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Hi Coach Wayne:

I am a dance and acrobat teacher at a studio outside Reading, PA. I have some very talented young tumblers however, one of the biggest problems I have is getting them to understand that a back handspring should be long and low. Many of my beginning tumblers want to jump high, coming down hard on their wrists, risking injury, let alone not using proper form. I tell them to stretch into their back handspring but I feel I don't make it clear enough. It seems to take a long time till they finally get it right! Any suggestions on how to get my point across. BTW, I do have class assistants who can demonstrate the proper technique.

One more question... Do you know of any workshops for acrobat teachers? We attend workshops every year that specialize in tap, jazz, ballet, and other forms of dance but, there are none for acrobat teachers. I am fortunate enough to have many really good tumblers and I would like to give them as much as possible but, I don't have any resources to fall back on (no new tricks, no info. on problems, etc.) Reading, PA is located about 1 ho
ur outside Philadelphia. Any suggestions?

Those high back handsprings are VERY hard on the wrists. You're right to encourage your students to stretch them long and backward. Rather than allow beginning students to develop poor habits that are tough to correct later, I prefer to keep the handsprings SLOW... and STANDING until they have a well-formed technique. I also suggest that the first few hundred handsprings be "step-out' rather than rebound exits. This allows the tumbler to keep the hips well-elevated and moving backward. Squatting and 'dead-landings' are eliminated.

It is a natural desire to advance rapidly and skip over basic exercises ... focusing on the excitement of the round-off handspring and such... but it ultimately is a terrible decision.

FIRST: students MUST build adequate strength in the legs, hops and in the shoulders & arms to propel and control themselves. I review a great many strength exercises... specific to the handspring in my "Better Back-Handsprings" video.  

SECOND: they must demonstrate MASTERY of the handstand (against a wall is fine) and the basic gymnastics positions. Any error in the handspring can usually be traced back to a weakness in the handstand... and it's MUCH easier to correct habits in the handstand because the body is not moving rapidly and risk is minimized.

THIRD: They must demonstrate... AT SLOW SPEEDS... SPOTTED... that they CONSISTENTLY know how to perform all the motions and positions of the handspring... properly synchronized... BEFORE they are allowed to move off by themselves or to advance to multiple handsprings/round-off handsprings. YOU as the coach must keep the governor on them and DEMAND excellence of technique BEFORE the excitement of advancing. YES, all kids fight this... but coaches who let the kids jump ahead with the poor technique are ultimately doing them a great disservice. Did you know that your tablet can now actually help you with tumbling training? Click here to find out how.

Usually, 300-500 well-formed repetitions are necessary to create the habit of a well-formed handspring without a spotter or assistance. Most of those repetitions should be accompanied by exercises sets that isolate specific motions and positions that are mandatory in the handspring... for example...a "Lean-sit-jump-backwards onto a wedge-mat with CONSISTENTLY strong leg push and perfectly straight knees, extended feet.

Handsprings down a large wedge-mat are a superb transition between hand spotting and performing alone. TOLERATE ZERO ERRORS after the students have the basics down. make them land in EXACTLY the correct hand and feet positions... repeatedly.

Once they are tumbling alone... I find that it REALLY helps them to 'FEEL' a coach step BACK in and start spotting them again at HIGH SPEEDS ... roundoff-multiple handsprings... and you, as a coach, can 'sculpt' and 'guide' their body into optimum form. Once they 'FEEL' optimum handsprings a few times they cannot resist the yearning to have them again & will work hard to attain that feeling.

FREQUENTLY send advanced tumblers BACK to BASIC drills and exercises .... to remind them to MASTER small details... (pointed toes/ straight knees... properly positioned hands and head, etc.) & make intermediate tumblers work with them in small groups.

AND... sometimes... it just helps to have an outside coach tell your students the same things you've been telling them for months... the freshness and intensity of a new voice/persona can make a dramatic change.

One of my staff is an advanced acrobat and has conducted acrobatics clinics. Perhaps we could customize a "~CoachWayne!" tumbling and acrobatics workshop for you there. We can including instructor training. They can be arranged on weekends & during holidays.

Have fun, be safe, push hard.


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.