A Simply Excellent Coaching blog for Gymnastics, Cheerleading, and Tumbling

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20 Reasons Your Preschooler Should Do Gymnastics (That Have Nothing to Do with Learning Gymnastics)

Dance, Cheerleading, Martial Arts or any other activity which involves sequencing, can be plugged into this and applied. What a great list to share!



What if Johnny never learns a cartwheel? Or how about if Janie never masters holding a handstand? Would there still be any value in putting your preschooler in a gymnastics class?

Yes, I say.

Absolutely, yes.

In addition to it being a lot of fun, here are twenty reasons your preschool aged child should do gymnastics that have nothing to do with learning gymnastics.

  1. Separation. Learning to leave your parent or caregiver in the lobby while you go into class is the beginning of learning how to separate before a child goes to school. The ability to adjust to new situations is an important part of a preschoolers’ education.
  2. Following directions. Gymnastics teaches kids to follow multi-stepped directions. Going around the obstacle course and remember what to do at each station is far more than gymnastics training.
  3. Following safety rules. Listening to the rules of how we keep…

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Summer Goals

A lot of people in the sports world think of Summer or “offseason” as break time or a time to stop going to the gym and training. However, the ones who are getting better use that time to get a new outlook on things and take time to evaluate where they are and where they want to go. Together my Senior squad and I have already laid out a rough outline for our direction and goals. We looked at things we need to improve and where our strengths are, making sure we further strengthen them.
Goal setting is a vital part of all sports. As many people know goal setting is the first step toward success.  It’s a map to use to guide us along the steps we must take to achieve the goal. However, many of us fall short actually following through and achieving what we set out to do. This is because many athletes think that by just saying what they want they will magically just get it.
All of our goals must be broken into many “small goals.” Each small goal is a baby-step toward achieving your big goal. Breaking down the goals into small steps leads to confidence and helps to focus the attention on the important parts.
Athlete, coach and parent(s) should be part of the process of selecting an attainable goal. Then with the guidance of the coach and or parent, put together a strong plan for success to make the goal possible.  The following is an example of the goal setting process.

All of our goals must be broken into many “small goals.”

“Betty Backspot is one of the best tumblers in her gym. She’s been last pass and a featured tumbler during the standing tumbling section. Unfortunately she’s been dealing with an ankle injury that has kept her from training the skills she really wants to work. Her goal is to compete a front tuck, step out, round-off, back handspring, whip, layout.” 
What can she do to achieve her goal?

Here’s a step-by-step example: 
  1. Betty Backspot and her coach decide to focus on each element of the pass individually. Specifically, the entry and exit point of the skills. (this is a major contributing factor to her injury being aggravated.)
  2. They added additional strength and flexibility work for the ankle to reduce the possibility of re-injuring the ankle once it’s healed.
  3. Training starts with low-number high-quality/focus repetitions on tumble trak and low-impact drills. They are focusing on areas where she is weak and fixing them.
  4. After two or three (2-3) weeks half the reps will be tumble trak and drills and the other half will move to a soft-surface floor. Either a spring floor with 4″-8″ thick soft mats or a rod floor.
  5. At this point the most important two things are; continuing to be consistent with the corrections AND no pain in the ankle. If yes, then one or two (1-2) reps on floor will be incorporated.
  6. After an additional four to six weeks (4-6) Betty Backspot should be pain-free and properly performing the tumbling well.
Now it’s your turn to set a goal and your steps to achieve it!

And don’t forget, Cheerleading is more than just tumbling… Set a goal for each part of the routine, Jumps, Stunting, Dance and of course Tumbling! I hope this will help you move closer to your goals!

-Post your goals below in the comments or ask for help. Good Luck!

How To Do A Standing Full In Less Than Five Minutes:

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Elliot Helms a friend from Greenville, SC who I met while at Woodward created a fantastic, simple, How To for Standing Fulls!

The tutorial uses techniques he learned from Victor Rossiaro, Top Gun and Levi Brown, Brandon All Stars.

