National Technical Priorities for aspiring World Class Coaches and Trampoline Gymnasts
This document was provided to BTC members attending an Eastern Region Development Day early in 2007 which was lead by Jack Kelly. It has been adopted by BTC as the underlying principles by which its coaching should be undertaken. The following links will navigate you directly to specific principles:
- Straight jumping is a closed skill.
- Every trampoline take off is simply a modified straight jump.
- An in-depth understanding, awareness and mastery of straight jumping is therefore an essential prerequisite for coach and performer in order to achieve World Class performance.
- The performer must understand when the top of a straight jump is reached.
- Simple jumps and the flight phase leading to all body landings, both singly and in combination, must be performed at the “top” before progressing to somersaults.
- All basic take offs must be performed with zero tolerance. I.e. with “beam routine” accuracy.
- The coaching emphasis must be on directions of applied force i.e. what is happening during bed contact.
- Aerial aesthetics must be regarded as a secondary issue when developing skills with World class potential.
- Single somersaults must be taught with an emphasis on “top”.
- During the swingtime performance of all basic moves including somersaults, the trampoline gymnast must be made aware of the regular rhythm or tempo created by the depression and rise of the bed.
- In the linking of somersaults “direction must precede connection.”
- The performer must become comfortable with perceived “short” touchdowns.
- The concept of (first contact - full depression - last contact) must be adopted and understood by coach and performer to the point that this forms the basis of all coaching advice.
- Bed down! body up is the principal method of utilising the landing phase as a primer for the take off phase.
- The “check point” or” sighting point” must be emphasised in all skills.
- The consistent use of the “check point” or “sighting point” should be one of the means by which the gymnast becomes a decision maker thereby establishing the autonomy of a move or combination.
- The use of vision must be supplemented with information from the other senses, notably feeling and hearing.
- Somersault exits must be appropriate to the height, speed, direction and time available in each specific instance.
- Allow earlier, straighter and longer held exits to develop logically (and inevitably more gradually) as a result of consistent efficient work, posture and timing during the bed contact period, followed by efficient shape closure in flight.
- In all twisting skills, the twist is the easy bit. The essential requirement is somersault-type rotation which is high enough, fast enough and provides enough time for the performer to create the right body shape in which to execute the twist.
- Tariff should not be increased until a minimum agreed form score can be consistently achieved on the existing voluntary.
- Difficulty should be easy!
- New voluntaries must be trialled in control events either in part or in whole before exposure to target events.
- The most effective coach is the one who manages to make themselves redundant.
This is the first time an attempt has been made to set the technical direction needed to nurture Britain’s considerable reservoir of young talent with a view to providing the foundation which will enable those performers to become world class seniors. It is not a rigid, dictatorial approach; rather it is an outline of the principles, which have a proven record of success. Furthermore it is not intended to stifle creativity and flare, either on the part of the coach or performer. It may even act as a stimulus for discussion and controversy with the result that new coaching concepts may emerge. The aim is to establish a level of agreement among coaches to the point where there is a coordinated approach to raising the standard of British trampolining.
The performance standards are deliberately demanding and clearly not intended for the recreational trampolinist who has fun and enjoyment as the main goal. They are aimed at the coach or trampoline gymnast with serious World Class ambitions who is expected to display a high level of commitment in terms of time, effort and focus. A number of the principles set out wilt form the basis for the testing and assessment of trampolinists on the World Class Programme.
The following principles are not intended to provide a comprehensive training manual. They focus attention on the key areas of technique which must underpin all excellent performance. A detailed paper could be written on each, but the explanatory notes simply attempt to provide a brief rationale where appropriate. If excellence is the goal, a substantial amount of training time needs to be dedicated to the acquisition of these techniques. They must become autonomous at a basic level and readily transferable to moves and routines of the highest complexity. As surety as a chain will break at the weakest link, the performance of complex skill will break down as a result of a poorly established fundamental technical element.
A “closed” skill is unaffected by outside influences other than psychological pressures and as such can be practiced to the point of perfection. Throwing darts is a good example as there are no weather conditions to contend with, the target is always the same, the distance of the throw is consistent and the opponent does not tackle the thrower. Straight jumping on a trampoline fits this definition with the hardness/softness of the particular trampoline used being the only variable. It should be practiced to the degree that no amount of competition or performance stress can interfere with its height, accuracy and control.
