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Going for the "Top"

I hope regular readers of GymCraft will have noted that my articles are not simply random ramblings but do follow a theme. It concerns me that any one of the articles read in isolation may not make total sense, so I would urge the reader to check out my previous offerings in order to gain a sense of context.

I make the plea on this occasion because what follows is a logical development from the article “Some Top Tips” in which I stressed the need to achieve a strong vertical component in all take offs and offered a series of drills which have been successful in achieving “top” with my trampolinists.

The Great Trampolining Dilemma

Should the trampolinist attempt to spin somersaults fast in order to achieve the straight kick outs at 12 o’clock which seem to be such a focus for today's coaches and judges? On the other hand, should the performer go for high slow somersaults in order to maintain height throughout their routine?

Let us remind ourselves what the judges are looking for:

  1. Maintenance of height.
  2. Absence of travel.
  3. Shaping and straight exits. (Form)

In my experience too many coaches focus on the third element as the priority and one regularly sees young, talented performers snatching and spinning somersaults in the quest for straight kick outs. I believe this to be counter productive in the development of sound technique which can mature into World Class performance.

The focus for coaches involved in nurturing young talent should be “top” and absence of travel. The young performer must learn to use the timing and recoil of the bed to its full, in order to achieve a significant vertical component. Of course, in the early stages this will eliminate the possibility of straight kick outs. There should nonetheless be sufficient rotational component during the take off phase to enable a distinct straight legged, if somewhat piked exit.

My view is that if the coaching emphasis is placed on shaping and kick outs then there will be a loss of height as “top” is sacrificed for “spin”. It is only a matter of time within a routine before the loss of height forces the young performer to travel as well. As the loss of height and travel begin to take effect so the form deteriorates, thus completing a self destructive cycle! Have a look at the younger age groups in the next competition and watch the regularity with which this phenomenon occurs.


It makes no sense to work form as the priority and I believe that Britain’s lack of truly World Class men and the small number of World Class women is a testimony to this illogical approach. Add to the self defeating mix the premature drive to increase tariff to World Class levels and it is clear that many coaches are heading down a blind alley.

Everyone was impressed by the young Chinese trampolinists at the World Age Games because of the astonishing vertical component in their work, allied to elegant form and high tariff skills performed with consummate ease. How did they achieve this? Certainly not by using the


... formula! Their priorities are clear to see. Start by harnessing the power of the bed through an understanding of timing and posture. Continue by teaching “top” in all individual and skill combinations. Let the shaping and difficulty flow from the fact that they now have sufficient time in the air to show off these end products. The secret formula is;


Regular readers know that I often relate trampoline performance to the skills in other sports and here we have one of the basic tenets of sport. Give a player time and space in which to work and they can perform with a high degree of skill. On the other hand if time and space are reduced (the basic defensive strategy) then skill is put under pressure and mistakes become inevitable.

What are you doing as a coach?

Are you giving your pupils time and space to perform or are you the Sol Campbell of trampoline coaches, closing them down, restricting their opportunities, putting them under pressure and reducing their time to perform?

The success formula is very simple to understand but, and here is the rub; it is a long term process. You must be prepared to hold back on tariff and straight kick outs until the pupil has mastered “top” and then acquired that elusive quality; the ability to strike the balance between “top” and “spin”. Have you got the courage to go down that route because you will face criticism from all and sundry? Stick to your beliefs and in five to ten years we may be able to compete more realistically with the emerging power in world trampolining.

Try this as a starting point. Go back and read with an open mind all my previous articles in GymCraft.  They’re not written in Chinese you know!

Next article.

© Jack Kelly