Here's a first skill tutorial!
Somersaults (also known as forward rolls) are the core of ALL gymnastics. They teach all the basic movements that lead to those bigger and fancier skills.
Please understand this image is not perfect, and I would teach it slightly different, but it breaks it down into more steps than most, which I like.
1) Start in a stretch position. I always start teaching them on an incline like these ones. They stand at the top of the incline facing down. Really any size works. I use the tiny ones for my older students too.
2) Hands down slightly in front of feet. (This is where pike position flexibility is important!) Little kids are easiest to teach pike position to start. If it is too challenging, I have the athletes start with their knees slightly bent. This gets their hands in the right place! Too many beginners try to learn them with their hands way too far out.
3) THEN, I want them to bend their legs down so they can put their head towards the floor, but not on the floor! I just tell them to look at their belly and they tend to naturally bend their legs to do that (I guess to get a better view ;))
This is where I come in to spot beginners. I spot naturally on the left side, so I will explain it from that side, but feel free to switch if that feels more natural. For smaller kids, I place my left hand on their upper back/neck area and place my right hand through their middle. My right hand then controls the speed of the rotation, while my left can help round their back and protect their neck if they decide to do something crazy. I have seen lots of people spot by holding onto the athlete's hips, but I don't love that as you will see in the next blog post. It does work that way with older athletes though who already understand the tucked head concept.
4) Rotating hips to initiate roll.
5) Rounding back throughout! Keep looking at that tummy!
6) Plant feet (together ideally) on the floor with hands reaching out forward in front (athletes will want to put their hands down by their bottoms to help them stand up. I do lots of drills on how to teach them to reach up. My favorite is just placing myself at the bottom of the incline and making them jump up to give me a high five at the end.)
7) Rise to stand with arms up by ears. I do a drill for this one where they sit on the edge of a block (height of the athlete's knees to begin, working lower as they get more advanced) and hold their arms straight up. Then, I make it a race where I say go and they have to stand up and jump as fast as they can with their arms still glued to their ears.
8) Yell TA-DA! Everyone likes to feel accomplished. :)
Make it trickier and start challenging the athlete by having them do the skill with legs together and pointed toes. Then have them try it in a straddle through the whole skill (even the stand up!), or a pike to make it even more difficult (I have many a team athlete who still have trouble with that one)
Final tidbit for the day:
I tend to use a little saying that my kids can remember: Hands up, hands down, touch the ground, tuck your head and roll. Stand up high and touch the sky and finish with TA-DA! I know I know, it doesn't follow any real poem format. But kids remember it. It works.