In a straight jump the force is directed downwards into the bed and the performer’s upright posture during the recoil phase sends them vertically into the air without rotation. If the process is repeated with variable amounts of force directed around either of the main axes, somersaults and or twists are created. The concept of simply modifying the vertical jump is crucial in performing complex skills without loss of height or control.
3. An in-depth understanding, awareness and mastery of straight jumping is therefore an essential prerequisite for coach and performer in order to achieve World Class performance.
This element is so important that it must receive a significant amount of detailed attention during a training sessions. It's not sufficient to nag the performer about it — specific practices need to be undertaken with simulated pressure applied to test whether it has indeed become a “closed skill.”
This awareness needs to be taught so that the trampolinist can relate all parts of any subsequent routine or combination to the original jumping height. World Class coaches should never assume that their performer will automatically be aware of “top”. They must work to develop it and constantly remind the gymnast of its crucial role in achieving high form scores as well as gradually increasing tariff.
5. Simple jumps and the flight phase leading to all body landings, both singly and in combination, must be performed at the “top” before progressing to somersaults.
This is a natural consequence of the belief that every take off is simply a modified straight jump.
Beam routines are performed with amazing accuracy. Why? Because they have to be. Trampoline routines as a rule are performed with a high degree of tolerance. Why? Because they can be. This has no place in the World Class technical approach. All jumps and single somersaults should be practiced until they emulate the accuracy of the beam gymnast. This philosophy, if established in basic moves can then be developed through to more complex moves and combinations. The reverse is also true that basics performed without “beam routine” accuracy inevitably lead to serious problems in the performance of more complex work.
7. The coaching emphasis must be on directions of applied force i.e. what is happening during bed contact.
Most coaches are aware that the work in the bed is what determines the quality of the aerial performance. The bed contact phase is largely out of sight due to the masking effect of the frame. In springboard diving the entire depression and recoil of the board can easily be seen, but trampoline coaches have a much more difficult task in trying to focus on the “business end.” World Class coaches must work to develop this ability through a thorough understanding of the process. The adoption of various viewpoints (side, end, above, below and from a distance) as well as video replay can enhance this understanding.
8. Aerial aesthetics must be regarded as a secondary issue when developing skills with World class potential.
The characteristics of height and direction take precedence over style and elegance. World class form may have to be sacrificed initially in order to establish these essential qualities and coaches may have to retrain themselves into this way of thinking and working. They may also have to withstand criticism from those looking for a short term return. Good form is the eventual outcome of biomechanical efficiency during bed contact.
The potential World Class performer must be comfortable spending time in the air and coaches need to facilitate this. It is during the teaching of somersaults that assessment can be made of the performer’s willingness to ago up” and not be disturbed by it. This can be a useful part of the talent identification process.
10. During the swingtime performance of all basic moves including somersaults, the trampoline gymnast must be made aware of the regular rhythm or tempo created by the depression and rise of the bed.
This quality, like the awareness of “top” needs to be taught. Straight jumping establishes a rhythm like a bass guitar laying down the beat in readiness for a vocal to come in. Awareness of this “feel” can help the gymnast to produce the first skill in a sequence right on the beat and follow the tempo through each subsequent “note” in the routine.
Aspiring World Class trampolinists should be discouraged from linking somersaults if the initial somersault has poor direction e.g. travelled, gained, cast or lost height. This applies equally to senior internationals using a “set up” move. Once again apply the “zero tolerance” principle. Trampolining is a game of consequences where each skill performed leaves the gymnast with either a reward or a penalty. We must ensure that the linear direction of each move results in a vertical descent thus providing the “reward” of a perfect first contact as the starting point for the production next skill.
When approaching touchdown (or first contact) from a somersault the natural instinct/s for the trampolinist to try and “land” upright. The first contact on the trampoline is not actually the “landing” The objective is to be upright by the time the bed arrives at full depression. To achieve this, the trampolinist must make initial bed contact in a perceived “short” position. It Is a technique which needs to be acquired and the long term goal must be to make the point of exit from each somersault as uniform as possible in order to create a near identical touch down.
13. The concept of (first contact - full depression - last contact) must be adopted and understood by coach and performer to the point that this forms the basis of all coaching advice.
