The following video is just a brief example proving how young gymnasts can be taught and should be regularly working on future optional gymnastics skills. This particular video shows one six-year old gymnast working on front twisting tumbling.
Gymnasts Learn What You Teach Them
To a great extent, gymnasts learn what they are taught. If you only work Compulsory gymnastics skills, that is all they can learn. But if you work on their future optional skills and skill progressions, that is what they will learn. Coaches will have to decide for themselves what balance of compulsory and optional skill training they want to do, but we can tell you from experience that young gymnasts can learn high level optional gymnastics skills.
Use Special Training Equipment Set-ups When Necessary
The video demonstrates this young gymnast using a mat, off which she does her front handsprings. This type of tumbling mat set-up can allow young gymnasts who have not yet perfected their front handspring on floor to do combination front tumbling (like her front handspring, front) anyway.
Use Pits for Safety
For very young gymnasts learning future optional skills, working into a loose foam pit (or a bungee loose foam pit) is the safest way to train. Training skills in the pit, like this young gymnast is training front twisting teaches the body and mind the skill pattern, but does not risk injury from having to land on harder surfaces or beat the body up having to land skills on harder surfaces for year after year..
Follow Proper Teaching and Learning Progression
No one should misunderstand us and think we are advocating skipping necessary learning progressions. We are firm believers in proper skill learning progressions and, further, we believe time must be spent physically and mentally automating basic skills and progressions properly, which many coaches who profess to teach basic really do not do. What we are talking about is coaches choosing to practice real gymnastics skills which lead to real tumbling and gymnastics optional skills.
Just Like the TOPs Program
What we are advocating is just like an extended version of what the success of the TOPs program has shown. Future Elite gymnasts do best when they are strong and flexible and train progressions to future high level optional skills. Many gyms do only the physical testing part of the TOPs program and do not do the skills part. We believe even the TOPs skills tests does not work as wide a variety of future optional skills as is ideal. We have our own comprehensive optional skills training program for young gymnasts.
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