Any activity performed in life has a special technique or mechanical issue that it entails. Whether it be as simple as learning to walk and run or as complex as learning to flip through the air. The question is: “What is the proper technique?”. This is an issue that has been at the forefront of sport forever. There are experts in this field who have studied bio-mechanics, physics, and other related subjects to identify and pinpoint how the body needs to react in certain positions to achieve positive results. However, what is often overlooked, skill technique may vary depending on the differences in athletes abilities, size, emotion, and other factors. In addition, teaching skill technique will vary depending on the level of sport and the future goals and objectives of the athlete. In this discussion, I will focus on the differences in technique objectives that is often discussed in different sports activities.
Why is proper technique so important? In many sports, athletes need to learn proper technique to ensure safety and positive progress in their development. If skills are learned incorrectly, the athlete may not progress as quickly as if the skill was learned correctly. Most skills build upon one another as the athlete progresses in skill level. If basic skills are not learned properly, advancement will be difficult and could ultimately result in the student losing interest in continuing the activity. Safety should always be the highest priority and why learning proper technique is so important. Some sports and skills are riskier than others, so the instructors need to make sure the athletes are learning the skills properly to reduce associated risk factors. Many rules and regulations in sport are designed for this specific reason. No matter the sport or activity, poor technique all too often can lead to chronic life time injury.
As mentioned earlier, a major factor in determining the proper techniques in skill development is directly related to the activity and the results being sought. For example, in the gymnastics industry, techniques may vary depending on if the athlete is training to become a competitive athlete or training for another purpose. In gymnastics, the compulsory routines are specific to every skill and must be performed according to the determined text. The same scenario applies to figure skating and other sports where skills and technique are pre-determined. However, if the gymnast is not training to be a competitor, skill development and drills may be different. Athletes in a competitive training environment may have drills that teach a technique that relates to the compulsory routines, whereas, athletes in non-competitive environments may have drills that are not specific to the compulsories – (for example, an athlete training to be a cheerleader or learning tumbling for dance or martial arts, do not need to learn a back roll with straight arms.)
I have seen coaches request, on social media, help with technical issues that will help in the training of their athletes. Although the responses are many, most have different ideas as to how to fix the problem, thus, making the issue more confusing for the coach. Many of these technical issues or bad habits can be fixed fairly easily, especially for basic elements. It is important to note that not all programs have the tools suggested to train specific drills, so consider making suggestions that may pertain to any environment if possible.
Although skills have a general way they need to be learned and performed, there are many different ways to achieve the same and final result. There are numerous drills for developing almost every skill, and experienced coaches are effective in using these drills to insure their athletes succeed. Communication is critical and the instructor must relate in a way that the student can understand. It is easy to become too detailed and complex in explaining certain technique, especially to young students. The more complex the skills are being introduced or trained, the more confused the student may become and the longer it may take to learn the skill. Don’t make it complicated!!
I work with many students in the cheer, dance, and martial arts industry and their objectives are very different from the objectives of training a competitive gymnast. We often hear from coaches in the cheer industry that a back handspring in cheer is different than a back handspring in gymnastics. Some cheer coaches do not want their athletes to train in a gymnastics program for this specific reason. A back handspring is a back handspring regardless of the sport. Although the back handspring has different objectives and priorities in gymnastics vs. cheer, the skill dynamics remain the same. If it is learned correctly, the student will be able to progress to higher skill levels, which is the objective in all sports.
In order to communicate clearly how a skill is to be executed, the coach/instructor must have the technical understanding and instructional experience necessary for the level they are teaching. This is critical, if the coach does not have the experience, the student may very well develop bad habits. Bad habits become acquired behavior patterns that are difficult to break and may create slow development. Worse, bad habits may ultimately cause an injury. Coaches can learn from other more experienced coaches in the gym. Many programs have monthly or periodic in-house training sessions for staff and encourage attending the Regional and National conferences as well as any other clinics that may be held in your area. The more experience and knowledge the coaches have, the better the athletes will become which brings success to the entire program.
My objective in this discussion is to bring to light the fact that proper technique is important for the growth and success of skill development and there are many ways and varieties of drills and techniques that can be used to achieve the same successful results. I have done many clinics, seminars, and camps where I have had the opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained through my experiences in gymnastics. I have always kept an open mind to hear other experienced coaches express their own opinions when it comes to teaching specific skills. I believe this is important, as I mentioned earlier, there are many different ways technique may be taught that can achieve great results. All coaches should keep an open mind when hearing of different techniques. I wouldn’t have achieved my goals without the many coaches I have worked with over the years – all having different ideas and different techniques that worked specifically for my development.
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