Dear Coach Wayne,
My daughter, Kaydi, is a 7-year-old cheerleader here in Oklahoma. She has only been cheering/tumbling for a year and a half and already she can perform a series of back handsprings, a back tuck, front walkover and a beautiful standing back handspring with her legs perfectly together. Her coach says that she is one of the best tumblers ever to come through her gym. Everyone who watches her practice is in awe of her natural ability.
She fell on her head doing a round-off, back handspring, back tuck on the ground this summer and experienced some fear of tumbling after that, but she overcame it. She fell again doing the same thing ( on a spring floor) on Jan. 6, but she was not hurt. She has not done a back tuck since. She cries at each practice and begs to be spotted on a round off back handspring. She was the spotlight tumbler in her squad's routine at a national championship, but she ran across the floor and only did a round-off. She will do a standing back handspring on the ground, but she still cries a lot at practice and worries about the tumbling pass too much.
The coaches have been very patient with her, and her father and I feel that we have tried everything to help her overcome this. She has gone through almost the same circumstances with learning to be a flier, and she still will not perform any one footed extended stunts because of fear of falling. Even throughout all her crying, she maintains that she loves cheerleading and does not want to quit. Can you offer any advice to a frustrated parent? I don't want my daughter's talent to go to waste. How can we help her overcome her mental blocks and start having fun again?
You've got a tough situation there.
Falls can be traumatizing.
See if you can get EXTRA tumbling training for Kaydi at another gym with another coach. You may need to explore 3-4 coaches. Don't switch programs, just add some extra time FOCUSING on her tumbling. Invest in some private or semi-private lessons with a Gymnastics coach or a tumbling coach. Look for the extraordinary coach who's ALREADY working with a dozen or more girls BEYOND Kaydi's level that were trained by THAT coach.
After 3-4 visits to another environment with a coach in whom she has confidence, she should start to relax and find her groove again.
Flying is 50% technique and 50% confidence in the bases. To help her find her groove, see if you can get her to work with a group of BIG COLLEGE GUYS who can base her as if she's a feather. Find some bases who know the game and they'll blast her past the fear. They'll have worked with some other flyers who've had similar fears and will have given them the confidence to REALLY fly. Look for a group of BIG male cheerleaders who are DEMONSTRATING expertise that is MUCH higher than anything in her gym and just flash a $20 bill. Most of the big college cheer team members will work for soup and are thrilled to help a youngster along the way. If she has fun in a safe environment, she'll begin to push hard again, and that will start to carry over into her regular cheer classes.
Have fun; be safe; push HARD.
You may also be interested in the following:
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Back Tuck Progressions
Benchmarks of Excellence
Cross Arm Spot
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.