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Here I’m reprinting part of an entry from founder Doug Davis:
Why Can’t Susie Control Her Handstand?
Coaches: How often have you observed your young athletes attempt a handstand on Bars, Beam, or Floor, to start a series…and fall over? In a flash, any chance for a connection score is gone. That one simple error can cost the gymnast her chance to advance to Regionals.
Or, how often does an athlete go short of the handstand and fail to gain the credit for the skill or series? How often on bars, can a gymnast be just short on a Giant or clear hip, and fall? I’m afraid these scenarios happen far too often.
I have a semi-educated theory–especially on Bars, where the difference between hitting that handstand and being either ten degrees short, or falling over, can be a huge game changer. My theory is this: I believe most of these athletes have not been taught to save a handstand. Click this link to watch Leonard Isaacs teach a gymnast to save a handstand on bars. (3:45 min.).
For Bars in particular, if the gymnast is a bit long (falling past the handstand), she goes over and falls—a .5 deduction. Knowing in her bones, that if she aims for right on top (where the coaches and judges want a handstand to be), she risks falling over and off! Hedging that risk, she plays it safe and goes a little short of a handstand, and may fail to get credit for the handstand. …
… if gymnasts are not taught to use their shoulders to save that handstand, it may all be for naught. If they are taught to control, and save handstands with shoulder control [flexion], their confidence to go for “right on top” would increase. In addition, any deduction for the shoulder flexion would be less than a fall. …
On a recent Tumbl Trak club visit we tried to videotape an example of a save.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
NASA Gymnastics, Washington.
Doug’s correct. Too few gymnasts are trained to be able to SAVE a handstand.
Leave a comment if you’ve a good drill for teaching that “skill”.
I like having handstand contests using floor bars, starting from knees and straddle up to it. Making sure gymnasts understand that by gripping the bar, they have a lot of control through their wrists (subtle movement) as well as resorting to shoulder planching/reverse planching (gross movement). Encourage them to use their thumbs around the bar when casting into handstands for better grip control (most naturally have their thumbs around on pirouettes).
My favorite drill for handstands is doing them with support starting at different spots on the body. Support on only the shoulders (with a low beam or two trapezoid blocks) teaches them how to hold the handstand and save it from going back and forward from the shoulders. Usually you start with support against the lower back/hips, then work your way mid-back, then to shoulders, then to forearms. If they can negotiate their handstands from all four of those points chances are they are gonna rock at saving them (and of course you can do these all with or without a floor bar).
related – the title of this post is an homage to JAO’s fantastic When Will My Susie Start Kipping? (VIDEO)