School term has resumed which means the end of Summer Athletics and the resumption of gymnastics and weightlifting in Willand and Wellington. Here is a brief synopsis of what is happening.
Fundraising: we have been short listed from over 700 applicants for the Skipton Grassroots Giving Campaign. In order to gain £500 for the club to buy equipment, please vote here.Every vote counts, so thank you.
We were also kindly given £450 from Viridor for equipment and £240 from Willand United Charities to subsidise our uniforms.
Summer training and competition has finished now. The last event was the Exeter Open where we had several personal bests in hurdles, sprints, javelin and 1200m. No long jumpers this time due to conflicting events. Archie Ware won both his events but got listed as an Exeter Harrier by mistake!
Winter training will resume in October and will consist of technical work and physical preparation for next spring.
3 of our weightlifters
Sessions have started back this week after a quiet Summer. We have spaces available on Monday nights for anyone aged 13+ who wishes to learn a new activity and be physically and mentally challenged. Other times are available, including two day time slots. Full details on our weightlifting page.
Four of our members will be doing their Level 1 coaching course starting in 2 weeks’ time in Willand. Topsy, Sarah, Laura and Zara will then be able to help James coach in the upcoming funded “Love to Lift” sessions which will start in October.
We ran a volunteer workshop last Friday for the new and existing volunteers who help out at the club. This gives everyone an idea on basic handling, safety and an introduction to good coaching practice. We looked at handstands, headstands and some beam work.
End of a busy day somersaulting
These workshops are designed to help improve what we do and give confidence to parents that they can get involved and help out. We have a good mix of parents and Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, without whom we would be unable to operate.
James attended his first Level 3 technical module in Honiton on Sunday with 3 of our gymnasts. The syllabus included: front, back and side somersaults, with aerials and aerial walkovers.
We will be able to work towards these skills with our more accomplished gymnasts.
We have vacancies in Freestyle Gymnastics in Wellington and Willand and still have some spaces left in our Primary gymnastics class in Wellington. All details are on our gymnastics club page
Thanks to everyone for supporting the club, we are looking forward to improving everything we do to create the best environment for our athletes and coaches.
We are looking to recruit a new Welfare Officer. If you know anyone who might want to take on this important, (but low workload) role to help the club, please let James know. Would suit a retired person who is willing to attend a 3 hour course (paid for by the club) and have a DBS check.
How to get to the Vault or Double Mini Trampoline quicker
.In order to generate a bigger jump, gymnasts need a faster approach to the Vault or Double Mini Trampoline (DMT). This involves them running for about 20-30m and then jumping onto a springboard or the DMT.
Speed training for gymnasts starts with posture (again)..
Strong hips help speed
Regular readers and athletes I work with will know that I start off with posture. It is hard to run fast if you are sagging like a jellyfish before you start.
Whilst gymnasts are very strong at what they do, their lifestyle is affecting their standing and running posture.
We have to put certain exercises and training in first to allow their bodies to get strong and support the speed. This is developing their structural integrity.
Coach the cause rather than the symptom
I made a mistake when first working with the Wellington Whirlwinds on trying to fix the very strange arm actions that the trampolinists had when running. I worked hard at getting them to use an “elbow high and back” arm action to be more efficient.
However, Gary Winckler had previously spoken to me about the upper body being an indicator of what was going on below. When I saw Gary at GAIN a few years ago, I said I had some sucess and he said the weird arm action was due to gymnasts being excessive plantor flexors which leads to straight leg running action, which then leads to straight arms.
DOH! Blindingly obvious when I thought about it. I had been working on the overall sprint mechanicsbut had been distracted by the arms.
We did a specific speed session out on the track with the group which was a break through moment. We established some common drills and common language which made it easier to go back into the gym and coach on the runway.
to help the run action. Speed for gymnasts needs to be constantly refined and the warm ups are a good place to reinforce these correct mechanics at every opportunity.
Shorten the run up
Shorten the run up
When working with the youngsters at Gemini, I asked them why they started their run up where they did: they were just guessing.
When I watched them approach the vault, there was a lot of pitter pattering as they got near and they were slowing down. This meant a loss of speed.
