Matt’s Musings – Why Learning to Tumble is Like Learning to Read

After thinking about it a lot today, I realized that learning to tumble is a lot like learning to read. When you learn to read, you first need to learn each letter of the alphabet and the sound(s) it makes. Then you start to put basic words together using those letters and sounds. Finally you start to learn about more complex words, and tricky letter combinations and sounds.

Tumbling is much the same way. First you must learn body positions; tuck, hallow, arch, pike, lunge, etc. Then you start putting simple body positions together in a sequence. Handstands, forward rolls, and cartwheels are a good example of this. Last, we learn about using those same basic movements in more complex ways, learning tricky combinations of those same body positions. ex. Back handspring, front tuck, etc.

Far too often, we as coaches skip teaching those basic body shapes, and skills properly, or don’t spend enough time mastering them. I can’t count how many cheerleaders I have met through the years who were working back tucks without mastering a backward roll, who say they need to get their back handspring, when they can’t hold a handstand properly, and who want to work fulls, but can’t perfectly execute a layout.

If you have ever wondered why so many kids get mental blocks, try handing an encyclopedia to a second grader and ask them to read it. There might be some words in it that look familiar to them, but 98% of it will do nothing but cause confusion and anxiety. By letting kids work these hard skills before TRULY mastering basics, we only set them up for failure. We are teaching them to memorize and recite Shakespeare before they can sound out “See Spot Run” on their own.

By teaching kids from the start that each skill is not a unique snowflake, but just a series of previously learned, familiar, body shapes we make the skills much less overwhelming to learn, and unlock the ability for kids to be able to safely practice “sounding out new words” in classes without constantly needing a spot, constant feedback,  and 1 on 1 attention.

Anyways, that’s just what’s been on my mind today. Make it a good week everyone!

-Coach Matt

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Beat the Heat! – Re-hydration in Youth Sports

Hydration:

As summer swings into full speed, and temperatures rise, heat related illness becomes a serious risk among youth athletes! This is due to the  fact that the body’s of children have not fully developed the ability to regulate it’s internal temperature. As a result, a child’s natural response to heat, such as sweating, is delayed, or largely suppressed. Because of this blunted response to heat, children have an increased susceptibility to heat induced illness. To keep youth athletes safe, and performing their best, fluid replacement needs to be a top priority among coaches, parents, and athletes.

To insure proper hydration, and reduce the risk of heat related illness among athletes, the National Athletic Trainer Association (NATA) has released a position statement recommending the following: 

  • Insure optimal pre-exercise hydration by consuming 17-20 oz. of water, or sports drink, 2-3 hours before activity, and an additional 7-10 oz. 20-30 minutes prior to activity.
  • During exercise, consume 7-10 oz. of water, or sports drink every 10-15 minutes to replace fluids lost by sweat.
  • Be aware of the warning signs of dehydration, and constantly monitor athletes for heat related illness. Here are a few of the symptoms to watch for: headache, nausea, chills, cramps, weakness, dizziness, decreased performance and a heat-like sensation on the back and neck.

For more information about heat related illness, fluid replacement, or youth athletes, visit the links embedded throughout the articles!

Make it a great summer!
-Coach Matt

Q&A: Wobbly Single-Leg Stunts

I can never seem to get myself to sit down and write on a schedule. But I often find myself writing long replies to questions asked on the Fierceboad or sent by email. Most of those reply’s length rival those of my actual posts. So I decided I will share some of those questions/answers on here.

Question : I have a level 2 youth team and their one leg stunts have become weak and wobbly. Does anyone have any ideas to help strengthen this area?

Answer: That’s a pretty general question. It’s like going to the doctors and simply saying “I’m sick.” He’s going to need know symptoms, and details to be able to properly diagnose/treat you.

Likewise, on the forum, we will need to know a little more about those “shaky stunts” to be able to give accurate advise on how to fix them. A video would probably be best. But recording and posting videos can be a bit of a gray area legally, unless you have a release from all parents of the athletes involved. So I wouldn’t recommend it.

A few general suggestions:

-Look at the grip and building technique of the bases.

-Watch for any muscle compensations in the bases when putting up the stunt. For example, holding the stunt in front of their bodies, instead of overhead, excessive arching of the back, or knees turning in or out when holding the stunt. Any of these could indicate your bases need to get stronger to be able to control the stunt.

-Make sure the flyer has correct body positioning when loading and building the stunt.

-Look to see if the flyer has the ability to balance and stabilize their body throughout the stunt. Can your flyer do the skills balanced on a stable surface such as the floor?

-Make sure that your flyer has proper flexibility and strength to be able to hit each body position. Poor flexibility can cause altered movements in the air. An example of this would be poor hamstring flexibility, which would cause your flyer to drop their chest when performing a single leg heel stretch. Another would be inflexible/over-active hip-flexors which could cause the flyer to excessively arch in their their back in a scorpion.

Anyways, these are just a few general things to look for when diagnosing stunting issues. Like I said before, to be able to definitively tell you how to fix your teams stunts, I would need more information.

Hope this helps,
Coach Matt
Full-Out: Cheer and Fitness

 

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Very interesting blog post how to max out your tumbling score sheets!

Cheerleading Daily

One of the biggest parent melt-downs I ever encountered as an all star coach/director was the year we started the season with absolutely no standing tumbling in our routine.  Okay, before you write me off as complete moron for making such an oversight, give me a second to explain.  First, I was not actively involved in the coaching of this particular team in the program (although that changed after the first competition).  Second, we hired outside choreographers who actually did put standing tumbling in the routine and the coach subsequently took it out of the routine.  So in my defense, I was as surprised as the judges when the team did not throw any standing tumbling. 

The score sheet at our first competition had 2 parts for the tumbling score; 10 points for running tumbling and 10 points for standing tumbling.  This team had quite a mix of tumbling.  There were probably around…

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Why practice DOESN’T ALWAYS make perfect!

Throughout my life I have heard the expression “practice makes perfect” repeated by coaches, teachers, and parents alike. Although the advice was given with good intentions, their message could be interoperated as “repeat something enough times and you will become better at it.” That message is at best inaccurate, and at worst is Albert Einstein’s very definition of INSANITY! For this reason I prefer the phrase Perfect practice makes perfect.” 

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