Don’t Pay a Cover Charge
It is not uncommon, in competitions, for gymnasts to make an error, that they could cover up and eliminate or minimize any deduction for. They have a much better chance to be able to do that successfully if they have trained to do so in practice.
Doesn’t Work for Compulsories or on Vault
Covering up, obviously, does not work for mandated compulsory routines, and there is no real way to cover up on vault. But on the other events, covering up and practicing cover-ups makes sense. A successful cover-up would be defined as any cover-up which helps a gymnast avoid a deductions they would otherwise have lost points for.
Practicing Covering Up Has Two Aspects
Practicing covering up errors has two separate aspects to it, in terms of practice time. Coaches may set as a part of training very purposeful practice of specific, obvious, potential errors. These may either be obvious potential errors, or errors that a gymnast commonly makes. The other aspect has to do with gymnasts always practicing covering up any errors, in practice, every time they might occur. This includes when doing single skills, skill combinations or routines. Practicing to cover up or minimize errors, instead of just giving up when a skill or combination goes wrong, is an important part of the cover-up process.
Certain Skills Have Built-In Covers
There are certain skills, that have built-in cover-ups, that can and should be practiced. For example, on bars, if a gymnast does not make a kip, cast handstand pirouette, they can come down and do a glide, 1/2 turn glide kip, and end up in the same position on the bars and in the bar routine (minus a “B” of difficulty, of course). Assuming they still meet all the minimum requirements for the missing “B”, gymnasts could literally receive no deduction if they perform the cover-up smoothly.
Covering Up on Floor and Beam
Often, covering up on beam and floor has to do with creating elegant looking dance moves out of what otherwise might be a bobble. There is the possibility to somewhat cover-up tumbling errors with a step back to a lunge or a small jump, but in general, the covering up will be in turning losses of balance into smooth looking creative dance cover-ups.
Winning Nationals on Bars on a Cover-Up
The ultimate example of the success of covering up (although I don’t know if this was the result of practice or luck) was that a girl won the National Championships on bars on a covered up mistake. Being right there and having watched all of the practice sessions and warm-ups on bars, I knew what skills each girl was doing. The girl who ultimately won the National title on bars, had been doing a full pirouette in her routine before her dismount series. In the meet, she did the full pirouette, but was falling to the wrong side of the bars. She quickly covered up with an extra 1/2 pirouette and another kip handstand 1/2 pirouette into her dismount series. At that time, few, if any gymnasts were doing 1&1/2 pirouettes and the judges rewarded that exceptionally difficult skill (for that time period), ignored the other part of the cover-up and gave her the winning bar score. Without that extra difficulty, the girl likely would not have won the gold medal. Such can be the value of covering up and practicing cover-ups.