Archive for the ‘Floor Exercise’ category

Training with Other Programs

January 5, 2010

This post is in answer to Julie Pickering’s comment below: 

I am a gym owner not a coach. How do you get parents of low level gymnast, say level 4 and 5, that tumbling is a progression? I have a gymnast whos mom takes her to a cheer facility to progress her tumbling. It aggravates me and the coaches. Also in the town we live in most people want to do tumbling at the cheer gym because they are quick to teach a bhs etc. How do you get parents to understand this besides saying it is a safety factor. It really hurts my tumbling classes.

The best way for me to answer this, I think, is to simply tell you what we do and why, and hope that helps you with your situation.

In our gym, the team kids and their parents are told and given literature from the very beginning, that they are not to train or even perform gymnastics outside of our supervision without first gaining our permission.  This includes summer camps, talent shows, and sports performance enhancement specialists.  We inform them of this through the rules that we give out at our annual parent meeting.  The parents are told that failure to follow these rules could result in dismissal from our team program.

The explanation that we give to parents has a few points to it:

  1. All coaches teach a little differently, and this can be confusing to your child.  It is not necessarily about what is wrong or right in terms of this coaching, but more about keeping things simple for the athlete.  To insure that your child has the best possible chance to succeed, it is better to have information coming to her in a consistent manner.
  2. There are, unfortunately, coaches in our sport who take shortcuts, and while this may be appealing in the short-term, it is detrimental to the athlete’s career in the sport.  We have a very specific, proven approach to helping children reach their goals in this sport through a patient, progressive system of coaching.  While this system may be slower than some, it is, in our experienced opinions, better for the long-term career of the athlete.  We have often used the explanation that we don’t want the gymnast to hit a “wall” with her skills, because the foundation was not built the way it should have been.  If the basics are learned correctly and the proper progressions are followed, then learning a double back someday can be just as easy as it was for the athlete to learn her cartwheel.  If this approach is not followed, it is our opinion that the athlete may hit this “wall” earlier than they might have and could find herself stagnating in her skill acquirement.  This can be a very frustrating thing for the athlete, and something that we work hard to help her avoid.
  3. The parents need to make a decision about who they trust to train their child in the sport, and then, by example, teach their child to trust those coaches.  Taking their child to another gym to learn a skill is, in effect, telling their child that they do not completely trust the methodology of the staff that they have chosen.  This is one of the worst things that can happen in the development of the athlete.

Unfortunately, many times, this situation can be the determining factor in whether a child stays with our program or not.  We believe in our system enough that we know that it is what is best for the athlete who really wants to be successful in the sport.  We also know that our program is not for every child, and that this is why there are many programs in our community.  We never hold hard feelings toward any parent or especially the athlete if they decide that they would rather be a part of another program.  This is why we stick to our standards so strictly.  It is what makes our program what it is. 

I hope this helps you, Julie, and anyone else who might be going through something similar.  As I have said before, these are just my opinions.  It is what works for us.  I am still interested in hearing other’s opinions on this and any subject.  Thanks all.  And thank you very much, Julie, for the question. 

Cause and Effect-Standing Tuck Full

January 4, 2010

In my opinion, the same general rules apply for a standing tuck full as apply to a standing back tuck with a 1/2.  So, to find out more about the cause and effect of that skill, be sure to read the article written on it.

I will remind everyone about Paul E.’s comment about strength, before I go on.  None of what I am going to write about now will matter if your athlete is not physically capable of doing such a skill.  I am going to address the technical aspects of the skill itself, however.

To answer the concerns of Debbie S., I think the main reason that athletes are a little “out of control” on the landing of the tuck with a full, is the same as under-rotating the tuck with a 1/2.  A lot of times, in my experience, the athletes that attempt this skill are fairly adept at the standing back tuck part.  Athletes at this level are also usually talented enough that twisting should be a fairly “effortless” movement.  For me though, I think that these athletes are usually almost automatic with the rotation of a tuck, but may sometimes “build-up” in their mind the challenge of adding a full twist to this tuck.    What this leads to, I believe, is that the athlete will try to twist earlier or more aggressively, because of her idea of how hard this skill is going to be.  The earlier the athlete twists, the later the twist will finish, which means that they are twisting when they land, sometimes causing this “out of control” scenario.  The science of this is that the closer an athlete can be to upside down when they actually initiate twisting, the less gravitational force she has to fight with the sides of her body, making the twist much quicker, thus being able to finish the twist earlier.  Obviously, when doing a standing tuck full, there is not a lot of time in the air (usually less than a second), so delaying the twist is difficult to do.  But, in my opinion, if the athlete can at least put her focus more on the flip, and therefore be more confident with the twist, then the likelihood of the twist being in the right place becomes greater. 