I got them to start near the springboard, then go back two metres at a time to see how they could maintain their speed. When they started the pitter patter, they went forward again two metres. That was their new start position.
I got the youngsters to self assess where they should start, rather than Carolyn and I dictate. This became an “honesty competition” and we were delighted that they became very accurate on their self assessment.
There is little point starting a run up from 30 metres away, then having to slow down as you approach take off. Instead, start short, get used to the take off and gradually increase the distance as you run fasterand you can control that speed. Speed for gymnasts is different from top speed running because of the short distance.
When I coached at Exe Valley Gymnastics I helped this this young gymnast who is very fast. She has a short run up (due to hall constraints) but really attacks the vault
Her foot strike is excellent, as is her hip position of the stance leg. However, she does use her arms too early, looking more like a long jumper here.
Here is me doing a less technically good and slower vault, but using the arms correctly:
Speed training for gymnasts is a work in progress because as the gymnasts develop their technical skills and perform more complex routines, they need more approach speed.
I am delighted to announce that we have been successful in our application to Sport England’s small grants programme. The money will be used to develop the Weightlifting section of our club.
The grant we will be used in 3 main parts:
Equipment: we shall be buying Eleiko competition bar and plates, a new floor and some technical bars for beginner lifters.
Coach development: it is important to develop coaches from within the club. We shall be sending some of our existing lifters on the British Weightlifting (BWL) level 1 assistant coaches qualification. This is a great opportunity for the young people of Mid Devon to gain a coaching qualification.
Running new sessions for women during the day time in Willand, as part of a programme of helping females get fit and trying a new activity. This will be done in 2 seperate blocks to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try the sport.
This project will run alongside our existing evening Weightlifting sessions which run in Willand. Our club is the only licensed Weightlifting club in the South West (outside of Bristol). We accomodate people who want to get fit for their sport (Golf, rugby, hockey and football are the most common) as well as those who want to compete in Weightlifting.
If you would like to take part in the upcoming Weightlifting sessions, please register your interest with Head Coach James Marshall . No experience is necessary, but being generally healthy is a prerequisite as the sport requires movement.
This application took a long time to prepare and submit, a big thanks to Chris Brown (one of our lifters) for his efforts in helping.
Getting Willand healthy and fit
Willand play kit
Last year we raised and secured £12,171.93 which was mainly used for our gymnastics club equipment with some going to weightlifting and athletics kit.
This meant we could expand what we were offering and move into the bigger Village Hall. We also offer a satellite gymnastics club in Wellington, Somerset, 10 miles away.
I also worked with Willand Parish Council in advising on play equipment for the village. We chose bars and obstacles courses that allow children and adults to play and explore, rather than sit! They spent £20,000 and the kit is well used and is available to all.
That means in the last 18 months Willand has had over £40,000 invested into it’s physical activity and sporting infrastructure!
Willand was a sporting hub100 years ago (read here ) it is on it’s way to becoming so again.
Hopefully this will make a difference to the long term health of our local population. All we need now are some decent cycle paths in the Culm Valley and we will really see a difference.
If you would like to take part in weightlifting, athletics or gymnastics in Mid Devon, please come along.
I have recently been asked to help coach “disengaged” girls in school p.e. I am doing weightlifting at one school, gymnastics at another. Funding is available to help these girls as they are unenthusiastic about “traditional p.e.” My experience coaching them is different from what I was told to expect.
What is “traditional p.e.”?
I keep getting told by twenty-something p.e. teachers that the sports model is failing and so we have to find non-traditional ways of “engaging” girls (I use girls, but most of what follows applies to boys too). But, once again, p.e. is getting confused with sport. They are different (or at least should be).
This quote from 1969:
Hockey team 1921
“Organised games playing in girls’ schools has been much maligned as purposelessly aping the boys’ tradition and either producing hearty hockey players or a tight-skirted, unenthusiastic, unskilled rabble…
To the age of 13 or 14 the majority of girls are likely to be keen. After this age many girls do not take kindly to hockey, lacrosse or netball; there should then be a wider scope for individual activities such as tennis, athletics, swimming, archery or dancing.”
