teaching and learning

Rick McCharles

It’s a truism that the best way to learn anything, is to teach it.

I recall as a young coach identifying biomechanics as my weakest area of understanding. My mentor Keith Russell subsequently made me teach it. (This is always the most controversial section of any coaching course.)

Just editing this blog (hardly teaching) has schooled me in many specialized acrobatic activities in which I was unaware when merely coaching gymnastics.


“Stick It” will be a cult classic

The successful gymnastics movie Stick It will live long.

It is not a perfect film, but I find I can easily watch it repeatedly.


The great visuals. It was a master stroke using the red GymNova mats. And some of the cinematography reminds me of the ultimate cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

To see what I mean click PLAY or watch a short clip on YouTube.


This site GymnasticsCoaching.com is easily confused with CoachingGymnastics.com — but happily they are both great sites.

The other, CoachingGymnastics.com, is a UK based site edited by Val Sellars, a senior University lecturer.

Val posts animated drills and video clips geared mostly for beginners — check a sample “practice of the month” video clip.

You can sign up for a free Teaching Gymnastics e – Newsletter which I recommend.

There are many other features for members. Take a browse of CoachingGymnastics.com.


the “flexibility torture book”

Another great book by Roland Carrasco is no longer in print.

Back in the day we referred to it as the flexibility torture book. That was black humour — in fact this is an excellent resource and we added many of his exercises. Though in French, the photographs told the tale.

There were a number of stretches we crossed out with a large X — in particular those showing knee hyper-extension drills.

cover image from – The Souplesse Lover : Gym Training

circus – DIAVOLO

Cirque du Soleil friends mentioned the Diavolo troupe.

They look pretty cool!

diavolo.jpgDiavolo was founded in 1992 in Los Angeles by Jacques Heim to create large-scale interdisciplinary performances which examine the funny and frightening ways individuals act with their environment. The craftiness and wit of Diavolo is captured by the stylized fox logo. Constantly changing the image presented to the audience, Diavolo has developed a movement vocabulary that creates an almost cinematic experience of powerful images that develop abstract narratives of the human condition.

The company is comprised of dancers, gymnasts and actors who create performances collaboratively under the guidance of Heim. The sets created are outrageous and surrealistic and form an intrinsic part of each piece of work. Everyday items such as doors, chairs and stairways provide the back-drop for dramatic movement – leaping, flying, twirling – that creates metaphors for the challenge of relationships, the absurdities of life and the struggle to maintain our humanity in an increasingly technological world.

The 10 member company currently has over a dozen works in repertoire (ranging from 10 to 75 minutes in length), most of which travel easily and can be adapted to large and small scale venues.

I will try to catch their touring show.


more photos from m @ r i t e s s on Flickrdiavolo-pic.jpg

closing the gym to spectators?

keep-out-metal-sign.jpgOpenness, honesty, and transparency is the best case scenario in sport as in life.

I am suspicious of all gyms that are closed to spectators. It begs the question, “What do they have to hide?” — even when there is nothing to hide.

That said, there are better and worse ways to open a training venue to spectators. Altadore Gymnastics has the best set-up I’ve seen: big one way mirrored windows. Parents can see in, but the kids cannot see out.

Funtastics was the first gym I saw to provided closed circuit video monitoring of those parts of the gym not visible from the spectator area. Another great idea.

video – funny – rings pulley machine

I grew up in a gym with a “ring machine” — a pulley device which reduces your body weight allowing you to hold perfect strength positions including Iron Cross. I’ve always like them.

Coach Patrick Carmichael from Island Gymnastics Academy demonstrates the incorrect use of this device.

Click PLAY or watch the clip on YouTube.

book – Rhythmic Gymnastics

In my quest to list the (surprisingly few) excellent books for coaches, I give the thumbs up to Rhythmic Gymnastics by Nadejda Jastrjembskaia and Juri Titov.

As with many Russian authors, I find this book overly academic and methodical. No need to read every word. But if looking for a few good ideas to improve your acrobatics program — it makes an excellent browse.

I went first to the Developing Flexibility chapter as this is where I have most to learn from Rhythmic Gymnastics. The text advocates using a combination of static (1/3) and dynamic (2/3) stretching drills “avoiding abrupt or jerky movements”.

Other key points:

  • girls flexibility increases drastically between ages 7 and 10 — and is maximized between 11 and 13
  • do flexibility improvement exercises at the end of a vigorous warm-up and at the end of the work-out
  • There is not much mention of the excellent musical warm-ups typical of Rhythmic training. (The Canadian Men’s National team has a similar dynamic warm-up though not to music which is excellent.)

    This one is widely distributed so you may find it in your local library.

    Rhythmic Gymnastics