For Coaches Episode 2: I hate USAG girls compulsory vaults

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Valentin

Coach
Nov 12, 2007
375
USA
ok makes sense...cool..how effective has this been for you during various ages, and so forth. Do you think that if you taught them to just be straight as opposed to slightly arch it would make much difference..
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
4,504
Baltimore, MD
I've found it to be very effective, both with my boys and my girls! For one, having their head looking at their hands instead of neutral tends to give them a much better shoulder angle (or rather, a lack of an angle), and therefore much better repulsion off the table. For another, the focus on getting their heels up quickly has worked spectacularly at getting them the lightning fast turnover (and therefore lightning fast preflight) that I like to see on vault. Those who have been around long enough to be working handspring fronts tend to pick them up relatively quickly, easily, and cleanly. My lower level girls who have only recently started doing front handsprings over the table are already (mostly) showing a fast turn over and a pretty nice block.

Right now we have two level 8 girls about to (probably) move up to level 9, and it's looking like both will be competing handspring fronts (one may be doing a handspring front half -- and on a good day she can do a handspring double front into a pit that lands cleanly on her feet). Both have pretty strong tsuks, but a handspring front just has such an enormous value for girls in relation to how difficult it is; much more so than a tsuk or yurchenko. (To clarify, I've spent very little time coaching these two girls -- however, they were taught to vault with the same technique I've been describing)
 

Valentin

Coach
Nov 12, 2007
375
USA
Well it certainly sounds like there is some merit to your method. Do you think that you would be interested in writing up a detailed approach to how you develop a handspring front through all the developmental stages and contribute it to The Gym Coach Journal? It sounds interesting.. contact me if you interested, otherwise like every other good post in time it will be on page 5 and no one will see it again...lost knowledge.

In honesty i also have tried teaching a similar method, however i must say that my methodology has not been effective, predominantly because i believe the run up of the girls is just to darn slow.
 

ryantroop

Member
Sep 21, 2008
421
Illinois
I too would love to see your progressions for a HS Front..

I have a girl who runs her butt off who has a hard time turning over..

Im fairly sure it's her block, though.. She does have that super fast turn over, almost so fast that her feet go TOO far over her head.

I am genuinely interested to see what your suggestions are and your teaching method.


Ryan
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
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ryantroop, do you have a video? If so, I'd be happy to take a look and see if anything jumps out at me, and I may be able to run it by my gym's other vault guru as well.

Valentin, check your PMs
 
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ACoach78

Coach
Feb 22, 2007
112
USA
I too would love to see your progressions for a HS Front..

I have a girl who runs her butt off who has a hard time turning over..

Im fairly sure it's her block, though.. She does have that super fast turn over, almost so fast that her feet go TOO far over her head.

I am genuinely interested to see what your suggestions are and your teaching method.


Ryan


Sounds to me like her issues are a matter of improving her board contact and take-off positions.

Much like the glide swing on bars, I feel that most kids contact the springboard in a very poor position and they are losing too much momentum during that phase of the vault. Not nearly enough time is spent in this area.
 

eeyoretumbles

Member
Jul 13, 2008
234
rainy washington
Thank you for the post, and you bring up a lot of good points! I love Vanessa Atler, and watching her old videos of vault, I'm like wait.. she's such a good vaulter but in some pictures she doesn't look hollow at all, but is still an amazing vaulter! And look how much distance and height she got!
 

ryantroop

Member
Sep 21, 2008
421
Illinois
Sounds to me like her issues are a matter of improving her board contact and take-off positions.

Much like the glide swing on bars, I feel that most kids contact the springboard in a very poor position and they are losing too much momentum during that phase of the vault. Not nearly enough time is spent in this area.


Ok, Ill bite cause I would really like to help her.


If Im missing something, I would like to know... How can I help her improve that?

I have successfully taught this skill to boys.. I know they are a different animal in many ways... but I would think technique is fairly similar...

Bare in mind, this girl is STRONG, so it's not a strength issue..
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
4,504
Baltimore, MD
Ok, Ill bite cause I would really like to help her.


If Im missing something, I would like to know... How can I help her improve that?

I have successfully taught this skill to boys.. I know they are a different animal in many ways... but I would think technique is fairly similar...

Bare in mind, this girl is STRONG, so it's not a strength issue..

Did you get my PM?
 

ryantroop

Member
Sep 21, 2008
421
Illinois
I did..

We raised the vault, she jumped higher...


We moved faster, she lost control.


