new video – Working the Strap Bar

Using “safety straps” to teach bars and horizontal bar is essential for efficient training.

But if you’ve never used them before, you need help getting started.

Working the Strap Bar by Mas Watanabe completes a 3-Disk Bars set. Mas is one of the most influential coaches in the world.

From, click on the GYMSMARTS TV CHANNEL (new for 2007) to see a preview of this DVD and much, much more.


Cirque du Soleil – auditions

Cirque has announced their acrobatic and circus arts audition cities for 2007:

London, Melbourne, Sydney, Montreal, Lille, Kiev, Minsk, Las Vegas, Mexico, Pretoria, Cape Town, Berlin, and New York

Dates to be finalized.

With the number of shows growing, you can easily imagine how many new artists we need to fill new roles, serve as permanent or temporary replacements, play back-up positions, etc.

The Cirque du Soleil Casting team is specifically seeking artists in the following disciplines:

Artistic, rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics, circus arts, trampoline, tumbling, diving, synchronized swimming, martial arts, stunts, extreme sports (BMX, rollerblading, etc.), urban acrobatic disciplines (b-boy/hip-hop, urban movement, acrobat-dancers, etc.).

Email: casting @

Auditions based on video demo evaluation.


physical ability testing programs

Physical ability testing programs in WAG (women’s Artistic gymnastics) is a polarizing topic.

For every great coach who swears by one of these program, I can name another great coach who thinks they are a waste of valuable time.

hip_flexion.jpgThere is actually no divide between great coaches. All the best coaches I know assess young gymnasts with their own battery of criteria: body type, strength, quickness, flexibility, agility, courage, enthusiasm, parental support, etc.

Most elite coaches can assess young children within 10 minutes as accurately as any testing scheme.

The real questions are:

• do we want testing programs to replace competitions?

• do we want inter-club testing programs? Or simply keep it in-gym?

Personally I like to make a “big deal” of physical ability testing only for a year or two. Perhaps the second and/or third year of serious training in the career of each gymnast. It’s part of the education process of athlete and parents.

As soon as possible, actual and modified gymnastics competitions should become more important goals in the minds of coach and athlete.

Many physical ability testing schemes are criticized for being too complicated, too time-consuming and inconsistently evaluated. In my experience, those complaints are valid more often than not.

tops-mast_01.gifPhysical ability testing is one part of programs that often seem to go by acronyms: TOPS, STEP, LEAP, etc.

I’ve seen good kids quit the sport after a poor result in testing. That’s a shame.


Physical ability tests measure “potential”, not “talent”.

The most successful two Artistic gymnasts out of my Province are Jennifer Wood and Kylie Stone.

Both would fare badly on the FLEXIBILITY component of any testing scheme.

Yet those girls obviously had “talent”.

The best strategy for coaches, I think, is to start many kids in physical ability testing programs — but move them OUT quickly if it gets discouraging. This would be a “promotion” to competitions.

Every gym has some kids who do well in testing, who love testing. Those can stay longer in the testing program before starting to compete.

Note: Technical (skills) ability testing programs are much less controversial. Mosts coaches see benefit in having kids challenged by trying to master a list of evaluated skills and drills.

photo – Marina from Canmore Illusions Gym Club

Debbie Brown – choreographer

brown.jpgIn the early 1980s we flew Debbie Brown in to choreograph routines for our gymnasts. Debbie did great routines!

But little did we know at that time that she would become one of the most successful choreographers in history.

Debbie’s worked on virtually every Cirque du Soleil creation since 1986. She’s worked with Pavarotti, Aerosmith, Björk, Celine Dion, Madonna and Shakira. In 2002 she won an Emmy for choreography.

Debbie choreographed a twenty-three-minute “bungee ballet” (that I have not yet seen).

Congratulations on your tremendous career in the Arts.

Song and dance, with a twist – Montreal Gazette

video – assembling a tumbling “rod floor”

For competitive power tumbling, you need a rod floor.

We took down and later set it up again after rearranging the gym for a competition.

To get a look at the set-up process click PLAY, or watch the video on YouTube.

