Coaching gymnastics requires not only an extensive knowledge of terminology, skills and safety procedures, but also of how to communicate that knowledge to boys and girls of all ages and skill levels. All gyms associated with USA Gymnastics require coaches to complete two courses and pass a background check. Non-affiliated gyms may have lesser requirements, especially for toddler and preschool classes.
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Level 1 Certification
Completing the Level 1 certification is the first step to becoming a certified coach with USA Gymnastics. For your Level 1 certification, you must take and pass the Fundamentals of Gymnastics Instruction course. Safety, fun and athlete development comprise the three sections of this course. The course teaches coaching philosophy, ethics and safety, as well as terminology, lesson plans and nutrition. You will learn how to help gymnasts properly warm up and cool down, as well as teach gymnastics skills for Level 1, and some skills for Levels 2 and 3. You must be at least 15 years of age and pay the registration fee to take the course. Certification lasts for four years.
In addition to the Level 1 gymnastics certification, you need a USA Gymnastics Safety Certification. Designed not only for coaches, but also for club owners, meet directors, judges and athletes, the course aims to increase safety and risk management awareness. The course addresses risk of injury and risk of lawsuit. You can take the course online, or you can take the course in person. The online course takes approximately four to five hours to complete, while the face-to-face course takes five hours, and includes an open-book exam. You must pass the course with at least a 75 percent to receive the certification, which lasts for four years.
Most gymnastics organizations, including USA Gymnastics, require coaches to pass a background check by the National Center for Safety Initiatives. Background checks help ensure safety for the gymnasts, 98 percent of whom are underage, according to USA Gymnastics. The check searches criminal records, two national databases, state sex-offender registries and the federal terrorist database. The background check also verifies the submitted Social Security number and home address. If you get a “red light” on your check for past crimes or criminal associations, you may not be able to join USA Gymnastics. You must pass the background check every two years.
Every four years you must re-certify yourself as a Level 1 coach, or you can attempt to move onto Level 2. To maintain your Level 1 certification, you must complete five credits of continuing education before your certification expires. Continuing education includes elective course work or work towards certification at Level 2. Elective course work includes attending workshops, program clinics or the Regional or National Congress. You can also complete additional USA Gymnastics courses in areas such as preschool fundamentals or trampoline and tumbling.