The first and most important topic in gymnastics instruction is how to stay safe and uninjured. The following is a list of some of the things you can do to help ensure your safety and the safety of others.
As with any other physical activity, injuries occur much more often when you are tired and/or worn down. Make sure you get sufficient sleep the night before your classes or practices. If you did not get enough sleep, rest and take a nap before class or practice. Make sure your body has enough energy from nutrition to last through your class or practice.
Follow and Master Skill Progressions
It is extremely important to learn gymnastics skills in the proper order of difficulty. Gymnasts should not be attempting difficult skills without learning all the lead-up skills and doing any appropriate lead-up drills. Gymnastics instruction and learning is a series of habits built upon other habits. Moving along too quickly without mastering skills can ultimately interfere with learning higher level gymnastics skills.
Follow Equipment Progressions
It is only common sense to work on gymnastics apparatus in their naturally progressive order. Beam skills are first learned and mastered on the floor (on a line). Then gymnasts can move up to low, medium and high beams.
Don’t Do Gymnastics By Yourself
Just like swimming and other physical activities where there is even the remotest chance of injury, gymnasts should only work out when there is at least one other person around. This means on those home trampolines, too.
Don’t Spot Other Gymnasts
Spotting is an art and requires the knowledge, strength and experience of a gymnastics instruction professional. Any error in judgement on your or their part could lead to you being involved and responsible for their potentially serious injury.
Only Let Professional Coaches Spot You
By the same token, you should only let qualified gymnastics professionals spot you on skills you cannot do and need help with. You risk potentially serious injury by being spotted or coached by someone who is not qualified, knowledgeable, experienced or strong enough.
Learn How to Fall Safely
It is probably a good idea to learn or at least know how to fall safely from any specific skill you are going to attempt, especially new skills. You also need to prepare yourself by learning how to fall on common types of skills. Gymnastics instruction in learning to forward, backward and shoulder roll out of front, back and sideward over-rotated skills is necessary. Practicing front and back drops (on a mat), including with the use of judo falls (slapping the hands to absorb the force of the fall) is another fall sequence to learn.
You need to be aware of what is going on around you in the gym if there are other gymnasts, especially bigger ones, around. You need to be aware and pay attention to everything and everyone around you who might crash into you or land on you. You also need to pay careful attention to your coach so you understand exactly what they expect of you to learn efficiently and keep yourself safe.
Stop, Look And Listen.
Just like crossing a street, when you approach an equipment area, the floor exercise mat, tumbling strips or other mats and pieces of equipment, you need to stop and look both ways before you cross or enter to make sure you are not in the way or going to get landed on.
Build Your Strength to Increase Your Safety Margin
The stronger you are, the less likely you are to get hurt and the more likely you are to learn gymnastics skills quickly and safely. Flexibility not only makes many skills more attractive (like back walkovers), but also can make you less prone to injury. So prepare for your gymnastics by working to make yourself strong and flexible.
Check Equipment First
Make sure all equipment is set and sturdy before you begin to perform any skills on it. Handles and cables need to be tight enough so the equipment is safe for you to be on. Don’t assume the equipment is correctly set and tight. Check it an make sure first.
Know Fall Zones
Don’t sit or stand in potential landing or fall zones. Too often gymnasts waiting for their turn do not stay enough out of the way of other gymnasts who need adequate room to dismount or a place to fall.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Spot
Ask for a spot if you are doing tricks if you need or want it. You are the one most likely to know and remember if you need a spot or not and it will be too late if you attempt a skill you are not sure of and fall. Spotting can protect you and build your confidence in doing the skill until you are ready to do it on your own safely. Don’t tell a coach that you can do skills if you are not 100% sure you can do them safely.
Make Sure You Understand What to Do
Tell your teacher if you don’t understand instructions on what to do. You should know and understand exactly what skill your teacher expects you to do and how they want you to do it. If you are not sure, ask. Understanding will help you learn more quickly and do things more safely.
Being Able to See is Helpful
Keep your hair out of your face and tie back long hair during all gymnastics instruction. Hair can obstruct your vision, get caught on equipment or you can pull it on skills like back extension rolls.
What Not to Wear
Don’t wear hair ties with hard objects, like plastic balls, on them. Skills, like back extension rolls, or falls can press them painfully into your head. There is no place during gymnastics instruction in the gym for decorative but dangerous hair ornaments.
This is Not Ballet
Don’t wear slippery nylon tights, like you commonly see in ballet classes. They are not appropriate or safe in a gymnastics gym. They can cause you to slip on both beam and bars.
Don’t Be a Bag(gy) Lady
Don’t wear baggy shirts or sweatshirts during gymnastics instruction. Your vision can be obstructed if your shirt goes over your head when you are upside down. This can make it difficult and unsafe to tumble or perform on apparatus. Baggy clothing can also caught on spotters and equipment or wrap up your spotter’s hands.
Don’t wear dangling earrings, necklaces or other jewelry. They can get caught on your leotard or gym clothes, on the equipment, mats or carpet. Earrings torn out of your ear – that’s gotta hurt. Rings can scratch the bars and pinch your finger.
No Valuable Jewelry
Don’t wear any valuable jewelry in the gym, especially into a loose foam pit. You may never find it or find only by pulling out every single piece of foam in the pit. Take it from the girl who lost her mother’s diamond stud earring and spent three full days sifting through the pit and dust and dirt at the bottom of the pit to find it. She never did find the back to it.
Tight is Right
If you wear socks to class, make sure they fit tightly. You don’t want them to come off in the pit and get lost. And you don’t want them to bunch up and possible create poor footing on skills or landings.
No Studs in the Gym
Don’t wear any clothes in the gym to work out with belts, metal studs or buttons during your gymnastics instruction. The uneven bars are especially likely to get scratched with these. They can also scratch up your instructor or maybe even you.
Tell Mom and Dad It’s Time for Contacts
Well, maybe that won’t work as an excuse, but if you wear glasses, you need to make sure they are safe and secure. Wear a strap with glasses if they fit too loosely or tend to come off. Not only they can fall off and perhaps break, but also they could come partially off and poke you in the eye. You need to find some kind of solution for your glasses situation if you are unable to see well enough to vault or to see your coach clearly enough.
Watch Where You are Going
Watch where you are walking. Nothing is more embarrassing and sometimes painful and dangerous than falling over mats, into pits, over bar cables, etc. There are lots of obstacles in every gym like different heights and softness levels of mats.
No Such Thing as Too Many Mats
Make sure there are enough mats under and around the equipment you are working on. The harder the skill you are doing the more mats it is wise to have in potential landing and fall areas. Don’t be shy about gong to get some more mats if some area is not sufficiently and safely matted.
Tell Your Teacher If You Get Hurt
Let your teacher decide if you need medical attention, ice, a band aid, or if you can and should continue to work out if you get injured. Don’t keep injuries to yourself.
Keep your toenails and fingernails closely clipped and manicured. The rough and jagged edges of both toenails and fingernails can get caught on the floor exercise carpet and cause a painful tear. There is no place in gymnastics instruction and the gym for extremely long nails. Hey could break or even scratch your coach.
Be Safe, Not Sorry!
Follow all the rules for a safe and happy gymnastics career.
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