There are two points here: are the girls opting out because they have found something which matches their talents and desires better? Or, are they deselecting themselves because they lack the basic skills required to perform a team sport such as hand-eye co-ordination, running, skipping and throwing/ catching skills?
The first is perfectly acceptable and requires schools to offer a selection. The latter is a travesty and shows we are failing our children.
Sports modules instead of physical development
Ready for p.e.
One of the reasons we are failing our children is the insistence on using sports modules in p.e. classes. When I was growing up, we had p.e. twice a week in shorts and white T-shirts. We had games once a week wearing a reversible rugby shirt. We did physical education in p.e. and games in Games.
Now, even Primary Schools are dominated by sports modules. “Invasion games” is a module, cricket, athletics, tennis and rugby are modules. These all presume that the children have underlying motor skills and that sport will get them fit.
The cynical part of me sees schools being given resources by Sporting National Governing Bodies (NGBs) that show complete lesson plans for 6-8 weeks to help teachers run p.e. classes. For the drowning Primary School teacher this is a lifeline that helps them survive for a little bit longer.
But, the NGBS are chucking resources at schools as part of a big recruitment drive to increase participation and then get more funding from Government: this then allows the administrators to keep their jobs for another year.
But, what is the point of having “Invasion Games” if the kids are unable to throw or catch, let alone run and jump as well?
I was playing catch with my 6 year old son before school one morning and 3 other boys asked to join in, 2 of whom were 8. Of the four boys, two could throw with a contralateral overhand action with some degree of accuracy. One of the 8 year olds had an ipsolateral shot putting action, the other did an underarm loop effort which went vertical and was never near the target.
Why do “invasion games” with this bunch? Where is the differentiation? To rub salt into my wound of dismay, a teacher came up and said “You are encouraging rule breaking Mr Marshall”! I wonder if that teacher is able to spot different throwing actions, let alone improve them.
Even Athletics which could be considered as teaching fundamental movements is corrupted by competition. (At every level it seems).
Rare sight in schools
In Devon, the schools competitions take place at the beginning of the Summer term, rather than the end. That means only the kids who participate outside of school are likely to be selected. The keen, hopeful young girl who learns throughout the term, misses out on opportunities that happened 6 weeks earlier. School then stops and resumes in September with rugby…
The problem is endemic and we have a generation of teachers who have not experienced quality physical education as a pupil. I recently had a Secondary school p.e. teacher on a course who did not know what the tabs underneath the bottom of a bench were: he had never run up a bench onto a frame. I promptly changed that. Now his pupils will get an opportunity to do so.
But boys like competition
“But, however much they are encouraged, games cannot altogether take the place of physical training. They have not the same corrective effect, many of them are “one-sided”, the same regular systematic and progressive results cannot be obtained from them, and apart from the difficulty of obtaining sufficient space for all to play, the greatest drawback to the use of games alone is that the weaker and less expert performer (i.e. the very man who requires most training ) is often discouraged by his want of proficiency and so ends by becoming a “looker on”. (2).
Traditional p.e. for girls
Do you see schools that have a structured physical training programme with the goal of children being able to move properly and be physically fit? The only area where targets have been laid down and schools make effort is with swimming.
What about fitness? In Devon, the schools are given misguided advice about the intermittent shuttle run (beep) test: they are prohibited from using it. There is no measurement of aerobic fitness, let alone strength let alone co-ordination that is used across Primary Schools.
If we don’t measure it, we can’t be seen to be failing. Instead we can measure “numbers” and “hours on the timetable”. That way we can show success.
What a load of claptrap. That is an easy option for pencil pushers to pat themselves on the back. They are failing our children. No wonder the girls become “disengaged”.
Children are lazy
Let them play
Unlike the parent who told me last weekend that “kids are lazy”, I strongly believe that kids relish opportunity, challenge and boundaries. They just need support and guidance.
I told that parent to come to Willand at 3:30 after school and see just how “lazy” these kids are. The recreational field is covered with scores of children running, skipping, playing, climbing and shouting. In short, being children.
Is it the child’s fault that they are driven everywhere, and plonked down in front of a screen whilst their Mum updates her facebook status, or while their Dad checks football scores on twitter?
