One of the great things about being an athlete before turning into a coach, is that you really get a first hand experience of the sport; the whole feel of it.

In my opinion, this experience is invaluable as it has given me a tremendous amount of insight which I can now transfer on to my athletes.

So when I¬†came across Coach Meggin’s awesome YouTube channel one day, I knew I had to interview her because not only does she have great energy, but she was a¬†gymnastics state champion, a cheerleader, a great tumbler, works as a stunt woman and of course, coaches!

Get ready to learn some solid advice from a true veteran!

And if you enjoyed the interview, please go to the comment section below and give a shout out to Meggin by saying she’s awesome. Also, don’t forget to share this with your friends!

Sahil: So Meggin, tell us a bit about yourself; when did you start training? Did you ever compete? When did you decide to start coaching etc.? Basically how did Meggin end up in the world of gymnastics?

Well, gymnastics caught my attention when I¬†saw ¬†my older sister doing cartwheels, splits…etc. I’m like “I want to do that!” I started at age four and a half at the original Parkettes in Allentown, PA. Even though I was young, I still remember being so excited walking up those stairs (it was an upstairs gym)¬†and seeing the equipment.

My mom tells me I would always say “I want to do it by myself!”¬† Then, I practiced in San Antonio, TX (my dad moved for work). I had a Romanian coach who was¬†always making me and my team do handstands. I think it’s because of him that I can hold my handstand for so long! Thanks Coach Jon! Next, we moved back to Allentown, PA where I trained again at the new facility from age eight until eleven.

I did well winning the state championships all around for class three which would be equal to about level six these days. I thought my teammate won when I saw my dad pointing his index finger up practically jumping out of his chair. When they announced my name as first, I couldn’t believe it! I left there as an advanced optional training for junior elite with “the big girls” Wow, I can’t believe I was in that group for a minute! After a summer camp, me and my family decided to follow one of the camp coaches (a Russian coach named Jutec that was a professional ballet dancer who drove a Corvette and had funny hair) to Pittsburgh, PA which was six hours from Allentown.

My dad worked in Manhattan during the week days, we had my older sister living in our Allentown house, and now my parents would have to pay for an apartment in Pittsburgh! I didn’t like it there much, and soon followed Jutec to Orange County, CA where I lived without my family at age twelve and housed with a wonderful family of one of my new teammates.

This teammate has been my best friend until this day! My mom and younger sister joined me four months later, and my dad eventually made his way out a year later. Wow! I can’t believe me and my family did that! I trained at National Gymnastics Center until level 10 with two knee surgeries along the way. Oh yeah, Jutec the Russian¬†only lasted a year out in CA. ¬†I quit gymnastics at age 17, and went on to receive a scholarship for cheerleading at University.

I went on to do live acrobatic shows – name a theme park and I have probably worked there. Then I did gymnastics for the show Make It Or Break It for three years challenging myself as I re-learned tricks I did over fifteen years prior! Yikes! I¬†have coached off and on for around fifteen years¬†at many gyms teaching mommy and¬†me classes all the way up to¬†team. That’s a lot of students!

Sahil: That’s quite the history, and¬†made a great¬†read. It’s always amazing how strong basics can really set you up for the future. Now, being a coach what are the 3 most common tumbling mistakes you see beginner/intermediate tumblers make, and how would you go about fixing them?

The first mistake is tumblers not knowing how to block (push) through their shoulders with straight arms. To fix this I have them do more handstands (all kinds), handstand pops, handstand snap downs, and tumbling from the knee.

The second mistake would be that they don’t know how to punch the floor (rebound…go into their back handstand…etc.) To fix this, I have them do straight body punches forward and backward down the floor with a tight body and handstand pike, tuck, straddle punch ups in a row.

The third thing would be that they hurdle to high. To fix this, I have them sprint, hurdle low and long, then run out of it with continuous momentum and work on tumbling from only step hurdle.

Sahil: Nice! Ok let’s talk mental blocks for a second since almost every cheerleader or gymnast suffers from¬†them at some point during their career as an athlete. What are your top tips for overcoming it?

Believe it or not, I have my own mental block that I have struggled with since my days at Parkettes…that darn block! The number one thing is to stop talking about your block. If you block your block from your brain, it is less likely to creep in your body. Try not to think about it either.¬†Next, you must tell yourself you can do it over and over. The final tip, is to see yourself do it perfectly in your mind.

Sahil:¬†That’s a great way of looking at it, and¬†visualization is so key! It’s definitely one of the most used tools in my personal toolbox.¬†Now, what are¬†some of the most¬†common¬†concerns you get as a coach and what are you answers to them?

Coach Meggin's side sumi!

Immediately saying things like “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that” is very popular and it drives me crazy! Gymnastics, tumbling or cheer¬†is like anything else – you have to practice consistently!

Also, people don’t understand how much strength and flexibility affects your progression. Everyone wants their splits right away too, it seems. The same work ethic applies! Practice at least three times a week and most questions will answer themselves just because of the work you’ll be putting in.

Sahil: Ok this one is a bit random but I just have to know that if you had to pick any ONE of these surfaces to tumble on for the rest of your life, which would it be and why: Sprung floor, Rod floor, Air Trak, Tumble Trak, or Trampoline?

I would have to say the Air Trak! I choose this because it doesn’t hurt my body, I fly high, and it doesn’t throw my tumbling back how a tumble track, trampoline, and rod floor do. In Japan when I lived there, we found a gymnastics center that had one and I loved it! It was worth the forty-five minute bike ride to get there!¬†My second choice would be a spring floor, because¬†I’m old school like that!

