How have you set up exhibitions? What type of equipment and preperation do you do? This is something I would love to do with the girls but not sure how to approach it. Do you use mini tramps and 8″ mats, what kind of skills do you have the girls do, etc.
It’s More Than a Show
First of all, for me, gymnastics exhibitions are just a part of an overall strategy of Turning Gymnasts Into Gymnastics Heroes and not just randomly doing gymnastics exhibitions. Exhibitions have a number of important functions including having your team gymnasts become “famous” in your own local community, marketing your gym, providing positive gymnastics experiences for your team where the “crowd goes wild” to counterbalance the “negative” deduction scoring that happens at meets and doing community service by providing entertainment for a variety of non-profit organizations in your area.
Gymnastics Exhibition at Springfield College
Team Parent Participation
After one really bad experience, where I literally had to move all of the exhibition equipment myself, including pulling an inground trampoline out of the pit and loading it onto a pick-up by myself, I laid down the law to the team parents. They move all the equipment or no exhibitions. Once parents see the positive effect on their gymnasts, see how much their gymnasts love to do exhibitions and have other parents congratulate them on their gymnast’s talent, they understand that exhibitions are worth all of the work moving the equipment.
NOTE: To those moving equipment, I can personally testify, that at about 35 miles per hour, mats will begin to fly, even if you are laying on them on a car roof trying to hold them down. Good news, even at 35 mph, 12 inch mats make for a fairly soft landing.
Favorite Equipment for Exhibitions
- Tumble Tramp onto Resi-Pit
- 48′ of 7.5′ or 8′ wide Competition CLMs for Tumbling onto 8″ – 12″ Mat
- Springboard (or mini-tramp) for front tumbling skills onto 8″ – 12″ Mat
- Double Mini-tramp
- Beam and Competition CLM Mats
- Strap Bar Mounted on Tractor Trailer flatbed for Parades
- Tumble Tramp onto 12″ Mat on Tractor Trailer flatbed for Parades
I do not always like to use mini-tramp, because we never practice it and the level of skills the gymnasts can do on it are usually too basic to be really interesting. I would rather use springboards (to help get better board work and use something we use every day) and the trampoline, which is a big attention-getter wherever it is and we practice on trampoline every day.
Introduction of Gymnasts
Gymnasts march in down the 48′ length of 7.5′ wide CLM mats, alternately split off to opposite sides of mat across from each other in a staggered formation. They perform a series of “wave” skills starting and finishing with “stick position” waves, turning in wave and sticking again in wave. Wave skills (use only skills all gymnasts can do well) include:
- Back handspring step-outs
- Back handsprings
- Front walkovers
- Back walkovers
- Back tucks
- Back extension rolls
- Slide to best split
While each team gymnast is announced (name, gym nickname, age, school, gymnastics accomplishments), they step out onto the 7.5′ or 8′ wide CLM mats and do their own personal 20 – 40 second choreographed introduction routine done on the 7.5′ or 8’wide CLM mats. When verbal introduction is finished, the next gymnast starts (don’t introduce gymnasts standing next to each other one after another – they won’t have enough space to perform), so you can have two to three gymnasts performing at any one time, which minimizes the amount of time this takes. These are coach-approved skills and coach-choreographed or approved routines, using only skills that the gymnast does that look great, spectacular and exciting.
Some Favorite Choices for personal Introductions:
- Jump to splits
- Helicopter splits
- Healey twirls
- Tour jete split
- Handstand forward roll through straddle split
- Triple pirouettes
- Handstand shoot-through to split
- Press handstands into pirouettes
- Gainer flip-flops
- Standing back tucks and pikes
Surprisingly, the most popular and applause getting part of any show is when your smallest gymnast does a series of fast back handsprings down the whole mat. Make sure you have at least one such a gymnast at every show, even if you have to recruit them from some other part of the program, like classes or your training team. I have gymnasts line up to perform (like for tumbling) in the order of their ability to do high level skills, but then put at least one tiny girl at the end.
Basic Exhibition Skills
Slow gymnastics skills get boring quick, so if I do them, at all, in the beginning of the show (depending on the show length), I have each gymnast do a different basic skill or preferably a choreographed pass. I have also had groups of gymnasts doing the same skill at the same time down the line. Or I have gymnasts do a floor side pass from their optional or compulsory routine down the mat.
