introducing flyaway to beginners

– Rick McCharles, editor

Horizontal Bar and Asymmetric Bars

Shaping skills with drills:

flyawayOne of the worst things that can happen to a young gymnast is to hit the bar on a flyaway dismount.

As a coach, planning to prevent this accident is my highest priority.

My favourite drills include:

  • simple release drills with beginners age 4-5
  • flyaway release to “flat back” landing age 5-6
  • spot layout forward (reverse) flyaway to flat back age 5-6
  • I recommend doing 1 year of 3/4 forward flyaway (3/4 salto forwards to flat back landing) with beginners before starting regular flyaway (salto backwards).

    Why start with forward flyaway?

    It is no more difficult than regular backward flyaway — but is much safer. Children have far less chance to hit the bar with their feet. Beginners can see where they are going, as they do on dive rolls.

    Indeed, I have had hundreds of once-a-week recreation gymnasts learn 3/4 forward flyaway in one or two trainings. And be able to show off that impressive skill to Mom & Dad into a pit, safely. (Easiest is a forward somersault from rings into the pit, if you have rings over a pit in your gym.)

    When I have a great deal of confidence in a child doing forward flyaway, I start developing the regular backward flyaway.

    Unfortunately, backward flyaway requires a great deal of safety spotting. Normally I do not have time to spot as many backward flyaway drills as I wish I could.

    flyaway.jpgTo supplement, I set up as many non-spotting stations as I can — the ultimate being the one shown in the photo sequence.

    The foam cube is a target for the feet, set lower & further than optimal to ensure the gymnast deliberately releases early.

    Kids love these drills. They are happy to practice flyaway all work-out. They build confidence.

    The set-up in the photo sequence is very steep! Recommended only for advanced, confident kids. Most beginners would have the mats closer to the bars.

    This drill is a game, not a flyaway. But it will help the kids learn to “pitch out” — displace the centre of gravity forwards at the instant of release. They need hang on only about 1/10th of one second too long to hit the bar.

    I still need to spot hundreds, or thousands of flyaways for each gymnast watching closely for the phenomenon I call “creep”.

    Many kids tend to creep closer & closer to the bar before the one turn when they hit their feet or shins. If I suspect a gymnast is creeping, they must go back to pitch-out drills.

    Ideally a gymnast learns layout flyaway first. No tucked flyaways until they start turning double somersaults.


    Tucked flyaways have a tendency to bring the feet & centre of gravity closer to the bar, not further. Tucked flyaways are more dangerous than layout.

    The only problem teaching layout flyaway first, is that beginners often do not have enough swing to rotate to their feet.

    Solution? I do all layout flyaways as 3/4 somersaults to land on hands & knees on a soft mat. This again helps avoid the off-chance of hitting the feet on the bar.

    Ideally, a gymnast needs not land on their feet until they swing from handstand.

    The result? A high, slow rotating flyaway dismount.

    Does it sound too easy? It is. This is a short article.

    If you find a coach who has all gymnasts in a club doing reasonable flyaways, you have found a very good coach. Flyaway is one of the most technical skills we teach.

    Go slow. Be patient. Withdraw spotting reluctantly.

    At Taiso Gymnastics we required gymnasts doing flyaway dismounts without spot to do them over the pit. And had a team mate slide a soft mat along the bar just in case they were close on that one turn. This safeguard is quite common in men’s gymnastics, surprisingly rare in women’s.

    photo sequence – Funtastics Gymnastics, Idaho, USA – coach Derek Rennebaum

    This post was updated from the original on the i-NEEDtoKnow website.

    If you like this article, you may want to search for other posts with the key word “flyaway”.

    trivia – that’s Hardy Fink, past FIG Men’s Tech Chair in the background of the photo sequence

    Published by

    Rick Mc

    Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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