Is it the child’s fault that they are told to sit down in p.e. lessons so that they can “learn” about fartlek, rather than run around the park?
Here are a few solutions:
Stop confusing sport with physical education: they are different. Sport is an expression of physical abilities, rather than a tool to develop them. Traditional p.e. was just that.
Have some balls and set some physical targets for your school. Make them public and accountable (all pupils leaving Primary school able to climb a rope, vault a box,run 800m without stopping and throw 20 metres would be a start).
Give teachers skills to observe and encourage quality movement, rather than laminated lesson plans which are about survival.
“The Teacher…must also know how to stimulate and control the pupils’ efforts so as to obtain the quality of performance that brings out the full value which the exercise has for the pupils at the particular stage of development and training they have reached. Technical skill alone will not enable him to do this: sympathetic understanding and powers of leadership are needed.” (3).
Here is an example of a group of kids aged 12-14 doing a small circuit round the gym. Whilst it may be called gymnastics now, it is only p.e. from the 1960s.
Thanks to everyone who voted for our club in the Skipton Grassroots Giving Campaign. We were one of 700 clubs shortlisted, and thanks to your votes we were one of the 163 organisations that will receive £500.
Read on to see how we are spending your fundraising efforts and what is happening in the Club for the rest of the year. This includes all the relevant information, dates and times for events for weightlifting, athletics and gymnastics.
Can I please ask everyone who hasn’t already to sign up for easyfundraising ahead of Christmas? It really is easy and FREE and helps us buy more equipment for all the athletes. Don’t leave it for someone else to do.
Our lifters are preparing for the Graham Cooper Memorial competition in December. We have got 16 people lifting in each week, evcenly split between men and women.
We have bought a new chalk bowl stand and extra safety collars from our easyfundraising totals. Thanks everyone who is doing easyfundraising.
We also held our Halloween Weightlifting session for the first time. Hard to tell who was wearing the make up!
Winter training started last week. We are doing Structural Integrity work in the gym on the first Thursday of the month, with some sprints and jumps. We are working on sprints, throws and middle distance on the first Saturday of the month.
Recovery in the sun
This is in preparation for competing next Summer. We were lucky with the weather last week. Ages 10-18.
The Freestyle Gym (FreeG) has taken off nicely at both our Willand and Wellington venues. We currently have 61 members between the 2 venues!
We shall be increasing the number of sessions to 3 per month at Willand starting in January. Our last one this year in Willand is on 22nd November.
Thanks to the parents and volunteers who have answered our call for help. Without you the Club simply wouldn’t run.
Good for flic flacs
Holly Walker and Laura Lane spent a day at half term on the coaching core proficiency course. Together with Tom Trowbridge and Kristy Popplestone at Wellington, they will be using the new resources we have bought to help make the sessions more structured with less queueing. (That is £200 of funding well used).
The Skipton Grassroots funding will be used to buy this Tracks 2000 folding wedge It is a handy piece of equipment which doubles as a big block we can use in FreeG and for supporting gymnasts.
End of term open sessions:
On Tuesday 6th December we will be holding an open session in Willand for parents, friends and relatives to come and watch what happens in class. We shall be holding a raffle and have refreshments for sale (Louise Sherman and Sarah Marshall hosting) which will help raise funds for the club.
On Wednesday 7th December we will be doing the same in Wellington (minus the refreshments). This is your chance to see your child in action and support the club.
Raffle prizes so far include: Red wine; set of Trolley bags; £10 voucher from Jazzys World Food in Tiverton; bottle of champagne; Dermologica mini-facial voucher. Any more donations would be appreciated (Ella Partridge and Georgina Nicol will be co-ordinating in Willand, need someone in Wellington).
Finally we have been invited to attend a Gymnastics camp on Tuesday 20th December at Gemini Gymnastics (13.5 miles from Cribbs Causeway) in Clifton. The cost for the day is only £25. It will consist of games, gymnastics and an opportunity to use all their fantastic kit, including their new FreeG “urban” area.
I need to let their Head Coach know numbers by next week, so please let me know if you are interested in going. Transport will be required, but I can help coordinate lift shares. This is an exclusive invite.
How can gymnastics help prepare me for a collision sport?