I’m good at coaching these and have never seen it this simple! Go to work and have fun!

Post links to #success and #fails in the comments!

*disclaimer: It will probably take you longer than five minutes to successfully land.

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An autobiographical obituary by the late Mike Hughes

Although I’m not familiar with Mike Hughes work there is so much to learn from this glimpse into the life and priorities of someone successful and passionate about what they used their life for. Amazing Read!


After many unexplained delays, I have finally lived up to my prognosis and have at last departed this life. It’s been a life I’ve loved.

In the months leading up to this moment, I was astonished at the outpouring of love and caring and respect from hundreds of people.  There were handwritten notes, emails, blog posts, comments, letters, magazine articles, personal visits and phone calls. The tsunami of glorious thoughts sent my way has made it increasingly hard to justify my deep insecurity about my place in the world—an insecurity I’ve clung to all my life.

I want to take this last opportunity to clear up one common misjudgment in the oft-repeated, highly exaggerated list of my virtues.  Many of you have credited me with humility.  That’s not even close to true.

No one has ever been prouder of a marriage than I’ve been of my 38 years with Ginny.  …

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Tim’s Two Minute Tumbling Tips: Whip-Back Progression

Skill: Whip-Back


The athletes are confusing back handsprings with whips?!

My approach to teaching whips changed drastically after I had the privilege to watch and learn from the national team coach of Denmark, Michael Jensen (a video of his athletes) and his current and former team members as well as Justen Millerbernd and members of his Team Revolution.

  1. Watch through the video.
  2. Read the breakdown clip-by-clip
  3. Watch and pause as you go. It will simplify the way I think it through for you.

Problem Solved! The video accompanying this will show you:

  • (0:00- 0:12) Lead up skill; strong standing back handspring.
    • As soon as possible I eliminate my students arm-swing on Tumbl-Trak. It keeps their chest up and helps teach how to push through their toes.
  • (0:12- 0:16) Attempting to rebound out of a “back flip.”
    • This first one I make the mistake of “trying to rebound.” The student typically tries too hard and doesn’t finish the flip which results in one of two things happening.
      •  They ‘jam’ it like I did OR they bounce forward.
    • I say “back flip” on purpose. At this point I don’t care what shape the flip is. Obviously I want a good tuck position, but we all know how things are.
    • I look for a rebound which travels straight up or slightly backward before I move the athlete on from here. It’s very important to keep the athlete here as long as necessary.
      • Typically takes my kids less than five tries before they figure it out.
  • (0:16- 0:25) Standing back handspring tuck with good rebound:
    • Two examples of acceptable turns.
  • (0:25- 0:40) Bouncing to connected “back flips” OR standing back handspring to connected “back flips”
    • Watch closely and notice the progressively worse tuck position in the second and third flips.
      • The weaker your athletes core and ability to hollow the more obvious this becomes.
        • You will see either the feet drag behind (what I show)
        • OR you will see the student flip in “two pieces” The head and chest will flip first and the legs will come very late.
    • If I have a confident athlete I will start here and skip the back handspring work at the beginning.
      • Usually means I already like their back handspring.
    • I added the standing back handspring to the front-end to help less powerful and less confident students.

Now for the fun part!

Now that the athlete is capable of connecting back-flips we can start coaching the shape and length.

  • (0:41- 0:46) Start working to stretch out the flip.
    • watch on the first whip (after the tuck) how my feet are behind by and I buckle slightly. This is common until the athlete is comfortable placing their feet slightly in front of their bodies.
  • (0:47- 0:55) This is a slow-motion replay of the second whip. The foot placement is decent and you can see the “high back handspring” we all want to see.
    • Be patient! At first it’s scary for the athletes to truly commit to scooping hard enough to get the foot placement AND be aggressive stretching into the nice open-hip position.
  • LOOK CLOSE! (0:55- 1:00) is regular speed. You can see the first is much higher than the second.
  • LOOK CLOSE! (1:00- 1:01) Specifically watch my hips. They are moving straight up even though I’m in a “good open shape” Showing your athletes videos of themselves is the easiest way to teach them this. (1:04- 1:07) is not great but a decent example of good travel and if you watch the hips they are open, just like the first, but because the feet are placed better you see them travel backward.
  • From (1:11- 1:53) I play around with timing and placement of the whips and reintroduce back handsprings.

