This one also could have been named practice to music because as much as possible your teams should practice to music. This will get the athletes used to counting music and more importantly, counting to music while performing skills. This can only help a team when performing to music.
At a minimum use an 8 count track, like this one by Bowd Beal with Go! Fight! Win! Music:
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.
Most coaches know their athletes should stretch before and after practice. It doesn’t always happen, but we at least know it should. What many don’t realize is the stretching should be different before and after a practice or workout.
Stretching before practice is done with the intent of getting your body and muscles ready to perform. The goal is to let you body know it’s time to put on the hard hat and boots and get to work. Stretching after practice is to let your body know it can put away the hard hat and take off the boots and after practice is when you should work on flexibility. Flexibility is improved by a controlled tearing of the muscles that leads to them repairing themselves in a more flexible state. Doing this before practice will prevent the muscles from operating at peak performance.
In practice, this means before practice you should hold each position for a shorter count, like an 8 count, and be more gentle, hitting each position or stretching each muscle multiple times. After practice you can hold each position for a longer count, like a 24 count, and be less gentle because the muscles will have time to recover before needing to be a peak performance again.
This is based on my interpretation of conversations with Debbie Love and a couple others. Debbie would also emphasize the importance of a Dynamic Warmup, which will be covered in a couple weeks.
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.
Everyone likes a good celebration. As a coach you should celebrate the small victories of your teams and athletes. Everyone celebrates Sally getting her tuck, but why not celebrate Sally progressing from throwing her head back to keeping it in when learning her tuck too? Add celebrating Sally landing that tuck for the first time when running the routine at practice, and again the first time landing that tuck at a competition. The more you celebrate, the more your athletes know they are making progress and you are proud of them, the harder they’ll want to work. I also think it makes the athletes that are around the celebration work harder so they’ll be the ones celebrated next time.
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.
The first tip is probably going to be the easiest and at the same time the least followed. It is to drink more water. A significant portion of your body is water and you need to refresh and replenish it to keep your body healthy. It will have a positive impact on your life. It will help your body better recover from practice so you’ll be more ready to go at the next practice or workout. My minimum recommendation is to add drinking a glass within an hour of going to bed and to drink another glass as soon as you wake up. This will at least start and end your day the right way.
Improvement is a gradual thing. It’s very unlikely we’re going to find a breakthrough that moves us 10 steps forward. It’s much more likely we’ll have 10 incremental, small improvements that each move us 1 step forward. Over the course of this season my plan is publish 1 thing a week that will help us take 1 step forward, starting a little later today.
It’s likely you’ll already know some of them and others will be so simple that you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of them. Some of the ideas come from my friends in the industry and I’ll do my best to give them credit for them.
And for the record I don’t yet have enough tips to make it through the season, so if you have any please contact me.