Today, I asked her to wait in a hollow a little longer on the rise, and hit the heel drive peak when she was blocking...


I think the problem is that she loses the upward momentum before she blocks... when we added the delay she rose up, but her rotation and distance suffered horrendously...


It's a little frustrating... she doesnt want to go back to tsuks, and she would like to compete this for her final meet (it's a senior meet between Illinois and Texas), a whopping 2 and a half weeks away.

Any help, Im willing to take at this point.. Im frustrated because I feel a little inept... my priority is to keep her safe through the whole process... Im trying, ya know? I have never had this much trouble with a single skill and it's driving me up the wall! It was just a strange coincidence that this thread started..

Personally.. I think it's a lack of raw power... she is super strong, but when I see her do this vault I don't see any explosive energy from it...

To see if we could offset that, we did board drills today as well.. getting explosive upward energy... before doing the drills she "couldnt" jump from the board onto the table - after the drills she figured it out, but it didnt help the HS front much... obviously, it wasnt a power issue... so to clarify, I think it's a use of power issue...

I will try to get a more recent video of her working it...


Sorry if I let this degrade into a cry for help.. but Im a little frustrated..

Thanks,

Ryan
 

gymdog

Coach
Jul 5, 2007
5,120
To see if we could offset that, we did board drills today as well.. getting explosive upward energy... before doing the drills she "couldnt" jump from the board onto the table - after the drills she figured it out, but it didnt help the HS front much... obviously, it wasnt a power issue... so to clarify, I think it's a use of power issue...

That seems like a board work issue first and foremost. Honestly, I think pretty much any gymnast working a handspring front should have the ability to jump onto the table with no hesitation (and be able to do immediate punch front off). I would continue to work on this.

Can she do a double front off a springboard/tumble track/etc pretty well?
 

ryantroop

Member
Sep 21, 2008
421
Illinois
Double off a diving board. Never did them into a pit...

I know it's a little different, but the same rotational feel.

We did do a lot of work on the jump, her legs were very tired from it today, but she was able to jump up onto the table without hesitation after the drills for building up.
 

CoachL

Member
Apr 9, 2007
215
without seeing the vault but listening to the problems your talking about w/ her hsp front, she most likely doing 1 of 2 things or both.

1. Not driving long enough

2. Counter rotating
 
D

Deleted member D3987

Let me add one more clarification to my original post.

"Straight Hollow" is poorly worded by the JO Committee and I may bring this up. People naturally associate "hollow" with a curvilinear hollow. However, a straight hollow position is simply a straight position with the sternum pulled in slightly so that the thoracic spine is not in extension (i.e. arched). However, the thoracic spine should not be in extreme kyphosis (i.e. rounding) either.

So, better wording for the coaching community would be "straight." And, that's what I advocate. I want my athletes straight and tight with the eyes looking at the hands. So, yes, the head is out a bit.

At that point, I really emphasize board position and entry angle to achieve my desired post-flight. Do you have to arch in a handspring front? Yes, to an extent. But, I want the arch that occurs to happen through hip extension, not thoracic extension. Furthermore, I want this to occur immediately after the athlete has left the table because they will have maximized the vertical velocity due to the reaction force from the table. So, their flight path is now set and any changes in body position (arching, etc.) simply changes the inertial parameters and the resulting rotational (angular) velocity.

In coaching terms, they have now maximized their height after table contact and if they need to flip faster, this is the time to alter body position to achieve such. Furthermore, if the body is straighter coming off of the table, the rotational speed will be greater when they tuck or change position because there was greater resistance (inertia) from the initial body position. I know that I'm wording this poorly, but hopefully it makes some sense. Think of rotating and changing position in the middle of the air from a layout to a tuck versus a layout to a pike. Which is going to spin faster? Certainly, the layout to the tuck because tucking in tightly reduces the resistance to rotation to a greater extent than changing from a layout to a pike.

So, if I'm arched really hard coming onto the table, my body is already shortened and the speed of rotation when I tuck or change into whatever body position will be less than if I were straighter. Furthermore, due to the arch at contact, my center of mass is lower and therefore I will not attain as much height off of the table. My flight path will be a lower and flatter parabola.

Your continual argument of it being a tight arch versus a loose arch is irrelevant. Certainly being tighter will assist you relative to the transmission of the reaction force from the table. But, the arch alters the position of the center-of-mass regardless of whether you're tight or loose. And, the position (angle) of the center-of-mass relative to the line of action of that reaction force is what plays an important role in flight path. The other variables of parabolic motion are take-off velocity (from the board and table) and the height of the center of mass from both the board and position on the table.

