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How Long Does It Take?


Hi Coach Wayne,

I am a 19 year old who wants to be on my University's Cheer Squad. I can't do a BHS. I was wondering how long will it take to learn if I practice diligently, and I was wondering if you offered classes, camps, or anything?


Well, that depends on a number of factors. Here are some of them:

1. What is your current athletic condition?
If you're in magnificent athletic condition and 14 years old you'll probably achieve the skill more quickly than your grandmother will.

2. How frequently do you PRACTICE that skill each week?
If you are working to achieve a new skill, but only go into the gym for ONE hour every other week, and only practice that skill TEN TIMES at each practice, your rate of progress will be slower than if you are in the gym four hours each week practicing that ONE skill. Remember there are MANY, MANY, MANY exercises that you can work on AT HOME to condition your body for handsprings. For example, there are strength and coordination exercises and core-skills like HANDSTANDS.

3. What is the QUALITY of your instruction?
If you don't have hands-on access to a great tumbling instructor your progress is going to be slower than it could be. You'll likely develop bad habits that need to be corrected. Being spotted SAFELY is only ONE factor to consider in selecting your instructor. If your instructor has taught MANY great tumblers in his/her school, you're probably in good hands. Looking at the quality of the students tumbling in a gym is an excellent way to determine how good the instructor is.

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4. How good are your CORE gymnastics skills?
If a student comes to me with TERRIBLY sloppy, weak handstands, I can be SURE that s/he is going to be slow to attain the handspring. On the other hand, if s/he has magnificent core skills, we should expect VERY rapid success in the handspring. Most of those skills, (like the lunge-step, handstand, gym-stand) can be practiced without a coach or heavy matting.

5. How quickly do you learn from your mistakes?
Some of us are TERRIFIED of making errors, and when we DO make them, we are SO hard on ourselves that it actually SLOWS progress. We FEEL we have failed and thus lose much of the necessary motivation for success. Learn from the errors you make. Pay attention to the mistakes and learn from them QUICKLY.

6. How aggressive are you when you work out? I know students who can fill an hour-long workout with 50 minutes of water-breaks, goofing, walking, talking and staring off into space. That doesn't leave much time for gymnastic skill progression. Other students will fill that same workout with hundreds of VALUABLE skill, movement and coordinative repetitions. Who do you think will learn the handspring most rapidly?

7. How well do you EVALUATE your own gymnastic work? This is perhaps the MOST important factor. Each ATTEMPT at a skill is an opportunity to IMPROVE. It is in the INDIVIDUAL attempt that you will, or will NOT, change.If you evaluate yourself carefully before, during and after each attempt, and ACT on that evaluation, selecting SPECIFIC changes to focus upon during the NEXT attempt, you WILL improve RAPIDLY.

Those are some of the more important factors to consider when asking how long it will take to "get" your back-handspring. I welcome your comments and suggestions.


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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