The following article was written by CMC's founder, David Hanbery. Although David has gone on to operate one of the largest cheerleading competition and apparel companies, he still has a passion for educating young athletes, coaches, and parents. This article has been used by many gyms, schools, and coaches all over the world to help young athletes progress in tumbling safely and rapidly. All parents and kids should take 10 minutes to read this great information and use it to reach all of your tumbling goals!
The Proven Guide to Tumbling Success
The world of cheerleading was not created from gymnastics as many participants imagined. It was started by yell leaders at various universities. The goal was to get the crowd on their feet! This is not the case anymore. With cheerleading becoming one of the fastest growing sports of all time, every participant looks to gain a competitive edge over the competition. This is where tumbling has entered the game!
Most parents of modern cheerleaders that once participated in the sport are amazed at the overwhelming progression of individual tumbling skills in the sport. When I started cheering in college, a team with squad tucks was a great accomplishment. Now, most junior teams are expected to have mastered that skill and college teams are all expected to have full twisting layouts at a minimum.
This has changed the game substantially! This means that the kids must spend equal time training individually and with their team to guarantee personal success. Now that we know tumbling is so important, what can we do to make sure we are progressing the proper way with safety and skill advancement?
As some of the best and most recognized tumblers in the country have come from programs I have operated, here is my list of things to guarantee individual tumbling success.
1. Training! Training is the most important thing that we can do to learn any new skill. If I passed out 10 unicycles to 10 different kids, the child that spent the most time on the new apparatus would be easily identifiable! He would be the child that mastered the new skill first! The more we practice at anything, the better we will become. If you ask any amazing athlete the key to success, they will all tell you training time and hard work.
2. Fitness! Tumbling is merely a different way to move across the floor. Our bodies do not develop the strength and flexibility to master this without work. Do you remember the first time you water skied, snow skied, or chopped wood? After the challenge of learning the skill, the soreness enveloped muscles you never knew existed! Tumbling requires flexibility and strength in a set of muscles that are only used to that extent with acrobatic activities. Until your body is strong enough and flexible enough, there will be a limit to what you can accomplish.
I have often had a child that was present in classes for years and still could not seem to land that standing tuck! The frustration comes at a fast pace and often makes for an angry child and a bad car ride home for the frustrated parent. The problem is that the child knows how to do the skill. They have perfected it in their brain, and they could teach someone else how to do it easily. Yet, they lack the strength to throw it! I tell kids all the time that I used to watch monster muscular athletes in the weight room bench press the weight of compact cars, and I know exactly how to do it. The thing that stops me from lifting that weight is my lack of strength. Much like what stands in the way of that dreaded standing tuck!
3. Practice! You might ask why practice is different than training. It's really not. That's how important training is! Practice is a part of training. I love to tell students that each skill has a number. That number stands for how many times you must attempt it before you will master it. If that number is 100 and you do 10 every week, plan on it taking 10 weeks to master. If you do 10 a day, that skill will be yours in a couple of weeks.
Now this isn't even close to an exact science, but in my experience this rule has never proven me wrong! The idea is to practice more on the challenging skills in order to overcome them. I am pretty sure there is great science to support that.
4. Daily Routine! Developing a daily routine to help you advance is like cheating when it comes to tumbling. Throw out the steroids and burn your cheat sheets! Those may be the big deal in many scandals, but the performance enhancing supplement in tumbling is a doing a daily routine!
Many cheerleaders buy into the hype that cheerleading isn't a sport and they treat their body as if they are not an athlete. This is dumb and dangerous! Cheerleaders need to be among the strongest athletes pound for pound in the entire sporting world! How do you make this happen?
Make a daily routine that includes stretching, strength work, concentration skills, and cardio. Your daily routine also needs to include nutrition! Hydration is the key! Combine that with healthy meals and snacks forming a complete nutritional diet of an athlete, and your body will treat you like royalty!
Any good coach should be able to help you put together a daily routine that will make your tumbling skills bust through the roof, and it will make your body a healthy picture of athletic splendor! Now if that isn't cheating, what is?
