by Rick McCharles, editor of the Gymnastics Coaching blog
The Great West Gym Fest competition in Idaho has the best awards system I’ve ever seen. Awards are as important to the organizers as the competition itself.
First, they have a wonderful space with Lake Coeur d’Alene as a backdrop. It’s beautifully lit and decorated. Seating for parents is comfortable.
It’s easy to set an impressive stage in the beautiful Coeur d’Alene Resort, one of the advantages of hosting a meet in a hotel.
When kids finish competing they move immediately to the Awards room. On arrival a video of their competition is already playing. A roving cameraman was careful to get some footage of every competitor.
The video keeps kids and parents entertained until everyone arrives. Scores are ready by that time too, done correctly and promptly. (Scoring is the biggest potential disaster in other meets.)
The video is stopped. An Olympian introduced by a skilled M.C., this year and last it was Scott Crouse from Texas. Scott’s short inspirational speech is very much geared towards the parents.
Next, the Olympian takes over. Here’s 2004 Olympic Floor Champ Kyle Shewfelt telling kids stories about his days as an age group gymnast. Certainly Kyle was one of the best of the 40 Olympians to take on this role over the past 9yrs.
The Olympian next gives a plaque and personally shakes hands with every single athlete.
Organizers divide huge age groups into age divisions of about 10 kids each. (born March, 1999, for example) Gymnasts all get an award on every apparatus.
Placements are acknowledged by sticky tags that are added to the individual plaques. For example, if you finish 3rd on Beam in your small age group category, you get a 3rd place sticky. Announcing results and distributing those tags is fast and efficient. And done in a fun and encouraging way.
When all awards have been handed out, there is an additional set of different (bigger) trophies given for OVERALL COMBINED. We might have 6 different age divisions of Level 6 girls, for example, combining those to find out who had the highest vault score from all ages of Level 6.
This takes time, but is worth it, I feel. It rewards the very best kids in the meet.
Finally, the Bears. The Great West Gym Fest is famous for hand carved bear and moose statues given out only for Team Competition.
You’ll find these bear statues in gyms all over the U.S.A. and Canada.
Olympians enjoy this meet. They are not overworked. Raj Bhavsar has been an Olympic celebrity at events in 8 nations since Beijing. He felt this was his most enjoyable event yet.
Kids have plenty of opportunity to meet and get photographs with their favourite Olympians. This year the Olympians Ice Cream Social was held out on a boat on the lake. Nice.
Trust me, this is only a brief overview of the elaborate awards system put in place by meet organizer Dave Adlard. There’s much, much more. Too much to cover here. But leave a comment if you have any questions.