Coach’s Log, Entry 8: When an Athlete Falls

Coach’s Log, Entry 8: When an Athlete Falls

April 25, 2022

Often, I find myself writing about topics that should be common knowledge to any responsible adult but are not. Some of these topics directly relate to the maltreatment of athletes I continue to judge harshly.

Let me offer some context to how I feel about this entry.

When an Athlete Falls
Injured athlete

Let me offer some context to how I feel about this entry. 

On April 12 2022, I posted a video on TikTok of some of my athletes falling during practice to show that accidents sometimes happen and that we should train adequately to minimise the chances of injury. 

The video, which you can watch here, garnered 200,000 views and more than 30,000 likes. As impressive as that reception was, what was more remarkable was the concern some of the comments caused me. 

In that video, you can hear me telling the athletes who fell to stay down. My suggestion to the athletes to remain down prompted questions from viewers, many of whom are current and former athletes. 

Cam, for example, asked, “why do you tell them to stay down after they fall?”

Amongst the many replies to this question, former athletes thanked me for being a safety conscious coach. Several express how they were not given time to understand what had happened.

A comment by Emma expressed the same worrying sentiment.

“ngl love that they are told to stay down because when i did gym i got shouted at even tho i had landed really badly and was winded.”

Comment on TikTok Video

And there are many more comments along the same lines.

Here is the Video:

Aside from the compassion issue, this shows that many coaches (and one is one too many) are either oblivious to the dangers involved in falling or simply don’t care.

I’ll submit that both are unacceptable attitudes in the gym or life in general.

How to react when an athlete falls
Assessing and Injury

Why Do I Tell Them to Stay Down When They Fall?

This part is where I repeat my answer to Cam and tell you that you should reconsider your position as a coach if you don’t know why.

I tell the athletes who fall to stay down to ensure there are no injuries before they move. Even walking on the same surface can be dangerous. And I let them move on their own when ready – once we have assessed the incident and know that they can move safely.

I have seen people worsen mild injuries by putting pressure on the affected area, and I have never seen screaming or yelling at an athlete make an injury better or remove the psychological pain of falling.

And I mean never. Not once in almost thirty years of coaching.

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Always ask your athletes to stay down when they fall. Too often, the adrenaline rush after a fall can prevent us from thinking correctly. It is up to you, the coach and the primary observer to remain critical and take control of the situation after an accident.

Remember that your athlete is dealing with fear, confusion, and likely shame from public failure aside from a potential injury.

Why would you want to add to all that negative pressure?

I’ll reiterate a previous statement for this question: if you don’t know the answer to this, you should reconsider your place as a coach.

Science shows that the traditionally mean and super strict coaching style we’ve been given as an example of success just doesn’t work. Coaches who do not respect their athletes totally do more harm than good. Any discrimination against their integrity as complex humans will cause bad emotional habits that inevitably affect their emotional stability.

If you are one of those coaches who belittles athletes in the gym under the pretence of instructing them, I will ask you now to stop.

Invert City, and our parent organisation Pulsars Gymnastics Club are committed to changing the conversation about what effective coaching means.

We move forward into this mission armed with science, philosophy, experience, and an incredible amount of love.

And do not forget the love part because that will continue to drive us.

Thank you for reading. 

— Coach José

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