Preparation for Competition

February 6th, 2011 by Mas Watanabe

The Jr. Olympic competition season has just started and some of us already have a few meets under our belts.

Unfortunately, not all the gymnasts will have a successful meet when they compete. Rather, many of them struggle through the meet particularly in the beginning of the season and make many unnecessary mistakes.

Generally, mistakes are due to the lack of physical preparation and/or some technical deficiencies as well as mental errors such as various anxieties created by the competition environment.

In order to have a successful competition the routines should be easy for the gymnast to get through. But often times the routine has a few skills that are still technically deficient and/or inconsistent. This situation makes the ratio of hitting the routine very low.

However, if a gymnast is having some trouble with highly difficult skills, such as a double back in the floor routine, she may be able to make it better in the competition situation. This is because she will be able to use the adrenalin in the competition to generate more power and energy to make the skill.

But the gymnast who relies on the adrenalin rush all the time and doesn’t put strong effort in the practice to do it by herself will never gain routine consistency.

Our level 9 & 10 gymnasts generally have 2 level routines, especially in the beginning of the season. One is a core routine and the other one is the future routine. The core routine should be the routine, hopefully, with all the requirements for the level and be able to hit it with ease. The future routine should have skills or a sequence in it that she is still working to make or trying to improve on the consistency of it.

In most cases, she should be replacing (upgrading) a skill or sequence for better value by the state meet.

When they compete, how they warm up in the competition is very critical. When a gymnast is competing a Yurchenko full for example, we try to make her warm up in 5 turns. We ask her to do the 1st turn: timer, 2nd & 3rd turns: layout, and 4th & 5th turns: full.

We try to warm up on bars in 3 to 5 turns. Generally we will allow 5 turns in the beginning of the season but make sure to do 1 complete routine within the warm up turns. Hopefully the routine attempt should not be the last turn in case they make a mistake in the routine. If the routine was attempted in the 4th turn, there is still a correction turn available within the time limit.

Generally, the beam warm up will include a complete routine or more within the 2min. time limit so it will be consistent from one meet to the next.

The warm up for the floor routine should be done with all the tumbling passes with good control of the landings. Generally, they should have enough time to warm up all the dance elements as well.

Obviously the warm up should be different according to the levels. The lower level gymnasts should be doing routines focusing on good execution and better amplitude of the skills even in the warm up routines.

Ideally all the levels should become easy enough to do by the end of the season so that the main focus becomes more on good execution & better amplitude, as well as sticking the dismounts at the end.

We have discussed details for how they should warm up for the competition, but in order to do the warm up properly in the meet, we need to prepare our gymnasts first.

Whenever they train routines during the competition season, they should always be doing a competition simulation warm up. If they do warm up like the meet often they are going to feel more comfortable with it.

Have fun coaching!

Edited by Dan Connelly

Beat Stagnation and Start Improving

January 16th, 2011 by Mas Watanabe

I work with a group of girls who are mostly Level 9 and Level 10. The ability range for the Level 10’s is very wide and normally it will take 2 to 3 years to reach their potential at Level 10.

The common age for becoming a first year Level 10 is around 15 or 16 years of age. Then, they have a few more years (2 to 3 years) to improve and try to reach to their potential before they graduate from high school. Hopefully at this point they will be looked at by college coaches and possibly be recruited.

Of course there always is an exception to the general pattern, but the majority of girls fall into the above-mentioned scenario.

A girl who reaches Level 10 earlier than 15 years old without aspiring to go up to the Elite level needs special care in terms of her goal setting and to keep her motivation high.

Generally, this will happen when a gymnast is physically talented, but has one or two deficient areas too great to aspire to the elite level. Sometimes, the gymnast is simply not mentally strong enough to be in a very high intensity competition environment.

The first year or two after a girl moves up to Level 10 she will be upgrading her routines and still much learning will be taking place in the training. However, after she has competed at the same level for a while, many problems will start to set in. And it is very hard to break through from there.

