Systematic Creativity in Gymnastics Coaching

A rigid system of training, in so far as skill variations, leads to humorless, mechanical gymnastics routines. Over-repetition of the same skills in practice leaves no time for creative development and robs the sport of one of its most pleasing aspects both for the gymnast and the spectator.

The Code Crushes Creativity
In addition to the over-requirement of combinations mandated by the international federation, which leaves little time in a routine for any significant originality, the Code of Points uneven skill valuation further limits creative development.

Each Gymnast Is Like a Snowflake – Unique
For those coaches who bother to closely examine their gymnasts, instead of control them, they will find an infinite variety of skills, abilities and learning capacity that is just begging to be developed. Further, certain skills and positions look better (even great) on certain body types. Finally, certain gymnasts just learn certain skills and skill groups better than others.

Unique Skills and Routines For Each Gymnast
A major goal of the sport and the coach should be the development and creation of unique signature skills and creative, unusual skill combinations for each gymnast. The ultimate extension of this would be to have a skill named after your gymnast. While that bears the additional burden of having to reach and perform the skill in International competition, the positive effects of this accomplishment would certainly make it worthwhile.

Originality At Every Level
There is no reason, however, why the same process cannot take place at every competitive level (except the compulsory level, but we will assume your compulsory gymnasts are already training optional skills). Gymnasts will feel the same sense of pride in their unique, original skills at the lower levels as at the higher levels.

Work Original Skills and Combinations
To develop this kind of enjoyment and learning capacity, first, time must be allocated to the task. For creative floor skill development, for example, we devote 15-20 minutes of time after basic warm-ups to working skill variations.

A Real-Life Example
The development process for developing a most beautiful and original triple skater’s turn on floor involved working and combining turns in a variety of positions, in combinations of positions, changes in height during turns and progressive building from single turns up to a triple.

The Learning Process
The learning process was developed through the use of a variety of assigned tasks to attempt including:

  • Perform a turn in the attitude (and a large variety of other) position.
  • Drop down to a squat during a turn.
  • Start a turn low and then have it rise.
  • Drop down and up during a turn.
  • Change from one leg position to another during a turn.

See What Looks Good on the Gymnast
The function of the coach during these drills was to spot work by the gymnast that looked good and was worth developing, pointing out and praising the performance of the gymnast, in order to get them to repeat the good looking work and building on and adding more to that work. This is not tough duty for a coach who likes to watch the sport and admires creativity and originality.

A Completely Original Triple Turn
The skater’s turn in its final form began as an attitude turn, sunk down in the attitude position and then rose to resemble a skater’s spin. Both the attitude portion of the turn and the skater’s pin lasted for approximately 1 & ½ turns. This was performed regularly in competition by what is now the equivalent of a level 8, an Intermediate optional gymnast and she had the capacity to just nail it every time.

A Proud Accomplishment
This remains for both of us one of our proudest accomplishments in the sport (Go, Beth) and should be the type of accomplishment you and your gymnasts should be striving to achieve and enjoy.

Steal this Move
Incidentally, feel free to steal this turn. Feel free to teach and reach the International level and have it named after your gymnasts. The girl who performed it has been out of the sport for some time now, anyway and personally, it’s such a beautiful turn, I’d love to watch it again, no matter who does it. And, besides, both you and I will know who really invented it, anyway.

Creativity, Originality and Virtuosity
So get to work and plan and spend some time on each event training originality and creating truly unique skills and routines for you and your gymnasts. Good luck and enjoy.

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