Dealing With Old Bad Habits

As in many other sports, gymnastic skills must be repeated many times after you learn them. Performance of a new skill may not be smooth or technically precise at first, but as the gymnast repeats the skill, it gradually becomes efficient and is easier to execute.

As the refinement of the skill improves the movement also becomes more fluent and even greater amplitude can be attained with dynamic speed.

When you are learning a skill for the first time, going through a proper progression is essential. However, gymnasts may not to be able to execute a skill correctly some times due to a limitation in their background.

Lacking good basics as well as having a limited range of motion (lack of flexibility) or having poor body positions could be prime reasons for developing an inefficient technique or a bad habit.

One reason for developing a bad habit is rushing through the steps without mastering the proper technique at each step. This will also cause a compensating (inefficient) technique to complete the skill.

Because we repeat skills so many times the technique soon becomes semi permanent. If we don’t work to correct this inefficient part of the skills time to time, it will become a bad habit.

Once the gymnast becomes comfortable doing the skills a certain way, even if the gymnast knows the technique is not ideal, it is very hard to go back and fix it.
This is how many bad habits are developed.

Ironically, when I look at our gymnasts more than half the team girls came from various clubs and someone else has done most of their skill development.

This means that the same skill is done with a slightly different technique. When these girls are using a similar technique to you teach a skill, it will not cause any head aches, but if not, you may need to spend lots of time fixing them.

I find myself re-working or fixing inefficient technique on the daily bases.

The basic approach I take is: first, to analyze where the root problem of the inefficient technique is, second, I need to determine whether I should work on the skill itself or work on the basic skills, or third, work on the skill leading into the main skill.

For example, if your gymnast is having a problem making a full twisting front layout from a front handspring, which part of the skill do I need to work with her to fix it?

If the problem is in the twisting mechanics she may need to spend more time on the trampoline or tumble track. But her problem could be in the lack of height or the rotation in the front layout itself. Then, she should be working on the refinement of the front handspring to front layout.

Sometimes, you also need to look at the efficiency of the technique on the front handspring. The basic skill, such as the front handspring, could possibly be causing the break down for the entire sequence.

When she learns an efficient front handspring technique it may fix the amplitude of the front layout and even help to complete the full twisting front layout better.

If you run into a very severe technical problem and determine that it will take too much time to fix it, perhaps you should look for a substitute skill or sequence and start anew. Sometimes, it is faster to learn a new skill than to try to fix an old bad habit.

I know that dealing with old bad habits is a never-ending project for all of us, but I hope you are having success with it.

Have fun coaching!

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