Athletes, Cheerleading and Tumbling, Learning the Basics, Preparation, Skill Development, Tumbling

Tumbling: “Learning the Basics”

It is very exciting to watch athletes perform and achieve great feats of athleticism that leads to victory and success. Especially for young athletes who have a dream to reach the same status. This is what drives young athletes to pursue a path for future growth – and this path is a long one!! For young, aspiring athletes to achieve success and reach the goals they dream about, they must learn from the beginning. Learning the Basics is one of the most important factors in the pursuit of success.

It is normal for an athlete to want and learn the more exciting and difficult skills early in a career. In sports, such as gymnastics and cheerleading, many students want to learn how to “flip” or perform other similar skills. Although these skills are exciting, there carries a huge risk factor that many, including coaches, do not recognize.

The Purpose of Basics

Learning the basics of tumbling skills is imparative for positive progression and safety. It is certainly a building block process. Like so many other actions in life – for example: learning to crawl before walking; learning to add and subtract before algebra, etc. If these prerequisites are not a part of the training process, failure is almost certain. Students must learn to roll (forward and backward) before learning to flip; they must learn a great cartwheel before learning an aerial, etc.

When we see students struggling with accomplishing particular skills, it may be a lack in having accomplished fundamental basics. Learning to achieve tumbling skills entails strength, flexibility, agility, and mental awareness of body in motion. All of these factors take time to achieve. Learning fundamental elements will give students the tools necessary to accomplish the more advanced and complex skills.

Tumbling skills are complex and it takes repetition and time to achieve the desired result. If the process is rushed and the student is not fully prepared – physically and emotionally, the risk factor highly increases. When injuries occur while performing tumbling skills, much of the cause may be due to the lack of preparation. For example, when a student fails on attempting a back handspring, in many cases, the student is not prepared to attempt the skill. Another common problem is the combo pass of the “round-off, back handspring”. It is common that this pass results in a failed back handspring. In many cases, it is not the back handspring that is the problem. It may be the Hurdle and/or Round-off that is poorly executed. In this event, the student will not be in a position to perform the back handspring successfully.

Results of Basic Element Training

Learning and achieving basic elements in tumbling skills will allow the athlete to progress in a positive and safe manner. In addition, it will help the athlete in obtaining the confidence needed to perform skills as they progress. In addition, this process will highly reduce the chances of a “Mental Block” (the-mental-block-nightmare). Once this occurs in an athlete, it is very difficult and timely to overcome.

Even the most successful athletes will often resort back to basic element training as part of their training regiment. As mentioned before, basic elements are the building blocks for advanced skill training. We see this in almost every sport. The stronger the foundation, the stronger and more productive the outcome.

Don’t skip steps in skill development!! Seek out true professionals who have the knowledge in training skills with the correct technique and progressions. This will greatly increase the potential in advancement and success.

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Scott Johnson
1984 Olympic Champion
1988 Olympic Team Captain

My Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

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These neoprene wrist supports are the best for gymnasts and cheerleaders experiencing wrist pain. The neoprene provides support and warmth to the joint to help relieve pain discomfort.

This is the best syle of leotards for recreational gymnastics. Get yours today!!

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Cheerleading and Tumbling, Gymnastics, Mental Training, Preparation, Skill Development, Tumbling

Eliminating Fears in Young Students

When young children are learning something new, it is very common they may have some apprehension. In some cases, they may be terrified. This is a natural occurance and a situation that should be dealt with delicately.

Learning gymnastics and tumbling skills are certainly exciting for most students who participate. However, there are elements that can be scary, especially for young children. Many of the skills require the student to go upside down, and for some, this can be a very scary experience.

Even skills as basic as the forward and back roll can be challenging for some students. So how does a coach deal with these situations? There may be certain tools in the gym that can be used to help the student become more comfortable. These may include a wedge mat, panel mats, or other items that assist the athlete in motion. In addition, the coach should be active in spotting the student to help them with confidence and reduce the fear emotion.

Most importantly, the child should never be forced to do a skill they are terrified of performing. I have seen students who just cannot duck their head under for the forward roll or feel comfortable with flipping backward on a back roll. Since these are unnatural motions, some have developed such an extreme fear that it prevents them of accomplishing the skill – at least for an extended period of time.

Through consistent drill training, students usually gain the confidence needed to accomplish the desired skill. Drills as simple as the rock n’ roll and the ” donkey kicks” on floor help students in understanding tumbling motions. These baby steps are beneficial in development.

