After thinking about it a lot today, I realized that learning to tumble is a lot like learning to read. When you learn to read, you first need to learn each letter of the alphabet and the sound(s) it makes. Then you start to put basic words together using those letters and sounds. Finally you start to learn about more complex words, and tricky letter combinations and sounds.
Tumbling is much the same way. First you must learn body positions; tuck, hallow, arch, pike, lunge, etc. Then you start putting simple body positions together in a sequence. Handstands, forward rolls, and cartwheels are a good example of this. Last, we learn about using those same basic movements in more complex ways, learning tricky combinations of those same body positions. ex. Back handspring, front tuck, etc.
Far too often, we as coaches skip teaching those basic body shapes, and skills properly, or don’t spend enough time mastering them. I can’t count how many cheerleaders I have met through the years who were working back tucks without mastering a backward roll, who say they need to get their back handspring, when they can’t hold a handstand properly, and who want to work fulls, but can’t perfectly execute a layout.
If you have ever wondered why so many kids get mental blocks, try handing an encyclopedia to a second grader and ask them to read it. There might be some words in it that look familiar to them, but 98% of it will do nothing but cause confusion and anxiety. By letting kids work these hard skills before TRULY mastering basics, we only set them up for failure. We are teaching them to memorize and recite Shakespeare before they can sound out “See Spot Run” on their own.
By teaching kids from the start that each skill is not a unique snowflake, but just a series of previously learned, familiar, body shapes we make the skills much less overwhelming to learn, and unlock the ability for kids to be able to safely practice “sounding out new words” in classes without constantly needing a spot, constant feedback, and 1 on 1 attention.
Anyways, that’s just what’s been on my mind today. Make it a good week everyone!