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Lost Back Handspring

My daughter is 10 years old. Last June she finally got her roundoff back handspring. She was able to perform it in pop warner cheerleading in October then tried out for an all-star team and made the team. Within a few months, she was able to do a proficient triple and was starting to work on a back tuck. A little over a week ago she came home crying, she said: "I've lost my back handspring". She'll do a single standing back handspring with no hesitation but the minute she does a round-off, she freezes. She takes tumbling 2 days a week and has already been moved out of her tumbling sequences for her routine. She also takes private 1/2 hr lessons. The instructor is very hard on her because she had incredible speed and great form. Today, at her private, she fell apart again. He pretty much told her that she is wasting her talent and unless she decides to start working on it, she's done. I've asked her a hundred times if she wants to stop, but she doesn't. I'm not sure what to do anymore. I've thought about professional help but don't know where to go. How can she go from doing a triple back handspring to not doing any? She needs help I can't give her. She doesn't want to give up. Help!!!


Skills do come and go for a while... what your daughter is going through is neither uncommon nor unnatural.
The initial achievement of any skill does NOT guarantee CONSISTENCY. Nor does achievement, or consistency in ONE environment guarantee the ability to adapt that skill to different OR life-changes. Skill MASTERY comes at a high price... of TIME, ENERGY and DETERMINATION.

All sorts of influences affect us... health, social atmosphere, different coaching staff, family upset, school pressures, boyfriends/girlfriends, competitive expectations can ALL have dramatic effects on our emotions, the condition of our bodies & our ability to focus. Something as dramatic as a bad fall, or as uncontrollable as passing through puberty or even something as predictable gaining 3 pounds of muscle... can totally throw-off a students timing & rhythm for a skill... and POOF... it's all over.

I don't have an easy solution for you, only some solace in the knowledge that this happens A LOT... and if your daughter persists and has patience with herself... she WILL re-achieve the skill. When she does, it will be MORE stable, MORE reliable, MORE consistent and she'll be able to address it with greater confidence after having to go through this.

It can be EXTREMELY intimidation and disheartening to have been a 'star'... for a moment with the achievement of a new skill & then have it disappear (possibly for many months). I recommend that the 'performance imperative' be dropped for a while. Instead... re-find the 'joy of learning'. Approach the achievement of the handspring, ONCE AGAIN, with a FRESH ATTITUDE. Let the history of accomplishment-turned-sour be cast aside... and now focus on having a fun-challenging series of lessons leading to re-achieving her handspring series. That little change in attitude can bring the joy and play of learning back into her gym-time. That'll make it easier to address the HARD WORK that's ahead.

Go back to BASICS.
handstands and simple standing handspring rebounds with carefully benchmarked hand and foot-placement
Then progress to 3+ handsprings in series (no pausing), with a spotter but WITHOUT the round-off. The hand-spotting of a sequence of 3 or more handsprings in a row can DEFINITELY bolster confidence because the spotter can make small changes in the timing of the handsprings to enhance them and get the 'feel' or 'flow' back.

It is possible that having another coach work with her for a few weeks will help also.

finally, work the round-off separately for a few weeks.
The round-off is THE MOST complex and difficult skill for a tumbler UP to the full-twisting layout... and that's ARGUABLE... because the layout is at the END of the power-sequence, whereas the round-off is a POWER GENERATING skill.

After 25 years of tumbling, I STILL have to work on my standing round-off rebounds. They are like exotic sports-cars... constantly needing tuning and maintenance. A bad-habit or problem in the round-off will eventually DESTROY every skill that follows it.

Have fun, be safe, push HARD!

You may also be interested in the following:
(FLASH player permission is required to view animations.)
Back Tuck Progressions
Benchmarks of Excellence
Cross Arm Spot 
Gymnastics Jump
Jump, Set, Tuck
Lunge to Handstand 
Round-Off Hand Placement
Straight Body Fall


Coach Wayne was 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 worldwide since 1991. Coach Wayne is available for tumbling instructor certification training. For booking information, coaches/owners should text or call 912.238.1747.


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