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Trouble Staying Tight

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CoachSam

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Aug 1, 2017
22
26
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USA
I would say that not staying tight is the one major problem that 99% of our team girls have. So, I have been trying to hit this pretty hard, especially the last couple of weeks. So, this is what have I have been doing:
1) explaining that tightness has a feeling, while a loose or bent arm/leg does not really have a feeling.
2) Not allowing the girls to move to move on until I am happy with what they are doing.
I do this mainly on beam when we do our warm-up walks. I originally did it where everyone in the group would keep repeating the walk until there were no major wobbles, falls, come down to flat feet, etc... I recently changed it to where the gymnast who had the fault had to repeat the walk whereas the others can move on (as a reward).
3) I have also recently been telling them to get their shoulder to their ears. Again, mainly on beam, but floor as well. For example, when they pivot turn, 1/2 turn or full turn, I tell them to "pull up tall and get your shoulders to your ears". I will also tell them that during certain jumps (Straight jumps, tuck jumps, beat ups) and as well as handstands, cartwheels, back walkover, etc.

So my questions are:
1) Is there anything else that I can do to encourage them to get tight?
2) Am I wrong and I should I stop telling them to get their shoulders to their ears like in turns or in other things?
I told my boss that I recently told them to do this and instantly their turns looked better. But she said they are supposed to have relaxed shoulders. I personally find it confusing to tell them to pull up tall, but have relaxed shoulders.

Any advice and/or tips are greatly appreciated.
 

Jard.the.gymnast

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Apr 12, 2017
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In my experience, most of the time not being tight is not knowing how to be tight.

For my kids if I for example tell them to squeeze their butt to stay in balance, it doesn't really click how to do it. For keeping your butt tight, tell them there is money that they don't want to lose, so they need to squeeze it.

For keeping legs tight and straight, I tell them which muscle they should use. I see lots of kids trying to use the muscles right above their knee, while using the muscle right below your knee works.

Also use conditioning. In hollow holds, they have to squeeze their belly to keep it hollow. If someone doesn't have their belly tight during a skill, tell them to have it just like it felt in the hollow hold.

For tight arms while walking with arms sidewards, I tell them to pretend there are imaginary walls they have to push away. For arms upwards, I have them try and reach the ceiling. For arms down, I have them try to reach the ground.

In turns, we always practice with arms up at first. After they get how the turn works, tell them to just pull tall. Have them lay on the floor, pushing out as tall as they can, arms by ears first. Then slowly have them bring their arms to the side. Now they also know the feeling of stretching tall with relaxed shoulders.

I hope this helps. I use this for both pre team (ages 5-7) and rec team (ages 8-12)
 
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coachmolly

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It sounds like you are doing a lot of good things!
Sometimes I will isolate the area that they are struggling to keep tight rather than just telling them to squeeze their whole body. So for handstands I might have them lie on the floor (on their back) and squeeze their butt. I'll pick up their feet and if they bend they know they aren't squeezing. Usually they figure it out in a few tries- of course it takes a little longer to transition to the skill. I'll also put 2 panel mats a little less than a body length apart- they'll put feet on one and arms/shoulders on the other and have to squeeze their body up off the floor.
For legs I might have them put one leg up on a block and squeeze really tight for a few seconds and then relax and tell them to really think about how it feels. Then when I see bent legs ask them if they "feel" their legs squeezing. I'll do something similar for bent back legs on leaps- just with the back leg up on a mat- squeeze & release.
For arms on beam- I usually teach walks and kicks with arms out to the side and pushing back, so sometimes I'll pull out jump ropes or therabands and have them hold those behind their back to really work on pushing arms back. I also do lots of hands on correcting and reminding. It's a very hard thing to learn, especially for younger kids.

Ideally in a turn, shoulders should be relaxed (even if arms are up) but you're right, that is a super hard concept to teach to younger/lower level girls. I think it's okay to teach it the way you are and when they have really mastered it to go back and work on relaxing the shoulders. So often relaxing the shoulders also makes them relax everything else. If I have a kid really struggling with that concept I'll just let it go and revisit the relaxed shoulders later when they have figured things out a bit better.

