Throughout my years of coaching tumbling, I’ve met all types of parents; supportive ones, mean ones, laid back ones, obsessive ones and so on.
But regardless of what a parent “seems” like, I know that at the end of the day, they only want what’s best for their son or daughter.
When someone’s paying a few thousand dollars per year to have their child be in a competitive sport, they want to see some type of return on their investment. And that’s not totally unreasonable.
But because of such expectations, there are certain questions which arise over and over again, regardless of country, state or city.
I know that we as coaches can sometimes feel a little exhausted having to answer the “same thing” for the 456th time, but we have to remember that for a parent of a young tumbler, this is a whole new world.
Just as you wouldn’t expect little Suzy in level 1 to throw a back tuck, we can’t expect parents to be caught up to speed on the terminology, standards of expectations, and safety requirements of this sport in a few weeks (or even months).
Which brings us to the blog post you’re currently reading — I wanted to publish the most in-depth answers to the most common questions I hear from parents when it comes to tumbling. This will allow all of us to be on the same page, which I think is hugely important.
I’m NOT a fan of keeping parents “out of the loop” or forcing them to be uninvolved. I want them to know what’s going on, and if possible, to assist me in helping their child succeed.
As time goes on, more questions will be added to the list (shoutout to my friends Kyron Burgess from Force Elite Allstars and Wendy Cole-Malone from Gym Stars for contributing to these list of questions).
If you’re a coach or parent that has a question you would like answered and published here, please let me know in the comment section below!
Let’s get to the questions…
“When can my child start doing back handsprings?”
When she has mastered her back walkover and it looks like the one below consistently (this means during tumbling classes and during full outs to counts and music.)
Now take a moment to compare that to a back walkover of another one of our athletes…
As you can see, while both these athletes can “do” their back walkover on the floor, the 2nd athlete was (at the time) working on perfecting her’s as she just came from prep… while the one in 1st animation was a seasoned Level 1 competitor. The good news is, because the athlete in the 2nd animation was taught to chase excellence instead of harder skills, her BWO is now picture perfect and she has also started working handsprings.
This might all seem obvious when examples like the ones above are displayed next to each other, but I’ve encountered plenty of parents while travelling around the World for clinics, who think their child’s skills look better than they actually do.
That’s because parents generally don’t have what’s called “the coach’s eye” — which is the ability to pick up little details in technique while watching it in real time without video loop or playback. Things like angles of take off, body lines, muscle tightness, body shapes and so on. These factors can make a BIG difference later on when tumbling skills start to get complex.
Take Home Point: Just because a child can do X skill (such as a walkover) doesn’t mean they’re ready for Y skill (such as a back handspring).
Trust me, if a coach is telling you that your child’s prerequisites needs more work, 99.99% of the time, they’re probably correct. They’re NOT holding your little Suzy back. In fact, they’re making sure she doesn’t develop a mental block or hit a glass ceiling down the line, for which you should be thankful. A mental bock is a very taxing problem to fix (both mentally and for your wallet). So exercise patience and use the videos in this article to get a realistic idea of where your child is currently at.
“When can my child start doing back tucks?”
When she has mastered 3 connected back handsprings which look like this…
Quick Note: When it comes to the front tuck, the prerequisites can be a little more lax. I generally start teaching it after a RO BHS but it can be started earlier assuming the athlete isn’t under-conditioned and understands safe landing technique. I’ve taught front tucks to girls who were still working their back handsprings without issue. It’s not the norm, but if the coach feels they’re ready to learn it, it’s not a big deal either.
“When can my child start doing layouts?”
When she has mastered the back pike, and it looks like this…
So why is it a good idea to learn the pike? Because it’s the perfect intermediate step between a tuck and the layout. Think about it for a second, is it a smart idea if I were to ask your child to go from one back handspring to three?
Obviously not. In any type of skill development, we take things step by step. One handspring is followed by two, then three, and so on.
In the same manner, you have to remember that the smallest body shape (tuck) rotates a LOT faster, and thus easier to pull off than the largest body shape (straight line). The logical intermediate step is the pike — it’s not as small as the tuck, but not as open as a straight line, hence it rotates fast enough and is the perfect skill to help master the toe drive and straight, tight legs.
See diagram below to get a better idea of what I mean.
“When can my child learn full twists?”
When she has a perfectly straight layout and it looks like this…
Notice how there is no arch in the back, the head is tucked in and she maintains a “set” position with her arms. This is what’s required before you add a twist to a layout, no exceptions.
A curved body line is NOT an efficient shape to twist in. In fact, it can be downright dangerous and put athletes at risk for knee injuries such as ACL tears. So as soon as I encounter a full twist that’s archy, the first thing I do is make the athlete re-work their layouts.
“How long will it take for my child to get XYZ skill?”
There is no strict answer when it comes to skill acquisition. If the coach or the gym you’re with has a good progression system in place, then a rough timeline is possible, but it’s not always guaranteed. I’ve seen athletes learn handsprings in mere weeks while others have take an entire year.
