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Plan Your Escape Routes

nick ruddock Feb 29, 2016

In a sport as complex as gymnastics, things aren’t always going to go as intended in either practice or competition. It goes without saying that in order to deliver a ‘hit routine’ in competition, the athlete would have ‘failed’ at delivering the routine hundreds of time prior in training. 

This phase is inevitable as the athlete not only rehearses a new construction of routine or incorporates new elements, but as they build the physical and mental endurance to deliver a routine from start to finish. 

This has never been as important as when constructing, practising and performing BAR routines, due to the long series of elements required in a competitive exercise. 

No two bar routines are EVER the same and a coaches role is to develop athletes who can adapt and be comfortable with the subtle differences that each routine will have. This might be a short upstart (kip) handstand, or maybe even catching the bar too close (or far) on a flight element. 

Enforcing a rule that routines should always go from start to finish is important also. Too many athletes are given the opportunity to recommence their routine after falling early on in the performance. This doesn’t happen in competition, and shouldn’t happen in training. Enforce a ‘get to the end by any means necessary’ policy, and make use of switch glides and turns from both handstands and giants to allow an athlete to get back on track if they fail a handstand or alternative skill. 

If you want to be really smart, you can construct a routine which lends itself to an escape route, allowing the athlete greater room for error without being overly detrimental to the final performance and difficulty if required to be used. 

If your athlete hasn’t practiced this ‘persistent’ approach to performing a routine cleanly in training, then don’t expect them to be able to perform it in competition. Desperation to perform clean will wreak havoc if unfamiliar, not to mention the fact that performing a routine of greater length is more physically demanding and requires preparation for. 

Routine errors happen at the very highest level of our sport, but many times go unnoticed. Experienced athletes are accustomed to disguising their errors with clever escape routes, one’s which they have practiced several times in training when things hadn’t gone to plan!

Nick’s Top tips for preparing your athletes for a non- perfect routine:

  1. If your athlete is delivering a routine and they fall, don’t let them start again! Athletes need to get into the habit of always training to the end of a routine. They’ll soon learn it’s far easier to perform it clean then to keep stopping and starting 🙂 It is also worth remembering that they may end of performing the final parts of a routine significantly less than the earlier parts if they have the opportunity to start again too often. 
  2. Practice basic elements which the athlete can use as part of their escape ’strategy’. Switch glides, swinging turns, handstand turns and giants in both directions are all extremely useful elements and should be part of your athletes’ basic repertoire.
  3. Encourage your athletes to ‘fight’ to show routines that go from A-B at all times, and not simply give up if the routine didn’t go as planned. Plan for the unpredicted, get comfortable being uncomfortable and prepare the athlete to deliver the best possible routine in the worst possible conditions. 

Good luck! 

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