For the safety, enjoyment, and productive development of teaching gymnastics and tumbling skills, approach the training in a positive and stress free environment. You could be training a future champion!!

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My new Beginner Tumbling Training Guide is published and ready for all to use. This is a great training aid for any and all programs who offer tumbling training. If you would like to order your copy, follow this link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0847D3VQC

 

In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

The Best athletic wear for recreational gymnastics and tumbling!!

Cheerleading and Tumbling, Coaching, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling

The Hurdle Step – The Key Ingredient


Learning how to tumble properly, safely, and in a manner where progression is desired, students need to learn many fundamental skills. There is a lot of focus on skills that are not only desired by the athlete, but also required by the sport or activity. This may include such skills as forward and back walkovers, cartwheels, aerials, and front and back handsprings. Several of these skills take a lot of time and training to achieve. In many cases, it may take years to learn how to accomplish these skills. But one skill that is overlooked and not a major focus of development is the Hurdle Step.

Although many may think this is a petty skill that should not need serious attention, it is actually a very important skill that must be trained and learned properly. The Hurdle Step precludes most tumbling skills that begin with a run or stepping motion. These will include the cartwheel, round-off, aerials, front handsprings, etc. If the hurdle is not proficient, it will affect the result of the following skills.

The hurdle step (skipping motion) is a combination of several different elements.  It begins with a run or jumping motion we call a power hurdle.  It also entails a hopping motion and ends in a lunging position.   All of these elements should be a focus on developing correctly for the hurdle to be proficient.

In the sport of tumbling and gymnastics, it is important that the athletes learn to run correctly.  It is very common to see many students not being able to run with proper technique.  Body position, stride length, and arm movements are elements that affect a proper run.  The most common problem athletes have is the stride length.  Many take small and very short strides while running.  This may cause the athlete to have more of a forward lean than necessary and could cause the athlete to “trip”.  When we see track and field athletes at the highest levels of participation, their stride lengths are incredibly long.  This not only produces speed for the run, but also more power.  When the run has short or small steps, it will make the hopping motion in the hurdle a challenge.

Within the hurdle, there is a hopping motion where the athlete hops on one foot.  In most cases, we see a very short hopping motion that may be less than foot long.  The hop should be long and travel several feet, as in the stride motion of the run.  A short hop will certainly create a tripping motion while the athlete initiates the following skill like the round-off or front handspring.  There will be almost no control in the connecting skill.  I will often break this down and have the students train on that hopping motion.  In almost every case (with the exception of advanced tumblers), students can hop further from a static position than from a running motion.  The most common reason for this short hop is the steps of the run prior to the hop.  If the athlete has too much of a forward lean in the run, the hop will likely be short.

The finish of the hurdle step should end in a lunge position.  This position will vary depending on the level of the athlete.  In more advanced levels, this lunge position will have more of a forward lean and a very large stride position.  This is due to higher speed and aggression of the tumbling pass.  At the lower levels, the lunge should be more of an upright position.  This will allow the athlete to control their arms and body positions while preparing for the next skill.

In many cases, when we see a student struggling with performing skills such as the  round-off, front handsprings, or aerials, it is not the actual skill that needs to be fixed.  It may be the preceding skill that needs attention.  Focusing on and correcting the run and hurdle step is typically and easy fix How Do I Fix That?  It just needs to be isolated so the student can change and create a better habit.  It is amazing how such a simple correction can enhance the performance of a skill.  Another easy fix, which is so important in most skills including the hurdle step, is the arm position.  Tight and straight arms extended up above the head while performing such skills can make a huge difference.  When a student has loose and floppy arm and body movements, there is little control and creates slower and weaker movements.  This should be a major focus.

More time should be spent on correcting these little things.  The simple elements that are often overlooked can make the biggest differences on development and improvement.

I am developing manuals and videos on tumbling skill development that will be useful in training for all and any needing to learn proper technique and safety. I will keep you posted on that progress. In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Cheerleading and Tumbling, Gymnastics, Skill Development, Tumbling, Twisting

Preparing the Athlete on Advanced Movement: The Twisting Element

 

Cheer Full

In sports that entail acrobatic skills such as gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, diving, ski jumping, and more, the ultimate objective for the athletes is to learn skills that have both flipping and twisting elements. These skills are highly advanced and requires that the athlete has learned basic skills with great technique. In this discussion, I will take you through my thoughts on the development stages of learning to twist in tumbling skills.

As the students progress through the developmental stages of learning to tumble forward and backward, the next step is to learn how to incorporate twisting movements. These skills are much more complex and requires that the athletes have proper technique in their developmental skills in order to accomplish these twisting elements.

