Most gymnastics coaches find themselves, at least at some point, cajoling, if not begging, their gymnasts to get up on the high beam and do skills that the coaches are convinced the gymnasts are ready to do. There are many reasons for this, but we want to offer you an alternative beam training system that can reverse that situation.
Beam No-Spotting System
We are talking about adopting and using a beam training system with no spotting at all. Gymnasts start learning beam skills on a line of the floor and progress through all the beam equipment progressions up to and including the high beam without any spotting. Don’t get me wrong, I love to spot beam. It is fun and challenging and I am very good at it. But that begs the question of whether it is really the best way for gymnasts to learn and prepare for competition.
The Problem with Spotting
The somewhat hidden problem with coaches spotting gymnasts on beam a lot is that at some point gymnasts must be weaned from that spot. Any time advantage that may appear to be gained by spotting completely disappears when coaches try to get gymnasts to do skill completely by themselves. Spotting beam quickly becomes a crutch for gymnasts, who cannot easily tell when they are actually doing or are ready to do a skill by themselves. This means that gymnasts are essentially unable to be really confident in their beam performance. For months after gymnasts can “do” the skill on beam, they don’t do it without the coach spotting or “being there” or coaches hear gymnasts asking all year, at meets, for them to “Just stand there.”
Beam No-Spotting Training System
A no-spotting system works from the bottom up. Gymnasts must master skills on one piece of equipment in the beam equipment progression before they are allowed to move up to the next piece of equipment. In our system, gymnasts must stick a skill either 5/5 or make it 10/10 times before they are allowed to move up to the next piece of equipment in the beam progression. If they do not do the skill correctly, they don’t get to move up. If they can’t stick the skill every time, they don’t get to move up. Essentially in a no-spotting system, the burden to move up to the high beam falls completely on the gymnast and their mastery of the skill.
First, They Have to Prove It to Themselves
A no-spot beam training system makes gymnasts first prove to themselves that not only can they do a skill but that they can safely do it on a beam. How does this happen? Each skill on beam has a danger point – a point at which if a fall occurred, it would be, let’s call it. unpleasant. Some skills have more than one.
Back Handspring Example
In a back handspring, for example, the first danger point is when the hands land on the beam (or don’t). Gymnasts need to practice on a line and a foam floor beam until they have proved to themselves that their hands will land on the beam safely every time. Next, they prove to themselves that their hands and first foot land safely and, finally, their hands, first foot and second foot land safely. This may take 100 or 1000 times, depending on the gymnast, but they prove it to themselves and that gives them the confidence to move up through the beam equipment progressions to the high beam.
Next, They Have to Prove It to Their Coach
Once the gymnasts have proved to themselves they are ready to move on, they have to prove it to the coach by sticking it on a line 5 out of 5 times, then on the foam floor beam and so on all the way up to the high beam. Before they move up from the line on the floor and the foam floor beam, they also have to have to show the coach the correct technique and mastery of the skill. It is at this point that coaches begin to hear what most coaches can never even imagine – their gymnasts literally begging them to let them move up to the next equipment progression and to move up to the high beam.
3 Strikes and You Are Back Down on the Line
In our system, we have a three strike rule. Gymnasts cannot fall more than three times, when moving up though the equipment progressions, or they have to move back down and start all over again. This keeps them concentrating and focused on working to stay on the beam. It is easy to have regular or daily competitions, where gymnasts compete on different skills to be the first to make 5/5 and move up through all the equipment progressions and make 5/5 on the high beam. Three falls and they have to start over.
Beam No-Spotting vs Spotting Training System
There are many differences between spotting and no-spotting systems. There seems to be no universal standard for when coaches spot and when they don’t, which leads to many problems and disagreements between coaches and gymnasts as to when they need to be spotted. Coaches spot according to …? In a no-spotting system, the entire responsibility for moving skills up to the high beam is the responsibility and choice of the gymnast. Coaches can establish the minimum rules and requirements for moving up and everyone knows what they are.
Spotting Will Always Have Its Place
Spotting on beam as on the other events is still a skill coaches need to master. There will be times when it is necessary or convenient to spot, either for safety purposes, to teach gymnasts the proper body shape or to speed up the learning process. But, in general, spotting is not necessary for gymnast to learn and excel on beam.