The problem areas they face are much harder to fix than before. For example, the problem could be a fear issue with regard to learning new skills or a weight control issue. These are much harder problems to deal with and fixing them is difficult. Usually, it will take a much greater commitment and lots of effort to correct these problems.

While they are struggling with these problems, they could possibly lose some motivation and develop bad training habits. Soon, she might find herself socializing more in the gym and not putting her effort in her training.

When this happens, it becomes a vicious cycle.

It is a very hard problem, not only for the gymnast, but also for the coaches. Sometimes I find myself giving exactly the same corrections over and over again to the same gymnast. But nothing has changed and at times the problem might get worse.

When I recognize this type of problem, I find myself talking to the gymnast more and trying to encourage them more. Most of the times, I can tell that she is genuinely trying hard, but still struggling or she is not interested in changing things and even not trying to do it correctly.

When I see that, I will walk up to her and express my concern to her very honestly.
Many times, they are frustrated themselves as well and/or they don’t even know what to do to solve the problems.

When the gymnast, as well as the coach, agree and both identify the problem, it is much easier to talk about how to solve the problem together. However, in all cases, the gymnast needs to help themselves. However, the coach offering genuine support will help with morale and her effort.

I found that the most important point is that they are interested in progressing and moving forward. This way, the training becomes more fun again and mentally uplifting instead of the gymnast dreading coming to the gym.

They need to feel the excitement in changing something and learning again. It does not need to be learning a big skill, but any small change could be a motivating factor.

I trust that the coach’s support is essential when you work on this type of problem but I ‘m certain you need to face these every year.

Hopefully we also can work happy and feel much more productive every day.

Have fun coaching!

Edited by Dan Connelly

Physical Potential vs Desire

January 2nd, 2011 by Mas Watanabe

The 2011 Jr. Olympic competition season is now about to start. All our girls are trying to get into routine shape, but some of them are still struggling. They have some weak areas that they were not able to fix during the pre-season.

However, many of the problems are also quickly fixed around this time because of the urgency of getting ready to compete. During the last few weeks the intensity of the training has gone up and as a result the productivity has gone up as well. I hope all the girls will be ready to compete safely by the first meet of the season.

We have 2 young gymnasts (11 yrs. & 12 yrs. old) competing at Level 9 for the first time. Observing the development of these two gymnasts this year was quite interesting.

One gymnast (12 yrs. old) came to us from a different club almost three years ago. She is physically talented and she has been in the TOPS program since she was 8 or 9 yrs. old. When she came to us she was already able to do most of the TOPS strength exercises quite well and she was very strong for her age.

She went through the Level 7 & Level 8 during the past two seasons with us, but she was injured most of the time. Her body was very fragile and she had many problems in her joints, such as ankles, wrists as well as elbows. Our concern was damaging her growth plates in the joints by pushing her hard, so we had to interrupt her training many times. As a result, she has progressed rather slowly for the amount of physical talent she possesses.

She has never trained consistently for an extended period of time up until last summer. But finally her body was able to build enough strength and she was able to train harder for the skills she needs to get for Level 9 and beyond.

We are considering have her challenge to the elite program after the JO competition season. We feel that she has picked up enough skills to possibly compete in the classics and qualify to the US Championships.

We have one other girl (11 yrs. old) who just finished competing Level 7 last season and she joined our morning training group last summer. She started her gymnastics in our tot’s program and came up in our normal developmental system.

The morning training group is composed of gymnasts who are in the home school program. They train twice a day and work out around 36 hrs. per week.
So the girls in this program are committed and serious about their training.

We started all the basics with this girl to build the foundation for optional routines. She has not shown any special physical traits for an elite level potential. We felt her physical potential was very average, but she has not developed too many bad habits that could possible slow down her development.

We could tell that she is very serious about gymnastics and she is willing to put her time into the training. She was always willing to do many repetitions of simple drills without loosing interest. She has never complained about her hands being hurt nor being too tired. We know that the biggest problem working with young gymnasts during the basic training is to keep the motivation high and maintain good intensity on each turn.

