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Since it was first introduced as a competitive sport in the 1800s, gymnastics has become a popular sport for males and females of all ages and abilities. The difficult and sometimes risky moves of gymnastics require specialized training to ensure the success and safety of gymnasts. As a result, USA gymnastics was formed. USA Gymnastics is the national gymnastics governing body. Through USA gymnastics, coaches can become certified and continue their gymnastics coaching education.
USA Gymnastics offers soon-to-be coaches a Gymnastics University. This program is a certification program that establishes the core competencies required to be a gymnastics coach. Coursework is divided into different certifications that range from coaching beginner gymnastics up to the coaching of elite gymnasts. Coursework includes first aid, fundamentals, safety and risk management, trampoline and tumbling training, and level one through four courses, which emphasis various gymnastic skills. Courses are taught online, as live courses or as one- to three-day workshops. Also, an online educational resource library provides coaches with a variety of resources. Resources include rules, training, technique and a listing of health care providers who work closely with gymnasts.
Experience in the field is a must to continue success as a coach in gymnastics. Beginning coaches should start a pre-school level gymnastics. This will give them the practical skills and experience needed to move up in gymnastics. New coaches should remain at the pre-school level for three years. Coaches can then move up from there. Upper-level gymnastics require coaches with a lot of experience whereas the skills and difficult levels of upper-level gymnastic routines require a great deal of skill.
As with any sport, safety is a very important concern for gymnasts of all levels. Safety certification is a mandatory requirement for all coaches. Mandatory safety training began in 1998. USA Gymnastics requires all introductory coaches to complete their Safety Certification course. Coaches must also learn proper gymnastics technique and spotting as part of their safety course. As gymnastics continues to become more advanced, coaches must be current on their technique and safety to prevent gymnastics-related injuries. Coaches also need to be certified in first aid. Coaches must remain current with their first aid certifications.
Coaches must be continuously informed of new rules, gymnastics moves, research and studies. As a result of ever-changing rules, gymnastic coaches need to continue their education as a coach to remain certified. Continuing education credits provide coaches with up-to-date information from USA Gymnastics, which allows them to improve their coaching and safety techniques. The number of required continuing education credits depends largely on what level a coach is at. For a coach coaching Level 1, beginner gymnastics, five credits are required every four years. For a coach with a more advanced certification, Level 5, 25 continuing education credits are required every four years.
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