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How to Safely Jump Onto a Gym Mat or Crash Mat During Stunts
Gymnastics stunts are hard on the body, so it’s important to efficiently reduce the impact created by landing. Spring floors and foam mats are some ways to absorb the impact, but there are several body positions that will also protect the gymnast.
The stick position is often the first position a young gymnast learns. It is first taught in preschool classes because it is easy for the child to do, and also a valuable skill which will protect her body throughout her gymnastics career. All gymnastics positions should be drilled and committed to muscle memory, and proper landing positions are no exception.
The goal of the stick position is to land balanced in a standing position, but with joints already bending to absorb the shock of the landing. Also, this position allows the gymnast to lower her center of gravity and maintain her balance.
Characteristics of the stick position:
- Both knees and both feet should point directly forward.
- Feet should be about a hip’s width distance apart. This allows the gymnast to engage her glutes, taking more of the force in the muscle than her knees.
- The knees should be bent at around 60 degrees, and the hips should be in a neutral position in order to protect the back.
- The gymnast’s chest should be up and her weight balanced.
- The arms will swing forward, straight in front of her chest, at a right angle to the ground.
Drills for practicing the stick position:
I usually have my gymnasts practice jumps (tuck, straddle, or long jumps) over their carpet square, and land in their stick positions. When they are ready, I have them hold the stick position for three seconds and then finish with an enthusiastic “Ta-Da.”
To encourage them to practice the position, have the students find something blue in the gym, and make their stick position on it. Then they can find something red in the gym, and practice their stick position on it. Young children love the freedom to run around the gym and choose their own place, and the stick position is reinforced each time.
During each event, for example, the balance beam, I place a star or dot on the floor at the end of the beam where the child will land. It will help keep young children in the right direction and remind them to land in their stick position.
Some Amazing Stick Positions...
All gymnasts take unplanned landings. It’s important to learn to fall safely. The safety roll can be utilized when the gymnast is off balance, and can’t safely land in the stick position. There are two versions: the backward safety roll and the forward safety roll.
To perform a backwards safety roll:
The gymnast rolls backwards with her back in a rounded position.
To protect the neck, the chin should be tucked and the arms should push back against the floor as the gymnast rolls over the neck.
Roll in tucked position with knees slightly apart so that they cannot hit the face.
To perform a forwards safety roll:
With head tucked, roll forward onto either shoulder.
Drills for practicing the safety roll:
The safety roll should be drilled repeatedly so that it becomes part of the muscle memory.
You can make it fun for younger children by singing a “rock and roll” song, or have them sing it as they drill the roll.
Please share any other positions or drills below!
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