Coaching, Preparation, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling

The Truth About Skill Development: Learning Tumbling Skills May Take a Long Time

Many coaches have been in situations where they will see students and parents become frustrated at how long the process is to learn tumbling skills. It can be even more dramatic when the process involves fixing bad habits. We all live in a fast paced world and many times expect all things to move and progress quickly.

In the complex sport of tumbling, this is rarely the case. In fact, it is common for skill development to take months (and for some skills, years) for students to acquire skills. The same goes for fixing bad habits . Many people who are not familiar with this sport need to be educated on how skill development works and the path it takes for achievement.

In the cheer and dance industries, there are just a few specific skills that students would like to acquire for growth potential. ( tumbling-and-the-cheerleader). These may include skills such as the back and front walk-overs, front and back handsprings, aerials, and back flips.

We often have students interested in our programs specifically to learn these skills. In many cases, the request is made to learn the skills quickly. An expample would be to prepare for a try-out event. Unfortunately, the reality is that it takes consistency and time to learn the skills requested. There are no quick learning situations (at least for the majority of athletes).

I hear from many parents that they are frustrated that their child is not progressing as fast as they believe they should. So why does it take so long? There are many factors that are considered when learning tumbling skills. Not only are there physical attributes needed in development, there is also the emotional effect – which can be the biggest hurdles to accomplish. Students who have not developed a strong foundation of basic skills will struggle with learning the more advanced skills (tumbling-importance-of-building-a-strong-foundation). In this case, skill development may take much longer.

I strongly suggest to all parents that they should consider placing their child in a tumbling program consistently so they will get the training needed to learn their skills properly and safely. We often see cheerleaders and dancers who are challenged with schedules so they cannot participate in a program consistently. The result? They usually do not learn the skills they are wanting to learn or it takes an extremely long time.

Another factor which may cause skill development to take a long time to achieve may be the poor quality and/or inexperience of the coach teaching the skills. When students are wanting to learn specific skills, parents should research and seek out experienced and qualified coaches. Not only will an experienced coach train the proper technique and progressions, the student will learn in a much safer environment.

We have seen many students develop a mental block while learning skills and much is due to poor coaching resulting in an accident. Once a mental block is developed, skill progression becomes much more difficult and sometimes may come to a complete halt.

Learning tumbling skills, like many other sports, takes hard work, consistent training, and time. Patience is a key element for positive growth in skill development. The road to success can be a long one.

Scott Johnson – 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist

If you are interested in a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

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

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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Back Handspring, Bad Habits, Coaching, Skill Development, Training

Fixing this Bad Habit: Back Handspring: The Undercut

One of the most popular skills in gymnastics and tumbling is the back handspring. In sports like cheerleading, the back handspring is a major focus and a requirement for many team programs. Not only is this skill a difficult skill to learn, it can take years to acquire and perfect. In addition, there is a high risk element to consider. Many bad habits can be acquired if not learned properly. The most common, and difficult to fix, if not caught early, is what we call the “Under Cut”.

So, what is an Under Cut? There may be several different explanations, but I will give you my thoughts and best explanation. The Under Cut is a technical problem that occurs at the beginning of performing the back handspring. As the arms are beginning to lift up for the back handspring, the student begins to throw their head backward while thrusting their hips forward in front of the feet. The result is little or no jump and lift off the floor creating a heavy arch position. The hands actually land very close to where the feet are, which creates no backward traveling. The back handspring may only travel several feet when it should travel almost the length of the body.

This is a very common problem and recognized by most coaches. Even many students with the problem have been told they have an “under cut”. However, what is surprising to me is that many students who have the habit do not know exactly what the problem is except knowing that their back handspring is too short and the hands land to close to the feet (as they have been told by other instructors). I ask most all my students who have this habit if they know why this happens. Most do not know!! Let me discuss what causes this problem.

The under cut can occur as a result of several different circumstances relating to poor technique in proceeding skills to the back handsprings, like a poorly executed Round-Off (https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2019/06/04/tumbling-technique-is-there-right-or-wrong/. Let’s first discuss the problem relating to standing back handsprings.

First and foremost, as discussed many times throughout my posts, students must have developed a strong foundation of basic elements prior to learning the back handspring. The back handspring involves a jumping action ( as described in the term “spring”). This element must be effective to ensure the proper lift and rotation needed for the skill. For a jumping action to occur, the body must be in a proper position so the legs can be effective in the action. The under cut causes the body to be in a position that inhibits or highly reduces the body from performing the jump or spring action off the floor.

The arm swing performed while initiating the back handspring is what usually causes this problem. Students get in a hurry to look and attempt to flip the back handspring before the proper body position is acquired. When the arms begin to lift up at the beginning of the skill, the student will begin to look backward before the arms get stretched above the head. In many cases, the arms do not get to a horizontal position before the student begins to look back and initiate the back handspring. This causes the knees and hips to thrust forward in front of the feet which eliminates any jumping action. It creates the effect of a back limber in a fast-whipping motion.

