Air awareness development is one of the most important aspects in coaching gymnastics, because gymnasts will be flipping and twisting in the air in so many different skills.
When we are working on the backward somersault it is important to keep the head in a neutral position instead of thrusting it backward to facilitate body rotation.
When the gymnast keeps the head in the neutral position she will be able to see a certain spot and immediately can detect where her body is in relation to the ground at that specific moment.
Our head normally stays in line with the body and this is the most natural position for the orientation of our body. When you keep your head in a neutral position during the somersault it is much easier to orient yourself whenever you spot something.
When the gymnasts keep the head in the neutral position while doing a multiple somersault she will find the landing to be much more stable and easier to control. However, if she thrusts her head backward to gain rotation her head needs to be adjusted back to the neutral position before landing, otherwise her landing may be unstable.
Also, when the gymnast is twisting during a somersault the head should not deviate too much from the neutral position as well. If she is twisting to the left she should simply move her head to the left side without lifting up (backward).
When we teach air awareness to the gymnasts we often use a visual cue to facilitate orientation of the body in a specific moment.
For example, I would tell the gymnast to look for the foam pit before she starts twisting the second half twist when doing a half in half out somersault off the bars. This is true for teaching the half in half outs on any apparatus.
When the gymnast finds where the ground is in the air it is much safer and also easier to sense when to start the second half of the skill.
Furthermore, the visual cue could be used to stabilize the head in a neutral position.
Some times, I tell the gymnast to look at the front wall before she starts a backward full or double full. This will help her neutralize her head instead of thrusting the head backward as she starts the backward twisting.
A visual cue could also be critical when the gymnast is doing a release and
regrasping a skill on the bars. Visually seeing the bar before she regrasps it will make catching the bar more consistent.
We try to use as many visual cues as possible during our coaching and it is a very helpful aid in teaching skills and correcting technique.
Surprisingly, many gymnasts are not using visual cues even though they are seeing things during the skill. Sometimes they are not aware of it even though they are using the visual cues subconsciously.
Whenever we notice that a gymnast could use a visual cue to develop consistency or better timing for a skill we encourage them to use it as much as they can.
Have fun coaching!
Edited by Dan Connelly