Tumbling for Sport

man back flipHow often do you see children doing cartwheels out in public, whether it’s at the park, front yards, at the beach, or even the grocery stores? They are being done everywhere, you even see it often on television commercials!! Why? Because it is fun!!

cartwheel on beach

In this discussion, I will be focusing on the sport of Tumbling as it relates to not only the gymnastics industry, but to many sports and activities.

I get asked quite often, “what is Tumbling?” The true definition of Tumble, as described in the dictionary, is ” to fall suddenly, clumsily, or headlong” This is a negative description, whereas, in sports, tumbling is a fun, exciting, and positive activity – and in many sports, such as gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, and others, it is a requirement that is judged.


I am asked often from parents, what is the difference between gymnastics and tumbling, as most gymnastics programs offer both types of classes. Gymnastics entails training in all aspects of the sport which include: floor exercise (tumbling), and all the apparatus: bars, beams, vault, etc. Tumbling is training specifically on the floor and does not include any apparatus training.  If a student who is involved with cheer, dance, or martial arts, and they want to learn or improve their tumbling skills for their particular sport, then the tumbling class is what they will need.

20180312_183426.jpg   Most of gymnastics is based on tumbling.  Flipping and twisting is used on most all apparatus in gymnastics and the foundation of these skills are primarily learned on the floor.  This is how I started my gymnastics career and it evolved into the whole gymnastics experience.  As I discussed in an earlier blog (Tumbling: Importance of Building a Strong Foundation), it is at the beginning levels that these skills are learned properly and safely so the student can progress in a positive manner.

animated cheerleader with pompomsIn the sport of cheerleading (and this is a sport),  tumbling is major requirement.  At the lower levels, the skills are basic: such as forward and back rolls, cartwheels, and back walkovers.  At the higher levels, the requirement is much more advanced. Participants are required to do skills like back handsprings, jumps to back handsprings, front handsprings, back flips, and even more difficult skills.  In the sport of dance, tumbling is also becoming more of a requirement.  In this sports discipline, the skill requirements are centered more around front and back walkovers, and side and front aerials.  Due to this demand, many of the coaches in these sports are forced to train their athletes for the required skills.  However, the concern is that many of these coaches do not have the experience and knowledge to teach these skills.

back walkover

The sport of tumbling is a very complex and difficult sport.  It takes flexibility, strength, speed, and a great deal of coordination.  Many athletes are naturally adapted to these types of movements, however, the majority of students learn to adapt to these movements as they learn and progress in their development.  In addition, there is a risk factor in this sport.  This is why it is so important that the coaches become educated and experienced in training their athletes in tumbling skills.

Many cheer and dance programs have an experienced tumbling coach on their staff to teach these skills, which is awesome!!  However, many others do not have an experienced tumbling coach but are training their athletes in these skills anyway.

It is important that coaches, parents, and students understand some key issues.  Tumbling is a difficult sport.  In many cases, the skills learned are more difficult to learn than the other dominate skills in their sport discipline.  If the skills are not learned properly with good technique, the students will have a difficult time progressing in their skill level.  Just one example:  if a student does not learn the proper technique of a good layout, they are going to seriously struggle to learn a full – and learning a double full may be impossible.  There are serious risk factors to consider- tumbling skills entail flipping forward and backward over the head.  Caution must always be considered in training these skills.  The coaches must know how to spot the skills correctly in order to teach the proper technique, keep the student safe, and build the students confidence.

scott spotting bhsp   I have given many tumbling clinics to teach the proper techniques, drills, spotting and safety to coaches in the gymnastics, cheer, and dance industries.  Most of my discussions are based on the beginning and intermediate skill levels as this is the majority of the markets needs. If the students learn in a safe and progressive environment, they will be more inclined and motivated to reach higher levels.

Tumbling is a fun and exciting sport.  Let’s keep it this way and keep the positive movement growing.  I would love to hear your comments and get your feedback on this issue.  Please do not hesitate to ask any questions or let me know your concerns and challenges.  I am hear to help in any way I can.

Cheerleader PNG

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