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Gymnastics/Thank you for all the great advice


QUESTION: My daughter also struggles with the front handspring. She is not competing yet but she just got her round off back handspring no problem. But she cannot land the front handspring even though she can land a front flip. She has only been seriously training for 4 months and is in advanced level 2 hoping she can land the front handspring this Friday to advance to the next level and then maybe a team. I am one of those over involved parents practicing with her every night she is not at the gym it really seems to have helped her attain her skills quickly. Any advice to help her prep would be appreciated. I would also like your opinion, my daughter is 9 and I keep getting told by other parents and articles she is to old to join a national team. She had a couple of years training at a gym that was not very serious. When we found North Star Gymnastics 4 months ago she feel in love with it so did her mom and dad. If she passes her test this Friday she will move to super nova the most advance rec classes offered at this school. Bases on the biased background I provided do you believe she has a chance to get on a national team.

ANSWER: Hello Mark,
         I am very glad to help you.  The front handspring is much harder to do correctly than the back handspring.  Knowing this….I have my girls learn the action and most importantly….the timing by doing run – hurdle – front walkovers.  This allows the timing to be interpreted more quickly for the two foot landing of the traditional front handspring.  Also, if the gymnast has trouble with a front walkover, running into it aids in the completion of the skill.  The back leg must kick continuously around to the floor to achieve the complete front walkover.  The quicker it is, the more awareness the gymnast can interpret for the front handspring.  As the gymnast achieves/interprets the front handspring action, the shoulders will start pushing more dramatically to pop off the floor for some after flight.  
Regarding potential for nationals…..I started at 11-12 years old.  Reflecting on that….I understand that desire is the most important ingredient to have.  Some other important attributes that can assist in this journey are genetic strength, confidence, training without regret to perform without doubt and to always-always see the glass as half full.  I wish your daughter the very best and take care – Jack Leonard

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QUESTION: Hello Jack,
Thank you so much for the valuable information. It is right in line with what we did last night. I started her on front walk overs having her increase the speed until it turned into a front handspring was not perfect form but she landed them. She not very tall for her age but very strong and agile. She excelled at every sport she tried. She struggles in school but that has improved since she started gymnastics. It is the only place where I see an intense focus and determination in her. She is extremely stubborn I am hoping she can use that stubbornness as a never give in or give up attitude. I know it could also be her downfall if not kept under control. As I am an older parent I am finding myself living through her I would never force her to do gymnastics if I felt she did not love it, but it has given us a very strong bond. I hear story's about it being a bad thing for parents to be to involved.I am not a trainer but I watch every practice she has a I learn from her coaches and from reading proper spotting and training techniques to help her break some bad habits. She listens to me and improves from it. I wish she was the same way with homework. Do you think I should back off and let the pro's only train her or is my help letting her advance at a faster pace. When she did a roundoff back handspring for her teacher she said it was the best day of her life.

ANSWER: Hello Mark,
         I am glad to give you my opinion.  You are lucky that your daughter listens and uses your advice.  I feel the best scenario would be not to under mind her coaches but to become one of them.  Take the necessary tests through USAG and be in the gym and with her and her teammates supporting and continuing to evolve and succeed towards everyone’s goals.  I would not suggest stepping on coache’s toes with conflicting opinions on skill development.  On the other hand….if you are working as a professional team together……a good atmosphere of motivation and success could be achieved.  I hope you take the above possible scenario as a consideration.  Remember there are many choices and maybe being a coach would be a viable one.

Regarding the front handspring….it is all about repetition.  The skill is blind and repetition develops awareness and confidence.  I suggest performing the front handspring in different locations to better understand the dynamics of time and speed in the execution of the skill.  It is also easier for the athlete to make adjustments as to how they feel when executing the skill not just what the coach says.  The gymnast is trying to land according to their senses in what they perceive is the right time.  The way to help the gymnast is not to just say think of landing later but to tell the gymnast to land as they understand but wait a bit longer than their instincts.  This way the athlete can internalize the action and better train and perform the skill.   I thank you for your questions and wish you and your daughter the very best.  Take Care – Jack Leonard

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QUESTION: This is not a question just a thank you.
She is landing both the roundoff back handspring and front handspring every time.
In only 4 months she has been able to go from a beginner to pre team level.The owner made it a very special time for her by giving a medal for the accomplishment.If I cannot find the time to get certified in coaching I may change my role to keep her motivated not so much training. I realized that her techniques know need perfecting and the great staff at North Stars are best at that. From everything I have experienced in life tells me that there will be some difficult days ahead and her battles will be more mental than physical.

Hello Mark,
         First of all….congratulations to your daughter!!....and thanks for the generous tip. :) I am glad the owner of the gym recognized her hard work and sincerity towards the sport she so dearly loves.  I am sure she will remember that process for many years to come and the medal will be the reminder of Purpose & Passion & Desire = Your Dreams.   Continued success for the future and take care – Jack Leonard


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Jack Leonard


Former 5 time Natl. Tumbling Champ, 3 time Natl. Vaulting Champ, Natl. Floor Exercise Champ; Ass`t coach of Dominique Dawes for 6 years; Owner/Director/Head coach of Kauai Gymnastics Academy on the island of Kauai in Hawaii; Retired Physical Ed teacher; Childrens Fitness Expert; Expert Consultant for gymnastics litigation; Retired Mens & Womens HS Gymnastics coach for 32 years. National coaching honors for Men in 1981 & Women in 2001.


I value the following awards because they were given by acknowlegement through my peers: The Nissen/Grissold Award given to the outstanding Tumbling and Tramp Athlete(1972), National High School coach of the year in 1981 for men and 2001 for women, 10 time County Coach of the Year. Medal Award given at the first World Tumbling Championships in London, England for dedication to the sport. Lastly, having the opportunity to coach Wes Suter(1988 Olympian)in his intermediate years and Dominique Dawes(1992 & 1996)

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