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!!

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Benefits, Gymnastics, Skill Development, Sports, Training, Tumbling

How Can Gymnastics Benefit Your Child?

It is very important to keep children active and get involved with some type of physical activity. Especially in this modern age where technology has taken control and children get glued to their computers and mobile devices. In addition, the majority of public school systems have little to offer in terms of Physical Education and intramural sports – where many schools only offer PE classes as an option in the school curriculum.

However, when searching which activities are best to get your young child involved with, there are many choices. I believe Gymnastics is a great place to start!! There are many benefits in learning gymnastics as a young athlete.

All sports have their own physical attributes which need to be accomplished in order to be successful. For example, in sports such as basketball, track and field, and soccer, just to name a few, athletes need to be proficient in running and jumping as well as throwing and spinning. Dancers need to be flexible and learn complete body control and coordination.

The sport of gymnastics teaches most physical attributes that all sports require in order to be successful. Gymnastics entails training in flexibility, strength, agility, and coordination. It is important the students learn to run and jump effectively. Through consistent training, students will increase physical coordination and agility. The sport of gymnastics and tumbling entails training that enhance development in all parts of the body.

Skill development in gymnastics is typically a slow process due to the complexity of the skills involved. However, through time, students will learn and progress to higher level skills. It is through this development that students develop physical and emotional attributes that will be beneficial in other sports they may pursue.

Only a small percentage of students who participate in gymnastics at an early age will reach the highest level of competition. For students who participate in gymnastics at an early age and progress through several skill levels, they will have developed many physical and mental attributes that will help them become successful in another sport.

Not only is gymnastics and tumbling beneficial to students, it is a fun experience for most who participate. Give it a try – it could be a great experience!!

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

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

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

Preparing the Athlete on Advanced Movement: The Twisting Element

 

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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.

Round-off anim

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

Benefits, Gymnastics, Skill Development

Benefits of Gymnastics

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For those of us who are familiar with the gymnastics as an activity or sport, we know that the teaching and learning curve can be very complex and complicated.  It takes strength, flexibility, coordination, and confidence to progress and advance through the various skill levels. Developing biomechanical skills is a slow process and it takes years of training for an athlete to reach the higher levels of gymnastics.  Over time it is truly amazing to see what these athletes are able to accomplish when they follow a designed plan.  In this discussion, I will reflect on how the sport of gymnastics can create great athleticism that will benefit an athlete in any sport.  This Post will benefit those parents who are contemplating what activities may be best for their children.

There are many different types of sports and each one has its own physical, technical, and mechanical demands necessary to achieve success in the sport.  Some sports are very aggressive and involve physical contact such as Football, Soccer, or Martial Arts. In contrast non-contact sports like Gymnastics, Track and Field, or Swimming and Diving are individual performance related with no physical contact. Both contact and non-contact sports can be just as physically, mentally, and technically demanding all requiring speed, strength, endurance, and most importantly total body control throughout the performance. Sports such as Golf, Archery, and Bowling may be less physically demanding, but still require a sharp mental focus and body control in training and competition.

 

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Without ever participating in a particular sport it’s difficult to fully comprehend what is required physically and mentally to compete at a high level. Good athletes make incredible feats look easy, great athletes do it without even breaking a sweat. Watching a great athlete perform on TV can be deceptive. For example, have you watched a Major League pitcher throw a 95 MPH fastball over home plate? Most people are lucky if they can just get the ball to home plate.

My own personal awakening was an eye opener for me. Sports always came easy to me, but to my disbelief when I first tried to Golf, I was not very good.  As a successful athlete in gymnastics I had always thought that the sport of golf was more of an activity and should not be considered a sport.  I always thought it required little physical effort and would be easy to play, until I tried it!!  In 1984 the Olympic Gymnastics Trials were held in Jacksonville, FL and we were housed at The Ravines Golf and Tennis Resort.  One day, the resorts golf pro invited us all to a free round of golf.  This was my first attempt at this sport and I was blown away – I whiffed more times than I hit the ball. Here I was a world-class athlete in arguably the most difficult individual performance sports in the Olympic Games and I couldn’t hit a golf ball, much less make it go in the right direction.  It was this experience that I gained a new appreciation for the sport of Golf – and a sport I vowed to learn to play.

The sport of gymnastics is such a complex sport that in order to be successful the athlete needs to acquire a very high level athleticism.  It requires total body control where the entire body must perform in unison in order to complete each individual skill effectively and safely through a series of connected skills called a routine. It is a sport that requires speed and patience at the same time to allow continuation of energy into the next skill.  It requires complete mental focus and spatial awareness to have the confidence to literally release a piece of apparatus at high-speed and know it will be there when you reach to re-grab it.

Gymnastics and acrobatic skill development provides an excellent base for almost any sport. It teaches students to run correctly (it is very common that many people run incorrectly with small strides and poor body position), learn body control and to move their bodies through many different positions. They will learn to jump correctly, and most importantly learn how to absorb shock on landings. Gymnastics teaches how to use flexibility and strength together for body control, and how to overcome fear by focusing on technique to safely complete the skill.

 

multi sport collage

It is these attributes that athletes acquire in gymnastics that will benefit them in almost any sport or activity they pursue.  As I discussed in my previous blog (The Coach: Creating the Successful Athlete), participation in gymnastics drops off as the skill level increases due to extreme competition requirements. Athletes who choose to pursue other sports or activities after gymnastics have a great foundation to build upon. It’s common to see these athletes rely on the strength and conditioning they learned in gymnastics to improve their performance in a new sport. I have seen former students of mine become great volleyball players, soccer players, softball or baseball players, and much more.  Sports like diving are very similar to the sport of gymnastics and many former gymnasts may find success in a short period of time.  One great example is 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist, Phoebe Mills.  After her gymnastics career, she participated and became successful in the sport of diving. The athleticism she learned in the sport of gymnastics was certainly a benefit in her diving career.

small child on rings

When a parent is exploring what activities their child should participate in, gymnastics should always be considered, especially for young children.  And it is not only for the girls, which seems to be a common perception.  Boys can benefit greatly from participating in the sport of gymnastics as it can enhance many attributes that almost every sport requires.  I often have parents enroll their child in our gymnastics program specifically for this reason.  Not only will the students acquire many physical skills, but the sport is fun and most that participate enjoy the experience.

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To be successful as a competitive athlete requires a certain type of person with certain physical and emotional traits. Thus, genetics play an important part on whether an athlete will have the ability to achieve success.  For example, when I was young, I played football.  I loved this sport and I was pretty good.  One problem, I was too small to pursue it for very long – if I wanted to live a little longer. My height eliminated the possibility of a career in the NBA, so that was out. Conversely the reverse is also true as it’s very rare to see a six-foot tall gymnast. Fortunately children tend to be short, so gymnastics is a great way to develop motor skills at a young age that will stay with them through their sports career, no matter the sport.

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The sport of gymnastics is a great sport and anyone and everyone can participate.  The skills they learn will certainly benefit them in any future activities they may pursue outside of gymnastics.  And who knows…  they may become an Olympic Champion!!

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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