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Fear Is Not Bad



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My 14-year-old daughter has been tumbling since she was 7. She saw a boy tumble in someone's yard and got hurt and now is scared. She is a good tumbler and I thought when cheerleading started back it would encourage her to want to do it, but she still has the fear. Is there any way of helping her to overcome this fear or should I just not say anything about it and let her handle it on her own?


Please NOTE: It is PERFECTLY NORMAL AND HEALTHY to feel a MOMENT of fear before a person springs backward onto their hands! High levels of fear indicate a significant lack of preparation.  Great courage develops through vast quantities of successful repetitions.

Think about it. You're going BACKWARDS so you can't see where you're going. So you're JUMPING BLINDLY! As if that's not enough, your goal is to LAND on your hands (not your head!) Literally, diving backward, very quickly INTO THE FLOOR!!! Yikes!! Ok. Now, for the REAL clincher, to perform the skill safely, you'll need to KEEP MOVING QUICKLY so you land on your feet again.

Then, you must perform ALL that elegantly, beautifully & in such a way so as to allow you to KEEP moving into additional tumbling skills like another back-handspring, or back-tuck. Anyway, you look at it, the back-handspring requires VERY careful preparation and LOTS of practice. Now, to compound all that... if you make a mistake, it's quite possible to severely injure yourself.

So all you tumblers out there that are feeling FEAR, congratulate yourself.It means your brain is alert and your instincts are working correctly. However, your fear should not STOP you from tumbling. It should GUIDE you to SEEK more knowledge and experience. Let the fear INSPIRE you to BE WISE and use COMMON SENSE. Fear should ALERT you to OBSERVE the risks you are incurring and to discern effective ways to PROTECT YOURSELF.

With enough knowledge about HOW TO DO a safe, strong and beautiful back-handspring you should easily FACE your fear with COURAGE. If you are armed with sufficient UNDERSTANDING about proper habits of motion, positions, timing, coordination, and abundant muscular STRENGTH, you'll move PAST your fears into confidence. Now you can use your tablet to help build specific strength for superior tumbling, click to find out how.

Thanks for writing Tina,

It is a scary thing to see someone badly hurt, whether in the gym or outside. Any athletic activity has the potential for severe injury. As fun as gymnastics: tumbling can be, it comes with REAL risks that must be RECOGNIZED and HONORED by participants. The human body DOES have physical limitations. An important part of growing up is learning to recognize those limits with as little damage as possible.

Because of its rich diversity of motions & dynamics gymnastics: tumbling CAN be an excellent choice of activities for SAFELY learning those limits.

Gymnastic: tumbling is an integral part of human culture. Kids have always, and will always, perform acrobatic activities in the gym, in the house, in the yard, on grass, on concrete, everywhere. With all the cheerleaders on football fields, acrobats on stage, a martial artist in the studio and untold millions of us playing in the yard & the house only a small fraction of us have received proper instructions for safe skill execution.

And, unfortunately, to an unaware tumbler, what SEEMS like an "improvement" can actually be a disastrous error. For example, running FASTER is NOT the way to improve a round-off, except for specific rare instances with highly experienced tumblers. Because it feels more dynamic & thrilling, it may feel NATURAL to do many things like RUNNING FASTER into tumbling skills. With each increase in SPEED and POWER, all aspects of skills become exaggerated. That means minor errors become MAJOR errors. So, unless the body is well prepared, coordinated, attuned, & the skill is truly WELL FORMED, such seemingly natural changes like "running faster" can DRAMATICALLY INCREASE the risk of severe injury. The problem is, many experienced instructors will wrongly encourage students to run faster into tumbling skills. It's a shame.

One of my primary motivations for making the "BETTER BACK-HANDSPRINGS" video was to ensure that the fundamental elements of WELL-FORMED tumbling activities are available to ANYONE who can watch TV. Simple lessons (that are NOT, however, generally known) can GREATLY enhance safety and provide tumblers with STRONG CONFIDENCE in their abilities.

For example, here is one of those SECRETS: Encourage tumblers to HABITUALLY EXTEND their arms, close together, straight up above the head ... before, during AND after EVERY handstand, cartwheel, walkover, and handspring. This position of holding the arms close together (NARROW) reduces the chance of injuries to the wrists when supporting the body. Arms held straight OVERHEAD (rather than down by the sides or straight out in front) provides MAXIMUM protection to the head and neck.

By CREATING the HABIT of these positions the body will MOST LIKELY react to a new situation (such as a mat slipping, a faster run, or some outside interference) by returning to that position, thus protecting the head/neck and allowing for avoidance of injury. Importantly, this arm position provides for the most beautiful and most powerful tumbling skills. It is an element of WELL-FORMED tumbling.

There are MANY other "secrets" for WELL-FORMED tumbling. The MORE of these that a tumbler practices, the more courageous (i.e.: overcoming fears) s/he will FEEL because they LEAD and BUILD to reliably safe, beautiful and powerful skill execution.

I hope this helps you decide how to best guide your daughter's decision. Thank you for writing!


You may also be interested in the following:
(FLASH player permission is required to view animations.)
Back Tuck Progressions
Benchmarks of Excellence
Cross Arm Spot
Gymnastics Jump
Jump, Set, Tuck
Lunge to Handstand
Round-Off Hand Placement
Straight Body Fall

Coach Wayne was the Head Coach for the Savannah College of Art and Design Cheerleading team and Executive Coach of Olympic Gymnast Zuzana Sekerova. His articles, videos, and books have been used by students and instructors worldwide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for tumbling instructor certification training. For booking information, coaches/owners should text or call 912.238.1747.






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