To help with the confidence of this twist, I think doing them off of a tumble-trak or springboard, or down to a resi or into the pit are all good ways of helping the athlete to worry less about the twist and more about doing the skill correctly.  Two ways that I can think of to have the athlete “check” herself:

  • Have the athlete do a standing tuck full on the trampoline, rebound straight up and down out of it and then “stick”.  This will insure that she is rotating the exact right amount and doing the twist in that “weightless area” of her flip.
  • Have the athlete work on sticking the skill off of the tumble trak to a level (with the t-trak) mat.  She can evaluate herself by whether she is falling one direction or the other.  What she will find, if she is not getting that ideal combination of flip and twist, is that her “twisting side” shoulder will continue to pull backward as she is landing.  This should help to alert her to be even more confident with her twisting and create an even better flip to make the twisting much more “effortless”, and therefore, hopefully, more “in control”.

As to the fear issue…well obviously, much has been written on this subject, and I am sure that all of us could add countless stories of fear issues with athletes.  So, for this particular issue, let’s assume that the athlete is not one of the irrationally afraid varieties of athletes, and assume that she is just afraid of this particular skill.  In that case, I always believe (or try to make myself remember, at least) that fear is a warning signal.  It, more often than not, is a tell-tale sign that something is not exactly right.  Now, in my experience, this warning signal is unique to the athlete.  Some athletes, who I would call “comfort athletes” (usually of the perfectionist type), are extremely sensitive to even the slightest variance in technique and therefore, will become a little fearful in these situations.  Again, I am not necessarily talking about the normally frightened athlete, but the one that is more aware of her mechanics than other athletes.  Another athlete may “chuck” a skill that has no possible chance of being made, because she is not as “in-tune” with her body’s actions in a particular skill.

In the “comfort athlete” zone all the way up through the “chucker” zone, the athlete who demonstrates fear, should be allowed (and even urged) to continue with the progressions that have led them up to this point of attempting this skill on the floor.  In my opinion, this is where the athlete will figure out the problems in the skill and through more work, the solution.

Again, these are just my opinions.  We are extremely interested in knowing all of yours, so please comment if you have other ideas.  Hope this helps you Debbie, and all, and thank you for the question.  Keep them coming, guys!

Question about Tumbling Training

January 1, 2010

Julie Pickering has asked the following:

I am a gym owner not a coach. How do you get parents of low level gymnast, say level 4 and 5, that tumbling is a progression? I have a gymnast whos mom takes her to a cheer facility to progress her tumbling. It aggravates me and the coaches. Also in the town we live in most people want to do tumbling at the cheer gym because they are quick to teach a bhs etc. How do you get parents to understand this besides saying it is a safety factor. It really hurts my tumbling classes.

This is an excellent question!  Thanks for commenting, Julie.  Once again, I will give this to all of you first, and then add my comments a few days later.  I am really interested in your responses, as I am sure that Julie is as well.  Thanks all.

Another Thought on a Standing Back Tuck with a 1/2

December 30, 2009

Paul E. has responded to our Standing Back Tuck with a 1/2 dilemma with this comment.  I, personally, think this is dead-on.

Troy, I was thinking about one more thing that would hinder someone from this skill. This skill is commonly being taught to cheerleaders who have not had 10 years of gymnastics training before they try this skill. My point in this is not in the technique being used but in the athletes core strength. Usually at around 14 my boys decide to try these skills just playing around, as we have no event to use them on. I would have to say that 100 percent of the boys who have tried them learned them that day. They perform them really with no technique to speak of, but I think they are making them because of two things. First as you mentioned before they have a very strong understanding of a standing back, and secondly their core is strong, which helps them pull their knees through the twist. So to add to what you mentioned earlier, build the core muscles and I think you will get some great results.

I have to agree, as we don’t really use this skill much either, but when we do, it is usually with a gymnast that has already been doing standing back tucks and tumbling with multiple twisting for several years, and the results are similar to what Paul has mentioned.  Great point, Paul, and thanks for commenting!

Cause and Effect-Standing Tuck Full

December 30, 2009

Debbie S. has asked about a Standing Tuck with a full.  She wants to know whether the same general rules as the 1/2 apply.  She also says that some of the athletes that she has doing it are a little “out of control”.  She comments also that some of her athletes become fearful when attempting the skill on the floor after doing progressions up to this point.

Does anyone have any comments or ideas for Debbie on this?  Again, I will wait a couple of days before posting my ideas.  I would love to get everyone’s input on this first.

Also, I got a request from another person about very basic skills.  She felt that some people might be embarassed to ask about skills that are much more basic.  I think she is probably right about that, but I want to let everyone know that I, for one, am extremely interested in learning more about even the simplest of skills (those of you that know me would probably agree that this is true to the point of being obsessed).  So please, don’t be afraid to ask about any skill.  Just post it as a comment, and we will see what kind of feedback we can get.  Thanks everyone for all of the positive feedback so far.  This is fun!

Cause and Effect-Standing Back Tuck with 1/2: My Solution

December 25, 2009

Well, we haven’t had anyone chime in on this yet, so I will give you my ideas for the causes and solution to this fairly common problem with twisting.

