David on Standing Tuck Drills

Standing tucks might just be my favorite skill to teach, but at the same time, can be one of the most taxing skills to get accomplished.

Some of the most common problems I see with standing tucks are the dropping of the chest in the entry, lack of use of the arms, throwing the head back, and heels being driven to the rear, instead of over the head. All of these can be resolved by simple basic drills. Some of these problems can be fixed two or three at a time with one drill. You just have to be patient.

A good drill to start out with is a basic straight jump onto a box mat, or panel mat. Try to encourage the arms being used, and the actual jump into the skill. If your athlete is going into this skill through a good athletic stance, this will help promote going through the right form into the jump, before the tuck.

Another drill I like to use, that also helps condition the athlete’s core, is to stack mats between the lower and midpoint of the athletes back, and then have them jump into a candlestick position, that will tuck at the top. Just make sure that once the athlete is driving their hips through the candlestick position, to drive their shins and toes over their head to hit the tuck position. You’re most common problem with standing tucks would be landing short. If you are able to teach a good shin and toe drive that goes over the head, this will help stop your athlete from landing with too much weight in the front part of their feet. Also, this will save ankles for the long run.

Too often, standing tucks can be the most rushed skill for an athlete to have. Let’s just all take the time to teach them correctly, so we then can be able to teach all the other skills that will come after.

Drills=Skills Show 06 – Handstands

The topic for today’s edition of Drills=Skills is Handstands.

Shea on Standing Tuck Technique

The standing tuck is an equal combination of power and technique, without one the other cannot be accomplished. The proper athletic stance to start allows for the core, glutes and hamstrings to become engaged. Following this position the arms need to lead the body up so I’m often telling my kids to speed up their arms. This allows for explosiveness from the legs all the way through their toes. Kids will often focus on the tuck too early which limits the full use of arms and legs so I like to have them jump into a candlestick position onto a raised surface. The “feel” of the proper explosion onto a raised surface allows the this for the athlete. The lifting of the hips over the shoulders, rather than the shoulders below the hips, is what provides the proper timing for the rotation of the the tuck. The knees should be bent, but not the feet bent to the bottom. As the rotation completes the landing should be that of the chest coming up to allow the feet to come to the floor. Often times the athlete wants to look for the floor and kick out resulting in a short, improper landing. Providing the athlete with a specific place to look at the start and finish of the skill can help their awareness throughout the skill.

Drills=Skills Show 05 – Front Twisting

Special guest Victor Rosario joins Shea, David, and Sean for the 5th episode of Drills=Skills. The topic is front twisting.

The show covers introducing front twisting, proper twisting direction philosophies as well as drills and conditioning to maximize front twisting.

David on Walkovers

I can’t begin to tell you how many athletes come into a cheerleading gym wanting to learn how to do any skill that involves a flip, without ever knowing all the progressions that come before that actual skill. And one of those most important progressions would be the walkover, front or back.

Before you even get to either one of those walkovers, there are progressions that come before them. Some of those for example would be, a bridge (from either a standing position or lying down and pushing up into it), bridge kickovers, and front and back limbers.

One of the most important parts to pay attention to while doing this skill, would definitely be the shoulder flexibility of the athlete. Too often you will see bent legs, or a severe bend at the hips causing a pike at the finish. This is often due to the lack of flexibility in the shoulder area and can be easily avoided if the progressions of these skills are taught correctly.

One of my favorite drills for the front walkover is a basic front limber, or front walkover off of a panel mat. Long ago, one of my mentors taught me the importance of “REACHING” into the front walkover, rather than “just placing” hands down in front of you. A lot of times an athlete will dive straight down into this skill. Reaching into a front walkover will help encourage more of a push from the lunge and promote a better stretch through the shoulders, and a better hip and heel drive over the top, while pushing through the handstand position before finishing in the front walkover.

