WAG Coaches' Corner

Information for coaches

Teaching handstand to bridge, kick back walkover

Looking for tips on teaching handstand to bridge, kick back walkover from the JO Level 3 floor routine? Check out this video from Rick McCharles for some ideas.


Thanks to Gymnastics Coaching

All About Artistry

Article originally published on The All Around Gymnastics News: http://www.the-all-around.com/2013/11/11/all-about-artistry/

Artistry, or the lack thereof, is one the hottest topics in gymnastics. Bemoaning the demise of artistry – in combination with the assurance that everything was much better in the 80s – is something of full-time job for a lot of gym fans. While fans have the luxury of sitting back and yelling “are the judges blind?!!! That routine should have been hammered for lack of artistry!” at their computer screens, the FIG has to come up with actual rules that can be applied by actual judges in actual competitions.

The FIG Academy Program organised two artistry and music workshops during the World Championships in Antwerp. One for the coaches and another one for the judges. The workshop was run under the title „It’s time to put the artistry back into gymnastics!“ and was the first of a number of workshops planned for the Olympic cycle. Similar workshops were also organised during the Rhythmic World Championships, focussing on the increasing lack of rhythm in routines.

The topic in Antwerp was floor exercise, 2014 will be all about balance beam. Hardy Fink, former MTC president and Director of FIG Education & Academy Program, gave an opening talk. The workshops are clearly of great importance to the FIG as evident by the presence of first vice president Slava Corn and the entire Women’s Technical Committee. FIG President Bruno Grandiand General Secretary André Gueisbuhler also popped in. The FIG even devoted a press release to the creation of the workshops. Considering this and the gymternet’s interest in all things artistry, this initiative has received surprisingly little media coverage to date.

The workshop consisted of two lectures – one from Lasse Nettum of the Norwegian College of Sports Science, the second one from Lyn Heward from Cirque du Soleil. This made for a fascinating combination of two completely different personalities, both visibly passionate about their mission, and lecture styles. The lectures packed a massive amount of information and examples into only three hours, and one had to feel a bit sorry for those judges who had to judge the all-around final later that day.

Nettum, a music specialist and expert in music for gymnastics, spoke extensively about music theory and more effective use of music in coordination with movement and choreography as well as the relationship between the music and the accompanying movement. The music should be reflected in the movement and dance steps – a routine done to a waltz should not have tango steps. Accents in the music should be reflected in the movement – Beth Tweddle’s 2009 routine was shown as a good example while Sui Lu’s routine from the same competition was the opposite. Nettum argues that music theory should be a part of judges’ education and incorporated into everday training in the gym. He took the connection of gymnastics and music even further by composing an impressive high bar symphony. He took Kohei Uchimura’s high bar routine and set music accents to match the swing. It was not about setting a routine to music but rather using the rhythm to create a piece of music. The result was stunning.

Lyn Heward, former President and COO of Cirque du Soleil’s Creative Content Division as well as former gymnast, judge and coach, spoke about artistry in floor routines. There is no such thing as the one style, music or type of movement that suits all gymnasts and should be the blueprint for all other routines. The routine needs to suit each individual gymnast. The choreography and movements must go with the theme of the music (e.g. Daniela Silivas 1985 cowgirl routine). Heward showed a number of routines and asked the judges to give them a name. Olga Mosteponva? The Nutcracker. Nadia Comaneci 1976? The precocious delinquent. One very special moment was when she showed Oksana Omelianchik’s famous “Ukrainian bird” routine. Omelianchik was present and received huge round of applause from her fellow judges. A fascinating example of how routines can and should change with the increasing maturity of the performer was Maria Filatova in 1976 and 1980.

Two points Heward criticised were the time spent by gymnasts setting up turns and the standing in corners before tumbling. In dance, she argued, turns are integrated seamlessly whereas in gymnastics the set-up takes a while and is often awkward, interrupting the flow of the routine.

Lilia Podkopayeva‘s 1996 Olympic floor routine was used as a bad example for the corner preparation. A routine should ideally be one fluid flow of movements – Amy Koopman’s 1982 was used as a good example here. Heward’s lecture included a whole load of routines beloved by the gymnastics community – Voinea’s breakdance, Boginskaya’s 1989 fiesta, Davydova’s 1980 routine. The vast majority of routines shown were from Soviet gymnasts in the 80s.

The theory was fascinating and was more of an introductory lecture than an actual workshop but surely a huge and important step. While agreeing on the basic principle is one thing, achieving practical results is another. The challenge is to find a way of putting something that is ultimately subjective into a set of objective rules. Heward urged the judges to trust the audience. If the audience likes it, it’s a good routine. That is true of the performing arts, where the audience is the judge. But then, the performing arts do not need to worry about packing a bunch of tumbling runs and dance skills into just ninety seconds. Or about ever changing rules and their interpretation. And the audience does not have to answer to the IOC.

Behold the flamingo!

When the WTC decided to penalize excessive preparation in corners, it sounded like a good idea. After all, routines should flow. Unfortunately, what the gymnastics world got was loads of gymnasts standing on one leg like a flamingo. Exactly what the WTC wants to see in corners lead to a lot of confusion. It seemed open for interpretation right until the start of the competition in Antwerp. WTC president Nellie Kim was seen explaining the corner rule to Martha Karolyi after podium training. Karolyi did not look happy. At all.

Ulla Koch, German head coach, was visibly frustrated after qualification in Antwerp. “I think it’s… well, I don’t want to use the word outrageous, but just two weeks ago they issued the [latest] rules. They said – one corner on two legs, every corner needs to be different. All positions on one leg are considered the same [i.e. it doesn’t matter what position the free leg is in] and will be deducted. We redid all our corners just last week. Then yesterday – after podium training – we got a note saying the rule changes had been withdrawn. You know, I could of course say now we should have just worked on our tumbling instead. But we put a lot of effort, a lot of thought into it. During the first judges’ meeting [in Antwerp] they said the rules would be applied strictly. Then, they took everything back. Some countries protested because it was apparently not announced internationally.”

While fluidity of movement throughout a routine is a quality worth aspiring to, the corner rule does force the E jury to focus massively on only one detail of the routine. The corner confusion did offer a bit of comical relief. “If you go to the training gym, you’ll see lots of coaches walking around the mats, trying to come up with ways to enter the corners,” Koch said.

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Nancy Beyer, WAG Coordinator, 604-333-3497, nbeyer@gymbc.org

Andrée Montreuil, Technical Director, 604-333-3491, amontreuil@gymbc.org