Stunting with different people will make the athletes better as individuals and the team more alike. The individual athletes will become better because they’ll learn to make a wider variety of adjustments and corrections based on the tendencies of their new partners. Stunting is so much about being able to make to correct adjustment quickly that being exposed to more scenarios that require adjustments will better prepare athletes for the competition mat. For example if Amber heels, but Betsy toes, the people that stunt with both Amber and Betsy will be used to make adjustments for either position and more likely be able to hold Cathy regardless of where she is on the heel to toe spectrum.
Changing partners also gives athletes a chance to learn from more people. Having a base work with a new partner provides an opportunity for some detail of the stunt to be performed a little different and turn into a teaching/learning moment.
I also believe having people stunt with different people on a regular basis will make the stunts more similar to each other. If one group was consistently fast and another consistently slow, swapping some of the parts will push them toward meeting someplace that works for everyone.
Cheating is generally considered a bad thing, but when it comes to cheat grips and tricks for stunts it can be a good thing. Finding a way to get the same look of a skill, a full up for example, using a grip that makes it easier or less risky is a great training tool and helps the athletes build confidence.
Figuring out cheat tricks and grips isn’t always easy. I usually get ideas from watching stunt videos in reverse or watching live stunts fall. Finding them takes time, a different point of view, and a little creativity, but when you find them it makes it worthwhile.
When working stunts add an extra element to the end. Instead of doing only your 4 elements to hit the high range, practice with a 5th or 6th, even if it’s a repeat of one of the first 4. This will help build stunt endurance and increase control of the stunt sequence, since they’ll need to maintain control of the stunt to be able to add additional elements.
I should probably say keep your elbows in, but that title isn’t as catchy. When stunting as a base, cradles excluded, elbows should stay inside of the shoulders. Power is lost when the elbows get wider than the shoulders. I see this being a problem most often on twisting up to group stunts, such as full ups, and the toss of coed style stunts. Focusing on keeping the elbows as close to the center of the body as possible during stunts will keep the top person’s body better aligned, making the stunts easier to hit.
I’ve heard several coaches emphasize the need to keep elbows in, but probably none more than Tony Crump, current coach at the University of Memphis, and Saleem Habash, former coach of the University of Kentucky and Dunbar High School.
In tumbling it’s pretty standard to break each skill down into parts. The instructors at the USASF regional meetings did a great job of this, pointing out the entry, middle, and exit of each skill. We need to start doing the same things for stunts and developing drills that help with the pieces. The only person I’ve seen really taking this approach is Kenny Feeley.
If we start looking at stunts though the entry, middle, and exit lenses, isolating each part and working on them separately, we’ll probably be able to progress in a safer and faster manner. We should take a stunt like a traditional full up prep and work on the entry, loading in and getting the explosive power up, the middle, the twisting of the top and arm/hand/wrist work of the base, and the end, catching high and absorbing through the legs, as separate pieces.
We can also take pieces from one stunt and apply them to another. For example, I had a guy working on back handspring full ups (which I think twist the wrong way, but I seem to be alone with that thought). He was having a hard time with 2 things, turning his left hand over to catch and catching low with his arms bent. My suggestion to him was to do a couple full up left cupies, spinning left, each day to work on turning his hand around. I also suggested doing Kenny’s drop and lock drill to get used to locking out arms if the stunt isn’t caught with locked arms. Breaking the skill into these parts will allow the guy to get better at the parts he’s struggling with without throwing the hard skill over and over again.
When stunting your dips should be 2 counts down and 1 count up. Going slower down will help maintain control over the stunt during the dip. Going faster up will provide the power for the upcoming skill. The ratio of coming up in half the time it took to get down emphasizes that coming up needs to be twice as fast and powerful as dipping down.
I believe Saleem Habash, former coach at the University of Kentucky and Dunbar High School, was the first one to tell me to do this, but several of my coaching friends use it. Kenny Feeley would add the depth of the dip should equal the length from the bases’ wrist to elbow.
During practice you should stunt on lines. This makes it clear when stunts are moving side to side, which is more noticeable to judges than moving front to back. Not only does it make it clear to you, the coach, it makes it clear to the stunt group without the need for you to say anything, and having self-correcting athletes is the ultimate goal.
Remember, I’m saying you should do this at practice. In competition do what makes your routine look the best.
This is something I made my teams do in the past, but got away from. Kenny Feeley of Spring Tumbling reminded me of this at their Helsinki coaches conference. It’s a simple thing that will make your stunts more aware of their movement, allowing them to fix it on their own.