Subject: Twisting on Full
Gymnastics Level: 9
My daughter is training level 9 this summer. Earlier this year, she broke her fibula which prematurely ended her level 8 season. She was a very strong level 8 gymnast with strong tumbling (2 fulls and 1 layout in her floor routine). When she was able to start tumbling again about 3 months later she immediately started working her 1 1/2 twists and was working on double twists. About 4 or 5 weeks ago though she could no longer do a layout. She would do a 1 1/2 twist instead. She can’t control her twisting at all. This is affecting her on beam and vault as well. She is afraid she will twist while doing her Yurochenko and her dismount from beam. She is so discouraged to the point of tears. In two private lessons with another coach, she was able to control her layout again. She was so happy and went right back to doing everything with no twisting involved, vault and beam dismount included. Unfortunately once her regular coaches expected twisting again a week later the problem reappeared. Have you seen this problem before at this level? My daughter is so discouraged and feeling like she “can’t do anything” because it is affecting everything but bars. She is very hard on herself, and this is really upsetting her. She wants to avoid practice rather than her coaches getting mad and disappointed in her . It is a challenge for me to get her to practice which was never true before this. Any suggestions on how I can help her through this?
Very Common Problem
Your daughter should be happy to know that this is a very common problem with gymnasts at all levels of the sport and usually does not last too long, regardless of the techniques used to combat it. There seem to be a number of different causes for it, but successful use, of one or more of the techniques I will tell you about, can fix the problem and keep it from coming back. Incidentally, she should be glad it isn’t happening when she is doing double layouts, which is something I have seen and had to deal with before.
What is Going On?
Contrary to what most gymnasts and coaches think, the conscious mind does not control the physical actions of the body. All physical activity is actually run by the subconscious mind. For whatever reason, your subconscious mind has made a “habit” of twisting, instead of doing a layout.
Send the Right Command to the Subconscious
While the subconscious mind executes all physical activity, mush of it without any conscious thought, the conscious mind can deliver instructions to the subconscious. The more intense (intensely emotional) those instructions are, the more likely the subconscious mind will take them. Your gymnast should clearly visualize herself doing the correct skill (layout) right before she goes to do it. She must be careful to control her thoughts and visualizations and not visualize the wrong skill – twisting.
Some More Private Lessons
Since it seems that the private lessons worked once, it would seem like a good idea to continue those during the time she is still having the problem. What fixed it once is likely to fix it again and it seems like this other coach “gets it” and will know what to do.
Less Pressure from Coaches
Whenever there are fear problems or problems like this that have to do with the subconscious mind, any extra pressure that anyone tries to apply to the gymnast’s conscious mind almost always makes the problem worse. Pressuring and rushing the cure often simply results in it taking longer to fix the problem.
Back Up in Progression
As usual, whenever there is a problem in gymnastics, often the best solution is to back up in the progression and “relearn” the progression again successfully. Backing up in progression, in this case, means going back to pike, tuck and open tuck somersaults to regain her control over back somersaulting and work back up to controlling her layouts. She can and should do that on any and all events she feels it necessary.
Back Up in Equipment Progression as Well
Changing the practice surface from the regular floor or the rod floor back to using the trampoline and tumble tramp can get back a gymnast’s control over this problem. Changing what you are doing forces the subconscious mind out of its current habit, to either a more conscious process or a more successful previous habit. If you did not learn and regularly practice twisting skills using the trampoline and tumble tramp, this is likely one possible cause of the problem.
Change What You are Doing
Changing what and how you are currently tumbling and twisting can be the key to overcoming this problem. For, example, you could switch temporarily and twist in the open tuck position to force your mind to refocus on twisting in a different way. Incidentally, many gymnasts never learn to twist in open tuck until they try to do double somersaults with twists. This is too late in the correct tumbling progression to learn open tuck twisting. She also could work on relearning her twisting using a very late twisting method. Most of the gymnasts who have this problem tend to twist early. Twisting late can fix the problem.
Use the Pit for Safety and Eliminating Fear While Problem Persists
For safety, and in order to help reduce fear, on any of the skills she is doing where there is the possibility of her inadvertently twisting, she should be doing those skills into a pit. That gives her an extra safety margin, in case something goes wrong, and she does twist. Loose foam pits are the safest for this, but use whatever pit you have.
Advice on How to Fix, Avoid The Problem in the First Place and Avoid It Next Time
- Always work up to layouts with tuck, pike and open every day
- Do not just start twisting without doing tuck, pike, open tuck and layouts first every day
- Master the twisting layout – no arch, pike down or over-rotation before attempting twisting
- Learn twisting using a late twisting technique
- Do not skip learning a layout 1/2 twist
- Twisting progression is layout, layout 1/2, full, layout 1&1/2, double full, layout 1&1/2, etc.
- Always learn and work up to twisting a 1/2 at a time every day
- Tumble every day
- Learn and practice all tumbling skills on tramp
- Use trampoline daily to get sufficient repetitions of tumbling and twisting skills in
- Learn to twist in the open tuck position as well as layout
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