Cori Cunningham. Cori is the Team Coordinator at Atlantic Gymnastics Training Center in Portsmouth, NH. She is a former competitor and Grad assistant at The University of New Hampshire.
During my own competitive gymnastics career I used to dread going to beam every day knowing that we would be expected to do huge numbers of stuck routines. I would also dread meet day because even though I had numbers of stuck routines tucked under my belt I was still not confident in my ability to hit a routine under pressure. As a coach I vowed to make an effort to get my gymnasts to look forward to coming to beam. My other goal is for them to present as confident and competent beam workers on meet day.
The four themes that I use to structure my competitive season workouts are as follows:
Theme #1 – PRACTICE WHAT YOU WANT TO GET GOOD AT – During meet season it is important to be good at timed warmup. The timed warmup at a meet can set the tone for the competitive routine so it is important to be proficient and successful. Each gymnast has a set timed warmup that they can do as an individual and one that they can do as a group. We are never quite sure what type of warmup we will have at a meet so we plan both. We practice timed warmup as the first thing we do when we get to balance beam because that is the first thing we will do at meet when we get to balance beam.
Theme #2 – PRACTICE UNDER PRESSURE – In a meet right after timed warmup a gymnast will have to compete so our next practice theme will be to do some sort of routine work under pressure. To create a pressure situation I will do any of the following:
- Have the entire gym stop and watch a person do a beam routine
- Have the beam group sit and watch a person do a beam routine
- Require that the entire row of gymnasts stick routines IN A ROW or we start over until this assignment is complete
- Put one person up and hold them responsible for deciding the number of routines everyone has to stick that day (i.e. if she sticks we have 5 routines if she falls we have 8 routines)
- Hold them each responsible for deciding the number of routines (if you personally stick you have 5 routines if you fall you have 8 routines)
Theme #3 – FIND THE WEAKNESSES AND TARGET THEM – Once we finish the routine work the weaknesses are apparent. The typical weaknesses for our team are paying attention to detail, sticking flight, and having amplitude on dismounts. I have found that judging routines and holding them to getting a certain score before they can leave balance beam has a great effect on all three weaknesses. I am not a judge, but I can guess pretty well at what the deductions would be. When I stand there with pen and paper in hand I do tend to get many more meet worthy routines. I also have gymnasts “judge” each other. The “judge” will count bent legs or wobbles and the gymnasts will have to have 3 or less bent legs or 3 or less wobbles to count that routine as stuck. The “judge,” even though it is another gymnast, is enough to hold them accountable for working hard.
Theme #4 – ALWAYS PUT THEM TO A TEST SO THEY CAN MEASURE THEIR OWN SUCCESS – I also target the weak areas by “testing” skills. I will test skills in the following ways:
- Team timed skills – I usually count my number of gymnasts and multiply times the number of repetitions I want done (i.e. I have 5 gymnasts and I want them each to stick 3 flight so my total number of stuck flight will be 15). Then I choose an amount of time I want the skills done in (for 15 stuck flight I would use two beams and time for 2 minutes). Once I start time the two beams start and I yell out the number of each successful flight until I get to 15 or until the time is up. If we make the number we celebrate…if we miss the number we double the number and double the time. Usually the second round is successful because everyone realizes that they are going to need to be focused or their teammates will be very angry when they have to triple the number and triple the time. This test is a great team building activity because it takes all of them together to successfully complete the task – they will cheer each other on to get those numbers done.
- Partner in a row skills – If we are having trouble sticking a skill in competition but not in practice I will pair the girls up and give them a number of that skill to stick in a row as partners. For example two girls have to stick 10 of their bonus jump series no wobble in a row. They alternate partners and one girls falls on the 5th one. They have to start back at zero and the person who falls has to stick the first one of the next set. It is amazing how much pressure is on turn #10 – and even more fun watching the two celebrate when #10 is successful!
- Two in a row in front of me – The beam I watch is the “test beam” and the rest of my stations usually drill the skill we are working on. When they get to my beam they need to dance in and dance out of whatever skill they need to test and hit it one time in each direction to pass. If they pass they move onto the next skill in their routine. If they do not pass they repeat the round and test the same thing for me again.
Typically I will have the same beam workout for two weeks so that everyone gets good at what we are doing. After two weeks I keep my same 4 themes and change things slightly to keep things fresh for the girls and the coaches. Keeping my long term goals in mind and staying consistent with the framework for my beam plan allows us a lot of success during meet season!