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Coach Wayne,
What I mean by balking is, she sometimes completes the skill, probably 20% of the time. Sometimes she throws all her skills at competitions, but more often she will not throw all her passes, out of three, she might throw one, or two. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason when she does or doesn't complete the passes.
Have you encountered this before?

Hey, Marti,

Balking is not uncommon, especially among female cheerleaders. Reasons vary.

As you know, one of the important factors of well-formed tumbling is the ability to DELIVER a skill (or combination) on DEMAND when it COUNTS. We call that "consistency." Just as your daughter must be consistent with her stunting, dancing, and motions, her tumbling passes must be consistently reliable. Twenty percent is still moderately inconsistent. I would personally NEVER expect a student to perform a tumbling skill-set in the competition if her consistency is less than eighty percent as measured at practices over several weeks. The risk of injury and point loss is too high. But, coaching styles differ.

Ultimately, your daughter must TRUST her OWN ability to DELIVER a skill-set consistently in performances. Her coaches, parents, and peers may ENCOURAGE, PROD, and even DEMAND her to perform, but the bottom line is, it's her body that's at risk. She'll deliver DURING performances if she knows she has been delivering with a high level of consistency in practice.

Two things come to mind to help your daughter:

1) MEASURE her performance over time in practice.
By implementing a system of measuring skill development, your daughter can better appreciate the SMALL improvements she makes each day. Over time she'll have a better sense of exactly HOW much she has actually WORKED on a specific tumbling skill set, such as the round-off layout. And, over a few months, she'll learn to TRUST her own ability to deliver because she'll have PROOF of how much she can COUNT on her own abilities.

Athletic-performance-statistics are an AMAZINGLY powerful source of feedback for athletes. So, get her a special notebook and pen to put in her gym bag and take to practice. Inside, create a Tumbling Performance Chart: List EVERY tumbling skill and skill SET she is working on. List ANYTHING that needs improvement and is relevant to cheer-tumbling. Put dates across the top of the page, and then establish a rating system; say: 1-5 with 1 being an attempt with poor results, and 5 being an attempt with exceptional results. She should RECORD this for 90 days, to start. Most cheer coaches do NOT use this sort of system, and it will be foreign to the practice schedule. The challenge will be for her to find TIME between turns to make a quick NOTE about what she's doing. She may have to take five turns and then run to her notebook and record her results.

YOU, as a key motivator, need to REVIEW this WITH her at LEAST once a week to help with INTERPRETING results, short-term, and more importantly, LONG-TERM. Well-formed tumbling doesn't happen overnight. It's the LONG-TERM process of improvement that is important and contains the most value. Skill improvement must be measured ONLY against the TOTAL number of ATTEMPTS. If a student attempts to improve a specific skill-set 10 times a week, and another student attempts improvements on that SAME skill-set 50 times each week, you can guess which one will be better after a year. After a week or two you may find that she's simply NOT getting enough repetitions for the important skill sets, and you can encourage her to either take EXTRA turns (instead of talking/standing/resting) or to invest extra time improving the foundation SKILLS, COORDINATION DRILLS and STRENGTH work that make-up those skill-sets so that she gets more progress out of each repetition.

It won't take too long before your daughter uncovers ways to improve herself more rapidly in each attempt and to do what it takes to get in the necessary repetitions. This system of self-responsibility will allow her to manage her own progress more effectively.

2) CREATE a higher quality learning environment for her to practice in.
Get better instruction. Every coach is not gifted in every aspect of cheerleading. Seek out the best. Get private lessons outside of regular class-time. There's a lot to do during regular practice. An EXTRA 1/2 hour each week with only 2 or 3 girls and one coach doing NOTHING but helping their tumbling will make a big difference.
Take tumbling lessons at another facility outside of the regular social group. Sometimes classes just get into a rut. Sometimes the social dynamics don't perfectly match the specific learning style of every student. For example The social environment of her gym may put too much PRESSURE on your daughter to PERFORM PERFECTLY in every attempt without allowing her to LEARN and EXPLORE and freely make the inevitable MISTAKES she MUST make to improve. She should then augment her regular practice time with practice elsewhere.
Learn more about what it takes to perform her target skill correctly. Sometimes a simple nugget of knowledge (hand placement, foot placement, sequencing, etc) can break through the learning bottleneck and quickly lead your daughter the success she seeks. She may get this knowledge from a coach or from a more advanced student who has already mastered the goal your daughter is working on. ( My collection of FREE TumblingTIPS is available at www.CoachWayne.com.)

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.


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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