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://scottsgoldmedal.com

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Athletes, Confidence, Mental Block, Safety, Skill Development, Uncategorized

The Mental Block Nightmare

There are times in an athletes career where they may experience a Mental Block that prevents them from moving forward in a positive direction. No matter what the sport may be, Mental Blocks can occur without notice or incident. In most cases, however, the block is due to a negative experience that occurred in the athletes life. When these blocks occur, it can be very difficult to overcome. So, can Mental Blocks be prevented? The answer is “Yes”!! How? through Prevention!!

Gymnastics and tumbling skills entail very complex body movements that require consistent training to achieve. As the skills become more difficult so does the time it takes to achieve them. In addition, the risk factors begin to come into play. This is the most common reason that Mental Blocks occur. Students often become “scared” when they are introduced to new skills, especially if there is a higher risk factor.

If a student is introduced to new skills through consistent drill training, it will create a better understanding of the skill in a non-threatening way. In addition, and most important, the student should have mastered all prerequisite skills before being introduced to more difficult skills. For example, we would not introduce a student to a back handspring before they learn a bridge kick-over and back limber. These prerequisite skills teach the student the feeling of flipping backwards.

Many times, the Mental Block is created when a student experiences an accident while training skills. This can happen to even the most experienced athletes. Accidents happen, but many can be prevented through proper training practices. Spotting is a critical method in preventing accidents and helping the athlete gain confidence in skill training https://scottjohnsonsgymexperience.com/2018/04/10/the-art-of-spotting/ . If a student is forced or attempts to perform a skill they are not completely ready for (both physically /or emotionally), an accident is much more likely to occur.

Following a progressive training program can certainly reduce the risks of mental blocks. Having a strong foundation of basic elements is important for the athlete to progress comfortably to more difficult skills. In addition, training should remain as consistent as possible. If a student takes an extended break from training, they may develop some apprehension in getting their skills back. Especially if the student has had an aggressive growth spurt while taking that break. As the body grows, everything changes: height, weight, center of gravity, all of which are important factors in skill development.

If a student gets a mental block on a particular skill, it is important for the coaches to be patient and work towards eliminating the block. One way is to reteach the skill from the beginning. Using drills and spotting helps the athlete to regain their confidence. What should not be done is to force the student to attempt performing the skill. This will most likely intensify the block. I have seen many athletes quit the sport due to blocks that couldn’t be overcome. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Mental Blocks are common and they certainly interrupt growth in an athlete. We need to do our best to “prevent” the blocks from happening. If the proper training progressions are followed, it will highly reduce the probability of a block from occuring.

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://scottsgoldmedal.com

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

Coaching, Confidence, Gymnastics, Preparation, Skill Development, Tumbling

Skill Development: Why Can’t I Get It?

There is no doubt that gymnastics and tumbling skills are difficult to achieve. Those that are familiar with the sport, understands the dynamics and the time it takes to achieve skills. It is a sport where it may take months and even years for a student to achieve a particular skill. But why can’t a student achieve a skill that they have been working on for so long? There may be many reasons but the most common are fear factors or technical errors. Both of which can be fixed and overcome.

It is essential that students build a strong foundation of basic elements when they start their tumbling training. Skills build upon one another as the sport progresses so having good technique with basic skills will allow faster and more positive progression. 

For example, if a student has a great round-off, connecting a back handspring will be easier to accomplish. However, if the round-off is done poorly, the student would not be in a position to connect a successful back handspring. In fact, it is very common that when you see a student bust on a round-off,  back handspring, it is not the back handspring that is the problem – it is the round-off.

When a student is struggling with achieving a skill, the coach needs to determine “why”. If it is a fear problem, the coach should take the time to continue drill training and spotting to help the student gain confidence. This should eliminate the fear over time.  If the student is forced to attempt the skill when they are terrified, there is a good chance of an accident – and this would certainly increase the fear and prolong the accomplishment.

With more complex and difficult skills such as the back full twist or double full twist, the problem becomes more common in students struggling to achieve them.  The most common problem here is the lack of proper technique.  It becomes very frustrating for the student when they are not able to get the skill.

When learning these types of skills, there are prerequisites that need to be accomplished first – and accomplished correctly.  To learn a back full, the student must first learn a proper back layout (and this is not an easy skill to accomplish properly). To learn a good back layout, the student must have a great round-off, back handspring.

If these prerequisites are not accomplished with good technique,  the student may never learn their desired skill.  I’ve worked with many students who fall into this category and the last thing they want to do is take a step back and work to perfect the basics. However, this is what must be done if they are going to learn the more difficult skills.

