… BelowÂ are some of my reasons for minimal spotting and the value I believe it brings to our young athletes.Â
Minimal Spotting Approach – Rationale
Using a teaching approach to gymnastics skills that relies minimally on spotting results in:
1.Â Independence:Â children learn by finding out what they can do by themselves, not what an adult/teacher can do for them; dependence on a spotter is diminished, or doesn’t occur.
2.Â Confidence:Â when children accomplish a skill and can do it alone, this builds their confidence.
3.Â Saftey:Â children learn how to fall and not get hurt; children who learn what they can do by themselves do not have a false sense of security.Â For example, a child knows she needs to grip the bar in order not to fall.
4.Â Body Control:Â children learn what it takes to move body parts (trunk, legs, arms, shoulders) and hold a position (straight, arch, hollow).Â Teachers may move parts notÂ in position, then see if a child can “find” it again…
5.Â Teacher Observation:Â when spotting a skill, the teacher is often too close to see what the child is doing; when the teacher stands back and observes, attempts at a teaching station, she or he can analyze body positions, timing, etc. to provide corrective feedback.
CRITICAL:Â in order to teach with minimal spotting, the right equipment is necessary, as well as knowledgeable teachers.Â The equipment is only as good as the teacher who can create appropriate stations with it.
I was going to write a post on yet another bad invention designed to get cheerleaders over on backward handspring before they are physically and technically ready to do so.
Then I saw the ludicrous price tag â€” $1450 plus estimated $240 shipping.
That’s even worse than the product itself.
The Handspring Trainer is shipped via a truck and shipping is added based on shipping destination. The Handspring trainer weighs only 55lbs. and it’s dimensions are 60″x48″ when the mats are folded up.
In the hands of a good coach, this invention could be useful. In the hands of a cheer coach not capable of spotting bigger athletes, it will â€” at best â€” teach bad habits. Spend your $1450 on paying for a spotter, instead.
From Dr. Bill Sands, research on emergency rescue spotting:
… the act of rescue spotting is at the very least extraordinarily difficult. The fact that coaches can perform a rescue spot at all is astonishing (and I have seen some spectacular saves, even been the recipient of a few from my coach a million years ago).
However, I believe that the coach, athlete, parent, and legal communities must come to understand the inherent limitations that constrain rescue spotting. Not only is not spotting a fail-safe, sometimes hand spotting of an unplanned fall effectively is IMPOSSIBLE. The impossibility of some hand spotting should be communicated to coaches, athletes, and parents so that all understand the physical and biological constraints on hand spotting and no one expects more from the spotter than the spotter can deliver.
Interesting trivia in North American English terminology:
Hartley Price: Coined the Term “Spotting.” In 1930 Price, recently graduated from Springfield College, was hired to coach at the University of Illinois. He was an excellent recruiter and gathered together some of best gymnasts in the country. He founded the University of Illinois Gymkana which put on shows to raise money and found ways for his gymnasts to earn money to pay their tuition.
“Doc” wasn’t much of a coach. His theory was, “Put the best gymnasts in the country together in the same gymnasium and they’ll coach each other.” That they did, winning five NCAA team titles in eighteen years.
He tried to emphasized safety by painting a large white circles (4′ in diameter) on the gymnasium’s walls. He called these “spots.” When his gymnasts saw the spot, they were supposed to think safety and look for those who could assist them through one element or another. Such assistance became known as “spotting.”
You can rig up the “Tower of Power” for yourself without an air inflated mat. But you’ll need to find a way to brace a mat up against the high bar. (I used climbing trestles one time. That worked well.)
These drills work far better, far faster, than spotting the gymnast.
The last word on “kip machines”. From coach Brian Bakalar:
We use ropes, and kip drills, and kip swings, and have even created different â€œbungiâ€ spotters and bouncers to help put the gymnast through the kip motion. In the end, there simply is no substitute for the coach. While spotting may be tiresome for the coach, and in fact, back breaking at times, it remains the best proven method for teaching the skill. The coachâ€™s responsibility as a spotter is to adjust the level of help inversely with the gymnastâ€™s ability to perform the skill.