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.
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.
Debbie Love has been preaching the Dynamic Warmup for as long as I can remember. It’s the idea of moving through positions to stretch and warmup muscles instead of static stretching, which is hitting a position and holding it. Men’s Fitness said a Dynamic Warmup is:
a series of movements designed to increase body temperature, activate the nervous system, increase range of motion, and correct limitations.
A Dynamic Warmup should do a better job of preparing the athletes for practice than a static warmup. It will warmup the muscles without breaking them down, allowing an athlete to perform at a higher level. Here’s an example of one of Debbie’s Dynamic Warmups:
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.