If there is still confusion, I'll elaborate more on this later.

^^^a more astute understanding of what is going on with a front handspring. i'll only add that the above pic is of a 20 year trained veteran. you cannot have young children practice what you see until they have achieved a level of strength that can duplicate the above pic without consequence of injury.
 
E

emacmommy

I know this is getting to be an old string but I have to add my own 2 cents worth too. I will say I read the original post thouroughly, but skimmed most of the replies. So, if I'm repeating anybody here I apologize. I have two points of my own to make.

1) Technique is just that, technique. There will always be more than one and someone will always try and defend what is the "best". Really, by the process of elimination the truly successful techniques will be weeded out by trial and error, but there will NEVER be only one successful technique. What works for one type of skill/body type doesn't always work for another. Entry on for a HS-on 1/1-off vault is considerably different than one for a HS front; same as for how "deep" of a tight-arch heel drive is needed for a short stocky gymnast (such as what I needed when I did HS fronts on the old vault) in comparison to what's needed for a longer, taller gymnast. I welcome multiple techniques and love learning about ones I may not be aware of. This point was just meant to justify the arguments. Keep debating coaches... I enjoy learning.

2) To me this point will help justify the USAG compulsory progressions. If you read the latest Official Changes to the USAG JO Code of Points (available under Women's Program/Member Updates on the USAG website) you will read about continued tweaking of the philosophy that has been driving our JO Olympic Committee for the past 16 years. I know it has been 16 years because the pretty much the same technical committee members have been member for that long or longer. I personally am acquainted with one of them as she was my very first PreTeam coach, way back in the day and I still talk to her (although not nearly enough) to this day. As I read into the document, I see two driving forces to our JO program (compulsory & optional), easy entrance for as many beginner gymnasts as possible and safety for the less experienced/weaker gymnast. If you consider these two factors and the fact that as a gymnast progresses and ages through the sport you can teach the more aggressive techniques when they have a better ability to control their body with strength and body awareness. Can you picture a brand new little spark plug of a Level 5 gymnast being told to the judges want her to drive her heels as hard as she can to a tight arch without having the experience of how to control that energy on the back side.... SCORPION LANDING!!!! Definitely not safe. These little safety mechanisms are built into just about all the compulsory routines. The extra cast after the front hip circle on bars so we don't have pitching, tripping, uncontrolled squat ons, or tap swings into flyaways so we don't have pinging uncontrolled beginner flyaways from a huge aggressive cast they can't control, or even subtler yet... the Level 4 on up compulsory beam dismounts (cartwheel to HS-1/2 turn dismount); this teaches what to do to safely cast over on a HS on bars. I can tell you the progressionally appropriateness of the USAG Compulsory routine requirements have been hotly debated between the JO Committee for years, just as long time members Tom Koll, Cheryl Jarrett, Laurie Reid (my PreTeam coach), John Geddert, and others. Much to Gedderts chagrin I can tell you safety/control for a beginner usually reigned over aggressive/progressional requirements.

Bottom line for me is really it isn't until a gymnast is around Level 6 (maybe a 2nd year Level 5) that the nuances of aggressive heel drive vs. safe high floaty blocking handspring are introduced. Meanwhile one of my emphasis this week for my Level 4 vaulters has been on a tight arching heel drive to a front layout to their back (heels slightly landing first) up onto big blue (Level 4 vault system). So do I try and introduce that idea to them young, heck ya, but do I tell them that's what they want when we transfer to table, nope... straight, straight, straight as their hands hit at exact vertical to block through their shoulders to stay straight, straight, straight on the post flight to look at the wall as they land... not look down. Do I hope that some of the quick heel drive drills done as young L4's convert into a quick heel drive to that straight, straight, straight over the table... you bet, but I'd rather err on the side of safety for young inexperienced vaulters than say drive those heels straight through then witness face first landings and risk low back stress fractures from an aggressive arch with weak bodies.

So there is my two cents in defense of multiple techniques and to defend the current compulsories. Now, if we can just get them to come up with music that doesn't put us to sleep.
 
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Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
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Going through this thread again, I realize I did a very poor job of explaining my point, so I'm going to try again.

In a properly done front handspring, you do not have enough time to think about flying through the air in a hollow before hitting the table; the preflight should be lightning fast, and shouldn't give you enough time to do anything but get the heels up as fast as possible. If you are doing everything else correctly but taking the time to try to hit a hollow before hitting the table, you are not going to get the snap you need for higher level vaults.