Shadow twisting

Body positioning and control is critical in allowing the athlete to twist while the body is in a forward or backward flipping motion. For example, to spin a pencil on its end is an easy task as the pencil is a solid, straight object. However, it is impossible to spin a shoe string as there is no solid control of the object. The same with our bodies, if the student has loose and limp body movements, it will be very challenging or impossible to twist. This is the reason why body position and body tightness is a major focus in training all skills.

I consider the cartwheel to be the initial movement learned that relates to twisting skills. A critical key to acknowledge, which is commonly overlooked, is to determine which direction the student needs to perform the skill. Why? because this is the direction that should be consistent throughout the entire lifetime of progressive skill development. So how do we determine which direction to go? It is irrelevant if the student is right hand or left hand dominate.

Cartwheel.jpgI have always believed that what ever feels most natural for the athlete is the direction they should pursue. In fact, a majority of athletes twist in the opposite direction of their dominate hand – it is more natural. Let me explain: when a right-handed person throws or kicks a ball, the body actually moves and turns to the left while performing the action. Thus, for many people, it is natural for the body to turn in this direction.

However, this rule does not apply to every athlete. When I have a beginner student learning a cartwheel for the first time, I will ask them to spin around. The direction of their spin is a good indication of what direction may come natural for them. So I have the student try this direction first. If they struggle, I have them try the other way. Trial and error seems to work best to figure out which way to go. And once it is determined, that way should stay permanent.

Once the athlete determines the direction of the cartwheel, either left or right, it is critical that all progressive skills follow the same direction. If the student is what we call a “righty” this means the right leg will lead in all skills. This includes lunge to handstands, round-offs, front walk-overs, front handsprings, etc. I have seen, on several occasions, an athlete perform their round-off with one leg leading, however, perform a front walkover and front handspring with the other leg. This will create a challenge for the student to connect tumbling elements.

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The round-off is the next progressive skill to learn following the cartwheel. This is a very complex element to learn and there is much discussion among coaches on the challenges of learning this skill properly. This skill must be accomplished correctly with great technique in order for the student to connect additional skills – like the back handspring. An entire post can be dedicated to this one skill.

What is the purpose of the round-off? It is the skill used to turn forward momentum into backward momentum. It is a twisting element where the body generates a half turn while in an upside down position. Some athletes catch on to this transition quickly, but others may take longer to accomplish.

It is important to recognize that whatever direction the round-off is initiated, either right or left, this is the direction the athlete needs to twist in their connected elements. When the round-off is completed, the movement of the body continues in that same direction which creates a natural smooth transition. For example, let’s look at the cartwheel on the balance beam. If the student is leading the cartwheel with the left leg, the skill will end with the left leg behind the right leg. In this position, the hips are turned slightly to the left creating a left twisting motion.

I have seen many athletes perform their round-offs in one direction and twist in another direction. Although this is not a factor that will create a barrier to excel in tumbling elements, it does have its challenges. For example, it is certainly a challenge and more difficult to learn a round-off to an Arabian front flip or a back full. Performing a back handspring in-between the skills would eliminate this transitional challenge.

drawing back full

As I mentioned earlier, in order for the body to perform a twisting motion, the body must be tight and straight. For back tumbling, this requires the athlete to have great technique in the back layout in order for the body to be able to twist. In order for this to occur, the athlete must have great technique in the round-off and back handspring. These elements set up the layout and twisting skills.

Back arch flip animThe most common problem that prevents the athlete from twisting is the arched position. If the athlete has an arched position in their layout, the twisting motion is very difficult to achieve. The body must remain in a tight and straight position for the twist to be effective.  This scenario goes back to the initial fundamental training for the athlete (Tumbling: Importance of Building a Strong Foundation).  With proper training and drills, the students have a greater chance to learn the body control needed to accomplish these skills.

We stress how important it is for the athletes to learn proper technique in all skills – starting from the most basic elements.  Since all skills in tumbling are generally related and tend to build upon another, the better the technique, the greater chance the athlete will succeed in learning the more advanced twisting tumbling skills.

ski jumper twisting

I am in the process of publishing my first training manual: “Beginner Tumbling Training”.  This will be a useful tool in training for all and any needing to learn proper technique and safety. Great for gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, martial arts, and more. I will keep you posted on that progress.