As previously stated in principle 7, the World Class coach will focus on what the performer did or should do, during bed contact. It is imperative that the three stages of bed contact are referred to because It is not what is done so much as when it is done which affects the outcome.
14. Bed down! body up is the principal method of utilizing the landing phase as a primer for the take off phase.
This technique should be the coach’s prime focus during the linking of somersaults rather than simply requiring the arms to reach above the head. Although the arm lift is important it should happen as a consequence of the bed being driven down with the legs thus enabling the body to be brought upright. It is this which will determine the direction of a following move and not the position of the arms per se. The arms should arrive overhead because of the “bed down/body up” action.
From first jump to the most complex of multiple twisting multiple somersaults, the gymnast must be taught to “see” at key points in the move and be aware of check points in the skill when decisions have to be made. It is dangerous to assume the gymnast knows where they are in a move just because it looks right and is performed with confidence. Always take the trouble to confirm that vision is present particularly when coming out of a move or initiating twist.
16. The consistent use of the “check point” or “sighting point” should be one of the means by which the gymnast becomes a decision maker thereby establishing the autonomy of a move or combination.
The best performers are airborne for just over two seconds and the decision making time to prepare for the next move is significantly shorter than that. It is essential that the brief time which is available is used for decision making in terms of reacting to mistakes or making technical alterations to create the best possible position for what is to follow.
17. The use of vision must be supplemented with information from the other senses, notably feeling and hearing.
The performer must become aware of the sounds the trampoline makes in response to their actions. Kinaesthetic “feel” plays a crucial role in the learning of all techniques. World Class coaches employ sensory coaching to obtain the best from their gymnasts because working to discover each performer’s dominant sense can greatly enhance learning. Some performers may tend to be visual and respond best to sighting whilst others may rely predominantly on feel. It is nonetheless important that all the senses are developed to the full. Frequently a trampolinist may feel one thing e.g. straight legs while the coach sees another e.g. bent legs. The coaching skill is to get the gymnast to feel what the coach sees.
18. Somersault exits must be appropriate to the height, speed, direction and time available in each specific instance.
Avoid the trap of trying to achieve straight kick outs when the quality of somersault is inadequate. Very often the gymnast fails to kick out because their spatial awareness tells them that they will be in danger should they do so. Coaches may attribute the lack of a straight exit to the performer’s poor awareness or even laziness The World Class coach applies a deeper understanding and traces the aerial fault back to its root cause.
19. Allow earlier, straighter and longer held exits to develop logically (and inevitably more gradually) as a result of consistent efficient work, posture and timing during the bed contact period, followed by efficient shape closure in flight.
It is a common mistake to try and create spectacular exits from somersaults before the quality of work in the bed is of a consistently high standard. This, aIlied to poor flexibility can limit a talented performer’s ability to make the transition from promising junior to world class senior.
20. In all twisting skills, the twist is the easy bit. The essential requirement is somersault-type rotation which is high enough, fast enough and provides enough time for the performer to create the right body shape in which to execute the twist.
Never automatically assume that some performers are “poor twisters.” It’s more likely they are falling to produce the quality and shape of somersault to enable the twist to work.
21. Tariff should not be increased until a minimum agreed form score can be consistently achieved on the existing voluntary.
Form and technique are far more important than difficulty and the scoring system underlines this. A 0.3 increase in tariff can be wiped out by a 0.1 loss in form on a single move from the three counting judges!
New, more difficult moves and combinations must only be developed from a basis of correct and consistent fundamentals. It is coaching folly to expect that basics can be improved during the performance of complex skills or combinations.
23. New voluntaries must be trialed in control events either in part or in whole before exposure to target events.
Working on the principle that” difficulty should be easy” the aspiring World Class trampolinist must be given time to assimilate a new and more difficult skill into their routine and arrive at a major event with an absolute faith in their ability to perform the full voluntary. There are fewer opportunities in modem trampolining to take part in low level events and coaches may have to create simulated competition conditions as an alternative.
Following directly from 17 above, the decision making capacity of the gymnast should be developed beyond the autonomy of moves, combinations and routines, It should include an independence from the coach in competitive situations and non familiar training environments. This of course can only be achieved through a gradual weaning process over a period of years.