivia competed as a L9 this year and qualified to US Classic in the HOPES division where she finished 8th AA. All three will be at the Ranch for national team training sessions at the end of the month. We are excited about their future and there are more elites to come!
Question 7: You said your main duties are coaching uneven bars and vault. There are many opinions about when coaches should start training upper level skills such as Yurchenkos and giants, what is your opinion on this?
My belief is you can start training upper level skills as early as you want, but they MUST be trained properly! You can get a 7 year old girl to get out there and have her muscle through a Yurchenko, but are you doing preventative wrist, shoulder and elbow exercises? Are you teaching the correct techniques for safety and longevity of your athlete down the road? Does the athlete understand what they are doing? This applies just as much to a college or elite athlete as much as it does a 7 year old. There is a much more behind learning skills than most realize. Anyone can chuck a front flip off the bar and try to catch it (Jaegar), but if the gymnast doesn’t understand things like tapping, proper shoulder placement, heel and hip lift then you are increasing the athlete’s chance of getting hurt as well as increasing the time it takes to learn skills. It is not enough to just coach. You have to TEACH!
Again, a big, big, BIG thank you to Eddie and if you would like to contact him his email is: EdUmphrey@gmail.com