Everybody always wants to be the best in anything they do. It’s rare that people want to put in the hard work AND time it takes to be the best.
Of course when you watch a team such as Top Gun Large Coed, Brandon Senior Black, or Team Bangkok and you think “oh that looks so easy, I could totally do that”. Well, professionals are supposed to make their art look easy. I watch baseball pitchers in awe over how fast they can throw the ball. I’m sure I can throw the ball 5 maybe 6 miles per hour. But I realize that dedication and a lot of practice and training is probably what got that person to where they they are today.
Just like most things in life, cheerleading is progressive based. What do I mean by progressive? I’ll explain. You know the phrase “you have to crawl before you walk”? Well as a parent, I know that not all babies walk at the same time and some babies don’t even crawl, but we can all agree, it’s a process. A baby has to become strong enough to hold its head up, and then has to have enough core strength to sit up, and eventually make his or her way to a standing position. After a baby has mastered standing, the walking becomes trial and error. Knowing how to move their legs in a certain way, learning how to keep balance, it’s all in the process of learning how to walk, whether you realize it or not.
How does this relate to cheerleading? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with tumbling. Tumbling in cheerleading has evolved dramatically over the last 5-7 years, but unfortunately what hasn’t evolved is the knowledge of tumbling. “Tumbling coaches” have been known to start out their athletes by teaching them back handsprings on within their first few lessons of classes which is both wrong and dangerous. One of the very first skills to be taught to any given athlete should be a forward roll. And not just flipping your torso over your head, but a correct forward roll. Starting with your arms by your ears, keeping your legs together and standing up without the use of arms. Technique will always win over skill.
The most useful skill in tumbling is the handstand. The reason why? A handstand is in a cartwheel, roundoff, back handspring, front handspring…I think you see where I’m going here. Just because you can kind of do a handstand and a janky cartwheel doesn’t mean you’re ready to move on to the next skill. Think of it like this, just because your child knows how to count to 10 doesn’t mean they know had to add and subtract. Right? I see parents and some coaches push their athletes hard to learn tumbling skills that they are not physically ready for. This is what leads to unnecessary injuries. Not only are athletes not ready due to lack of basic skills, but they also are not strong enough to do the elite skills. I’ve seen athletes who are attempting to do all these hard head over heel skills with absolutely no core strength whatsoever. Every athlete who attempts a back handspring should be able to hold a hollow body position for a minute. If we were not such a rush rush or comparative society, people would have no problem spending 2-3 hours OUTSIDE of practice, stretch, conditioning, taking private lessons to ensure they are safely and accurately progressing on their skills.
Parents: Just because 5 year old “Mary” has a back handspring doesn’t mean your 11 year old “Sally” should have one. Take care of your athletes and let them progress at their own speed.
Last and final thought. Think about the most powerful tumblers in our industry today…Angel Rice, Taryn Burke, Ashley Eichelberger, Jack Payne, Brandon Wu, AJ Singleton, Whitney Love and a plethora of others and I guarantee you they have one of a few things in common. They’re really hard workers, they started tumbling from the basics, they are very strong and conditioned, or they’re naturally talented. The naturally talented come few and far between, but those people either work hard and continue, or stay content and never grow as an athlete.
There is so much that I could cover about progression in the cheer world, but bottom line, you will not succeed if you do not take the steps needed to make a great athlete.
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