It takes a lot of hands on correcting, teaching them to "feel" tight, really learning to connect their brain and their body, and tons of repetition. And even then, some kids still just don't get it.
 

eucoach

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Jun 9, 2013
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Dance elements require the shoulders to be down, whereas acrobatic elements require the shoulders to be up. It is not a hard concept, however kids (especially the younger, lower level ones) have to be reminded often because they spend a lot more time pushing their shoulders up than down. On the other hand, a lot of kids have "pretty hands" while tumbling (during hurdles, etc.) which is something I don't like to see. So in order to make an easy distinction we have dance shoulders and acro shoulders as well as dance hands and acro hands.

Without seeing your gymnasts it's impossible to tell why they cannot stay tight. But there are two things I would try. Make sure they start a skill in a good position. Often skills are performed badly (form and technique) when the gymnasts do not take their time to get into a correct starting position. F. ex. when setting up a handstand, make sure they start in an upright position, feet together, arms up and make them hold this upright handstand position for a few seconds before they step forward to start the skill. It should become a habit for them to build up tightness before they even start a skill. The second thing I would do is work with contrasts. Let the gymnasts play with good and bad positions and good and bad form. Sometimes it is very important to learn how something feels when it is performed badly in order to learn how to perform it correctly. Let them show you the most horrible handstand position they can come up with while lying on the ground. And then tell them to show you a correct one. Tell them to make the contrast as big as possible. Especially the younger ones will have a lot of fun with that.
 

CoachSam

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For keeping legs tight and straight, I tell them which muscle they should use. I see lots of kids trying to use the muscles right above their knee, while using the muscle right below your knee works.
@Jard.the.gymnast : I do not know exactly what you mean by this because the quadriceps muscle group (muscles above the knee, the thigh) action is to straighten the knee, hamstring group (back of the the thigh) flexes the knee, and the gastrocnemius (the calf muscle, which is what I am assume you are classifying as the muscle below you knee) flexes the ankle and knee. And unfortunately, my kids know how to to stay tight, they just get lazy and will not stay tight for longer than like 10 seconds. I tell them the same things you tell your kids, and it works for seriously 10 seconds. I am constantly telling them to stay tight and it falls on deaf ears majority of the time.

Dance elements require the shoulders to be down, whereas acrobatic elements require the shoulders to be up. It is not a hard concept, however kids (especially the younger, lower level ones) have to be reminded often because they spend a lot more time pushing their shoulders up than down.
@eucoach : I think it's a hard concept for them because we tell them to "grow tall" ( high releve, straight bottom leg, torso straight up, but your arms/shoulders stay down.) My kids tend to take this as arms falling in front of your face and then nothing gets pulled up. Your tag says that your judge, is it a deduction if they have their shoulders up? Because if not, would it be completely wrong to have them do it this way until they get used to getting the turn better? It's not like I expect their shoulders to be in the middle of the ears, but close to the bottom of their ears.

It sounds like you are doing a lot of good things!
@coachmolly : Thank you for those kinds words! I was having a rough couple of days and that honestly made me feel better. I tried the panel mat drill with a couple of my groups and boy did they struggle with that, but I LOVED it. I am going to be incorporating this into everything now. Haha. I also like the specific tightness drills. I will try adding that into their warm-ups on the events and hopefully that will help. I think explaining what muscles do what and what I want being squeezed will help.

Thank you everyone!
 

Hollowarchkick

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May 20, 2015
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Just as an anectode... when I first started coaching I was wondering the same thing. I found that if you have a kid lay down and point to certain muscles, they don’t necessarily know how to tighten that group of muscles specifically. It’s something to remember when you’re running into a child that’s having trouble. They may just be lacking body awareness and a little attention and homework on focusing on specific areas can help.
 
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