She has made progress slowly, but little by little she has kept steadily progressing in the past 6 months.

By the time the competition season came around we found that she had out learned all her teammates in the last 6 months. For example on bars, she was able to do the average Level 7 routine when she started with us. The routine consisted of a handstand pirouette, low clear hip circle, weak (arched) back giants and low layout flyaway.

Now (by the end of the year), she is doing a Level 9 routine with a clear hip circle handstand, cast handstand pirouette, blind turn, front giant, pirouette, shoot over and tuck double back dismount.

She has also learned Level 9 skills on all the other events as well and is ready to compete at level 9 this season.

She has scored out of Level 8 in a small pre-season meet this month so officially she is a Level 9 gymnast for this season.

We have noticed that this girl has a very strong desire to be a good gymnast and has the mental toughness those most successful gymnast posses. She is a grinder and she does not give up many things easily.

However, she needs to be further developed if we consider her to be elite level material. We have not tested her with the high difficulty level skills that might be physically tough and mentally more fearful to learn. But we have not spent much time with her yet to see how well she will respond to the stressful training.

At the start of this competition season both gymnasts are standing on the same starting line at the Level 9. However, the competitions and the training during the next few months will tell us much more about these 2 gymnasts.

Have fun coaching!

Refinement of Tumbling Technique

December 16th, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

The tumble track is perhaps the most used piece of equipment for training in our club. Our beginner coaches use it to teach simple tumbling skills for children because it is very safe and skills may be repeated many times without hurting them.

It is a very good place to teach tumbling skills and fix some of the technical deficiencies within various skills.

We also use the tumble track for teaching bar skills. We attach a single rail (bar) over the tumble track using brackets on either side of the tumble track frame.

The basic use of the bar is to kick up to handstand, then drop down to the back and bounce back up to the handstand. When you do this action in series you can create a back giant action as if you are doing the last quarter and the first quarter of the back giant.

We can teach various pirouetting skills with this action such as forward pirouette, blind turn, blind full, Higgin’s roll (roll to L grip) and even a Tkatchev action going over the bar backward.

However, the majority of the time we use the tumble track for teaching tumbling skills and correcting technique.

The tumble track will allow gymnasts to do many repetitions without getting overly tired. Additionally, the gymnasts are able to gain more airtime on the skills which allows them to do more twisting in the air or do an additional flip.

It is more beneficial to keep the springs of the tumble track new (tight spring) so that the feel is similar to the spring floor when they tumble on the track.

From a coaching point of view, I like to use the tumble track, because I can keep refining the tumbling technique and they can keep repeating the skills many times.

Many of the gymnasts still have technical deficiencies in their basic skills, such as forward and backward handsprings as well as round off technique. Also, most of the gymnasts need to fix their twisting and flipping mechanics, as well as the technique on rebounding combination sequences.

Surprisingly enough, the technique of the tumbling skills on the (same) gymnast could change sometimes. It could be because they start growing and their physical configuration changes. When this happens, the body position changes in the skill as well as the timing of the body action.

Even though a skill has been learned, the gymnast may not be able to execute it in the same way and many bad habits start to creep up without the gymnast realizing it. When they have any deficiency in the technique of a single skill, it will start affecting them when they are trying to connect skills in a tumbling pass series.

Therefore, they need to keep checking the tumbling technique all the time even if they are doing it on the floor.

One area I would pay close attention to is the take off angle for flips. The gymnast could take off very strong and flip high in the air when they punch the bed at a low angle. When this happens, usually the gymnast is doing too long a back handspring or round off , which will create a low angle take off.

Generally speaking, a low angle take off on the floor is not efficient. When you take off low you need to have much stronger body rotation and momentum to get off the ground. If you don’t have good enough speed in the back handspring or round off, the flip will under rotate and the landing could be short.

If the gymnast has ample speed, but the take off angle is too low, she will very easily whip the flip and she will have a hard time controlling the landing or have difficulty connecting to the next skill consistently.

