Every gym has at least one extremely flexible gymnast. Most are born with some “unusual” range of motion and (surprisingly) bending the body through these positions seems to cause no long term damage.

gymnast at Mountain Shadows Gymnastics Camp, Canada

And every circus includes a number of contortionists.

There are a couple of myths acrobatic coaches should dispel:

“Double-jointed” is just a slang expression used to describe the appearance of a person who can bend much further than one might think a joint would allow a limb to bend. In spite of the origin of the word, it is a perfectly acceptable expression to describe a person who is hypermobile.

Since some loose-jointed people are able to pop a joint out of its socket without pain, it may be hard to tell whether a joint is actually dislocated without an x-ray. However, as long as the joint socket is the right shape, most extreme bends can be achieved without dislocating the joint. Actual dislocations are rarely used during athletic contortion acts since they make the joint more unstable and prone to injury, and a dislocated limb cannot lift itself or support any weight.

Wikipedia – Contortionist

Mountain Shadows Gymnastics Camp

Rick McCharles

This was my third year coaching the Mountain Shadows Camp in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. The club is owned by Jim McLuskey, a legend of gymnastics in my region, the first man to hire me as a coach back in the 1970s.

The most unusual aspect of this camp is that girls as young as age 7 spend 5 nights in sequence living and training in the gym. This is the first time away from parents for some of the kids.

The camp is an unforgettable experience in the life of a young girl. I recommend it.

more photos on Flickr

cross training

Any athlete training at a high level, training a high number of hours per week, risks getting “stale”.

Cross training is ideal for keeping athletes “fresh” and may even enhance physical development. I schedule one voluntary cross training activity each month: kick boxing, swimming, cycling, even “tree climbing”.

Here athletes from Altadore Gymnastics take a hike in the mountains.


planning for Beijing

The Canadian Men’s Gymnastics team trained in Beijing June 30-July 12th as part of the team preparation plan for the next Olympics. Kyle Shewfelt, 2004 Olympic Champion on Floor, sent us some photos of the Chinese National Training Centre.

The US Olympic Team got advice from USOC Coaching and Sport Sciences: ANY WHERE, ANY TIME, WE WILL BE READY: PLANNING FOR BEIJING

I think Beijing (official website) may well be the best Olympics ever. Certainly the Chinese athletes will be very well prepared. But can they handle the added psychological pressure of competing in front of the home town crowd?

video – forward hip circle machine

Peter Soul from Integrity Gymnastics in Ohio makes many training aids including a forward hip circle teaching device for bars.

It is awkward to get into — but quite fun and easy to swing a series of forward hip circles.

Click PLAY on the video below or watch the clip on

A group of coaches at Mismo Gymnastics were discussing the many reasons why it will not work — when it did work. One of the girls did forward hip circle on her own right after doing a series in the machine.

Successful Sports Parenting

NEW — CD produced by U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding and USA Swimming and hosted by Deborah Phelps, a HS principal and mother of swimmer and six-time Gold Medalist Michael Phelps.

Topics include information for parents on a child’s growth and development, physical well-being (including nutrition, hydration and disordered eating), competition and training, as well as tips on how to best balance and support your child.

Also addressed is how coaches and parents can work together better (dealing with conflict, being part of a team) and how clubs can better work with parents (volunteers, meetings, communication tools, retention, code of conduct).

The CD features more than 30 interviews with top coaches, athletes, parents and sports psychologists (including athletes like three-time Olympian and World champion Daron Rahlves, three-time Olympian Rowdy Gaines and Dr. Dan Gould, Director of the Institute for Youth Studies).

The CD is endorsed, used and distributed by the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Tennis Association, USA Hockey, U.S. Speed Skating, U.S. Rowing, USA Water Polo, U.S. Curling, U.S. Figure Skating, USA Diving and U.S. Synchronized Swimming. The CD … retail price is $39.99 and a discount is available for volume and organization orders.

Successful Sports Parenting

video – spotting “giant” swing

I did my first giants at a summer camp over sawdust, not mats. (Yep, we had it tough in the old days.)

At summer camp in Idaho we put as many gymnasts as possible through giants. An important goal of the week was to do new skills.

Check the video clip below to see how carefully coaches John Smith & Peter Soul spotted the kids on their first giants.

Click PLAY on the video below or watch the clip on

FUNtastics Gymnastics, Idaho

Canadians train in Beijing

The Canadian National Men’s Gymnastics Team trained at the Chinese National Training Centre June 30-July 12, 2006. Olympic Floor Champion Kyle Shewfelt sent some photos (posted on Flickr).


The Chinese are psyched for the 2008 Olympics. And the Canadians much enjoyed training with the host team. In fact, a number reported this to be their best ever international training camp.

To top it off, Brandon O’Neill took home 2 silver medals from a World Cup event in Shanghai.