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Excelsior ADC Newsletter
March 13, 2019
Excelsior AD Club newsletter March 2019 We have had so much happen in the last month, and exciting things happening in the run up to Easter, it is best to keep them all in one place. So here you go. 6 members complete their Athletic Development Coaching Course Archie, Daisy, Flora, Jakin, Rebecca and Stephanie […]

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Have you thought of using gymnastics as part of your warm up?

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.

rugby warm up

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

forward roll


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 –

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.)

Sideways roll 

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

Gemma Robertson 


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  6. level1 says:

    This can certainly be applied to rugby, I would definitely use some of these. Whilst the boys being coached may not understand straight away the benefits, they would feel the benefits of doing these exercises regularly and I would imagine, could prevent injury.

  7. level1 says:

    Sounds pretty sensible to me. This would certainly apply to all contact field sports but also fighting sports such as MMA and maybe even non contact sport like basketball.


  8. James Marshall says:

    Thanks for the comments: basketball is a contact sport Rich!

  9. level1 says:

    Great tips! Gymnastics are definitely the right choice for contact sports: in fact rolls in particular may also be of help with the young novice who will more likely overcome the fear of the contact with the ground.

  10. Sam Dunbavin says:

    i think it’s time for some new warm up ideas, these are great James, beach volleyball athletes will love this!

  11. JON says:

    some really good ideas here to use in rugby warm ups.

  12. abbey says:

    some great ideas, I will certainly be using some of these ideas in my warm-up from now on.

  13. Shana says:

    Great information and ideas which can be tailored to most sports.

  14. Steve says:

    Some great new ideas on how to incorporate gymnastics into every sports warm up routine, and how to get to your feet quickly to minimise time on the floor.

  15. level1 says:

    An enjoyable and innovative approach, I could see how this would greatly improve the way that my youth rugby players prepare for training sessions and competition.

  16. level1 says:

    really good concept regarding how to use some basic gymnastic exercises in warm up.

  17. level1 says:

    Certainly a good though.
    Teaching athletes how to roll will make them more skillful on how to “dissipate” forces too e.g. in a fall.
    I found this quite interesting considering that is applicable on many other sports too e.g. falling from a bouldering wall and rolling into the matt.


  18. Level1 IR says:

    Really enjoyed having a go at these long forgotten movements in day 1 of L1S&C today. I can see the benefits particularly for building mobility and resilience for many of my athletes.

  19. Rebecca Watson says:

    I would use this as a change of direction and dodging from player drill to be used within netball. Roll to sprint, roll to jog change direction, roll to sprint change direction, jog back to start.

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Millfield School
For the past 2 years, as Head of Athletic Development, James has made a significant contribution to the development and understanding of athletic development among our sports programmes. With knowledge and passion, he has continually championed best practise in relation to the athletic development of young athletes, and been unstinting in the rigour of its delivery. As a coach, James has made a direct contribution to the development of several prominent individuals, as well as more broadly to our squads.

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