Gold Medal Coach: Lisa Spini of Desert Lights Gymnastics

Coaches are so much more than trainers. They are mentors, legacy builders, and an athlete’s biggest cheerleader. GK wants to honor these cornerstones in the sport of gymnastics by featuring them in our Gold Medal Coaches Series. We have reached out to different coaches and gym owners to share their insights and successes on how to train the next Olympic Champion.

Lisa SpiniLisa Spini of Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, AZ has spent years contributing to the sport of gymnastics. Her passion for coaching is evident in her strong relationship with Elite gymnast, MyKayla Skinner. Lisa shares with us what the most important part of building a strong relationship with the athlete, her most successful training technique, and if MyKayla is ready for Rio 2016.

GK: How long have you been coaching MyKayla Skinner?
LS:  I have coached MyKayla for 7 1/2 years, since she was a Level 8 gymnast.


GK: What do you feel is necessary in building a strong relationship with your athlete?
LS: I think the most important thing in a gymnast-coach relationship is trust. Your gymnast has to understand that you always have their best interests at heart. You know what their goals are and you are going to do everything in your power to help them achieve those goals. The times when they fail are as important as the times that they succeed. They have to know that you never give up on them and you always have their back.


GK: Coming into an Olympic year, how will MyKayla’s training differ than that of the past?
LS: MyKayla is an adult athlete now. She either is already competing or training all of the skills she needs for this Olympic year. This year will be spent continuing to refine skills and techniques, as well as introducing some of the skills that we have been training for a while, but not yet competed. Polishing and refining are the name of the game, as well as staying healthy.


GK: Do you feel MyKayla is ready for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio? If so, why?
LS: I believe that MyKayla will be ready. As I said, she is a highly skilled, adult gymnast. She doesn’t need to increase her start values much and we do have several nice skills and combinations that we have trained, but not yet added. This will enable her to spend her time working mostly on execution this season, which is very important for her. MyKayla tends to be a very good competitor. When the flag is raised, she is very focused and will do what she needs to do to get it done.


GK: What has been your most successful training technique used?
LS: When MyKayla was younger, one of the best training tools for me was rewarding her for working on things that she didn’t enjoy, but needed, by letting her work on the big skills, which she did enjoy. Now that she is more mature, communication is my best coaching technique. I talk to her about what we need to do for daily, weekly, and monthly practices, overviewing each session and what is important about it and why–specifically for her. Understanding why I am having her do things, as they apply to her goals, really helps put each practice into perspective.


Thank you, Lisa, for all your hard work and dedication to the sport of gymnastics. Your exceptional contributions to MyKayla Skinner shows through her success. We look forward to seeing you and MyKayla continue to succeed in the Olympic year!

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