This is why we need to keep spending the time on the tumble track to refine some of these technical deficiencies.

We try to get to the tumble track as many times in a week as we can and make sure the technique of the basic skills is consistent and keep refining the technique on all the skills.

Have fun coaching!

How good back giants will help learning various skills

December 1st, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

In the previous issue, I wrote about technically correct back giants. When you are able to use a proper tapping action (hollow, arch & kick) through the bottom and truly understand how to develop the speed of the swing, the potential for learning is unlimited.

Lets us look at the very common layout flyaway dismount. When a gymnast executes the proper tapping action through the bottom the body will arch at first then the kicking action will take place.

The entire body will be acting just like a fishing pole as you cast bate a long way away. The arched point will start first from the upper chest, then gradually shift down to the lower back and the hip region. By the time the kicking action shifts from the arched body to the pike position, through the bottom of the swing, the speed of the leg movement will max out.

The continuous kicking action on the upswing will shift the pike point (rounded point) from the hips to lower back and then it will shift back up to the upper chest. At this point, the upper chest and shoulders should be pressed downward while the toes are continuously rising upward. Also the shoulder angle between the arms and the body should be closed (less than 180 degrees) and the chest should be in a hollow position prior to the release point.

From this position, a quick lifting (thrusting action) of the shoulders and upper chest will lift the body up in the desired direction.

Obviously, the amount of height in the flyaway will be determined by the power of the kicking action and the opening action of the shoulder angle created by the body and the arms.

If the gymnast is trying a tuck double back, the leg tucking action should start slightly before the end of the kick. This action will shorten the radius of the swing quickly and a rapid body rotation will occur. As the lower body continues to rise up and rotate, the gymnast needs to try to lower the shoulders further to increase the body rotation.

As the hands come off the bar the shoulders should go down first then start rotating away and move upward from the bar as a result of the previous actions.

The gymnast should feel safe in flipping because the body should be going up higher, but also flipping away from the bar.

If the gymnast is doing a double layout, the speed of the kicking action from the upper chest must be maximized. Moving the head downward will also increase body rotation, but thrusting the head backward must be done with the proper chest kick and shoulder extension. Otherwise, the chest will start arching too early and the hand release will occur too soon, resulting in a low, arched double layout.

The single bar release move, Geinger, works the same way. The speed of the kick will not be as critical for this move, because you need to control the height and the body rotation to re-catch the bar.

You should create the same tapping action, but this time you must initiate the body turn over slightly earlier through the bottom and/or wait longer to turn the body over to the desired angle.

Again, the body should be turned over almost to a candlestick position before the release point. The point of release is dependent on the speed of the swing. If the body is turning over fast the release point will be sooner.

The most important thing here is that the shoulders lift after the turn over. The entire body must be lifted vertically by lifting the shoulders upward. The shoulders will rotate away from the bar first, but as the body continuously rotates upward, the shoulders will rotate back toward the bar.

If the body is higher, the gymnast will have more time to see the bar before re-grasping the bar.

Many of the release moves, such as the Tkatchev, Deltchev, full over the bar, Kovacs, etc. will use variations of the same tapping action. The timing and the body positions are different when you apply this tapping action, but the principal of the movement is the same.

I hope that my explanations are clear enough for you to understand. Again, the correct basics will help develop them so much faster and it will make the process easier.

Have fun coaching!

Edited by Dan Connelly

Back Giant Technique

November 15th, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

In our club, I see many backward giants on bars done with an arched body to get to the handstand. The reason for the arch is that the upward swing is not strong enough. Therefore, the gymnast thrusts the body to an arch to gain the speed to go up to the handstand. There are very few giants done with a correct technique and with good body position at the lower level.

The most common technical problem for this is an incorrect tapping action in the giant. When the body starts to fall from the handstand there needs to be good pressure (push) on the bar. The body needs to start hollow in the chest and/or start with a pike in the hips (or round in the lower back) to clear the low bar.

