Last month, I returned some dress up clothes to the Disney store. While I was there, I overheard a ‘cast member’ (what Disney calls their employees) say to a customer “I don’t have that on stage, but let me check back in our off stage area”.
It blew my mind and changed the way I looked at the store. I began to see how the staff ‘on stage’ were all friendly, helpful and smiling.
They had created an entire ‘on stage’ experience for their customers.
It got me thinking about the gym and how there’s definitely an ‘on stage’ and an ‘off stage’ element when you teach preschool gymnastics. It’s important that coaches know the difference.
All preschool coaches have (or should have) their ‘on stage’ coaching voice, persona and physical area.
Adult lives are complicated, so it’s not always in the cards to show up to coach 100% focused and engaged. You are human! That’s where your ‘on stage’ concept comes in.
Preschool coaching isn’t a regular job, it’s all about creating an experience for your gymnasts and families.
Being on stage means you put on your show, you use your best teacher voice, you smile, you put aside all of the yuckiness of your day and focus on the little ones in front of you.
Being on stage is part of the magic of preschool.
It opens you up to be in the moment with your class, creating an experience that’s all about their growth, learning and engagement.
Being on stage doesn’t mean you pretend that everything is perfect all the time. It just means you put aside any gunk from your day to focus on what your kiddos need.
It’s the performance piece of things where everything in that class is positive, polished and dialed into your gymnast’s experience. It does not mean you are inauthentic.
‘On stage’ teaching means you’re putting on a persona that is the character you are when you coach. Personally, I definitely have an ‘on stage’ coach persona that I dial into every week. It’s almost like an alter ego. Just like Beyonce has her stage persona, Sasha Fierce, you need to have your ‘on stage’ teaching alter ego at the ready.
Being on stage can be a gift. A dear friend of mine lost her mother last year. She showed up to teach about a week later, explaining that being in the gym let her focus on something else for at least an hour.
What she was describing was being ‘on stage’ teaching, directing all of her focus onto her kids. She used and embraced her on stage persona for that evening as an escape from what was happening in her life. On stage teaching helped her healing process just a little.
Off stage is when you’re between classes, out of sight or finished coaching for the night. Off stage is the time to sit down, snag a snack, use the bathroom, or text your bestie.
It’s the moment when your last gymnast has left the building, and you’re behind closed doors. This is the time to take off your ‘on stage’ coaching persona! It’s the paperwork, the planning and the meetings with fellow team members.
There should be an off stage area in your gym, whether it’s a coaches room or a small place tucked behind a beam, it’s the place to hang up your on stage persona.
The last semester before I started teaching Kindergarten, a professor told our class “don’t ever eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge, nothing positive ever happens in there”. And guess what? That professor was right. The teacher’s lounge IS the place teachers go to vent and it’s usually the worst place to let your hair down and relax during a lunch break (if a teacher even gets one!)
A huge caution here: off stage isn’t just a place for negativity! Do not make your off stage area culture about releasing any and all complaints about things. Off stage is the time to bring up concerns, problem solve, vent about crazy parents and ask questions about frustrating kids.
Off stage is a productive, experimental and a place where you and your team can help each other work through challenges.
Training your coaches in the difference between ‘on stage’ and ‘off stage’ coaching will be a game changer. There will be days when being on stage is a challenge, but creating that amazing class culture for your gymnasts is so important to growing your preschool program.
Teaching your coaches to use their on stage coaching persona will let them focus, teach and meaningfully engage with their gymnasts!