Geoff used the Hilti gun to put a restraining bolt into the concrete. This is to prevent the entire floor sliding forward towards the pit, over time.

honouring “veterans” in sport

“Veteran” is the right word for athletes and coaches who spend many decades at sport. They’ve been through the wars.

One of my first coaches was honoured at a competition last weekend — the Ed Vincent Classic.

Physical Ed – 69 years young (still training 3 times / week)

More photos of the meet posted by Altadore – Flickr

We took photos with other “veterans” of Altadore Gymnastics, including Jim McLuskey who founded Altadore 40-years-ago (… joking as to why the Jim McLuskey Classic competition had not yet been scheduled.)

Jim had the last laugh. He now owns his own club — Mountain Shadows — and took away the women’s team trophy, besting the host club.

UPDATE – Altadore posted RESULTS from the meet

good coaching philosophy

Rob Brown is an Aussie coach and trampoline competitor.

He started in the sport as an adult, quickly developing a “careful, sensible, and safe approach“.

(There are some advantages in starting at an older age in acrobatic sports.)

Rob mentioned to me an important point that often takes years to realize:

My main motivation in coaching is teaching students to reach goals they never imagined possible. Often the less talented can be the most rewarding as they receive the biggest change for the positive in their personal perspective. Seeing them succeed and win is something special, and their smiles are priceless.

For the more elite, being able to give them challenges that they can’t easily solve is interesting. Watching as they learn to approach with respect, so they can find their own deeply hidden talents is rewarding.

Inside Gymnastics magazine – online

When Inside Gymnastics launched their original website, we were very excited.

It would not be difficult to publish a more interesting site than the badly outdated International Gymnast magazine – online.

Though Inside Gymnastics online started with a bang, it’s been disappointing lately. They initiated new features like iGtv (Inside Gymnastics Television), then did not post new episodes for months. (Finally a new episode has been announced.)

Good news, however, from Inside Gymnastics:

We recently launched an updated website,, which now contains more promotions, more interactive features as well as expanded news updates, athlete interviews and event coverage. Our website is now updated daily with either news, blog entries or other promotional features! …


Should it be the stylish Shantessa Pama, the elegant Elsa Garcia or shining star Shayla Worley? Or talented trickster Jonathan Horton or rising talent Ivana Hong? Or one of the other international headliners perhaps? Your vote will decide who appears on the cover of our May/June issue! Plus, your vote will help determine which photo of Nastia Liukin will appear on our “50 Most Photogenic” (March/April) issue!

Inside Gymnastics e-Newsletter

It does look a big improvement. (Still no RSS feed.)

Check out the “new look” for yourself —


video – tumbling with bunjie belt

This is one of the FEW backward handspring drills not included in Rik Feeney’s book.

Coach Anke Moncur uses an overhead bungie belt to teach backward handspring. (This girl had never done handspring before.)

Click PLAY or watch the short video clip on YouTube.

Kingborough Gymnastics, Tasmania, Australia.

The bungie belt is similar to the hand spotted belt (which is in Feeney’s book) used by many coaches.

Both belt spotting systems are time consuming, of course.

do your kids finish what they start?

A gymnastics club is one of the last places remaining in our society where kids learn discipline and persistence.

Tom Burgdorf is concerned that kids “flit” too much and too easily between activities. They sign up for a gymnastics program … then want to drop out the first time something goes wrong at gym.


… Do we want them to flit “colleges?” Flit jobs? Flit marriages? There comes a time when you have to settle down and make something work. There comes a time when you have to “suck it up” and make the best of it.

We see some families start a session or a season and not finish it because the child, athlete, doesn’t want to finish. They have lost interest. It isn’t as much fun. Start it – finish it, is my motto for just about everything. Especially for kids. Start an 8 week session of gymnastics, finish it. Get promoted to team, you finish the season. You owe that to your teammates and the coaches.

What The Kids Learn When:

• They are allowed to quit 1/2 way through – commitment is only good when I like what I am doing.

• They are allowed to quit 1/2 way through – the money their parents paid for the session isn’t important.

• They are allowed to quit 1/2 way through – their teammates and coaches don’t mean much.

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