So, to start out, let’s figure out what causes this symptom.  This is a good example, in my opinion, because it is a classic case of what I want to address with these “Cause and Effect” scenarios.  I think that it is very common that coaches and athletes with limited experience may look at this much differently than coaches and athletes with more experience.  In my explanation of this error, I am going to address a back tuck with a half that is done late in the flip.  There is a whole different dynamic to a standing Arabian (1/2 turn to front tuck), and if someone wants more information on that, then they can comment, and I will respond along with anyone else that has thoughts on that.  

I am going to begin by addressing the most likely cause, in my experience, and then I will move to what I consider a less likely, but still possible cause.

In a back tuck with a 1/2 turn, it is easy to assume that, “If I can do a good standing back tuck and make it every time, then falling on my butt when adding a half must mean that the half is causing me problems.”  On the contrary, I believe that it is the standing tuck that is the true cause of this problem, and to be more specific, it is a case of  “adding the cart before the horse”. 

There are a few scientific principles at work here, but the one that is most appropriate is that “a body in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force”.  Since we are assuming that no one is kicking you in the middle of the flip, and twisting is an “internal” force, we can be assured that the act of twisting itself, cannot change our pattern of flight.  In other words, twisting alone, cannot “knock” someone out of the air. 

What this really (usually) comes down to is the fact that the athlete does not initiate (or finish the act of) hip rotation in the flip before beginning to twist.  The athlete, when adding this twist, will usually “get ahead” of herself and put the majority of her focus on the twist, and therefore, not do the same back tuck that she has been consistently (we hope) doing already.  Because she does not initiate this rotation, the skill itself is destined to be under-rotated before even getting to the twist.  I always tell my athletes when this problem occurs on any kind of twisting, that, if they had not twisted at all with that rotation, they still would have landed on their hands and knees.  This usually makes sense to them, and can sometimes be enough to solve the problem.

If it does not solve the problem, then I take them back to the core skill (in this case a standing back tuck), and have them work on doing it with a little bit of over-rotation or up to a panel mat, etc.  Please take note, though, that I am not talking about tumbling and certain other aspects of twisting.  This is not necessarily the appropriate action for those situations due to other variables, including angles of take-off and the increase of rotation due to the shortening of the body when twisting, etc.  Those are things for later subjects probably, but in the standing back tuck scenario, I find that when the athlete reminds her body of this act of rotation, she will tend to initiate it more fully prior to adding the twist.

Another option for solving the problem (and I use this method for everything from tucked and piked or laid out and twisting yurchenkos to fulls on floor to release moves on bars) is to go back and forth between the core skill and the new skill.  The ratio can start at somewhere around 3:1 and then work toward 1:1 and then to just the new skill.  In other words, I would have them do 3 standing back tucks (most likely up to a panel mat or trapezoid block) and then 1 back tuck with a 1/2 (to the resi probably).  In this type of training, I only lower the ratios if the athlete starts having success with the new skill (usually making 3 or 4 in a row first).  If an athlete can do the back tuck to a panel mat and has done some work on twisting drills, then this should work at some point, unless she has a 2nd possible problem.

This 2nd possible problem is that the athlete is initiating rotation at the beginning (and this takes a lot of experience to be able to identify as a coach), but she “opens up” her body or comes out of the tuck position when she initiates the twist, which effectively stops the rotation that she had started earlier.  The reason for this, usually, is that the athlete is a little disoriented and trying to stand up the skill unaware of where she is.  This does happen, but I would caution that it is the easier answer, in my opinion.  It is the equivalent of an untrained eye assessing a double back tuck that under-rotates, and then telling the athlete to pull harder.  In my opinion, if you watch 20 athletes under-rotate a double back, maybe 1 or 2 of them need to “pull harder”.  The rest of them are committing errors way before that, and “pulling harder” would be like putting a band-aid around a dismembered finger.  The symptom is corrected, i.e. the finger may stay on, but the person won’t be using the finger anymore unless there is surgery done to re-attach it.

But I digress.  One solution to the “opening up” scenario is to have the athlete do the skill into the pit, and stress to her to stay in the tuck shape when she twists.  This way, the athlete doesn’t have to worry about standing the skill up and can focus on the other things that are going to lead to success.  Another option is to do the skill off of the end of the tumble-trak or on the trampoline or off of a springboard or mini-tramp to give more air time, and thereby more confidence, so the athlete doesn’t feel the need to open up out of the tuck shape.

I really hope this has been helpful.  I assure you that these are just things that have worked for me, and though I may sound very confident about what I am saying, I promise all of you that I am the type of coach who would change drills or training tomorrow if I found a better way.  So, please, add your opinions to this blog, as I am always interested in learning more.  Thanks again, Valentin for your help in kicking off this idea.

Cause and Effect-Standing Tuck with 1/2 Twist

December 23, 2009

So, we have our first challenge, everyone.  Valentin Uzunov gave us a hypothetical when he wrote,

“why is it that i can’t get around on a standing back with a half. I keep falling back onto my bum”

I am excited to see what everyone has to say about this!  Thank you so much, Valentin for starting us off!  Please leave a comment if you have some experience with this or some ideas on the causes for this and the solution.  I will give this a couple of days to hear everyone else’s ideas, and then offer my own.

I think this can be a great tool for everyone, so be sure and give us your challenges when you think of them!