Winning at What Cost?

By Coach Brian Keith Shrewsbury
Winning at What Cost?

Focussing on doing good for kids each day is the main focus of MGA Gymnastics.  Our main purposes have never been money, prestige or bragging rights, its always been to do good things for kids.  Winning is important of course, and what kids, parents and coaches strive for; but as an owner of MGA, I expect our staff to make our kids experiences  with us winning too.

Over 5 years ago there were some changes with our company and we needed to grow our programs  and we all decided we wanted to affect more kids in a positive ways. After 25 years of doing good for kids in our business, it was time to take some risks and expand.  I  had coached kids for over 25 years, day in and day out, and I felt that I did have a positive affect on my athletes and I wanted to grown that experience.

I realized that I could not grow a good thing just coaching;  I needed to concentrate on growing our business and allowing our values and business model to develop. In 2008 I decided to take a sabbatical from the day to day practice schedule and focus on just the business.  I never meant to take more than a year off from the sport I loved, but I soon realized I needed to.  My one year turned into two and then three, and I began to realize that I had a new job and new responsibilities. I now had the ability to take my knowledge of gymnastics and teach other teachers to do it instead of just myself.   I look back at my 25 year career coaching both boys and girls, and the Elite gymnasts that I coached too, and I am proud of what we all accomplished.  I looked down the path ahead and a passion began to grow inside of me to what I had learned over 25 years and affect more students in a betters and in different ways.

In my early twenties all I thought about was making it big as a coach in gymnastics; having my Olympian.  I had to have winning gymnasts, I had to have my gymnasts beat everyone, or some how everything I did and they did was for nothing. I took on more responsibilities and I got married, took over the struggling business and began raising my kids.  We ended up having a total of 7 kids of our own, and that was like training another team 24 hours a day when we got home.  My wife and I managed to get our business on track in those early years and make enough money to survive, and we kept our family working together with us.  Our kids trained with us, and we all worked together building both dreams for ourselves and for our athletes.

During those years I sometimes veered from our values, and placed too much emphasis on winning.  I would get negative and forget that the people I was coaching were also people I cared about.  At times I only cared about winning, and at all cost and I forgot our purpose.  Our practices became excruciatingly long, very strenuous workouts, and were not enjoyable for anyone.  My gymnasts did however developed and we were winning and creating a name for ourselves.  I was never satisfied however, and my gymnasts started doing the sport for the wrong reasons. My athletes would work hard to say out of trouble with me, and to please me, a very bad combination for long term success.  When gymnasts stop performing with passion and just start pleasing those around them, the wining stops and the frustration begins.  Over the next 5 years we began to fail and we did not win anymore, my gymnasts hated me and I hated my job.  It took me many years and most of my 30’s before I learned that success comes from a mix of passion, believing in my athletes and showing them unconditional love when they win or if they loose: there are lessons to be learned in both

Today we run two successful gymnastics businesses. I still  coach with passion, I just use my coaching knowledge in a completely different way.  Today my duties include guiding coaches and programs, making sure there is funding for growth and making sure that all of the people that work for MGA are nurturing and passionate.  At MGA, I believe that we have just the mix of the right coaches, the best facility and the culture and values to make great athletes.  We also have something many gyms don’t have: a great experience for kids to  grow and develop as they grow from tiny humans into adults.  We value the experiences that these very precious young people will have with us, and we want MGA Gymnastics to be remembered for good not bad.
Today MGA has a great program with the right coaches and the environment for success. We have been blessed indeed, and it did not happen over night or without a lot of hard work from all of us, and a lot of risk.  Over the past 4 years building our gym from scratch here in Orlando,  and maintaining a great program in Washington DC, we encountered things that threatened to tear us down.   There were people and circumstances that threatened to derail our dreams both here in Orlando and in Washington DC, but God’s blessings and family values have always pulled us through.  When bad things happen and inevitably they will, its our values and our beliefs that help get us through the day.

The world of gymnasts attracts both the good and the bad kind of people.  Over the years we have seen some pretty horrible behavior that hurt our programs, but mostly hurt the kids in our programs and that is sad. In a world obsessed with winning, we have to place working together and team values alongside it. We must support each other and work towards a winning team and not just a winning individual at all costs. Nothing can tear a team apart faster than the very members not supporting each other.  There are outside sources too that try to tear down good programs and ideals.  When we stand together as a team, working together, supporting each other even when we fail, makes for a strong experience and long lasting friendships.  When we win we feel great, and when we fail its our team that should be there to bring us back up.

While we always strive for success, we must also strive to keep the right people in our programs: Coaches, athletes and parents doing good things for our kids.  Our athletes are expected to have courage, integrity and a good work ethic.  None of our athletes are losers when they learn these values.  Success in sports, school and in life are developed by experiences both good and bad.  One day gymnastics will end for each of our students, and they will walk away from the sport.  It is our hope that they will leave us having had a good experience, high achievement and the valuable life skills they need for  continued success in the real world. My job as the CEO and one of the owners of MGA is clear: Do good for kids, create a positive culture, support our programs and teach our coaches the skills to build passionate, successful and happy people.

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