Anon Coaching a talented young gymnast

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Feb 16, 2022
Hi all!

I have a talented young gymnast, 11 years old, who I have coached for several years now. We are located in Europe and she now belongs to the National Team for her age. She qualified this year, her competition results were so good. If she competed in the USA, I would say she would be level 8 or 9, depending on event.

I'm of course excited to coach her, but I'm not the most experienced coach and our club has not produced any elites before.

I'm asking you more knowledgeable coaches what should I consider the most important new skills to work towards at this stage? I want to give her the best coaching possible now because this is the only club option for her - the second closest would be 2,5 hours away so it wouldn't be possible at her current age. I don't want to mess up her opportunities later in her career because certain skills weren't taught early enough or with wrong techinque.

We get coaches training when we go the to the camps together and they are beneficial, but I also want to ask you all. What do you think about her current skills and what would you work on next?

Her skills right now are:

- tsuk tucked on hard landing, tsuk pike into the pit
- yurchenko entry with vault table and mat stack
- front handspring timer with vault table and mat stack 30 cm higher than the vault table
- front handspring tucked to the pit

- Straddle cast to handstand
- clear hip to handstand
- solid giants
- sole circle
- giant - flyaway
- blind changes (or giant half turns?) in a row (can do about 8-10, very solid)
- blind full with minimal spot (has done some on her own)
- working on toe shoot to handstand on strap bar, can do it with minimal spot
- front giants on strap bar with correct tapping
- front giant drills on real bar

- solid BWO - BHS
- pretty solid BHS - BHS
- triple BHS on low beam
- BHS - LOSO on floor beam
- solid back tuck on high beam
- switch leap
- tick-tock
- front walkover
- round off - back tuck dismount
- we have tried aerials but they don't seem to work for her
- we have also tried front tucks on low beam and they work better for her

- tour jete half
- double full turn
- wolf turn
- RO - BHS - full
- RO - BHS - double tuck into the pit
- front full out of trampoline
- 1,5 back twist out of trampoline
- double back out of trampoline to mat landing

What would you work on NOW? The summer training is good time to work on upgrades and start doing pre requisites for big future skills.

She's not very flexible gymnasts. Her shoulder and lower body flexibility is a big challenge and has always been. She's stretching ALL THE TIME at home, but that only helps her keep her current flexibility. She can do her better side splits (but not easily) and her other side is worse. Her shoulder flexibility isn't an issue on any skills but you can see it when she stretches. Her back flexibility is good though. She's very muscular and doesn't look like your typical talented 11 year old gymnast. She's starting her puberty now so she's probably gaining even more muscle in the future. She's fast runner and has very good legs, but struggles to do press handstands (her record is about 4.5, but the technique isn't the best with often bent arms) and isn't very fast rope climber. She can climb the rope legs together all the way up, but not fast. She can hold a handstand for over a minute.

Any insight would be appreciated!
Feb 16, 2022
That’s a lot of drills/skills to narrow down. Not a coach here. My daughter dipped her toes in the elite track, so I know very little. But from what I’ve seen execution is as important if not more important that skill difficulty on the elite level. Execution is still scored on a 10 point scale and difficulty gets the extra points. As such, I would concentrate on those she does well already or those skills that are “progressive“ (gateways to bigger skills) and perfect the execution. Execution deductions on the elite level is merciless.

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Jan 21, 2007
Baltimore, MD
Trampoline progressions towards double front 1/2-out and double back 1/1-out, imo, should be a very high priority at this stage, because those will prepare her for twisting tsuks and yurchenos, twisting double flyaways, and (eventually) twisting double saltos on floor. Let me know if you need more details on how to build these skills
Feb 16, 2022
Thank you for the ideas!

The goal is to reach the highest level possible for her under the FIG rules. She would want to compete internationally one day.

