have an eight year old who has been tumbling since she was 4. Her dream
has always been to be an all star cheerleader a dream she has lived for
two years. Last summer, she quit doing her back handspring. She had mastered
her standing back handspring (it is beautiful!), her round-off series,
her round-off handspring tuck, her standing tuck, a standing handspring
tuck, her round off handspring layout and had started working on her round-off
handspring full twisting layout which she landed twice by herself before
she stopped tumbling altogether.
We have tried everything including a sports psychlogist. We have tried
taking a break. She insists she still wants to cheer and tumble. We tried
a new coach with different technique in a different gym where nobody knows
her and knows her ability. Every coach that works with her speaks of her
unbelievable talent. To be on her cheer team, you must have a standing
back handspring. She will throw it in certain places (ie. trampoline,
her bed, and on our couch) but won't throw or even attempt to throw it
on the competition mat. She has never been injured tumbling and she used
to be fearless. She would try anything.
My question is - at what point do I draw the line. Do you think your video
could help someone like her? Is there any chance she will overcome this
fear? Will she just "get over it" one day? Please help us if
you can. It is heartbreaking to watch her struggle like this.
I don't think my videos will help your daughter... she's advanced well
beyond them. You've already attempted all the normal avenues to overcome
her fear. Use your good judgment and safety for the following suggestions.
1) Sit with her and "talk" her through an imagined (visualized)
series of handspring exercises. The goal is to have her imagine full-speed
rehearsals of the handspring in a multitude of environments and conditions,
& without any fear. If you do this a few times and she's fearless,
then it won't help much to continue. If she's indicating fears when imagining
it... guide her past that. It may reveal nothing.
2) Modify the surfaces that she WILL perform on. For example: Put a FIRM
folding mat on the Trampoline... or a rug, or a piece of floor-mat. MANY
modifications should be explored, even if it's handsprings OVER the cat
(sleeping on the bed) or over pillows. KEEP expanding and exploring new
surface variations. PUT the mattress on the floor instead of on her bed.or
put the sofa cushions on the floor, etc.
3) See if you can get an INCLINE mat... 8' long... and put a FIRM folding
mat on that & see if she'll perform on that... Then gradually... over
20-30 repetitions... move her starting position LOWER down the incline
that more of the landing is on the LEVEL floor.
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4) Make her do MANY MANY more repetitions on ANY surface
that she'll perform on... not just ONE or TWO... think 30 repetitions
each day. NURTURE the successes. Don't necessarily praise, berate, criticize
or encourage any progress... just simply expect her to continue her current
numerously. Don't make it a highly charged issue.
5) BUILD PRECISION. Wherever she SUCCESSFULLY performs
the skill...increase the DEMAND for PRECISION. For example... if she performs
the handspring on the trampoline... MARK a perfectly straight line down
the center of the trampoline surface... with clear locations for where
her toes and fingers should be CONSISTENTLY landing. Her goal can then
become "land within a 1/2 inch of those marks
10 times in a row.
6) Have her make VARIATIONS in the entrance and exit of the skill...again...
building success and variety WHERE she IS succeeding... and don't worry
about where she's not comfortable. For example... have her begin from
a handstand... snap down into the handspring. Or start with one foot on
front of the other... or step OUT with one foot in front of the other...
or step out with a 1/2 turn... INTO a cartwheel... or rebound straddle
toe-touch into the standing back-handspring. Or...Make her FROG her handspring...
or STRADDLE the legs WIDE... or FLEX her ankles in a goofy way... or tie
her ankles together with a sock... FIND WAYS to make it more FUN and GAME-LIKE....
Try different FACES (tongue sticking out). Try having her COUNT your fingers
when she's UPSIDE down and in the middle of the skill.
In short... put the PLAY back into her learning. Measure
her success in tiny increments over LONG periods of time. Help her remember
how to laugh through the errors... bypass the frustrations... and live
her tumbling with LOTS of variations in COLOR, STYLE, SPEED, INTENSITY,
POWER, VOLUME and smiles.
Have fun, be safe, push HARD!
Coach Wayne is 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 world wide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available
for in-gym instructor training and performance tumbling clinics throughout
the year. For booking information, coaches/owners should call 912.398.8082.
Students and parents should request coaches/owners to contact Coach Wayne.