video – introducing “flyaway”

Shaping Skills with Drills

A problem skill for many gymnasts is the flyaway (backward somersault) from a bar. This dismount is physically and technically simple — but psychologically challenging due to the risk of hitting the bar with the feet.

Coach Rachael Tart from Funtastics Gymnastics in Couer d’Alene, Idaho showed me this nifty drill. It’s a safe, fun way to introduce the feeling of flyaway with young kids.

Click PLAY on the video below or watch the clip on

The girl doing the double layout is 6 years old.

padded pommel horse

Even non-gymnasts know that pommel horse is the trickiest event.

As a coach, pommels is my favourite apparatus because it requires more and different progressions than any other.

Our eldest coach at Altadore, physical Ed Vincent, has been telling us for decades that the second best gymnast wins the All Around. The best gymnast wins pommels.

Miguel Costante added more padding to this pommel horse to make it easier to learn long travels. The distance stepping up and down with the hands is reduced.


what are “extreme sports”

It’s a catch-all term, for sure. Traditional sports like gymnastics are normally not included no matter how extreme they are in reality.

Some folks posted a list on Wikipedia.

Included are Free-diving, Freestyle skiing, Parachuting, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Aggressive skating, BASE jumping, Freestyle skiing, Roller skating, Sandboarding, Skateboard and Zorbing.

But what are Elevator surfing and Extreme ironing?

zorbing in Australia

Australian Aerial skiers

When I look out my window in Calgary, Canada I see the snow covered Rocky Mountains. The host of the 1988 Winter Olympics, we are proud of our winter sport athletes.

So we Canucks were a bit put out when the Australian women started kicking our butts in aerial ski jumping. Aussies should be winning surf competitions and leaving the ski medals to the Nordic countries. Right?

How did they do it? I had to check the Ski and Snowboard Australia website:


Nearly all of the world’s top aerial skiers have an acrobatic background. Alisa Camplin is an ex level 8 MLC gymnast (who is currently ranked number 1 in the world) recently won a World Championship gold medal to go alongside her Olympic Gold Medal from the Salt Lake City Games. Our winning tradition of World Champions, including ex-gymnast Kirstie Marshall and back-to-back World Cup Champion Jacqui Cooper is sure to continue with two more athletes ranked in the top ten, Lydia Ierodiaconou (2) and Liz Gardner (10).

You may have been retired from competition for several years and still be eligible for the program. You need not have skied before to be eligible for the program, in fact most of our successful aerial skiers had never skied until they joined the development Aerial Skiing program. …

The program transfers elite and high-level gymnasts to World Cup, World Championship and Olympic Games Aerial Skiing via a fast track – a compressed development program that builds a high performance base of fundamental skills. …

Minimum entry requirements:

Previous competition experience at National level 7 or equivalent is required, however preference will be given to athletes who have attained a higher gymnastic level in training and/or competition.

Athletes should be retired from competitive gymnastics training and between the ages of 15 and 19 years. Consideration may be given to athletes over 20 years of age in special circumstances.

So — the Aussies recruit and fast track retired gymnasts, who have never even skied!

Like so many things they do in sport — smart!


climbing walls over gymnastics pits

I recall when Jim McLuskey told me he was going to build a climbing wall over the pit at Mountain Shadows Gymnastics. Brilliant. This was the first time I had heard of the concept.


But in 2006 kids are no longer allowed to use this climbing wall due to problems with insurance coverage. What a shame.

Other clubs only allow kids to climb very low on a wall.

To me as a coach, it seems a perfect marriage of training equipment.

gymnastics bars “safety straps”

I am surprised how many different systems are used for strapping on to a men’s horizontal bar.

Most coaches use the system they first used.

Eugene Galperin, one of the most successful Canadian coaches in history, brought straps from the USSR to Toronto decades ago. An athlete from Ontario showed up in my gym one day with straps — and I was hooked.

I still use 2 inch (5cm) wide straps with long sport socks (from the lost & found) wrapped around the bar. I want to simulate the feel of the actual wooden rail for the girls.

Kids who are used to narrower straps find mine awkward to put on. But force is distributed over a greater surface area, a real advantage, I feel.

Mountain Shadows Gymnastics

buying a “trampoline board”

Jason from heard my call for a quality trampoline board.

Check out the TrickBone.


It’s designed to use in conjunction with an outdoor performance trampoline.

… constructed from strong, flexible, laminated beechwood. The rubber feet have been developed to provide optimum jump control whilst the specially curved ends help overcome unsteady landings.

The TrickBone has pre-drilled holes to allow the fixing of all standard snow and wakeboard bindings. If you don’t already have your own bindings, they can be supplied …

Awesome. Every boarder needs to train with one of these.

See product details on