In addition, if you would like a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

Cheerleading and Tumbling, Coaching, Safety, Skill Development

Cheerleader and Tumbling

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When I decided years ago to start my recreational tumbling program, I had no idea cheerleading had mushroomed beyond sideline cheerleading into a competition sport!  I came from a gymnastics background and didn’t realize the number of athletes involved in the sport of cheerleading was huge.  When the cheer programs and cheer parents in our community had heard that I started a tumbling program, my classes filled up quickly.  What I noticed immediately was that the majority of these athletes hadn’t been taught basic tumbling mechanics and technique.  It was then that I realized that I had something to offer that would benefit their skill development as athletes to not only be better, but safer tumblers.  In this discussion, I will share my thoughts on the importance of proper skill mechanics for the cheerleader.

I posted on this subject previously but wanted to elaborate on some progressions to consider when training the cheerleader in tumbling. The sport of cheerleading has had enormous growth throughout the world and continues to grow at a rapid pace. The number of athletes involved in cheerleading today is huge. Unfortunately too many of them are rushed to be part of a competition team and never receive proper instruction in tumbling technique.

In regard to tumbling, the sports of gymnastics and cheerleading share many parallel skill dynamics. In gymnastics, beginning students are immediately immersed in fundamental technique and proper mechanics as the initial step toward the development of basic tumbling skills.  This means the students are immediately learning about the different body positions and shapes that will be vital to the development of all tumbling skills. Why the focus on such detail?  Because these same beginning mechanics and technique will be the building blocks that will allow them to acquire more advanced tumbling skills down the road.

group lunge postition

To better understand why proper technique has such high priority in gymnastics vs. cheerleading, we simply need to look at the fundamental difference between their competition formats. Cheerleading is an all inclusive team sport where the team is evaluated based on performing in unison. So if an individual members skill technique is somewhat flawed it has little impact on the overall team score. In gymnastics, the athlete competes alone and is evaluated on the technical execution of each and every skill they perform throughout the routine. Talk about being under a microscope!

With that said, the required basic tumbling elements for both sports are essentially the same (The Technique Controversy). The real priority for us as coaches and instructors should be teaching proper technique not only to advance the athlete, but more importantly to minimize the risk of injury.

I have worked with many gymnasts and cheerleaders that have developed such bad habits in their tumbling skills that they have come to a dead-end and unable to move on to more advanced skills.  For most of the cheerleaders the result is due to the rush I mentioned earlier. In too many cases the athlete and/or the coach is in such a rush to get that one series of skills that proper technique is forfeited for the sake of time. In the end, this approach will prove to be detrimental to the athlete’s ability to build on their skill level.

The underlying concern in many cheer programs is that too many beginning tumbling instructors do not always have the inherited understanding of skill development progressions gained through years of exposure as a gymnast. They may be experts in stunting and cheer choreography, but may lack the basic technical understanding of tumbling skill progression. Teaching proper tumbling skill technique is very detailed and takes time.  Fully understanding tumbling skill mechanics and drill progressions takes years of experience, education, and in most cases actually doing.

Coaches conference
Coaches Training Conference

I highly suggest that cheer programs that do not have access to qualified tumbling instructors seek out gymnastic programs that offer tumbling for cheerleaders and set up a program for both athlete’s and instructors.

I have seen FB posts of video showing students performing a skill incorrectly with the coach asking for advice.  My initial reaction in many cases has been that they are not ready for that level of skill. Admittedly, in some cases, the safety of the student has been a concern. This is an example of the instructor not fully understanding the inherent risk associated in doing the skill improperly. In regard to the athlete, performing a skill poorly is an obvious sign that they do not have an understanding of the mechanics involved in the skill. This lack of understanding can and will result in a fear of the skill possibly to the point of a mental block, and that may very well keep them from ever owning the skill.

As I said earlier in this article, the real priority for us as coaches and instructors should be teaching proper technique not only to advance the athlete, but more importantly to minimize the risk of injury.

There are many cheerleading programs out there that do have a strong and structured tumbling program within their system.  All cheer programs should develop these systems for the positive development and safety of their athletes.  There are many resources that can be found to assist these gyms in developing a strong tumbling program.  I have worked with many cheer programs doing clinics for their students and coaches.  In addition, cheer conferences and clinics are a good way for the coaching staff to learn this knowledge.  Knowledge is power and power brings success!!

animated cheerleader with pompoms

I would love to hear your comments. Also, if there are any subjects you would like me to cover, let me know and I will do my best to post my thoughts.  Please Like and Share to all you believe will benefit from the information.

For clinics, seminars, or special events, please contact me at:  scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com            http://www.scottjohnsonstga.com

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