This being the case, I first start by teaching my kids to aim for a tight, slight arch in preflight, and after that all I really worry about is getting them to turn over as fast as possible on the entry (in other words, correcting the run and hurdle). The chest will naturally be hollow as they contact the board; that's something we rarely if ever have to actually teach; so once they learn to hit the board properly and then immediately think about driving the heels over, they will hit that tight arch JUST as their hands are comming off the table. Which is absolutely IDEAL for a handspring front.

My primary objection to the level 4 compulsory vault is that it scores all the wrong elements of the preflight n my opinion. Because there seems to be such an emphasis on the hollow shape, the easiest way to score well is to move the board way way back from the mat, causing a long, floaty, hollow preflight. A level 4 vault with a long floaty preflight will almost guaranteed score in the 9's, but such a vault has NOTHING to do with a correctly executed handspring vault.
 
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gymdog

Coach
Jul 5, 2007
5,120
Going through this thread again, I realize I did a very poor job of explaining my point, so I'm going to try again.

In a properly done front handspring, you do not have enough time to think about flying through the air in a hollow before hitting the table; the preflight should be lightning fast, and shouldn't give you enough time to do anything but get the heels up as fast as possible. If you are doing everything else correctly but taking the time to try to hit a hollow before hitting the table, you are not going to get the snap you need for higher level vaults.

This being the case, I first start by teaching my kids to aim for a tight, slight arch in preflight, and after that all I really worry about is getting them to turn over as fast as possible on the entry (in other words, correcting the run and hurdle). The chest will naturally be hollow as they contact the board; that's something we rarely if ever have to actually teach; so once they learn to hit the board properly and then immediately think about driving the heels over, they will hit that tight arch JUST as their hands are comming off the table. Which is absolutely IDEAL for a handspring front.

My primary objection to the level 4 compulsory vault is that it scores all the wrong elements of the preflight n my opinion. Because there seems to be such an emphasis on the hollow shape, the easiest way to score well is to move the board way way back from the mat, causing a long, floaty, hollow preflight. A level 4 vault with a long floaty preflight will almost guaranteed score in the 9's, but such a vault has NOTHING to do with a correctly executed handspring vault.

But in my mind, that's because it's a progression, not really even an actual skill, more of an evaluated drill. It would be very difficult for the kids at that level to do a really great heel drive, because they don't have the gymnastics ability to convert at the right time so they'd land on their backs. They'd end up flipping over. Some could do it for sure, but most, I'm pretty convinced, couldn't. This is a drill/progression that has been done for ages - I competed level 4 before it was used, and I learned this. It's a necessary progression in my opinion, and the emphasis is on the approach to the board and body awareness (tight upon contact). If they cannot do this, with the "incorrect" preflight described, I do not think they will easily transition to the more aggressive technique (which I agree is the technique that will be used for higher level forward entry vaults). If you take any optional I am sure they can do this "drill" the way it is intended to be performed...it will feel "easy" to them, but that's the point. The emphasis for me is on not piking and not dropping the arms (i.e. arms are in the correct position following contact with the board, then arms stretch forward as feet come up). Arms do not rise and then drop significantly. I find this to be an excellent progression to avoid this problem and to work on the beginning shoulder action.

I don't initially teach as aggressive a drop into the back hip circle as I do for a free hip...although I eventually start to have them start trying to drop back to the candestick and finish on their thighs...it's the same kind of logic to me. They need to start somewhere, with the simpler version of the skill. I also teach a lot of classes, and I can say the number 1 best instruction I have for BHC is "come back to the bar" (after the cast). With the beginning BHC, if they don't come back to the bar they will not have the ability to make it. I learned this from someone else and found my ability to get unspotted BHCs from beginners increased a lot. The last thing you want to teach is the drop you teach more advanced gymnasts. We are breaking skills down into little pieces with different focuses to eventually build more advanced skills. There is some issue of habits being formed but there is only so much reasonable stock we can put in that. Advanced gymnasts must be able to adjust technique and build on fundamental movements and mix and match the fundamental arch-hollow conversions at appropriate times.

Unless you are teaching bad form, I think there are times where you have to use a different arch-hollow structure to teach something else. I was taught a pretty standard hollow layout (open hips on takeoff, strong conversion to hollow quickly) but when I timered for doubles, I held that tight arch a little longer and "pulled" more straight through it on top. But when I first learned a layout, my RO BHS and set wasn't as strong, and I wasn't as physically capable on the "snap" so it was taught in a way that would prevent a whip back.