Gymnastics: a sport based on perfecting skills and techniques. What you practice at training is exactly what you will perform at competition.
Field sports: sports based on quick decision making, tactics and game play. No game or match is ever the same.
Diving and rolling in rugby
Two very different activities, but taking some elements from one and incorporating them into another would be very beneficial for the athletes.
In particular, I am talking about bringing some basic skills and movements from gymnastics, and adding them into field sports warm ups and game play.
The skills I am talking about are rolls. Forward rolls, backward rolls and sideways rolls. Basic gymnastic movements that use a different body part to travel.
Teaching field sport athletes these movements can give a new way to move, dodge or recover and get up quickly from a fall.
These NFL wide receivers use rolling a lot
A roll is a flowing and constant movement.
There is more to speed than straight line running.
Take a fall for example, the body stops when it hits the floor so it takes a few seconds to get up and recover. Can you afford to waste these few seconds?
Now imagine, as the athlete falls, they move into the forward/backward/sideways roll and are able to get up very quickly and continue with the game. Seconds are saved and composure is still set.
Forward rolls could be used in a lot of situations. This motion carries on going forwards which could be useful in order to get to the ball.
Backward roll –
Backwards rolls would be useful after a tackle. If the athlete is pushed back then they are going in the right direction to roll backwards, instead of falling and having to stand back up. (In a recent football match between Tiverton Town and Taunton Town, 2 Tivvy players did backward roll variants after falling down in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half.)
A sideways roll could be useful for sports like hockey where your hands are already busy holding the stick.
There are loads of variations to rolls that you can choose to do depending on the situation. You can start or finish the roll on one foot ready to carry on running out of it. You can add a jump at the end of it too if you needed to change direction.
Here is blind footballer Robin Williams using it as part of a warm up:
Basic gymnastic drills
Some drills you can try include –
Forward roll ½ turn jump forward roll
Backward roll ½ turn jump backward roll
Sideways roll ½ turn jump sideways roll
Forward roll with a sprint out of it
Backward roll with a sprint out of it
Sideways roll with a sprint out of it
Try also jogging in a space whilst changing directions, the coach can call out a roll. Perform the roll and carry on jogging afterwards. (Watch this warm up video
Being able to dodge a player or recover from a fall can be difficult to do quickly and efficiently. Adding these rolls into warm ups or game situations gives the athletes another option to do this.
We incorporate basic gymnastics into our Sports Training System as we have seen the benefits to all the sports players we train.
Make sure the Coach can demonstrate properly though, here they aren’t quite as good. Here is one of me doing a cartwheel into a backflip
I watched the French film District 13 a couple of weeks ago. There is some truly impressive athletic movement in this film. The freestyle attitude of Parkour, making use of the local environment, looking at everyday objects in a different light, is in total contrast to some sports environments where free expression is constrained.
I have always thought young children especially would be better off developing this type of movement and awareness, rather than being taken to a class and put through highly disciplined and structured movement patterns.
James practicing FreeG
I am pleased to announce that from September we will be offering Freestyle Gymnastics (FreeG) sessions at our Gymnastics Club venues in Willand and Wellington.
These will be aimed at teenagers who want to be able to learn and practice Freestyle moves in a safe (and dry) environment. Sessions will run on Tuesday evenings in Willand Village Hall and Wednesday afternoons at Court Fields school in Wellington.
We have been able to do this is as a result of extensive fundraising activities by the Club and generous funding from British Gymnastics, local trusts, the local council and individuals.
Please contact us if you are a teenager who would like the opportunity to practice Freestyle Gymnastics Moves. No experience is necessary.
This video shows some of the moves that skilled FreeG performers can do.
Over the past few sessions I have been going through the strength section of James’s Athletic Development Manual with him. We went through strength and velocity and how a high velocity exercise means the strength aspect could be low, and vice versa.
For example, tuck jumps are a high velocity exercise with a lower strength needed. Where as a deadlift variation (1-3RM) would be high strength and low velocity as you couldn’t repeat many.
Exercises were also broken down into 4 categories of strength:
Also, there are many ways to overload that don’t include just increasing the weight. You can change direction or the plane of movement and you can change the speed or rest period too. Each way overloads the body and you have to make it adapt again.
