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ProudMomOfAlani

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Feb 13, 2022
15
My 13-year-old daughter goes to a gym once a week. Her first class was last week. Before this, she was self-taught for about a year and a half. Her goal is to be a competitive gymnast. Her highest skill that she taught herself is a standing back tuck (when she went to her first class last week, the only issues they said with her tumbling was that she needed to point her feet more and squeeze). Now, she's trying to get a round-off back tuck, but she says that she "just can't find her knees" when she's in the air. I'm telling her to just wait until her next class, but she says that she's grateful that she's now able to go to classes, but once a week isn't enough to improve. I don't have the energy, nor the time to take her more than once. So here are my questions:
1. What can she do to get her round-off tuck?
2. Should she wait until her next class or continue practicing on her own?
3. Is she right about once a week isn't enough?
 

Geoffrey Taucer

Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Jan 21, 2007
4,504
Baltimore, MD
My answer to this depends on what she means by "competitive gymnast."

If her goal is to be a serious upper-level athlete (which is very unlikely, but not impossible, for an athlete getting into competition as late as 13), then she should not train roundoff back tuck. It reinforces a lot of habits that will cause problems in the development of powerful high-level tumbling. As a coach, any time I see a kid with high-level aspirations do roundoff-tuck, my heart sinks, because I know I'll have an uphill battle in teaching them to generate power in a roundoff-backhandspring.

For a 13-year-old who is still new-ish to the sport, the most likely competitive route (I'm assuming we're in the USA here; if not, none of this necessarily applies) is an Xcel, which is a more-or-less casual competitive program. And for a kid who doesn't necessarily need to prepare for eventual big high-level tumbling, roundoff-tucks are just fine. If this is the case, then here are my suggestions:
First, I am not a fan of self-taught back yard tumbling in general. A lot of tumbling technique is counterintuitive, so she's very likely to teach herself incorrect technique. And it's harder to correct bad technique than it is to train good technique from scratch. So the best route forward, if at all feasible, is to not train the skills at home, and see about getting into the gym more often.

However, she may the sort of kid who's going to do it anyway (and I must admit I was exactly this same sort of kid when I was that age). So while I think training it at home is a bad idea and I don't encourage it, if she's going to do it anyway she might as well do it properly. Here's how I'd go about it:
1) Let's separate out the back tuck from the roundoff and make sure it has good technique. Standing back tuck works for this, but doing it on a trampoline works better. The biggest thing to focus on is takeoff position. Arms up, head neutral. The most common mistake in self-taught tumbling is to lead with the head. She should NOT be throwing her head back as she takes off for a back tuck; rather, she should be watching something in front of her for as long as possible, so her head is the last thing to start flipping. She should practice this until it feels intuitive and easy and not-even-remotely scary.
2) Heavy emphasis on use of visual cues. She should see something in front of her as she takes off, she should see her knees going over top, and she should see the landing before she lands. There should be no guesswork when in the air.
3) Ab strength. Hollow rockers, crunches, V-ups. These will help her to get her knees in quicker.

And let me emphasize one more time: I think training this skill at home is a bad idea from both a safety perspective and a developmental perspective, and if she has high-level aspirations, it would be better not to train roundoff back tuck at all, and focus instead on backhandsprings.
 

skygirlpc

Proud Parent
Mar 3, 2016
167
You guys may want to talk to the gym about her desires and what will be expected of her and you. I understand that considering more than once a week right now seems like a lot but most competitive gymnasts practice at least three times a week. It may be a good time to decide if your family can handle all that it takes.
 

GymDadWA

Proud Parent
Dec 30, 2017
301
43
Does she want to be a gymnast or be able to do cool gymnastics stuff.

If it's more the latter than a ninja or parkour class might have more of what she is looking for, less focus on form and more on fun skills.
 

ProudMomOfAlani

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Feb 13, 2022
15
Does she want to be a gymnast or be able to do cool gymnastics stuff.

If it's more the latter than a ninja or parkour class might have more of what she is looking for, less focus on form and more on fun skills.
Thanks for the response,

I asked her, and she'd rather be a gymnast.
 

ProudMomOfAlani

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Feb 13, 2022
15
You guys may want to talk to the gym about her desires and what will be expected of her and you. I understand that considering more than once a week right now seems like a lot but most competitive gymnasts practice at least three times a week. It may be a good time to decide if your family can handle all that it takes.
Thanks for the response!

I will talk to her gym once they say she is advanced enough on the other events to start competitive. I didn't realize it was at least 3 times a week. Thank you so much.
 
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ProudMomOfAlani

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Feb 13, 2022
15
My answer to this depends on what she means by "competitive gymnast."

If her goal is to be a serious upper-level athlete (which is very unlikely, but not impossible, for an athlete getting into competition as late as 13), then she should not train roundoff back tuck. It reinforces a lot of habits that will cause problems in the development of powerful high-level tumbling. As a coach, any time I see a kid with high-level aspirations do roundoff-tuck, my heart sinks, because I know I'll have an uphill battle in teaching them to generate power in a roundoff-backhandspring.