Sahil: Good choice! The Tumble Trak always freaks me out a little since I have to control my power and¬†yeah you really have to watch your angles.¬†Now I know you did cheer for a bit, so¬†from a coach’s perspective, what differences do you see in cheer tumbling, and what advice would you give to cheerleaders in general, if any?

Meggin Cheer

The first¬†difference in cheer tumbling is that cheerleaders do a lot of standing tricks and¬†tucks/fulls from¬†a back handspring (gymnasts do more of standing tumbling as drills to improve tumbling…they also do a lot of standing tricks on balance beam), cheerleaders also land their tumbling passes with the arms down by their sides

I know this because my first week at University of Nevada, Reno my coach (she scared me) would yell at me to get my arms down because I was so use to putting them up¬†tumbling¬†the gymnastics way¬†with pretty fingers. Also, cheerleaders usually aren’t able to get as many running steps in before their tumbling pass due to less space.

So my advice to cheerleaders would be to do A LOT of leg strength with jumping/running drills and squat jumps to get a stronger take off for standing tumbling. They should also do a million handstand pops, handstand snap downs, and tumbling from their knee to get more powerful tumbling and push off their hands.

Also, cheerleaders need to squeeze! It’s very noticeable when someone has loose, bent legs in their tumbling…yuck! Get them straight!¬†The last thing would be¬†for cheerleaders to pull their chests up more as they land. This will make their flip appear higher.

Sahil: That is definitely good advice – not squeezing is one of my pet peeves as well. Now pain is often part of our sport due to its risky nature, and it seems you’ve suffered your fair share of injuries. I was wondering if you could tell us what you did to bounce back from those knee surgeries? ¬†Can you give us any specific conditioning exercises or stretches that helped you recover faster?

That darn knee! While I was recovering from both surgeries, I did a ton of crunches, sit ups and chin ups. Any strength you can do to keep the rest of your body strong without hurting your knee is great. I also swung a lot of bars…I improved!

As for the exercises, follow what the physical therapist says…they really know what they are talking about. I still do my PT exercises 3 or 4 times a week! The foam roller also helps too massaging the outside of the thigh…I think it’s called the IT band. Usually strengthening the calves, quads, butt, and hamstring helps as well as stretching your hamstrings with a pike stretch, splits…etc.

I have always been told to stop though when I feel any pain while doing the PT exercises. Maybe I’ll do a video of my knee exercises one day, because it would be near my bedtime if I wrote out every exercise lol!

Sahil: No worries, I understand. I’m sure we all would love to see that video. Speaking of which, I watched (creeped) a whole bunch of videos on your YouTube channel, and was delighted to see that you’ve still got the skills! How many times a week do you still train, and what advice do you have for older athletes that want to keep training?

Coach Meggin Split Handstand

Thanks for checking out some videos and thanks for the compliment! Being a stuntwoman, I have to stay in shape and be ready to flip on set if I get that call since some of the stunt jobs I have had involve gymnastics. For us older folks, basics are VERY important on every event and strength/flexibility.

Here are some: Casts and kips in a row on bars, kicks, handstands, runs, stretch jumps, run and punch on beam, handstand walks, cartwheels in a row, run hurdle run out of it, round offs, handstand pops, round off back handspring from the knee, standing back handsprings (three in a row), R.Off > BHS from a power hurdle and one step, front handspring punch, front tuck stepping down from a block and punching into it. There are more but that should give everyone a good idea.

Then, when you’re ready to do the bigger skills, use the pit and mats –¬†save your body and maybe do just a couple on the regular surface. Also, try and train for¬†a shorter amount of time, but with more frequency throughout the week. I can’t handle 5 hour workouts anymore (unless I’m getting paid…ha!)¬† I do a little something usually 6 days a week or sometimes 4 or 5 once in a while. I always do my hollow body rocks, side plank or something like it, and superman holds around every other day. I also try and do chin ups and leg lifts every other day also.

I also do cardio, intense 10-30 minute sessions either running the stairs, biking or elliptical at LA Fitness. I also make sure to do a lot of handstands during the week and press handstands. I also train doing kicks and stunt fighting, boxing with my stunt buddies. I always try and mix it up! My sisters think I am crazy for always wanting to exercise! I do have some days where I watch tv all day though! I love my soap opera!

Sahil: I guess every gal is into soaps in one way or another haha. So¬†to end off on a light-hearted note, give us your one guilty pleasure food that you could eat non-stop (Personally, I’m a sucker for pizza. Any day, any time, I could always go for a slice… or six)

I love cheese! Anything with a lot of cheese especially cheese enchiladas. I also have a sweet tooth. I eat a square or two of dark chocolate everyday. Occasionally, I¬†like a good piece of cheese cake.¬†I have actually wanted to have funnel cake for like a few years now… I really need to go to a fair soon!

Sahil: Oh funnel cakes are fantastic! I highly recommend having them at least once in your lifetime and with a partner. And I want to take this moment to thank you for playing along and doing this interview. I learnt a lot myself, and truly enjoyed reading about your story and experiences as I’m sure others will too. Do you have any last words before we (sadly) come to an end?

It was a pleasure! My last words are¬†to believe that you can do it, something is always better than nothing,¬†and you’re never too old to achieve what you’ve always wanted to achieve!

So there you have it. Isn’t she truly inspirational?

Now if you have any questions for coach Meggin,¬†post them in the comment section below and I’m sure she’ll get back to you. Also, don’t forget to support her by sharing this interview with your friends and subscribing to her YouTube channel. Until next time, train hard and keep tumbling!

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