Those gosh darn cartwheels.

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Apr 26, 2009
Sioux City, IA
Hi all!

I am 19 years old and this is my first year as the head level 5 coach. I consider myself a very good coach when it is one on one, or in small groups, but I have 13 girls completely to myself (I know, my gym is terrible with ratios...nothing I can do :eek:) Anywho, I'm having trouble teaching cartwheels on high beam to this big of a group. Beam is my strong point as a coach considering it was my best event as a gymnast (Iowa State Champ :p), however not being able to give much personal attention to my kids is making it hard when there are so many mental issues with this skill. Does anyone have any drills or mental practices I can give my girls to do without my supervision so that they are getting something out of it while I can still focus my attention on a few of the other girls?

Thanks :D


If you have enough beams, you can divide the girls into three or four groups. Work with one group on cartwheels however you want to do it, so you can work a little more one-on-one. Have the other girls work on something that would be beneficial to work on, but which they can work on independently. Like turns, handstands, dance.

If the girls are comfortable enough, you could do cartwheels on medium beam/high beam with mats under it, with a spot. This might help them get the motion without the fear.

(p.s. I'm a gymnast, not a coach)
Sep 21, 2008
It is difficult to keep their attention, Im sure!!

What you can do is make a circuit based on the skill solely.. so..

Part one, next to a wall, Handstand 1/4 turn to chest facing wall.

Move a few steps forward, needle kick 1/4 turn, feeling the open hips, looking through hands for a straight line.

Move a few steps, carthweel near wall (chest facing wall).

Move to low beam, attempt cartwheel on low beam (with or without support mats, your choice).

Split stretch for 30 seconds (while waiting for individual turn on beam)

Individual spot with you.


THe hardest part I can see of this, though, is getting your girls into the circuit, and keeping the pace.

If it's a rec class, many times they just aren't totally into the mechanics and they may not want to circuit (it takes away from "talk time", thoug htye do get it while stretching).

If it's a comp. or pre-comp group, then they might be more receptive. See whacha get.

Im not sure if anyone else has any other suggestions... but it's how I do it with my group of 6. I particularly like the stretch part because it emphasizes a nice split for the carthweel, and actively stretches instead of passively (even though it's a passive stretch, they are doing the stretch after going through the motion, and again while with you through a spot).

Another station (if you have the wall space), is to do a handstand in as wide a split as possible, and have them rock back and forth and touch their nose with one hand before putting it back down. This is a bit more advanced, and will require some strength and obvious coordination.

Hope that helps!



They need to be aggressive on their beam CW. Too many kill the CW, so it looks crappy and they tend to fall off since they are closing their shoulders and piking down and creating weird twisting actions with their broken lines.


Club Owner / Manager
Mar 23, 2009
West Midlands, England
Wow that is a very big group - I thought I had it bad with 8 (even though that is more normal!)
At the moment mine are working cartwheels too. They are getting quite good now, but when they first started I piled mats up underneath each beam so that they were all working on what was essentially a floor beam. I had 2 gymnasts on each beam and 2 working on a floor line. I then worked them I guess in military fashion - The first gymnast on each beam got into their starting position and did the carthwheel. I then gave them feedback. Then the next gymnast had their turn. They had 2 goes each, then rotated round, so they all worked on each beam and the floor line.
I made a rule that even if they fell off they had to get back on and show me their finishing position to get it into their head.
I don't support on beam unless it is the gymnast's first go or if they have had a particularly nasty fall and need their confidence building up.

Now, after a good 3 months of working on cartwheels, they are getting quite good at sticking them every time.

I have a set up where I still have a floor line and a floor beam then 2 big mats underneath one high beam and 1 big mat under the other high beam. The girls then rotate from the floor beam to middle beam to high beam, as soon as they stick 1 cartwheel. When they stick their carthweel on the high beam they move on to the floor line and do backward walkovers and the circuit starts again.

In a month's time, they will have to start cartwheels on the middle beam and then when their confidence is built up, they will become part of their warm up and they will do them just on the high beam.

I really believe in taking things slowly on beam to build up consistency.

Now with 13 gymnasts in one group, I would probably do what mack the ripper suggested and just work cartwheels with 3 or 4 at a time whilst the others work on spins and leaps etc. Unless you have plenty of beams.

Before beam starts you could also have a 5 minute chat with the girls about what you expect from them, have someone demonstrate a cartwheel so they know what you are looking for etc and then send them off to practice.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes!


DD's coach used to make her practice cartwheels by unfolding a panel mat and putting up close to a wall. She would then have to do cartwheels between panel mat and wall, trying not to touch either. This way, coach could make sure she was passing over the top, not turning it to the side. I also helped to keep her straight.

Good luck. That's a big group.


CIRCUITS, CIRCUITS, CIRCUITS with large teams like that! Depending on the Level I'm working with I coach 7 - 14 at any one time. Now I'm lucky, I do usually have a high school helper when I'm working with the larger groups, but the quality of their coaching isn't as strong as my co-head coach and I. They just help make sure that the girls are staying on task.