When the body falls farther down, most girls need to straddle the legs or pike deeper in the hips enough to clear the low bar. Some girls (particularly the taller girls) may need to arch over the bar to clear the bar so that they can do a proper tapping action at the bottom of the swing.

The tapping action needs to happen through the bottom of the swing. The proper tapping action is a series of body actions composed of: hollow (pike), arch and kick, through the bottom of the swing.

The purpose of the tapping action is to develop enough power (swing) for the body to rise up to the handstand position with ease. Many skills are done in the second half the giant so the technique to develop power is very critical for learning these skills.

The potential power for the tapping action is determined by the arching of the body. If you want to kick stronger and gain lots of power you should first arch the entire body very vigorously then kick hard.

However, in order to properly arch the body you must first prepare the body. The most effective body action prior to the arch is a hollowing of the body. Curving the entire body (hollowing the chest and rounding the lower back) enough to make the length of the body shorter and straddling the legs allows the gymnast to clear the low bar safely.

Many girls are afraid of their hands slipping off the bar at the bottom of the swing. This fear is developed during the early stage of learning the swing. They start re-gripping the bar by shifting the grip to grab the bar from the top before they get to the bottom of the swing on the down swing.

The problem of this action is that they will lose pressure on the bar during this action (losing the tension on the body as well). If they lose the pressure on the bar they cannot arch the body from the chest area properly. Then, the body will naturally arch from the lower body only, rather than the entire body. This is because the body is dropping down without the proper push on the bar.

The result of this action is a weak kick that will end very early on the way up to the handstand. In order to make up the loss of swing to make the giant one must arch the body to go up to the handstand.

Another common problem that I see is the arched (open) chest in the first quarter of the giant rather than the hollow position coming down to clear the bar. Many girls are capable of hollowing their chest on the way down when they do this in the drill. The drill is to do the first quarter flat down from the handstand onto the 8” pad on the floor bar.

If they can do this drill correctly but they have a problem keeping the body in the right position in the giant, this means they are afraid of pushing against the bar on the way down by shifting the wrists down. If the wrist and the shoulders are fully extended in the hollow position a strong (tight) arch at the bottom of the swing is not very difficult.

From there, a powerful kick can be created to bring the feet up all the way to the vertical position without a chest arch. The rest of the action necessary is to stretch up to the ceiling (vertical) to finish in a straight handstand.

If we are successful in teaching a technically sound back giant it will help develop many skills easier later on.

I would like to explain how this back giant benefits learning various skills in a later issue.

Have fun coaching!

Moving up to Level 10

November 2nd, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

The first half of pre-season training is almost over and every gymnast must finalize the skills soon for their routines.

The daily training is full of excitement now, because we are seeing new skills and new sequences learned every day by various gymnasts.

Some gymnasts have made a solid step toward the next level and upgraded routines are just within their reach.

I am starting to see definite separations between the gymnasts who are going to make the move to Level 10 and the gymnasts who need to stay in Level 9 for another year.

The gymnasts who are trying to move up from Level 9 to Level 10 must upgrade their difficulty so much more than the gymnasts who are moving from Level 8 to Level 9. Those potential Level 10 gymnasts must make a bigger commitment for learning the new and more risky moves.

Their workout has become more intense and so much vigorous than before. They needed to push themselves much harder even on days that they were not feeling strong and sometimes struggled through the day.

However, when they catch a new release move for the first time on bars or make a flip flop to layout back on the high beam for the first time, it makes them feel they deserve to be a 10.

On the other hand, the gymnasts who are scared to go for the swing half turn higher than horizontal and afraid to catch the high bar on a toe shoot from the low bar, definitely need to stay in the Level 9.

The Level 9 team seems to have a mixture of different types of gymnasts. The first is the young talented gymnasts who have the potential to be Level 10, but have not quite developed all the required skills. The second is the older, more mature, gymnasts who are very satisfied at the level they are at now. Generally, they don’t want to risk their body and they have no desire to learn new skills.