Make Your Gymnasts Look Great
It is really important to choose skills and passes for each gymnast that make them look great, however simple they may be. Exhibition crowds do not understand gymnastics difficulty at all (remember, their favorite is usually a little girl doing a series of back handsprings). If all of your gymnasts can do a particular skill well, you can use that skill and have gymnasts doing it at the same time. Have gymnasts stick at beginning and end of each skill. Gymnasts watch the gymnast ahead of them to know when to start. Watch your spacing.
Some Favorite Basic Skill Ideas
- Front walkovers
- Back walkovers
- Back extension rolls
- Walking on hands all the way down the mat
- Flip-flop layout step-outs
- Aerial cartwheels
- Front tucks and pikes
- Flip-flop step-out series all the way down the mats
- 180 degree leap passes (like split leap, side leap, 3/4 turn, switch split leap, side leap)
- Round-off 1/2 turn split jump, round-off back handspring straddle jump.
The tumbling part of the exhibition is done very similar to tumbling learning progression.
- Front handspring Step-outs
- Round-off one back handspring
- Two front handsprings
- Round-off two back handsprings
- Front handspring series
- Round-off back handspring series (set up for applause for little gymnast at the end)
- Punch front tucks
- Round-off back handspring back tucks
- Front handspring, front tucks/pikes
- Round-off back handspring back pikes
- Front handspring, front layouts
- RO FF layouts
- RO FF 1/2s and fulls
- RO FF 1&1/2s and double fulls
- RO FF 2&1/2s and triple fulls
- Challenge Tumbling (call out gymnast to land a particular skill, they may or may not have already done)
- RO FF double backs (spotted)
- RO FF double pikes (spotted)
- RO FF double layouts (spotted)
- Twisting doubles (we only ever do these with the tumble tramp).
If any gymnast cannot do a pass well, they stay at their previous front or back tumbling pass (like a gymnast that cannot yet twist, they just continue to do layouts). That is, except for the last little gymnast going at the end, who you can have do anything they can do or anything that looks cute (including just running down the mat waving at the audience at the end).
Spotting is not only acceptable but desirable, as long as the coach never misses a spot. Nothing is worse than a coach missing a spot and having a gymnast fall, and possibly get hurt, in front of a huge crowd, while a coach is supposed to be demonstrating their spotting skill at keeping gymnasts safe. When you successfully and safely spot gymnasts, you are showing your level of coaching talent (or at least spotting talent) to the crowd.
Need Strong “Professional” Announcer
Unless you have a very knowledgeable (about your gymnasts, gymnastics and announcing) parent who can announce for you, it is likely going to be the coach’s job to announce. You will need a wireless microphone you can turn off (to talk to gymnasts without being heard) for when you have to spot. You may occasionally want to set-up challenges for added interest – “Jodie has never landed her front handspring – front before and she is going to try it today right here in front of you.” Make sure Jodie knows you are going to do this (and you think she has a good chance to make it), unless you are going for the surprised or “annoyed at you” look.
Injured Gymnast Inclusion?
I never had any gymnast seriously injured in my gym during either classes or practice (which I would announce). I did have team gymnasts who got hurt at school during recess (which I would announce) if they participated. I would have them do conditioning exercises on their own mat during the whole exhibition. We had girls who would do V-sit-ups during the whole 45 minute exhibition and I would check on how many they had done periodically through the exhibition. You may choose not to include injured gymnasts, if you think it may make your gym look “dangerous.”
Watch Mats for Safety
During every exhibition, I always have certain parents designated to watch and move mats (that might slide out of place) back into a safe position. Obviously, I always watch for the problem myself (and even announce a momentary stoppage of the exhibition to “ensure the gymnasts’ safety” but i let the parents do all the mat and equipment work.
Exhibitions are Serious FUN and Serious Business
In your community, the reputation of your gym, your team and your coaches are often dependent on your exhibition performances. Only allow gymnasts to do skills they look great doing. Practice and perfect the show. We would practice the exhibition for 2 – 4 days right before performing, in relation to how important the exhibition was. We also practiced exhibition routines about twice a month, usually on Saturdays, during the school year. You want to train gymnasts to look good and look professional, so train gymnasts to stick before and after every skill. We would train our gymnasts doing line tumbling, to step up and stick as soon as the gymnast ahead of them went, and the to start their pass when the gymnast ahead of them stuck their tumbling pass landing. Such consistency makes your show look much better and more professional. And, of course, your choice of music will have a great impact on the show.
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