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Safety Techniques For Teaching Tumbling

Aug 17, 2007
Safety cues for teaching tumbling include knowing how to prepare for teaching a stunt and the active protective techniques during the performance of the stunt.

The preparatory techniques are the more important. The problem is analogous to that of health education, where prevention should always take precedence over cures. Many hazards are eliminated entirely if the proper progressions and knowledge of fundamentals are used.

The active safety techniques are often known as "spotting" skills. Two of these are particularly important. First, always assist the beginner through the exercise the first few times and gradually reduce the physical contact as he improves. The instructor must guide the performer so that he will be sure to get the feeling of the whole performance from the beginning.

Second, spotting is very much a matter of handling weights. Weights are always lifted with the big leg muscles, not with the arms or back. When a man lifts or catches a weight, he gets under it. In tumbling, this means that the assistant or "spotter" must keep close to his man, get under his elbows in somersaults, and always be near enough to anticipate and prevent falls. Spotting at arm's length cannot be effective.

In this study it was found that certain principles govern the safety techniques as applied to all forms of stunt tumbling. These can be classified into three divisions: those relating to the performer, those relating to the instructor and those relating to the equipment used.

General safety principles relating to the performer.

1. Consider the performer as well as the exercise. Has he the right mental attitude for the stunt? Has he the proper physical development? Has he completed the preliminary work? Is he sick or tired today?

2. The confidence of the performer should be developed in himself and in the safety man. The instructor should personally initiate the timid beginner into the fundamentals of tumbling. Use none but dependable bottom men, and once they are picked, they should seldom be changed.

3. The performer should be taught never to try new stunts until he has completed the preliminary work and has been passed by the instructor.

4. The attention of the performer should always be kept away from the dangers of an exercise. He should be allowed to think only of the fundamentals for proper execution. Fear causes tension and distracts from the ability to concentrate on fundamentals.

5. The springboard is dangerous and its use should be permitted only under the closest supervision of an experienced instructor.

General principles relating to the instructor.

1. Analyze each exercise for danger elements before trying to teach it.

2. Consider all the types of spotting technique for the exercise and decide on the most efficient.

3. Prevent jars and shocking surprises. A jarring fall on the back in the first attempt at the forward roll or hand stand may discourage a performer from attempting further tumbling.

4. Know where the lightest touch will give the maximum of confidence. Give the performer the feeling of doing the exercise right. Too much assistance does not give the feeling of doing the stunt, and confidence is not established. The touch of the safety man, without any assistance at all, establishes much confidence in the learning stages.

5. Proper timing and position in relation to the performer throughout the exercise are of great importance. The safety man should be ready to help his charge at any time during the stunt.

An instructor who pays attention to himself and the student will keep themselves and their students safe.
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