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Excellence Begins with the Basics


Coach Wayne,
My name is Emily and I am a coach in Philadelphia for a cheerleading squad. There aren't many local gyms for my girls to learn the basics at and I was wondering how I could teach them some of the basics ( back walk-overs, front rolls, etc.).

Do you have any spotting tips for me ( to give my girls the courage to try some things)? Some of my girls are very flexible and do back walk-overs, but are too afraid to try a hand-spring. Can you give me some help / advice on what to do?

Thanks! Emily

Hi Emily,

Thanks for writing! "Here are some Back-to Basics" guidelines for EXCELLENCE in TUMBLING:

The better your handstands are, the better your other tumbling can be. Almost EVERY error a tumbler makes in her HANDSTAND will be echoed and exaggerated through MOST OF her other tumbling skills.

If you think about it... the HANDSTAND position, or a variety of it, is found in MANY other tumbling skills:

Ariel Cartwheels
Front Walk-Overs
Back Walk-Overs
Ariel Walk-Overs
Front Handsprings
Back Handsprings

You will effect DRAMATIC change in tumbling skills by focusing on IMPROVING handstands FIRST. Do this for a significant amount of time, during EACH and EVERY workout. (as well as before ALL performances).

The unwise thing to do is jump out and begin tossing walkovers and round-off handsprings from the get-go. It's EXCITING to jump ahead and "TOSS" the "BIG" skills, but a wise tumbler will approach EACH work-out as a chance to develop ENDURING HABITS of EXCELLENCE.

Handstands are a skill that should be performed MASTERFULLY, EACH and EVERY day, for excellence in tumbling. It takes 5-7 minutes. YOU, as coach, must COMMAND that discipline & CONTINUALLY drive improvement in the handstands!


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ESTABLISH EXPECTATIONS of SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE, beginning with WARM-UP/STRETCHES: When the girls sit on the floor and begin their straddle stretches... that is the most ideal time for you to set their COURSE of improvement. During that valuable "start-up" time, if you allow them to be sloppy, overlook tiny errors, forgive laziness, etc, you are in-fact ENCOURAGING them to be less than they are capable of. The warm-ups are when the "pace" and "expectations" for all the other tumbling is established. Be DILIGENT and enthusiastic
Make them run & hop at first to get a little sweat up, then immediately.... stretch & warm them with the highest imaginable expectations of immaculate performance. Slow things down and turn the focus upon details of performance. Pointed toes, locked straight knees. Accurate body positions, attitude, emotion, effort... Get them to learn to review every muscle and joint in their own legs.
Praise MOST HIGHLY any student who exerts extremely accurate focused effort during the stretches.

Think of it this way. ANY HUMAN of good health, is CAPABLE of performing a STRADDLE sit stretch, with the SAME quality of excellence that you will find in an OLYMPIC athlete. We are ALL capable of OLYMPIC-class work, at SOME level, even if it's a very SIMPLE task. You are, in fact, ABLE to maintain the highest possible standards of performance in low level skills, stretches, tasks. BUT ... most people choose not to, and THEN they wonder why their more advanced tumbling skills look sloppy & are unsafe.

Set the HIGHEST possible PERFORMANCE standards, beginning with the LOWEST possible denominator of skill-level; then MAINTAIN it THROUGHOUT as many of the skills as possible.


Coach Wayne is the Head Coach for the Savannah College of Art and Design Cheerleading team and Executive Coach of Olympic Gymnast Zuzana Sekerova. His articles, videos and books have been used by students and instructors world wide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for in-gym instructor training and performance tumbling clinics throughout the year. For booking information, coaches/owners should call 912.398.8082. Students and parents should request coaches/owners to contact Coach Wayne.



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