As for the back walkover, I have to be able to teach the athlete that it’s not just a bridge and then kick over. When a kid does this, they miss the part of pushing through their shoulders. While teaching this skill, I like to focus on the timing of when their hands hit the mat, they then push through their shoulders, which will in turn help promote the drive through their hips and shins/toes while kicking over in the back walkover. There is no specific way of identifying the perfect timing of when to kick over, but I like to refer to my athlete that when they start to feel a slight stretch in the shoulders, that’s when the drive from the hips should start.

I could really go on for days about all the important steps to this skill. But, if us coaches can really take the time to teach our basic fundamentals, these skills will happen a lot faster and easier. Just remember that, “Progressions equals Perfection!” No matter what skill it is!

Drills=Skills Show 04 – Walkovers

Walkovers are the topic for the 4th Drills=Skills show. Shea covers proper technique with a focus on open shoulders and proper lever positioning, David explains drills used to perfect walkovers, and Sean discusses some troubleshooting strength and conditioning tips.

Shea on Walkovers

A prerequisite skill for a back walkover would be to fall to a bridge from a standing position and preferable to kick over as well.  For a front walkover I like to see that an athlete can do a front limber and stand without dropping their arms.

Walkovers, both forward and backward, are great skills for beginners to learn proper opening of upper back and shoulders to help prepare for front and back handsprings.  A common misconception is that arching using the lower back and kicking hard will get the athlete through the skill.  The skill can be done this way but it’s not recommended.  The upper back stretched has up to 70% mobility allowing for it to be much more useful.

Some progressions I use are standing with athletes back to the wall, placing hands on wall and walking down into a bridge (they need to walk both hands and feet).  Once the can walk down and up the wall I have them try to do it with one foot raised to build the necessary strength.  It may take some time but will build the shoulders, core and leg strength needed.

I like to do what I call “tic tocs” as well.  The athlete starts in a bridge, lifts one leg and kicks over back and forth only allowing one foot to touch the floor while hands do not move from the floor.  This helps the athlete feel the shoulders open as well as hip flexor press at the same time in both directions.

For beginners who haven’t mastered the kickover yet, I’ll have them lay on their back with knees bent, place both hands overlapping behind the head and bridge up on elbows.  This helps isolate the open shoulders (make sure they aren’t supporting weight on their head/neck).  Once in the proper elbow bridge I’ll have them kick over. If they close their shoulders they won’t be able to make it.

The techniques of both front and back walkovers is fairly simple but the fear of going backwards is real. Be patient.  In the front walkover athletes tend to want to rush to stand up, make sure the head stays neutral, shoulders open and really use the hamstrings and glutes to finish the skill.

Drills=Skills Show 03 – Tucks

Episode 3 of Drill=Skills features Shea, David, and Sean focusing on Tucks.

Sean on Walkovers

Whether you are going forward or backward, walkovers are one of the most basic, fundamental tumbling movements athletes start performing. Just as any other skill, the most important part of learning walkovers is the physical readiness of the athlete in both strength and flexibility, along with a good understanding of the prerequisite skills. Some of the prerequisites skills include handstands, back bends, front/back limbers, and bridge kick overs.

When dealing with either front or back walkovers, you want to pay close attention to the flexibility and positioning of the shoulder area.  Really focusing on active shoulders, and the open position of that area throughout either skill will help the athlete move through that handstand portion of both skills, with safety and efficiency. You will see, failure to do so will result in weak skills and an unnecessary compression of the other parts of the back which result in injury.

Just as with any other tumbling skill, breaking up the walkovers into pieces will help the athlete better understand each position, and aid in the timing of the skill. The entry, mid point (handstand position), and exit is just one basic, yet effective way of breaking down the skill.  Having a mastery of all 3 segments, will allow the athlete to move through the skill with confidence and complete awareness. As a coach our job is to always help the athlete have complete control through the entire movement. Going slowly and taking time will always benefit the athlete in the long run.

Drills=Skills Show 02 – Standing Fulls

On Drills=Skills Show 2 David, Sean, and Shea discuss Standing Fulls.

The show opens with discussing the prerequisites required for a standing full. Then Sean Guzman addresses proper techniques for the standing full. David Petty gives some drills for proper arms and legs and Shea Crawford looks at some troubleshooting methods.