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Finding Balance between DRILLS and SKILLS

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Finding Balance between DRILLS and SKILLS

Tony Retrosi
Atlantic Gymnastics Training Centers,

Finding Balance between DRILLS and SKILLS

I saw this posted yesterday on twitter “Simple choice with complex implications: You can do drills or you can train skills. If you want to get better at your sport train skills. Don't forget drills do not equal skills.”

I think This needs a bit of elaboration; it is not an either/or proposition in gymnastics. Gone (hopefully) are the days of just chucking skills. Even though pretty much every gym has a pit and other training devices, I thankfully see a lot less of "do 10 into the pit then go do it over there".  Lately the pendulum seems to have swung the other way. It makes my job easy when I do a clinic because with very little effort I have "taught" a girl a new skill. The kids have been drilled to the point of boredom. There is a place for drills if they are used properly. Too often I see practices that are essentially a drill-a-rama, an endless collection of drills with no progression and no connection to the actual skill.  It is incumbent on each coach to develop a system that works for him or her. Meaningful drills that transfer to the sport are part of a good system of training. Care must be taken that the drill does not become an end unto itself. The drills must have a clear context and connection the desired skill AND TELL THE KIDS WHAT THE DRILL IS FOR! The same is true for technical and tactical drills; they must connect to a bigger whole.

Criteria for effective drills:

The drill should have a clear purpose and goal.

The drill should be precise and exact.

Drills should be individually prescribed to address a specific technical problem for that individual or a tactical issue for a team.

In selecting a drill the focus on the absolute NEED to do it. Not WANT to do it.

During the season I use my drills around the routine. The Routine (or Vault) for competition take priority. The drills are what I do after.

Example: Vault- After a competition warm up and a few competition style vaults we will stack the mats and work drills up hill to increase block. Other drills (side stations) will work on deficiencies. Drills for stuck landings, drills for body shape. I TRY to also have a drill or 2 for the goal vault (adding a twist).

Bars- It is a little easier because we have more sets of bars than vault stations (and btw that reflects in our score). The first turn is a competition routine (possibly with a watered down dismount) One bar drill station will be a "fix it" from routine. Others will be Handstands, pirouettes, Giants each way (sets of 5-10), Inbar skills and dismounts.

Beam- let's face it, Cori never let me get that close to Beam and when I do get over there, I just do what she says.

Floor- Keeping the focus on Routines we will do a quick warm up and get right into routines. Again we will have a "fix it" station (usually dance) then a tumbling station into the resi. Possibly a station on Tumbl Trak or Tramp for lead ups for new passes. Then a possible other dance, turn station.


Keep in mind that these are IN SEASON drills and just examples. During the off season (NOW) I still like to keep some kind of fitness base level so that the transitions to full routines are a little easier.

Vault- I make sure that the gymnasts know what the drill is for. You have Run, hurdle (and round off) board position, pre flight, contact, post flight, landing. I try have a drill for each part.

Bars- After the first round (which is similar to in season) it tends to get more specialized because I will have gymnasts who need more (or less) time on certain things. Plus kids with different release moves and different stages of getting their dismounts.

Beam- see above

Floor- We will have an up hill drill, a bounding drill for combination passes, and a twisting exercise. Dance is done across the floor in the beginning.

#1 Rule for all events- know where you want to go and plan your route.