We should start drilling the double back 1/1 now, that's a very good idea. I have one older gymnast who is able to do it (layout) and I know the basic drills that she did to learn it, but I'm not an expert, so please share! With that older gymnast we started with open tuck doubles, then layout doubles, then layout up to very high soft mats, then the same with jump half turn forward roll, then layout up to soft mats with late half turn and immediately forward roll with half twist. From this she eventually moved to the pit and tried out the skill. She was taught this by a MAG coach at a camp and I just took notes :D

She can already do the double front with half twist to the pit, she tried it on camp once, but it has not been in our regular practice plan. We will spend more time on that too!

And the form! It's on of our main goals right now, to make it a habit to always do certain skills correctly or not at all. The main focus is on: BHS on beam with perfectly straight legs all the time, not allowed to move on before showing it done perfectly every time, back tumbling head in ALWAYS, straight knees and pointed toes on jumps and leaps before progressing to any higher difficulty skills, always finishing skills perfectly with a great salute, good posture on the beam with shoulders down etc, straight arm kips, head in in giants and blinds.

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Jan 21, 2007
Baltimore, MD
Alright, in general terms here's how I'd go about it.

First make sure her front 1/2 and back 1/1 on trampoline are clean, leisurely, and effortless. She should be able to do both skills watching the ground the entire time, with enough confidence that she can chuck it casually on a whim and still have it pretty much perfect.

She should also have an open double back on trampoline, though that doesn't have to be quite as casual. Extremely important: in her double back, she should be clearly spotting the landing after the first flip before starting the second.

Anyway, here's the progression:

1) 3/4 back to front drop, cruise. Cruise should not go around the side at all, and she should watch the trampoline and keep a solid body position throughout.

2) From a low-ish bounce, open-tucked back 5/4 to her back with a mat thrown in under her. In the open tuck, you're looking for the heels to still be pulled to the glutes, but the hips to be open roughly 120 to 135 degrees. Arms should be out to the side.

3) Add a 1/2-turn, so she's doing back 5/4 with a 1/2 turn to land on her belly. Timing is crucial here; she should do the first 3/4 of a salto, see the ground, and then do a cruise in the air before landing. Again, we're looking for heels pulled to glutes in the tuck, and she should still be in this tuck shape while she executes most of the turn. She should initiate the turn NOT by swiveling at the hips, but by taking her arms (which should be out to the side) and moving them to what I've called "cactuar arms" (if you're not familiar with the character cactuar, just do a google image search and you'll immediately see the arm position I mean). She should turn towards the arm that goes down -- so if she's a left twister, her left arm goes down, and vice-versa.

4) This is the scariest step, and may be easier to do into a pit before putting it on the trampoline (from a springboard, off the end of a trampoline or tumbletrak, or whatever setup is easiest for you): take the previous step, and add a 3/4 front before landing. So the full skill is a back 7/4 salto with 1/2 twist, but it should have three easily-distinguishable phases:
-First 3/4 back salto, then spot the ground
-Cruise, watching the ground the whole time, remaining in solid open tuck with heels pulled to glutes
-Spot the ground, then duck under to land on back
The first few times are scary, but after that, if she's seeing the ground where she should, it becomes quite easy quite quickly. Seeing the ground allows her to know exactly where she is in terms of both height and rotation for pretty much the entire skill.
Basically, you want to practice this step until she doesn't find it at all scary anymore.

5) Take step 4, and instead of ending with a 3/4 front, end with a front 1/2 twist. When it's all put together, it should be:
-3/4 back salto, spot the landing
-Cruise, watching the landing
-Front 1/2, watching the landing.
In other words, after the first 3/4 back salto, she should be able to clearly see the landing for the entire rest of the skill. Once you get the hang of it, it's actually easier and less scary than a non-twisting double back, because the landing is so easy to see.

The two biggest key points through all of these are keeping visual contact with the floor and keeping a solid, rigid tuck with the heels pulled to the glutes. It's common for the tuck to get loose when twisting. If the athlete is seeing the ground the way she should, she'll likely find it shockingly easy once she gets the hang of it.

And then all of this translates very simply to twisting double flyaways, vaults with a twist on postflight, and full-outs on floor. If she ever reaches the level to be twisting past a 1/1 in a multi-salto skill, it's a simple matter of turning the front-1/2 phase into a front 1/1, or front 3/2.
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