A great way to prevent this habit from occurring is to begin teaching the back handspring without an arm swing. We have the student stand with their arms stretched straight above the head. We then have the student sit back (slightly) as in starting to sit in a chair. From this point, the student jumps up and back with their head and eyes following the hands as they reach back. This prevents the head from throwing back too aggressively. This action should allow the student to have the proper lift and rotation at the beginning of the skill. When the hands make contact with the floor, the snapping action should occur for the landing (this snapping action has a characteristic of its own and will be discussed in another post).

For students who have developed this habit, we will re-train the skill from the beginning and teach without the arm swing. The student, in many cases, kinda freak out about this new technique, however, once performed several times (with a spot) they get more comfortable with it and realize what a difference it makes (https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2019/07/20/why-it-is-important-to-spot-skills/.

Please note that teaching this skill without an arm swing requires a spot from an experienced coach. It is very difficult to perform a standing back handspring without an arm swing. If a gym has a back handspring trainer block (like the Resilite Smarter Spotter), this is effective in training without the arm swing and without a spot. Once the student has learned the proper technique without the arm swing, we begin to incorporate the arm swing. However, it is important to reinforce that the arms get stretched above the head before looking back for the skill. One other note of importance: Make sure the student keeps their eyes open. It is very common that students close their eyes!!

There are many drills to teach the back handspring effectively, however, many gyms and programs do not have the equipment or ability to train many of the drills that can be effective. Focusing on the elements described above can be used for almost any athlete in any environment.

Good luck with this skill and remember – Safety is the most important. DO NOT ALLOW A STUDENT TO ATTEMPT THIS SKILL WITHOUT PROPER AND PROFESSIONAL INSTRUCTION!!

Scott Johnson – 1984 USA Olympic Gold Medalist

If you are interested in a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

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

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 releive pain discomfort.

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

Coaching, Confidence, Skill Development, Spotting

Why it is Important to Spot Skills

Skill development, even from the beginner stages, can be complex and difficult for many students. Not only are tumbling and gymnastics skills difficult, there is a risk element involved with almost every skill. In order for students to achieve skills effectively and safely, spotting is essential. It should be actively used in every training session. There is a point where the objective is to progress the students to a point where the spot is not needed. It is this transition that can be sensitive and important to understand.

When beginner or intermediate level students are introduced to skills for the first time, a spot may be required to help the student understand the mechanics and perform the skill effectively. In many cases, when students are attempting a skill for the first time without assistance, they struggle with performing it correctly. Even a skill as simple as a forward roll can be a challenge for students. If not done correctly, the student may even experience an injury.

As the skills become more advanced, they become more complex and the risk factor increases. How many times have you seen students struggle with a skill and they keep doing the same thing wrong at every attempt? It is apparent that the student is reinforcing the wrong technique which will become habit.

Having the student practice skill develolment using specific drills is a great way to focus on a single element. However, even drill training may require the coach to spot (however limited) to get the student to understand proper body positions and technique. The coach needs to physically mold the student into the correct position needed to perform the skill with proper technique. Once the coach feels that the student can perform correctly and safely, the spot should go away.

An important key for the coach to understand in every program is to acknowledge whether the student is confident or not in performing a skill without assistance. The fear factors can get intense for students learning such skills as the back handsprings, aerials, and so forth. One example, fear intensifies for those students in gymnastics who are learning skills on the balance beam. I have seen lots of tears from students terrified in attempting to perform a skill they are not confident with. This is a sure indication that the student is not ready for that transition.

When students attempt to perform skills without a spot, especially if they have not been consistently successful with a spot, there is a good chance for an accident. Many injuries can be prevented if the student is not permitted to perform skills solo when they are still in the developmental stages. This can be a serious problem if the student is forced to attempt the skill without a spot when it is apparent they are terrified. In these cases, the student is not focusing on mechanics of the skill – they are thinking about how bad it’s going to hurt when they land. Not a good thought!!

As I described in a previous post about the technique of spotting https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2018/04/10/the-art-of-spotting/, coaches need to learn the techniques involved with spotting each skill. Just as athletes need to train consistently to learn skills, the coach needs to practice as well to learn how to spot. This is critical to the safety and productive progress of every student.

So, is it important to spot skills? Yes!! However with this stated, the objective is to get the student to perform skills without assistance. As the student progresses with their skills, the spot can fade away as confidence grows. This is a delicate part of training and development. Once an accident occurs, most athletes will lose their confidence creating a longer learning process. Let’s not let this happen.

If you are interested in a personal training session or consultation with me, we can Skype a lesson. Private message me or email me at: scottjohnsongymnastics@gmail.com

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

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 releive pain discomfort.

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

Coaching, Skill Development, Training, Tumbling, Tumbling Technique

Tumbling Technique: Is There Right or Wrong?