One very important thing to remember is that the body comes before the skill. In fact, it’s a title of a book by my good friend Jessica Zoo.
What this means is that physical attributes such as flexibility, strength, balance etc., have to be mastered (or at least be at a bare minimum baseline level) before someone can achieve a complicated skill such as a tumbling pass. The bottom line is that kids who are stronger (physically), resilient (mentally) and are raised with a good coachable attitude will learn skills considerably faster than their counterparts.
If you’d like a tumbling program for your child that’s specifically designed to improve their speed, power and strength in cheer & tumbling, Click Here.
“What can I do at home to help her improve faster?”
First of all, I commend you for wanting to be involved with your child’s development. Before you begin implementing any type of advice, please understand that it’s NOT your job to become their coach.
With that said, parents that implement proper homework ad the advice of the child’s coach can definitely help speed up their learning process.
But if you get too involved and start pretending to be a coach when you’re not, it can have negative consequences. There’s a fine balance.
Fore more in-depth information on this topic, please read this article which covers the 4 major areas of “homework” that I usually prescribe to my athletes in order to speed up their tumbling skill acquisition.
The best part? These 4 things need only minimum supervision, are quite safe, and don’t require much equipment.
“My child has had a mental block for over a year. We’ve tried private lessons, therapists and it’s still not consistent. I’m getting really frustrated and don’t know what to do. How do I help her get over this once and for all?”
First of all, I totally understand your frustration. Every parent wants their kid to be the best, and wants the best FOR their kid.
This is normal. In fact, it’s probably only natural.
So it can be disheartening to see your child do amazing things one day, then feel completely helpless the next. But please understand that your frustration signals a very big problem — the fact that you want them to have the skill almost as badly as they do.
The first step is to become completely indifferent to the outcome. After working with literally hundreds of mental block cases, I’ve found that athletes who’s parents have an indifferent (but positive) attitude, tend to overcome this hurdle much faster.
The next thing you need to remember is that she’s gotta want it. If she doesn’t care about putting in the work to get her skills back, let her be. Without ownership of one’s own skill, it will never happen. Coaches and parents can’t push a child with a mental block into recovery.
And by “push” I generally mean threats such as: “I’m pulling you out of cheer if you don’t get it back” or “You’re not doing tumbling again if you don’t throw it” etc.
Once you’ve handled those 2 important factors, private lessons with an experienced coach who’s dealt with mental blocks is the best way to go. Group training CAN work, but the success rate isn’t as high. Below are some additional resources for you to go through.
- Unbeatable Formula For Conquering Mental Blocks (Read More)
- Interview With Jeff Benson On Overcoming Mental Blocks (Read More)
“How many private lessons will it take to get XYZ skill?”
Exactly 4.79 lessons.
I know, sounds ridiculous right? Truth is, that answer is almost as ridiculous as the question itself… BUT, I don’t blame any parent for asking it.
After all, you’re paying good money for private lessons and you should expect some sort of result. Even if it’s a minor improvement. But as I mentioned earlier, complex skill acquisition has no strict deadline. You can never tell an athlete that they’ll get X skill by Y date. Tumbling simply doesn’t work that way.
The best coaches have the best systems to teach a skill. A step by step plan that they specifically create for the individual athlete that puts them in the best position to succeed. That is the fastest way to accomplish any tumbling skill.
As an example, click here to take a look at my back handspring guide. It’ll give you an idea of all the prerequisites and steps I take before letting an athlete “throw” the skill.
For more details on what you as a parent should be expecting from a private lesson and the type of return you should be getting from your investment, click here to read my entire article on how I personally run my private lessons. You’ll also learn some red flags to look out for when it comes to selecting coaches.
“My child is feeling demotivated because all her friends are progressing faster than her, what do I tell her? I don’t want her to feel like she’s inadequate.”
You have to explain to your child that there are two ways to look at this. The 1st way is what they’re already doing — feeling demotivated and inadequate because they aren’t “the best” on the team, or among their peers.
The second (more productive) way, is to look at those who are better, and feel inspired. Basically they need to switch their thinking. Download the image below and tell them to repeat the statements in green it until they start to believe it.
This is what’s called a Growth Mindset, and I wrote an entire article on it which goes over how an athlete can rewire their thinking to be more productive. I suggesting reading it with your daughter right here.
I can tell you that personally, when I was a full time athlete, I would be excited when I was in the same room as those who had abilities well beyond my own. Because this inspired me to work that much harder. And as a result, I got that much better.
Confucius once said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”
Similarly, if you’re always the best athlete in the gym, you may be in the wrong gym.
Unless you’re Simone Biles… then it doesn’t matter where you go. But chances are, your child isn’t Olympic Gold Medal material just yet 😉
You've Seen My Drills, Now Learn My System!
If you find my content helpful, then why not host a complete Perfection Before Progression™ tumbling clinic at your gym? Let your athletes gain weeks worth of experience in a single day, while you and your staff get the most comprehensive tumbling training in the industry. Comes with an official Certificate Of Completion. Click the button below to get started!