When I have explained this at some conferences, some parents have had funny looks on their faces and have asked me, sarcastically, if their young athlete should be working out at the gym with a trainer and a nutritionist. My reply is that if they want their young athlete to safely excel, they should make sure the child’s daily routine includes many active and enjoyable sessions and that they should make it a priority to fuel their young athlete with proper and healthy meals to help their young bodies and minds develop properly. If their young one is spending most of their time in a desk followed by a couch and their meals consist of whatever is passed through a drive through with a side of fries and a soft drink, this will greatly hinder their performance and development. A good daily routine is tough for us to do in a busy world where kids prefer IPads and XBoxes over bicycles, but it is mandatory for healthy athletic success. While I get many rolled eyes, weeks later tons of these parents have written me thanking me for the advice. They explain how a daily routine has helped their entire family feel better!
Hint: Just as a great basketball player will shoot almost every day, a marathon runner will run daily, and a baseball player will play catch all of the time, a tumbler should practice handstands, cartwheels, roundoffs, jumps, and back walkovers every day!
5. Knowledge! It always amazes people how I can take a kid that has learned tumbling on a trampoline or in their backyard and teach them amazing things within only a few lessons. It also amazes parents when I can take a child that has been struggling with a skill for years and say one sentence that leads them to the victory line! What separated these athletes from the skill was merely knowledge!
Knowledge is the key to success once your body is ready to master the skill. How do you get that knowledge? A great coach! The internet! A friend! A video! Trial and error! Of course the best and safest pick of these is always a great coach, and tumbling coaches are a tough breed of “always right” weirdoes! How do you pick a coach? Go with someone you are comfortable with. Choose a coach that has proven their successes, not one that only tells you about their success. Make sure they have trained for a while in professional atmospheres and are credentialed to take you to the next level. Check their certifications and record. Do a little research. A tumbling coach should constantly be training to become better and more knowledgeable.
It amazes me when I have kids come to me that have been training for years at some very established places for gymnastics and cheerleading yet they lack basic knowledge to throw simple skills. Make sure you do not have a coach that skips over basic technique as this leads to injury and mental blocks. One hour with a talented teacher can be more productive than a year with a coach that lacks the wisdom and training of an expert. Yet always remember, tumbling is a new way of movement. It takes time to develop it safely and effectively. If it didn't, a new born would have the ability to walk!
6. Confidence! I am notorious for telling people that confidence is 90% of success. How can that be? Why is it so important? What does confidence have to do with anything? My answer is EVERYTHING!
A confident person will achieve more in life. That is no surprise to anyone. So why is it such a stretch for me to get parents and kids to understand that confidence plays a major role in tumbling training? In fact, half of a great coach’s job is to get their students to do what the coach already knows that the athlete can accomplish. How better to do this than build confidence?
Confidence is a learned skill. It can translate from one thing to another. Such as, if you were a runner that just started and trained your butt off for a few weeks with the goal of completing that first 10k, and you went to the race, ran the race, finished the race with your supporters cheering you on at the finish line, how confident would you feel? Imagine how work would be that next week. You would be holding your head up a bit higher in every aspect of your life.
Our jobs as supporters of an athlete, parent or coach, is to build confidence. The athlete should be trained to accomplish small goals and be rewarded for each. An athlete’s responsibility is to believe that THEY CAN! That they can accomplish those goals and that nothing is out of their reach. This confidence, in my experience, has built greater tumblers than any other step in this process. The problem with confidence is that is developed from every aspect of life. An unexpected bad grade or even the smallest remark from a parent or schoolmate can ruin the confidence at a practice even hours later. Just keep in mind that if your goals are to be met, or your child’s goals are to be met, confidence will play a large part. It takes all of us to make confidence develop.
In conclusion to this article I would like to offer one more piece of advice for young or new tumblers. Make goals and make a plan to achieve them. Don't merely go through the motions expecting great things to happen. A piano lesson once a week for 30 minutes does not make a virtuoso! It's what takes place around that lesson that is has much more importance. Make your own goals and use the lessons and training to get there. On those bad days, that you will surely have, train harder and stick to basics. I guarantee the next session will be better and easier.
Finally, be proud of all of your accomplishments no matter how big or small! If it was easy, everyone would do it. Follow these rules and guidelines to ensure a safe and amazing time learning rapid and proper progressions on your way to individual fame and most importantly a self confidence that cannot be broken!