The sports of gymnastics and tumbling are very complex and it can be considered an art. Skill development is highly complex, even at the most basic levels. There are many factors that are in play when developing skills. Strength, speed, aggression, and flexibility only to name a few. Body in motion is complex and one must have detailed knowledge and experience in the skills they are teaching in order to understand how to approach skill training.

A common question that is asked in almost every industry that entails tumbling skills is: “what is the correct technique?” This can be a serious issue with programs teaching these skills. As I mentioned, due to the complexity of the skills in this sport, coaches should have extensive knowledge of the skills they are teaching. To gain this knowledge, coaches need to train with qualified professionals that do have the knowledge and experience. Much like a physician – a doctor cannot diagnose an illness or injury without the knowledge they have learned in medical school.

When coaches are teaching skills they have little knowledge of or have not learned the proper technique or methods, there can be negative consequences. For one, the student may not learn the skills properly which may make if difficult for the student to learning more difficult skills. For example, if a student is not taught how to do a round-off with proper technique, they will struggle in learning a round-off back handspring. The biggest concern with teaching improper technique is the safety concerns. There are risks with skill development in the sport of tumbling . If the student is not taught the proper progressions with proper technique, the risk factors increase dramatically.

It is important to note that there may be several methods of technique that work for the same skill. Some coaches may teach a skill one way and others may teach a different way. Both methods may be correct which can develop the same positive result. It is also important to understand that technique development may vary from one student to the next depending on the the physical and mental attributes of the athlete. For example, a tall and thin student may need to learn a skill slightly different than a student who is small and stocky. This may effect the developmental stages, but the end result should remain mostly consistent.

Coaches need to be sensitive to technical issues when working with students from different programs. Although the coaches may have the proper knowledge and experience to teach the skills, different coaches may have different methods in teaching skills. This can be very confusing to the student at times. They may say, “my coach doesn’t want me to do it this way” or “my coach told me this was the wrong way to do it”. Introducing new or different methods of development can be a positive thing and may work but it needs to be explained to the student “why”.

In some cases, however, there are programs where the coaches do not have the knowledge and experience to teach tumbling skills properly. In these cases, the student will struggle in developing the skills properly and safely. Programs that do not have the coaching staff qualified to teach skills, should take actions to either outsource or hire someone who is properly qualified. There are usually programs or events that are scheduled within a region or community like clinics or seminars that are great for increasing education in needed areas. In addition, many questions on skill development and technique issues can also be found on social media.

There is certainly right and wrong ways to teach tumbling skills. If a coach is not sure of the proper technique or methods in development, they should not attempt to train the skill by guessing. I have seen many bad habits created and unnecessary injuries due to lack of knowledge. Don’t take chances and do what is best for the positive development of the athletes.

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

I am a true believer in the neoprene material for relief of joint pain and discomfort. The following product is ideal for athletes who experience wrist pain while tumbling.

Looking for the perfect leotard for your little tumbler? This is a great leotard for the recreational tumbler and gymnast!!

Athletes, Coaching, Injuries, Round-Off, Safety, Skill Development

Tumbling: Wrist and Ankle Pain

Does your student or child have consistent wrist and/or ankle pain when training their tumbling skills? This is a very common problem and one that can be be fixed through proper training. In most cases, it is due to poor technique in performing tumbling skills. If the technique is improved, it will result in much less stress on the body and joints.

We often see athletes wearing supports for wrists, ankles, and knees. There is no doubt that the sport if gymnastics and tumbling creates stress on the joints: Injuries: Prevention and Repair. These support braces will help with discomfort and provide added support while performing skills. However, the athlete should not rely on these braces for extended periods of time. The objective should be to heal and strengthen the area. If the braces are worn consistently, the area will not strengthen adequately, thus creating a dependence on the brace.

In the case of wrist discomfort, much of the cause may be poor technique in performing skills. One example is the hand placement on cartwheels and round-offs.

When performing these skills, the student should turn their second hand so the fingers are facing toward the first hand when placing on the floor. Not only will this allow the student to push or block off the floor for an adequate finish of the skill, it is the correct positioning of the hands.

Hand Placement for a Righty
Hand Placement for a Lefty

A very common mistake and one that is often unnoticed is that the second hand is turned in the opposite direction. Not only will this make it almost impossible to block off the floor, it can cause wrist discomfort and possible wrist damage.

Another problem with wrist discomfort could come from the action of performing the back handspring. As a coach, I am sure you have heard of your student complaining of wrist pain when doing their back handspring (I hear this constantly).

The problem occurs when the student isn’t getting their arms and hands in front of the shoulders upon impact of the floor. A simple explanation is to have the student get in a push up position – put them in a position where the shoulders are behind the hands. There should be no discomfort (if there is, the problem may be more serious).

If the shoulders are on front of the hands upon impact of the floor, this is where the stress and discomfort on the wrist occurs.

This is why it is so important that proper technique is followed when training these skills. It is a sure sign that when students are complaining of pain in a certain area, it could be the result of improper skill technique.

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