Handspring vaulting was most definitely not better back when I competed level 4, 5, and 6 (yes, you could do it in level 4, and 90% of the attempts could be generously described as "egregious" by the criteria set forth in this thread...no offense anyone...I was among your numbers too). In fact I'd go as far as to say it's better overall now, but we have the table so it's hard to compare. I do think it's being developed better in general though. While the level 4 vault may not prize the most aggressive heel drive possible, it definitely does not prize piking on.

Well, that was a really long post that makes me look like a L4 mat stack apologist :p Really, my feelings are neutral at best...with the push to compete at lower levels across the board, I really think to some extent this is the best we can do.
 

Geoffrey Taucer

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Jan 21, 2007
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One of my upper level girls who has been trained this way just had a meet last weekend, and we got some videos of her vaults, which one of the other coaches at my gym has posted on youtube. I will try to use these to demonstrate my point.

First video: YouTube - Front handspring Vault

I'm sure everybody will notice that this entire vault (and a very impressive one at that) is done in a tight hollow. HOWEVER, it's important to understand that the purpose of this hollow position is to KILL HER ROTATION, as is clear from...

Second video: YouTube - First competitive Front Front

In this vault, she strives to hit a tight arch right after leaving the springboard; because of the lightning fast transition from board to table, she has just enough time to go from her punch on the board (which is naturally hollow) to a tight arch right as she hits the table. This gymnast has been trained to think about hitting a tight arch the instant she leaves the board; there isn't (and shouldn't be) enough time in the preflight for her to think about hitting a hollow position.

This is her first meet as a Level 9, and therefore her first time competing this vault.

The second vault, not the first, is the one I aim for when teaching a front handspring vault. First, I teach the kids how to hit the board; if their weight is behind their feet on the entry, the hollow position of the back on the board will happen on its own. From there, my girls (and boys, for that matter) are trained to hit a tight, slight arch as soon as they leave the board. If they are hitting the board properly, the preflight will be very very brief, so they will hit this tight slight arch right as their hands contact the mat/table.

I generally don't worry about a hollow position until they have reached the point where they are generating too much power for their vault. At this point, I introduce a touch of the technique used in the first of the two vault videos; that is, a hollow in order to kill the rotation.

(note: I haven't coached this girl much, but the methods I use to teach a handspring vault are the same as the ones used by the coach who DOES normally coach her on vault)
 
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CoachTodd

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Proud Parent
Nov 4, 2009
810
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Just as a quick note, the girl in the video (we call her girl A) never did very well with the Level 4 flat back vault because she couldn't show a good preflight. She always scored in the low to mid 8's. Another girl I had (girl B) that would do the level 4 vault with the spring board 4' from the mats (a different coach's idea) would score 9.4 or higher on the level 4 vault)
When girl A moved to level 5 she immediately began vaulting over the table with no problems. Her lowest score on a 10 start value front handspring was a 9.25 and that was with a split in the post flight and landing since she hadn't learned to control her power.
When girl B moved to level 5, I had to reteach her how to vault. She wasn't physically tall enough to dive into the table form a distance and actually bounce off the vault table so I put her board close enough for her to do it how I think it should work. After doing this we had to re-teach her how to hit the spring board. After this the rest of her vault was always a work in progress and she never scored very well on it.
On the other hand, girl A has never lost a front handspring vault other than to one other girl in our gym who was quite a bit older and more experienced at the time.

Basically my views on this subject are simple. Take the judging of the run and the preflight out of the compulsory vaults and look at the dynamics and shapes of the support and post flight phases. If the run and/or preflight are wrong, it will show in the rest of the vaul.
 
B

BlairBob

If you can't run, you can't vault. If you lack the ability to jump, you can't punch.

Except with gymnasts with lower limb disorders or injuries, your gymnasts that can run and jump fast and high tend to be stronger in their middle and upper bodies than those kids who cannot run and jump.

The gymnasts who cannot run and jump well tend to be weak unless they have some sort of injury, disorder, or weird muscle imbalances or mechanics.

A simple observance is all our girls who suck at the run in vaulting tend to be some of our weakest gymnasts who suffer in basic strength throughout their skillset and abilities.

The simple act of trying to go into a tight arch off the board is pretty much the same as a punch front layout off a board which should be a staple drill for basic vaulting. Then the handspring is simply a punch front layout using a handstand block.
 
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