David on Handstand Technique

I’m sure that everyone out there has at least given a solid effort in attempting to do a handstand. And I’m sure that some of us did them fairly well. But, we all have seen people try this “simple” drill and epically fail.

What I want to do, is give you a few techniques that we should all strive for, so that we can teach our younger kids the most important skill in all of tumbling.

First thing I’m looking for while teaching a handstand is the positioning of the arms, head, shoulders and chest, and lunge positioning. First off, in the lunge, I like my athletes to be in about a 45 degree angle from shoulder to back leg.

I’m also making sure that the athlete’s arms are not just by the head, but behind the ears, so to open the shoulders throughout. This will also help prevent the dropping of arms going into this skill, as well as how we approach cartwheels and round offs.

I’m then making sure that the athletes head position stays neutral throughout this skill. It’s so easy to have your chin raised, while looking for your hands, when reaching into the handstand. This will only cause a slight arch in the back, which is one thing we are really trying to avoid while learning the beginning/foundation skills of tumbling.

Let’s make sure that while we are teaching our fundamentals, that we don’t just pass on by these skills and drills. You ever want to know why a level 5 kid has a bad full? Check out their round off. Ever wonder why their round off isn’t too hot? Check out that handstand.

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.

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!

David on Back Handsprings

David Petty is the Tumbling Director at Cheer Extreme Raleigh in North Carolina.

Favorite drills and progressions

I like to use simple “jump back” drills. Using a small sit with an exploding jump back onto an elevated mat, or mats.

For a strong arm swing, there are numerous drills for this. You can use a weighted medicine ball, or one of my favorites is to place a wedge against a wall, have your kid sit against it with their hips and shoulders in line, palms on the ground by the hips, and then swing 10 times in a row from the ground to hitting the wedge with arms by the ears against the wedge.

How do you teach your athlete the difference between good/bad arm swing?

There are so many approaches coaches will use when teaching this skill. Arms up. Arms in front. Arms by the side. My personal opinion is that I will sometimes use all of these when teaching, (completely based off of the need of the athlete), but my favorite is the arms by the side. In a routine, you will never see an athlete, or should never see an athlete start with arms above head, or in front of their chest. I like to teach the method of “Do More with Less!”

If your athlete is starting with arms up, or in front of them, they often will have to swing down, just to swing back up. Like I said, there are uses for all starting positions, but if I’m starting to teach an athlete this skill, I try to start with arms down so that they can fill the arm swing.

Drills to fix bad legs during a back handspring?

One of the best drills that I’ve started using, is one that Shea Crawford taught me just by starting with your feet apart, and then teaching how to engage the proper leg muscles to squeeze the feet together at the top of the skill. There are many more that work, but this one has been my “go to” for about a year now.

David on Standing Fulls

David Petty is the Tumbling Director at Cheer Extreme Raleigh in North Carolina.

When should you start teaching a standing full?

I recommend after the athlete has consistent jumps to tuck and after they have mastered a running combination to full, possibly even a double.

Favorite Drills

My favorite drills starting out would be doing tucks onto an elevated surface to promote a better drive through the shins and to hopefully eliminate bad landings. I also like to teach the proper arm swing into this skill. The best way it was ever explained to me, whichever way you spin your full, raise your arms to go above, or at least shoulder height and shaping them into a circle, or “hoop” shape.

Should you teach a standing full with/without a drop step?

This is something that can be debated for days. I like to teach the skill without a step, but I am not against using the drop step. Especially since this is often choreographed with counts in a routine.

How to teach better landings with a standing full?

A common problem is short landings and/or feet apart. This is something I also teach with standing tucks. Too many times a coach will teach an athlete to drive their knees to their chest for better rotation. However, this often causes heels to be driven to their backside and actually slows down the rotation and causes bad landing. I try to teach a shin drive over the head. I know that’s an exaggeration, but it will cause better hip rotation and better landings.