The importance of reflection
During the last practical session I had with James and some of the athletes, he asked me what I have learnt. This really got me thinking. I have learnt a lot! I don’t tend to self reflect so I know I need to work on that. How can you improve as a coach if you don’t reflect on what you have done or learnt?
It’s made me look at my plans for the gymnasts and my personal training clients differently and I have re-thought a lot of their training. I think I had just got into a routine and needed that nudge to think about things a little more and reflect on my previous training and what James has taught me as well.
Self reflection, as I now understand, is an important part of coaching. It gives you the chance to think about how a session went, what you can do to improve it, what worked well or what did you learn. All these questions will help you develop and improve as a coach.
Keeping things fresh
It’s good to make regular changes to stop a program/session getting stale too. Plus, if you are training the younger athletes, it keeps them a lot more interested and more likely to work.
If you do the same thing day in day out, they will get bored and won’t progress. Repeating movements are important to get the technique right, but adding in a few changes will challenge them physically and mentally.
This has made me think of where exercises fit and I have been thinking about this a lot more when I train my clients at work or the gymnasts I work with too.
I have also learnt a little about myself too. I learnt that I need to be more confident and give myself more credit. For years my teachers and tutors have said this to me over and over again and I’m starting to see why now.
How can a gymnast train well but maintain a healthy weight with all this pressure?
Yesterday’s blog looked at incidents that happened years ago when eating disorders were not well known and the training was very different. Gymnasts’ weight were under scrutiny.
Those severe cases are hopefully less frequent with better educated coaches and different role models.
If you watch gymnastics now, the body shapes are all different and they still get the results they need.
Take Nastia Liukin and Beth Tweddle. Both very different body shapes but both have won Olympic titles! Still, young female gymnasts don’t live in a vacuum and society itself places immense pressure on the female body image.
Gymnasts need balance…
in their diet as well as on the beam. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy. Gymnasts will be burning huge amounts of energy so this is vital in their diets. Complex carbohydrates are needed to give the gymnast a long sustained amount of energy.
You can get these from vegetables and wholegrain/wholemeal foods. For a quicker burst of energy, simple carbohydrates from fruit and sugars can give this. But, too much of anything can be bad. Too much carbohydrate can lead to weight gain if the energy is not used afterwards. Around 60-65% of the gymnasts daily diet or 5-8g/kg/day should be enough.
Protein is vital to help recovery and support of the muscle tissues. Male gymnasts usually require more than female gymnasts. 12-15% of the daily diet or 1.2-1.7g/kg/day is needed. Sources include meats (chicken, turkey) fish, eggs and nuts.
Fats should make up the remainder, 20-35% of the total calories. Fats are another source of energy and can help transport nutrients around the body. However, the type of fat is important. Limit the amount of saturated and trans fats, these are found in processed foods and some animal products. Unsaturated fats are best and are found in nuts, oily fish and olive oil.
What should a gymnast be eating before and after training?
Beth Tweddle is an example of healthy gymnast
Try and eat 1-2 hours before training. A small meal including complex carbs and fluid intake should be enough to give the gymnast a sustained level of energy throughout training.
For after training, having a meal that is protein based will help the muscles’ recovery process, and carbohydrates will replenish the energy stores.
If you have to travel, eating something like a banana or an apple within 30minutes after training will help replenish energy stores too. This is important if there is more than one training session in the day.
Gymnasts should stay hydrated during training too. Depending on how long a training session is, an energy drink can help sustain energy or a small snack will help keep them going too (How to make your own sports drink)
During competitions, a gymnast does a lot of waiting around. It is vital that they stay hydrated throughout the day. Small and regular sips will help this. A light breakfast and regular snacks like fruit or nuts will maintain their energy levels (more on competition eating here).
Gymnasts need to eat more than the average person because the energy expenditure is more and their bodies require more energy to help recover afterwards. Now-a-days, gymnasts like Beth Tweddle are proving you don’t have to have a tiny frame to excel at the sport.
All body shapes are able to perform at the highest of standards. Supporting your body with the right foods and amounts of these foods and training hard will make a champion, regardless of body shape.