Why some children find it hard to roll in gymnastics and how can we help them improve.
Some children are very scared to roll forwards, taking their body weight over their heads. I think we underestimate how frightening this action can feel to those more cautious. I am an ex-gymnast and would happily still demonstrate this skill, however, if you asked most adults I am sure few would oblige. We must therefore consider this in our teaching and be considerate of those that are apprehensive. Being cautious is normal and more common than you would think.
I would always get any child that is apprehensive to start rolling by rocking backwards an forwards and side to side in a ball. Let the gymnast experience the sensation and the earlier in age that they have a go, much the better. Some children may be very late to attempt any of these skills and this may be a large factor in their nervousness.
Once they have had lots of goes at the rocking, I would ask the child to then rock backwards and forwards and stand up without using their hands. Hands should be stretched out in front and then lifted to their ears to finish standing. If the child is unable to do this raise the platform that they are rolling on so that standing is easier. The end of a bench is really good for this or a little wedge. This may be all that some children will be happy to perform for a number of weeks until their confidence builds. Attempt the forthcoming techniques but I would recommend not insisting that they must perform skills that they are unsure of.
The next progression that I take my gymnasts through are as follows; rolling down an incline wedged mats and benches are ideal for this. If you are using a bench have the gymnast kneel on the end with their hands on the floor and their heads tucked in so that their chin is on their chest. Gently guide their hips over their heads remembering that this is the sensation that can be frightening. By you guiding over their hips, you may provide all the reassurance they need to time accomplish this skill. Once they can perform this motion they will be away and their confidence will build every time they perform the action. As confidence grows, start to bring in the techniques encourage standing up as you did in the earlier progressions. Hands should not go on the floor as they stand they should be in front and then lifted to the ears.
As the children accomplish these activities slowly bring the children onto the floor, ideally have different stations for the children to work on. This will enable the different abilities to all have the opportunity to develop and not make you rush children’s learning. When the children start on the floor I have used a technique where they keep their bottom high and their hands right next to their feet – not crouching down as a technically correct, roll would normally be taught. This allows the hips to be high at the beginning of the skill, helping the child get their body weight over their shoulders. Once they can easily then perform the roll you can then teach them to crouch and reach into the skill.
If you allow time and be patient with rolling I have found that most children will eventually be able to perform and nice forward rolls will follow. In my fifteen years of teaching, I haven’t yet met a child that I haven’t been able to teach this skill yet….! I hope this advice is helpful and your children enjoy these activities. Let me know how you get on.
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