To Spot or Not to Spot, That is the Question

Good coaches will try to minimize spotting as much as possible, since spotting too much can create dependency and actually slow the process of preparing skills for competition. Coaches should want to develop their gymnast’s independence and gymnast’s own control of their progress.

Who Should be in the Best Shape in the Gym

When a coach is spotting every skill that is being taught, like spotting every gymnast, on every tumbling pass, progress is slowed. The coach is getting a workout on every pass, but gymnasts’ progress only occurs once every 6, 7 or 8 turns, depending on how long the line is. This is not a formula for developing a great team. It might be a good workout for the coach and a boost to his ego, but to practice and learn efficiently, gymnasts must be able to work and train on their own, as well.

When to Spot

There are many occasions that spotting is necessary in the daily practice and all great coaches need to be able to spot the skills they are teaching (or have someone who can). Spotting is necessary for a variety of reasons during the training process. Here are some of the times when coaches should spot:

  • Spot for safety, for example, when pits are not available when learning difficult or potentially dangerous skills
  • Spot to help the teaching or coaching process
  • Spot to speed up the learning process
  • Spot to provide spotting when the natural skill or equipment progression steps are too large to jump without spotting
  • Adding more air time so a gymnast has more time to complete a skill or get used to doing the skill
  • Spot when helping gymnasts to create the necessary body shape to do a skill correctly
  • Spot to allow the gymnast to mentally focus on correcting an error or improving one aspect of their skill execution without having to worry about falling
  • Spot to teach a gymnast a rhythm or timing of a skill movement
  • spot to add more rotation to a somersaulting skill so the gymnast learns how to rotate better and faster, and can safely land a skill
  • Spot for psychological support to speed progress to meet a deadline
  • Spot when you have some indication or intuition that the gymnast is going to need a safety spot
  • Spot when the margin of error is small and missing a skill may be a problem, like on salto release moves on bars

When Not to Spot

While there are many good reasons to spot, coaches need to know when not to spot as well. Here are some times and reasons not to spot:

  • Don’t spot all the time – gymnasts must do skills on their own before they compete them
  • Don’t spot if a gymnast is not ready to do the skill and you are doing all the work by means of spotting. Go back to progressions, strength and/or flex work.
  • Don’t spot for coaching ego reasons
  • Don’t spot if gymnasts are already doing the skill, mentally and physically on their own – don’t take back their success and confidence by spotting
  • Don’t spot in place of the proper learning progressions
  • Don’t spot when spotting is or has created a dependency of the gymnast on the coach spotting. Go back and build confidence or use pits.
  • Don’t spot if you are not positive you can safely spot a gymnast (back up in the progression until you are certain you can or get help spotting the gymnast)

When in Doubt – Spot

You can always let them do it on their own, next time. But if you are in doubt as to their safety, never hesitate to spot.

If Unsure or The First Time – Spot Heavy

You can always spot lighter next time.

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One Response to “To Spot or Not to Spot, That is the Question”

  1. Stefan Høegh-Neumann November 20, 2011 at 5:02 am #

    Great post, and absolutely agree with you on this..
    I’ve been coaching for a few years now, and has always had many of those reasons in mind when deciding to spot or not.. Also the safety/spotting courses I’ve attended has also taught from the whole “When to spot or not” principle..


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