"Arms Up!" vs. "Shoulders to ears!" Directive statements compared and why you should look for more efficient, semantically precise, language when coaching tumbling.

"Arms up!!" is what you'll usually hear in the gym--gymnastics gyms and cheerleading gyms.  

But, what happens when you tell your kids to get their "arms up"?  Well, it's definitely something you have to reinforce constantly.  To the point where you get tired of it, feeling like a broken record. Well, they get their arms up over time, but is that precisely the most optimal position-- Just arms up? 

It's common to hear "arms up to your ears" after kids do their cartwheel-- and good for those coaches who do them.  Even more creative and effective is when the coaches say the metaphoric, "Pretend your arms are 'glued' to your ears" to get them to really understand the correct position.  Providing a target (their ears) for parts of their bodies too feel relative to each other (arms touching ears). All good. 

While these are good and correct, it's not reinforcing the optimal positions and habits you want developed in their skills.  It's not enough to just get your arms up by your ears.  You need the shoulders pushed through, extended. This provides the most optimal block when pushing through the back walk-over and front walk-over,  and the back handsprings and front handsprings.  And I found that the most effective corrective statement is to say, "shrug your shoulders to ears."  Or more simply, after explaining the technique, and they understand it, to say:

"SHOULDERS TO EARS!!."  Three words.  

BAM. 

Try it.  Do it.

It really makes a world of difference in how they hold themselves and in understanding in how to correct their position to its most optimal.  

You can say this while they're in the handstand,

  • before the round off,
  • before the cartwheel,
  • inverted in a cartwheel,
  • before the forward roll,
  • after the forward roll,
  • after the back handspring rebound,
  • before going into back handspring, and
  • in positioning them into the tight arch handstand to train back handspring. 

and at any other time they are inverted on their hands or setting for a flip/somersault.

There are other versions and varieties of the same suggestion. Here are a couple that I use:

"Push through your shoulders"

"Block through your shoulders."

Drop the "Arms up" verbal correction and simply REPLACE it with 

"Shoulders To Ears"  

It's more effective. It's more precise.  It's more progressive... and you'll get better results over time.  

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