I recently received this question from a coach and wanted to share it with you along with my response.
Level 7 vault I feel am finally understanding what the judges want. They want the angle of repulsion by vertical, good block to hip rise and distance from hands on vault to where feet land. Two issues I have questions for you about is 1. I find that if the girl has a good angle of repulsion they tend to land on their butt. Why? Also what do you tell the girls to get a good block. I know in at 45 degrees off by vertical but what do they physically have to do? What cues can I give them? Thank you for your time. Ozzy.
Vault progressions seem to travel the road of trade off for return. Coaches with long term plans will stay the course even though frustrations and scoring issues tempt deviating from the plan.
To answer your questions:
If the athlete consistently under-rotates after a good block, the issue stems from not establishing enough rotation from the board. As for the physical act of blocking, that comes from perfect timing of thrusting the arms towards the horse, and upon contact immediately, and explosively elevating through the shoulders (shoulder thrust). The perfect follow through would show extension through the wrists while maintaining body tension throughout.
The situation that you describe is fairly common and is the result of several factors with the lack of rotations being the largest consideration. In your attempt to gain a vertical block, the body must arrive on the table prior to vertical. A strong and efficient blocking action requires straight arms and and an powerful shoulder thrust. The combination of these factors severely slows the rotation established from the board (a longer body naturally rotates slower than a shorter one… straight arms makes the body longer and the purpose of blocking is to transfer rotation into lift, thus slowing rotation further). This is where the temptation to deviate from the long term objective of a GREAT handspring is seduced by short terms gains in score potential. Since you are experiencing under rotation you could deemphasize the blocking action (slight flex of the arms) which would in turn assist with maintaining sufficient rotation OR you could elect for a more vertical entry thus trading rotation for the ability to block off by vertical. These are short term fixes.
Obviously, coaches will want their athletes to score well in competition so short term trade-offs are fine provided we keep striding for the long term objective. When obvious errors are consistently present, I always like to look at what preceded the problem. In the case of lack of rotation from the board, here are a few suggestions for drills to increase the ability to establish rotation.
Front layout on trampoline or tumble trak
- Front layouts off of a launching device (vault board, mini tramp, tumble trak sweet spot)
- Run up Front layouts on floor
- Front layouts up onto an elevated surface
Then there is always the physical preparation considerations. Perhaps the athletes are not strong enough to exert enough force to create the desired amount of rotation. Even if the athlete is physically capable, they can always be stronger so conditioning the speed of the run, punching and jumping ability as well has heel drive ability will certainly aid in the development of dynamics and amplitude.
Next there is the issue of board technique. Contacting the vault board has similar trade offs as did contacting the table. Ultimately the athlete wants to punch the board with the feet in front of the center of gravity (prior to vertical) in order to get the best spring compression and take off potential from the board. How far in front is often debated but my thoughts are that this would depend on the speed, strength, size, weight and athletic ability of the athlete (so it varies). IF rotation from the board is the issue, try lessening the contact angle OR increasing the speed, effort ( a biggee) and strength (i.e physical abilities) of the athlete.
A few other considerations are the board placement itself and the height of the table. We want to place the board far enough from the table so as to allow time for extension on pre-flight, but all too often coaches allow too much distance. The closer the board is to the table, the better the chance of maintaining momentum until table contact. The more momentum you have upon contact, the better your chances of continuing rotation. Coaches also sometimes get caught in the trap that vaulting at a higher setting will insure better results. I disagree and like to put the table at a comfortable height for the athlete so as to encourage concentration on the more important aspects of the vault like establishing speed and rotation, maintaining body tension, explosive blocking etc. IF they are preoccupied with simply clearing that intimidating and immovable object that lies some 70 feet in front of them down the vault runway, they are likely going to be less concerned about details.
Hope this helps. IF you liked the ideas presented here, please feel free to share this by clicking on your social medium of choice below. Also Success Videos offers a great “Handspring Lead-up and Progression” coaches education training video. It is loaded with drills and techniques to help improve the handspring vault. Check it out at TheGymnasticsCoach.com.