Try and keep groups smaller than three as you circuit. That way when you do have the one-on-one group with you it can maintain that individual attention quality. More than that and you won't be able to get many reps out of your one-on-one group.

I VERY MUCH agree with CONSISTENT PROGRESSIONS, DRILLS and PATIENCE, but every now and again you need to throw that challenge ("carrot") in front of them. I just had a Friday Challenge practice last Fri, where for 30 minutes I let them try and sucessfully make the skill we've been drilling recently on a competition quality set up (i.e. high beam with one 8 inch mat for beam, no spot, etc). For every girl who successfully made that skill (it was determined by their level, last friday was front hip circles for 3's, kips & cartwheels on beam for 4's, r/off bhs tucks on floor for 5's, and twisting on floor for my optionals) we would build banana splits at the next friday practice. 1 scoop or ingredient for every girl that successfully makes (4 times) their challenge skill for that day. I had 8 girls out of 22 successfully make the challenge. So it will be an 8 ingredient banana split. I had one 1st time front hip, one 1st time kipper (WOO-WHOO! finally), three 1st time high beam cartwheelers, two 1st time r/off bhs tuckers (but they were pretty ugly-fugly), and one 1st time successful punch front layout full to stick - off tumbl trak.

I love the energy of these Friday Challenge practices, although we don't use our whole practice time for the challenge. It's the only day of the week we can loosely structure practices and use an open gym, self directed format. They abuse it... they lose it. It's a mandatory practice for our Level 5 and up's and by choice practice for our Level 3's and 4's. It seems to be helping with teaching desire and the determination to succeed. While of course I was proud of those who made these skills these challenges are also proving to be helpful for those who are either slackers or have mental issues in overcoming certain fears. When the more exerienced girls see those beginners tagging at their heels it's become quite motivating lately. I also have a very mental optional gymnast who hates the "feeling" and uncertainty of new things and just getting her to attempt twisting lately has been a chore. I was ecstatic when I saw her attempting back layout 1/2's off the tumbl trak last friday! She's more than capable and I was sure to share with her how proud I was of her attempts.

If you are from a large gym then it might be difficult to throw an open gym challenge such as that, but during a beam practice you might throw an incentive like challenge out like that. Popsicles, or no conditioning day, or walk to the park for conditioning (if you are close to one), condition the coach day, challenge the coach day,etc. these are things that have worked for me in the past as "rewards". I don't usually throw out a 100% reward, meaning if everyone can make their cartwheels then = reward, but rather an 80% or so, 4 out of 5 or 8 out of 10 girls. I do during season for routines sometimes. The challenge should be safe though. I wouldn't ask them to do something they are not capable of trying safely by themselves... minor beam bites don't count. Sometimes learning to crash on beam and then get back up because everyone else is still trying is necessary so they aren't quite so fearful.

Wow, that was more detail then I was planning. Don't get me wrong though, our usual practice structure is drill, drill, drill in circuits. We are in "open your mind up" mode right now, after a long details, details, details, competition season. Getting stronger and getting over fear, opening your mind up to new challenges and not setting limits on yourself. As summer training starts we will be working skills specific to the level they are striving to compete for the fall.


Can you believe after all that I still forgot to mention something... :scratchchin:.

If the girls live up to the challenge you must hold them to that standard. They aren't usually aware of that card you just played on them and don't share that knowledge with them very often or they will not respect the challenges and give honest effort during them... in essence they will slack the challenge so they can continue to not give 100% effort all the time.

We have stars up on the wall for certain basic skills achieved and we will take them down if the girl doesn't continue to live up to the standard of that achievement.

Good luck!


I have a question regarding those as well:
Twice now (!!), when practicing cartwheels on the beam, I did not land properly so my lagging foot (well, my not-leading foot) rubbed against the beam- HARD. To the point of going to the ER to see if I cracked my tibia hard. And this happened on the floor beam, as well..
I can usually stick my cartwheels, either on beam or on floor. But these falls are scary and painful and I'm terrified of the beam now (mind you, I'm 24, no real reason to be up there anyway).

Have any of you encountered similar problems with your gymnasts? Any tips? I'm not even sure if my hips are open or piked, and I have no idea how to find out.

Thank you!
Sep 21, 2008
It sounds like you dont have control through the ending phase of your cartwheel.

I think I understand what you said... but basically, you need to slow down a bit, and feel in control.

The wall drills that I mentioned above will help considerably. Feel control through the cartwheel and you will begin to build up that confidence again.

Pain is a good deterrant to hard work - but look past the pain, and see why you're doing it in the first place.

24 and doing beam is pretty neat! Don't give up because of a hurt foot. I have torn my lat, been kicked in the head, had wiplash, slapped, punched, kneed, and fallen on... and on top of that, Ive had my feelings hurt! But I love what I do, and I find that so many more girls and boys appreciate my help than those who don't. The pain reminds me of how hard I work, and why I do what I do. For me, the pain tells me I did all I could to make sure the gymnast I was spotting didn't get hurt.

All Im saying is - use that pain as motivation to correct yourself, and get better - not as an excuse to shy away from learning something that will help you overcome a personal fear, or achieve a personal goal.
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