The two-minute reel shows the step-by-step repetition process I use. It does not show any of the drills or conditioning exercises I utilize. I will bore you with that in another post.

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Solving Mental Blocks: Another Approach

Most of us in cheerleading are familiar with Debbie Love’s “Breaking Free” method of resolving an athletes mental blocks. I think this is a great resource and really helps get people past their mental block. She goes into  a lot of detail explaining why and how kids develop the block. I think everyone who wants to know more needs to read it.

My goal is two-fold. One, cure the mental block and two, eliminate mental blocks from forming. Most people I speak to talk about them as an annoyance with which they can’t be bothered with. They haven’t put the time in to consider why it happened. Debbie goes into detail with many “why’s” but if you go to the root you will notice two major causes.

The two most common causes are:

  1. Lack of Progression
  2. Stress: (School work, prior injury, parent, coach, growth spurt and many others)


Really, if you look carefully at it, a lack of progression causes stress too. So, ultimately “stress” is the only cause for mental blocks.

So this is an easy one, eliminate stress and the mental block goes away right?


Eliminating stress is unrealistic. Understanding types of stress is key.  When we think of stress we think of something bad and negative.  What we are picturing is “DI-stress.”  DI-stress is referring to the harmful things which make us weaker, less confident, and less able. These include:

  • Destructive Criticism. (Negative and cutting words including self-talk)
  • Poor Time Management. (Not getting school work done)
  • Parents who don’t let the coaches coach. (Want a job? Fill out an application!)
  • Lack of Progression/ Moving to fast. (Always a short-term gain with long-term consequences)
  • Poor Diet. (If you are an athlete treat your body right and give it what it needs!)

What we as Coaches, Parents and Mentors need to do is teach our athletes about good stress.  “Eu-“ is a Greek prefix for “healthy,” we would know it from the word Euphoria. The good stress I am talking about is “EU-stress.” Coaches, parents and role models who push us to exceed our limits and take carefully calculated risks which grow our comfort zone are examples of eustress. It’s the stress we need for healthy growth as an athlete and it will spill over into other areas of life.

How to Eliminate the Block:

This is a method that I have used successfully. It’s clearly not the only way because I too have utilized Debbie’s  method.


  1. Trust is key! If it’s not already established you have to build or rebuild trust with the athlete.
  2. Have unconditional patience.
  3. Get creative.
  4. Make if fun!
  5. Create Eustress, teach the athlete the difference between types of criticism. People who avoid criticism or don’t understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism will fail.



  1. Love em’ where they are. Remember, they are not defined by their ability to do or not do a skill.
  2. Don’t try coaching them.
  3. Love em’ more.


Athlete: (You must develop two beliefs.)

  1. I can change right now! (No matter how crazy this might sound write it down and repeat it over and over until you believe it.)
  2. I accept responsibility for my change. The change will happen inside and only I can make the choice!


Some things I focus on while coaching an athlete with a “mental block”

  • I always reassure them that this is on there time and no one gives them a deadline on when they will choose “get the skill back.” 9 times out 10  lack of body awareness is what holds the student back.
  • I will focus on teaching the athlete how to fine tune their senses and teach them body awareness. I also find two or three things the athlete like working which are fun and mix a “blocked” skill in the middle of a lot fun skills.
  • Also, I will break a skill into its basic component and drill the small parts of the skill and teach them how all the basics relate to what their goal is. Once that’s “boring” for the athlete I will put everything back together and because they now know how to feel the correct way they are filled with confidence.

“If I have the belief that I can do it I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have had it at the beginning.” ~Gandhi