For a 13-year-old who is still new-ish to the sport, the most likely competitive route (I'm assuming we're in the USA here; if not, none of this necessarily applies) is an Xcel, which is a more-or-less casual competitive program. And for a kid who doesn't necessarily need to prepare for eventual big high-level tumbling, roundoff-tucks are just fine. If this is the case, then here are my suggestions:
First, I am not a fan of self-taught back yard tumbling in general. A lot of tumbling technique is counterintuitive, so she's very likely to teach herself incorrect technique. And it's harder to correct bad technique than it is to train good technique from scratch. So the best route forward, if at all feasible, is to not train the skills at home, and see about getting into the gym more often.

However, she may the sort of kid who's going to do it anyway (and I must admit I was exactly this same sort of kid when I was that age). So while I think training it at home is a bad idea and I don't encourage it, if she's going to do it anyway she might as well do it properly. Here's how I'd go about it:
1) Let's separate out the back tuck from the roundoff and make sure it has good technique. Standing back tuck works for this, but doing it on a trampoline works better. The biggest thing to focus on is takeoff position. Arms up, head neutral. The most common mistake in self-taught tumbling is to lead with the head. She should NOT be throwing her head back as she takes off for a back tuck; rather, she should be watching something in front of her for as long as possible, so her head is the last thing to start flipping. She should practice this until it feels intuitive and easy and not-even-remotely scary.
2) Heavy emphasis on use of visual cues. She should see something in front of her as she takes off, she should see her knees going over top, and she should see the landing before she lands. There should be no guesswork when in the air.
3) Ab strength. Hollow rockers, crunches, V-ups. These will help her to get her knees in quicker.

And let me emphasize one more time: I think training this skill at home is a bad idea from both a safety perspective and a developmental perspective, and if she has high-level aspirations, it would be better not to train roundoff back tuck at all, and focus instead on backhandsprings.
Thanks for the response,

Apologies for not specifying, she wants to be able to compete- I believe this means Xcel? She says she may want to do it in college, although realizing she probably wont be able to. Thank you for the tips- she tried it and once she threw up her arms she almost landed it. Thank you.
 

JPC13

Proud Parent
Mar 25, 2022
329
My daughter likes to throw tucks and other skills at
Thanks for the response,

Apologies for not specifying, she wants to be able to compete- I believe this means Xcel? She says she may want to do it in college, although realizing she probably wont be able to. Thank you for the tips- she tried it and once she threw up her arms she almost landed it. Thank you.
she could always do club gymnastics in college — assuming where she ends up has a club team.

Also, three days a week is towards the lower end. My 9 year old is doing 4 days now. With 5 or 6 days likely next season.
 

BusyMomof2

Member
Feb 2, 2022
64
44
At our gym, there is a ton of form work before a girl throws a back tuck. First and foremast, they have to have a powerful roundoff double back handspring before coaches will let them start to work on a back tuck. They do a bunch of form exercises on the floor/against the wall. Then they work on it into the foam pit for a while (could be weeks or months), then the tumble track, and then the floor with a mat. Point is, there is a lot of training before a competitive gymnast throws a new skill. As a side note, we have several friends in competitive cheer and they seen to learn/throw new tumbling skills much faster. Form is not as important.
 

Aussie_coach

Staff member
Gold Membership
Coach
Proud Parent
Gymnast
Club Owner / Manager
Jan 4, 2008
3,946
I also don’t allow my gymnasts to do round off back tucks (even rec gymnasts), unless there is a very big issue with their back handsprings (like a total lack of
Shoulder flexibility).

It’s a short cut that causes problems later. They are taught to do round off BHS BT. The BHS goes backwards and the Tuck goes upwards. If they get used to doing a tuck out of their round off, they will be rebounding in the wrong direction. This will cause them to do high and short BHS’s which will lack power and prevent long term progress.

If your daughter truly wants to be a good gymnast, she does need to wait until the coaches deem her ready to do a skill before she does it.

Self taught is not a good thing, there are so many bad habits that creep in. These bad habits will stall progress and generally lead to injuries.

If she really wants to be an amazing gymnast she should be practising things like strength, flexibility and handstands at home not skills.
 

JMASR080615

New Member
Apr 18, 2022
11
38
Hi! I think it’s amazing that your daughter has a natural talent! I know that most competitive gyms are extremely particular about shaping and take a lot of time to teach each skill properly. If she has friends that also go to the same gym could something be worked out where possibly she can get a ride to the gym to be able to practice more hours a week? Good luck to your daughter!
 

ProudMomOfAlani

Proud Parent
Gymnast
Feb 13, 2022
15
Hi! I think it’s amazing that your daughter has a natural talent! I know that most competitive gyms are extremely particular about shaping and take a lot of time to teach each skill properly. If she has friends that also go to the same gym could something be worked out where possibly she can get a ride to the gym to be able to practice more hours a week? Good luck to your daughter!
Thank you so much!
 

A's Mom

Proud Parent
Nov 30, 2018
62
42
It sounds like she's determined and fearless and ambitious and talented - all exciting things! I just want to echo a couple things: get a meeting with a coach ASAP. Talk about her hopes and dreams. Talk about what she's doing at home. Ask for their advice and pray she follows it. We're all talking about form form form because it's all fun and games until she breaks a bone or gets a concussion. Proper form is about SAFETY. Good luck to you both!
 
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