Others are somewhere in between these two groups and usually the average gymnasts stay at Level 9 for 2 to 3 years. Some of them manage to move up to
Level 10 after while, but some of them move on to different sports or quit sports altogether.

Sometimes, the skill development comes with physical and mental maturity. But the physical growth can work both ways. Some gymnasts gain their strength and power by physically growing up. On the other hand, some of them have a hard time maintaining the strength needed for their body size and start loosing skills they used to be able to do.

However, the mental maturity sometimes helps to over come some of the fear they have for the skills.

When you work on the progression of the skills for a long enough you become familiar of the movement and soon the fear start to go away. Sometimes, teammates start making the skill that you were having problems with and it may motivate the gymnast to go for the skill.

The goal for most girls (also the parents) is to reach the Level 10 or the Elite level and be recruited by a college program, so they can get a free college education while they are enjoying college gymnastics.

I believe this is a very healthy way to finish one’s gymnastics career for anyone.

Have fun coaching!

Young talent and their training

October 18th, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

A few weeks ago I watched the level 4 competition at our gym because we hosted the meet. It was very interesting to watch the girls who are mostly between 6 to 8 years old and competing as a gymnast only for the 2nd time.

Overall, they looked much better than the usual practice in the gym and all were trying so hard to do the routines as well as they could.

However, many girls looked uncoordinated and moved a little awkwardly because they were trying to straighten their legs and tighten their arms so hard for the first time.

Among them, two girls stood out in my eyes because they worked much tighter and had better control of their bodies. I can tell that those two girls were also trying as hard as the others, but their effort was making their body movement smoother and more aesthetic.

Those children seemed to have an ability to focus better and perform well when they were excited by outside stimuli and use the adrenaline rush to perform well.

It is a wonderful thing to have this special ability, but this could also hinder them if we are not careful and we don’t develop them the correct way.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to work with some very talented children for a while. Their ages ranged between 8 and 10 yrs. old and they were just finishing up with the compulsory levels.

They were always full of energy and able to handle many repetitions so that they were able to get many things done very quickly. I never took more than 30 min. for any rotation with the 6 children in the group.

I always had 3 or 4 extra drills or exercise stations ready to go, besides the planned event, in case I needed to quickly set up and have them do it. They did not like to stand around and wait for their turn. So they needed to be engaged in activities all the time.

I was able to get done many things in a two hour workout and it was great. The only problem that I had was the event or the station may not be open when I had planned to get to it. So, I had to constantly look for an opportunity to jump in with my group at any available equipment.

Soon I noticed that these talented children have certain traits that were evident in the training.

They always performed well if:
1. I paid special attention to the individual
2. Always excelled in the games or in a small contest
3. When they are really motivated to do a skill or learn a particular skill

At the same time they did not do well in the practice in the following situations.
They did not perform well:
1. When they were too tired physically or mentally
2. When they were not motivated or bored because the skill was too easy for them
3. When they were not interested in what they were doing because they didn’t like the skill (including the skill is too hard or too scary)
4. When I made them do a simple drill repetition

I could tell that they needed a constant challenge to keep them excited about doing gymnastics. They needed constant outside stimulus that keeps their interest up.

It was draining for me to keep up with their energy, but those year’s experiences were very rewarding and they improved very quickly.

Have fun coaching!

Starting of the Pre-season

October 2nd, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

It is always difficult to train well for the first few weeks of school in the fall. All the girls are making the big adjustments of getting back to school, life style, new environment, new friends, etc. We need to pay attention to their physical condition as well as their focus during the workout.

They could very easily loose focus during workout and the mind can drift away from gymnastics. Here it could be good to discuss the new goal setting for the pre-season. Hopefully the targeted new routines will be upgraded and they should be exciting for them to learn.

When I look around the gym some gymnasts look much stronger than last season and it is exciting to watch, but unfortunately some of them have not made much change. Here the real separation will start showing.

The gymnasts who have diligently worked hard all summer will definitely benefit from it and it will start showing results.

