Years ago, in USA Gymnastics, only Level 10 and Elite gymnasts were allowed to compete Yurchenko vaults, and we, at that time, pointed out to other coaches some of the problems with that policy and coaching approach. Basically, our position was that the more difficult the vault (or other skill), the more time you should spend preparing for it. This is especially true for Yurchenko vaults, which we believe should be started two summers before you plan on competing them – one year for learning and making the front side completely consistent and one year for turning the vault over.
The USAG Finally Came Around
USA Gymnastics made a misguided effort to restrict the competition level of the round-off entry vaults to only the highest levels, hence older age groups, of competition, which compounded the same coaching error that many coaches were already making. Coaches and gymnast did not work Yurchenko vaults, even just the front side, until the summer before the competition year they planned to compete it. This plan is misguided in a number of ways – progression, gymnastic habits and political and does not allow enough time to build safe consistency on the front side of the vault.
Not Completely Mastering the Round-Off Entry and Block First is a Major Error
The primary result of not training the front side of this vault long enough to become perfectly consistent was the same as USAG limiting this vault only to higher levels of competition. It limited, restricted or entirely eliminated the practice of the progressions for this vault by younger gymnasts in their gymnastic-habit formative stages of development. And it rushed the proper progression of learning and competing this vault not allowing gymnasts to gain enough consistency with the round-off onto the vault table. Coaches just have always tended to start gymnasts turning over this vault way before they are ready and consistent and that certainly raises safety red flags and makes competing the vault inconsistent.
Early experience in practicing a round-off onto a vaulting board can only improve the long-range consistency and safety of learning the complete round-off vault. So start at least two years before you contemplate competing the vault.
There are the Two Basic Traditional Entry Vaults to Train
There are currently only two non-round-off front-side “board to vault” pre-flight approaches – the front handspring and half-on. We have eliminated the front 1& 1/2 somersault, from board to horse from consideration, as a “truly inherently dangerous” vault with no redeeming artistic value, especially on the weak back-side of the vault. The full-on full-off vault we will reserve judgement on for now and cover in a different article.
More Difficult and Dangerous Skills Should = More Training Time and Progressions
The round-off and the round-off half on (or the front handspring onto the board, for that matter) – alter the “floor to board” approach. If the round-off vault is inherently more dangerous than other vault skills (an unproven position, at best), then it would logically entail that more preparation and progression time be given to the correct technical development and gymnastics habits the vault requires.
Potentially Serious Injury Should = Serious Preparation
If injuries have resulted from the vault, insufficient preparation and preparation time, poor technical preparation, and insufficient time and attention to correct gymnastics habit-forming likely induce them. These are certainly arguments to begin practice early on, even if not competition with, the round-off vault.
A Straight Round-Off is a Necessity
Enough of the insurance-induced politics. The first prerequisite and habit to be developed is a straight round-off. This can and should be first practiced from a stand, power hurdle and then run on a straight tape line. Constant practice on a tape line is necessary to ensure a straight round-off. A straight round-off is more efficient and therefore more powerful. Practice on the straight line constantly and consistently self-reinforces the correct techniques and habits required to tumble and vault in a straight line.
Equipment Progressions and Spotting Make the Training Safe and Effective
Extra padding, front side spotting and extra spring from trampolines and tumble-tramps ease and speed the progressions, while making them safer.
Fix Whipped Back Handsprings and Layouts before Training Yurchenkos
Correct lift technique for layouts in tumbling on floor should be a skill progression prerequisite mastered.
Start Training Early and Then There is No Need to Rush
There should be no rush to progress. The normal vault running and running consistency drills should be mastered before progressing to full speed round-off entry vaults onto a full height horse. Correct gymnastics habits should progress from consistent run to straight round-off onto board to correct 180 degree arm angle lift to block and lift on backside. These should be mastered before even beginning to worry about turning over the backside.
Turn Over First with the Simpler Tzukahara Vault
The backside of the vault should be learned separately into the pit before attempting the complete round-off entry vaults. Tzukahara vaults, in their various positions, should be mastered and probably competed for a year before attempting to turn over the more complicated round-off entry vault.
Initially, gymnasts should train round-off layouts to work on going up to a safe height to work the front side of the vault and work on not throwing the head. Throwing the head, which is the most common back tumbling problem can cause gymnasts to go and jam right into the vault table instead of blocking over it.
High On is the Only Safe Learning Path
The only safe way to work on the front side of this vault, the so-called back handspring on (we call it round-off layout on) is to be too high at first so there is no danger of going head first into the horse. You can never be too high on in Yurchenkos and Yurchenko timers, but you can be too low.
Finally, a Good Use for the Level 4 Vault Mat
Gymnasts should work the front side of this vault, the round-off on up onto a Level 4 mat first and become completely consistent getting onto the Level 4 mat at vault table regulation height for literally months before even considering trying it onto the vault table. Even then, lower the vault table eight inches and put an 8″ crash mat on the vault table until the gymnast become comfortable with the new apparatus doing this vault. You can also use on of the foam vault tables. And definitely spotting is necessary until there is complete consistency.
Whip Action Back Handsprings a Warning Sign to Take Special Care
If a gymnast whips their back handsprings downward on tumbling on floor, they are very likely do the same when first starting to do this vault. Coaches (and gymnasts) should know whether this is likely. Coaches should fix the problem first or be ready to spot the front side of a Yurchenko quickly and heavily.
Throwing Head in Handspring or Layout Another Warning Sign
Another indication that something needs to be fixed first or a heavy spot is likely called for, is if the gymnast throws their head on back saltos. Fix this problem doing round-off layouts onto a crash mat before working this vault.
Take Your Time on the Front Side
The key to safe Yurchenko vaults is to start training them 12 – 24 months before you plan to compete them, which will give ample time to slowly and safely master them.
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