I think it should be fairly neutral for a dismount. I find a lot of people interpret directions of where to look as where to move their head when that's not always necessary. For example in a handstand, looking at the floor doesn't require sticking the head way out, but you just need to shift your eyes with it neutral. When I do flyaways I usually think of my direction towards a spot on the ceiling (in the pit bar at my old gym it was the intersection of the wall and ceiling) but I'm not so much focused on looking there as timing my release with my toes towards that spot. I do see my toes when I release so I guess technically I am looking around there, but I never really thought about it beyond the directional "feeling" and keeping my head relatively neutral. After I release I generally spot the ground. But don't focus on that to the extent that you throw your head back early in the skill or before the release because that will probably contribute to a shoulder angle and directional problems.
thanks for your replies!!
so..... If I am looking at the bar as I swing up would that mean I am throwing my head back (or at least leaving it behind)? and would that make me close my shoulders?
Should you see the bar at all during a flyaway??
Are you doing this out of tap swings or a giant? I really don't see the bar when I do a flyaway, but when I finish my giant and early in the swing down I do...once I'm in the tap and release phase, not really. With the position my head is in I could shift my eyes back to see the bar I guess but it doesn't really give me any useful visual information at that point. Throwing it back early in the skill would probably have you looking more at the floor than the bar because if it's a tap swing single flyaway you're more likely than not below the height of the bar.
Here's a video of a flyaway release drill. This shows the release pretty well but of course when they hit the mat they're rolling down so the head is more tucked. But on the release, they are basically aiming towards their "target" with their head in between their arms, rather than "out" in front of their arms or aimed obviously back towards the bar. If you think about that it would generally be more likely to pull them back towards the bar rather than the correct direction towards the "target." You hear the coach say "It's a FLYaway, not a flip-away" which is a pretty good description:
PS: I am posting the video as an illustration of the release, not as a recommendation for a set-up or drill unless you are with an experienced coach who can spot it.
Neutral head position is definitely the head position of choice. I normally tell the kids to hit the candle, see their toes, and release. Coming back into the bar is not a problem because from day 1 of swings they they are taught to push the bar away keeping the shoulder angle open. However this would be to good to be true, and sadly even though they can do really nice front swings they will panic in the flyaway learning because there is no pit. However looking back at the bar is an interesting though.
Technically speaking the point of release (well the ideal one out of a giant, fast powerful one) is about 81deg (give a 3rad/s angular velocity, which is 172 deg/s) This means the head is really just below the level of the high bar, so looking at the bar with the eyes! like in a handstand makes a lot of sense, and as long as the gymnast can spots the bar it could be a good coaching strategy to preventing the head from throwing back, and from freaking out of coming back into the bar.
Interesting point, will play around with this.
When discussing the head position of any skill I believe it is very important to first ask what the implications are from all standpoints of where the head is positioned? It is vital that you consider all implications because the majority of coaches would never ask a gymnast to throw their head back when perform a somersault from the High Bar yet the majority of dismounts from High Bar at high levels are all performed with the head thrown back off release. We have to ask why this is, and what circumstances would benefit from this process?....
The head is the most dominant factor through which movement occurs. Think of it this way, stand up from your computer right now and turn around and walk to the end of your room. I guarantee 100% of you reading this first lifted your head up, then stood up, you then turned your head and proceeded to turn around. The head drives everything. You want forward rotation? You drive your head downwards. You want backward rotation? You drive you head backwards.
Now with those important concepts understood, lets look at what the implications are of the head position off the bar and which one is the most effective to choose for a single flyway from the high bar.
Head position #1 - Head in (pressing the chin to the chest): You want to flip backwards from the bar and begin to press your chin downwards onto your chest to begin flipping backwards. The natural progression of driving your chin downwards is to facilitate forward rotation. Therefore, not ideal when a gymnast would like to release the bar and rotate 240 - 270 degrees to a landing position, can still be performed and in lots of circumstances is. A head in position does decrease the chances that the agle of the shoulders will remain open, something very vital to the safety of dismounting backwards.
Head position #2 - Head out (exposing the neck): You want to begin flipping backwards of the bar so naturally you would like to drive your head back. However, there is a very dangerous aspect of this that a beginning gymnasts may misinterpret. By driving the head backwards the chances of the shoulder angle decreasing and the 'pulling in' effect occuring are greatly increased. It is important to tell gymnasts that throwing the head backwards should be reduced or increasing the shoulder angle should be achieved to not increase the chances of coming close to the bar upon release.
Head position #3 - Neutral (neither exposing the neck or pressing the chin to the chest): To flip effectively in this position a strong kick from the bar in a hollow position, with the correct timing involved is sufficient enough to create 240 - 270 degrees of rotation to a stand position. It is ideal becuase it is a healthy balance between te two positions, decreasing the problem of closing the shoulders, and allowing the body to naturally flip in the backwards direction upon release.
My preference is Head position #3 for the majorty of athletes because of its relation to tackling the two problems of dismounting, how much rotation is necessary with the correct amount height/distance from the bar. However, do keep in mind that drive the head backwards actually increases rotation of flipping velocity as the head drives backwards leading the body through the flip. A single dismount from the horizontal bar is not necessary for this concept though.