The bottom line in this scenario is that steps should not be skipped in skill development. Why can’t they get it?  More than likely, too many steps were skipped early in their development.

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

Coaching, Confidence, Losing, Mental Training, Skill Development, Uncategorized

Learning then Losing Skills – A Common Issue

It is so exciting to see students accomplish new skills. Skills that have been a focus for months or years and trained consistently. Then the moment comes when it is finally accomplished. Then, within a day or two, the skill is lost. How frustrating and depressing. Motivation is lost and the feeling of wanting to quit takes control.

This happens often, even with the most advanced athletes. Due to the high complexity of skills and the risk factors involved, it may take a long time to develop confidence in completing a skill. We have discussed the manner in which skills are learned safely and properly. This includes drill training and spotting on a consistent basis. Many times it is necessary to re-learn the skill from the beginning.  Through time, the athlete should gain the confidence needed to perform the skill.

However, if the athlete attempts to perform the skill when they’re not ready emotionally or physically, there could be an accident. This could erase any confidence gained and the skill lost. It may take awhile to get it back. For some, it may never come back (.  There are many circumstances that may cause an athlete to lose or struggle with confidence.  Some of these may be experiencing an accident or injury or watching someone else have an accident or injury.  In most cases, it is simply having negative thoughts of crashing and getting hurt.  The student may often say “I’m Scared”Confidence and the Mental Block .  The coach should always encourage in a positive manner and provide that needed support to reduce and eventually eliminate the fear factor.

This is Common!! Even at the highest levels of participation, athletes will have the same problem. Coaches and parents need to be supportive and encourage the student to keep at it and don’t give up. They will get it back but they need that positive support.

This is why we stress the importance of learning the basics and building a strong foundation Tumbling: Importance of Building a Strong Foundation.   It is the stepping stone of learning all skills and is needed in the event a student struggles with skill development.  Most all athletes will experience this issue of learning a skill and losing it.  Sometimes it is immediate and other times it just occurs after years of having a particular skill.  Taking that step back and resorting to the basics is a positive and necessary  procedure to fix this issue.

Remain positive and be encouraging is the key.  Coaches and parents should not treat this scenario in a negative manner.  The student will most likely be very upset and emotional over the loss of skills.  We need to pick them up and help them through the process and get them moving in a positive direction.

Athletes, Coaching, Confidence, Mental Training, Preparation, Safety, Skill Development

The True Asset in Skill Development: Building Confidence for New Skills

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One of the biggest challenges students have when learning new skills, is getting over fear and gaining confidence. It is amazing how emotions take control of an individual when the time comes to perform a skill without assistance. In many cases, it takes much longer to build the confidence needed to perform the skill than the physical effort required to complete the skill. This can be frustrating for both the student and the coach, but it needs to be understood and approached cautiously.

It is amazing to see how well a skill is performed while the coach is providing a spot, even the slightest spot. It is obvious the student can perform the skill but it doesn’t happen. Why? Because they are terrified!! Although this is frustrating, it is completely normal. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to take weeks or even months before they are emotionally ready to go solo on a skill.

The coach plays a major role in helping the athlete gain confidence. This is done primarily by spotting the skills (The Art of Spotting) as the athlete progresses through the stages of development. As the athlete gains better understanding and awareness if the skill, the coach can begin to lighten the spot.

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Although the objective is for the student to perform the skill without a spot, the coach needs to be aware of the emotions of the student. In many cases, when a student is attempting to do a skill without a spot for the first time, they are not thinking about how to do the skill, they are thinking about how bad it’s going to hurt when they crash. The coach should recognize the signs- if the student is stalling for a period of time, it is a good indication that they may not be ready. In this case, the coach should stand in to give emotional and physical support.

I have seen cases where students are forced to perform a skill without a spot, even if the student asks for one. This may be acceptable depending on the risk factor of the skill. For example, a front handspring has a much lower risk factor than a back handspring. If the risk factor of the skill is low, the student can be encouraged to “go for it”. If the student fails, there will likely be little physical or emotional consequences.

If the skill has a higher risk factor, however, the student may suffer an injury and possibly serious emotional consequences. The most sever is the “Mental Block”. When this occurs, it is a huge step back in progressive development.

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It is our job as coaches to assist the athlete to grow in a positive direction. Every athlete is different both physically and emotionally. Some will have a low fear factor and others will have a much higher fear factor. This is why many students learn skills quicker than others. Patience is important and coaches need to work with the student to help build confidence. What’s even more important, is Safety. A coach should never put a student in a position where they are not comfortable or emotionally ready to perform a skill.  Let’s keep them safe, happy, and moving forward in a positive direction.

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I am in the process of developing manuals and videos on tumbling skill development that will be useful in training. 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