Coaching from the Heart: Front Handsprings
Coaching from the Heart is a series designed to help cheer coaches with innovative ideas to implement in their gyms and gain valuable knowledge to improve their current coaching skill set. Each week a skill from Levels 1-5 will be featured, along with teaching tips and ideas to bring into the classroom to instruct effectively and efficiently.
As a coach and a parent both, one of my biggest pet peeves is seeing idle time, such as standing around waiting in line. This time can be utilized best by using continuous rotation through various drills set up in a station/circuit format. Stations should always be set up in a manner where there is a direct flow from one to the next. The ‘coach station’, where an athlete is being spotted hands on, should be placed in an area of the circuit where all stations are visible by the coach at all times. Each article in this series will have 8-10 ideas for stations and they can be adjusted depending on class size and student to coach ratio. As typically there will be 1 coach for many students, only 1 station will require a spotter’s assistance.
Skill: Front Handspring
1. Front Limbers- This skill is typically a pre-requisite for a front handspring, and therefore able to be used as an independent station. Cheerleaders should focus on a good lunge and proper form going into the handstand using good heel drive, landing in a bridge and standing up immediately with focus on keeping the head back and hips forward.
2. Superman Arch Rocks- Cheerleader will lie on their stomach, arms straight by the ears. Raising the upper body and staying tight, the cheerleader will rock forward to bring the lower body up and then back again to upper body. This drill is from the CheerRX app by CheerBandz. For a video of this drill please download the app, select Level 2, Front Handspring, and Drill #1.
3. Strength- Carpet Cleaners. Cheerleaders will sit in a pike on the floor and then using only their arms to push her body backwards across the entire length of the floor. Start by sitting in a pike, place hands behind the rear. Lift rear up staying in a pike and slide backwards through the arms so the hands end up by the knees. Place hands behind rear again and repeat. Do these all the way down the mat and back. These really work the shoulder muscles.
4. Handstand Hops- Cheerleaders will stand facing a panel mat (start with 1 panel and work way up) kick into handstand and hop hands up to the panel mat, then come down. This drill is from the CheerRX app by CheerBandz. For a video of this drill please download the app, select Level 2, Front Handspring, and Drill #2.
5. Handstand Shoulder Shrugs- Start by having the cheerleader raise arms overhead by ears, keeping arms straight and shrug the shoulders to get the feel of the movement. Then the cheerleader will do a handstand against a wall or mat to practice this position in the handstand. Perform 3 shoulder shrugs while in handstand, then come down. Repeat.
6. Backbend on wedge- Cheerleaders will start at the bottom (lower end) of the wedge and go back into a backbend, then recover to a standing position with a focus on keeping the shoulders and hips open.
7. Heel Drive Handstands- Facing an upright mat against a wall, the cheerleader will lunge and kick aggressively into a handstand against the mat using good heel drive.
8. Coach’s Station- Spotted Front Handspring
9. Shoulder taps- Cheerleader will get into a push up/plank position. Keeping body tight and abs engaged, lift one hand at a time to tap the opposite shoulder, alternating hands for 10 reps. Rest for 30 secs and then repeat.
10. Challenge Station- Front Handspring step out or Front walkovers off a panel mat (only use 2 panels).
As a coach a common question I was asked by parents- “What can my child practice safely at home to help them master their skills?” I would always give them a list that consisted of relatable strength and flexibility exercises. Unfortunately, even with giving them the list there was no way to know if they were following my instructions on properly warming up, using good technique on the exercises, or stretching and cooling down afterward when they were practicing outside the gym. Building the strength to do the skills required in cheerleading takes so much more than a couple days inside the gym. Practice at home is a necessity, but trying to find a good program that fit my coaching philosophies was a challenge. Recently I came across a program called CheerBandz and in reviewing this product, I found it fit everything I was looking for with a complete warm up, detailed demonstration and description of drills, and a solid stretching/cool down program at the end. The product contains everything a cheerleader needs for the perfect at-home practice; high quality uniquely developed bands and the DVD. The kits are broke down into levels, which emphasize proper progression, skill development, strength building and injury prevention. As a coach, I recommend having a few kits around the gym to incorporate into your tumbling and jump training stations/circuits.
For more information on CheerBandz, visit their website at:
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