We have our own set of criteria for the girls to move up levels, but we will not be making the decision until late into the pre-season. So the girls have some time to catch up during the pre-season if they need it. However, usually the course of their path is set by this time and it is hard to make a change this late.

Some girls are very much competition driven and they tend to improve more during the competition season than any other time of the year. We have a few talented gymnasts who will train very hard while they are competing and make progress, but during the off season their effort level goes down and results in very little progress.

Those girls who work hard in the competition season only will not make significant improvement since they are only working on routines. Therefore, most of them tend to progress slow and they will likely stay at the same level as last year.

Some girls make surprising progress because of a gain in specific strength in a certain area. Sometimes it is because they have never worked on a specific area of strength. But once they work on it and become strong enough some skills are no longer scary and they are willing to go for the skills. Eventually they will learn the skill.

We have several girls who never thought they were strong enough in the shoulders to create chest lift for the Tkatchev to go over the bar. But after certain shoulder exercises and a few drills they realize that their shoulders are strong enough to go over the bar backward safely.

After several sessions of drills on the tumble track bar she goes over the bar in the pit and discovers that she could potentially learn this skill. Similar things happened to several girls in different events.

Sometimes it is a matter of learning about their body and it’s capabilities. Many girls who are at the age between 12 to 15 change their physical make up a great deal and some girls gain body strength and power simply by growing up.

However, on the other hand, we need to be aware that some lose quickness and even power by growing too quickly. So we must also be very careful and be observant of the changes they are going through.

Each year, our team builds a slightly different team character and the group dynamic changes according to the make up of the girls.

Hopefully you are starting up with a team that is full of energy for learning.

Have fun coaching.

Edited by Dan Connelly

Improvement of Technique

September 1st, 2010 by Mas Watanabe

In order to improve technique in gymnastics you must have a very good command of your body and its movement. Many gymnastic movements are very complex and precise timing of the body movement is required to make a skill.

The best place to develop the important body control is by doing basic tumbling. However, in our program for example, basic tumbling is taught more up to the compulsory level, but when they advance to the optional levels we often stop teaching basic tumbling or spend much less time on it.

When I am working with my optional gymnasts often times they have trouble making a correction of the body position of a precise movement. They lack the orientation of their body awareness and the body control.

For example, we have many girls who pike in the hips before they go to an arched position for the front layout. This causes the somersault to whip too much in the flip and/or not get enough airtime to twist. Therefore, we may work on fixing this problem for a long time. Unfortunately, many of the girls may have a hard time fixing this simple problem.

Teaching the simple arched dive roll on the floor is not a very difficult task. When we teach the arched dive roll we never emphasize a hip pike before the arch in the air. Even teaching a early hip extension on the forward roll, as they start the roll, should help orientate the early hip extension as they take off for the front layout.

There are so many areas of technical fixes they can make if they have particular awareness and know how to control their body.

I believe that we can develop this awareness and the body control easier if we continuously work on basic tumbling. I remember that I worked on basic tumbling throughout my career. If you are at a higher level it might take only 10 or 15 minutes to do some of it. Also, if you are in the competition season you can do it as a part of the warm up.

I realize that some of you may be doing basic tumbling on a daily basis, but if you are not, you may need to consider doing it more. Sometimes, you may not realize when and how it is helping them. The awareness development and the body control are essential for gymnastics, so working on basic tumbling should never hurt the gymnasts.

In our summer program we have tried to combine the warm up and the basic tumbling as well as some conditioning exercises in the beginning of the program.

We have varied how much: flexibility, basic tumbling, conditioning (plyometric) and cardiovascular exercises we do from time to time. However, we are able to combine them and finish it within 30 minutes as a warm up.

When they are moving continuously for 30 minutes it is more than enough for the warm up and the conditioning. But we also allocate a separate time block for strength as well as for tumbling later in the practice.

The skills in the basic tumbling such as: a variety of rolls, various handstands, pirouettes, walkovers, and all the handsprings, are important basics and we need to continuously work them throughout the year.

Have fun coaching!

Edited by Dan Connelly