Teaching Straddle Rolls First

“Thud”.

That’s the unfortunate sound of a ‘first three weeks of class’ style forward roll down the wedge. You know the ones with gymnast's neck as straight as an arrow, head sticking out like a little prairie dog peeking out of its hole. It takes forever to teach them to keep their sweet heads tucked in and chin tucked under.

I’ve always taught tuck forward rolls first. Like always and forever tuck forward rolls before anything else. I would fight against my little gymnast’s natural reaction to stick their heads out because, you know, they were a little nervous about this forward roll thing. I was a robot repeating “heads tucked in!”, “look at your bellybutton!”...”keep that [insert any prop here!] under your chin while you roll!” Over and over and over...

Not this year, Happy Gymmers! I changed it up to straddle roll first (then, tuck rolls later!) BINGO! My kids are rolling without thuds and tucking their sweet little heads under. Straddle rolls for the win!

Peek A Boo

The key to straddle rolls is to have something or someone to look at during the beginning of the roll. Rather than staring at their legs like in traditional tuck rolls, straddle rolls give gymnasts the target (and distraction!) of looking for something under/between their legs. Looking for a target puts them in a perfect forward roll position with hips waaaay up and chins tucked under! This was especially effective for my really little two year olds.

Here's the Station I Used for the First Two Weeks of Class:

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Gymnast 1 would climb the ladder to the wedge and get into straddle roll position. Gymnast 2 would wait until Gymnast 1 reached the wedge, then begin to climb. Gymnast 1 would ‘look for [gymnast 2]’ then roll.

The kids loved it and got a giggle every time they saw a friend 'upside down' under their legs. I loved it because they were doing awesome straddle rolls!

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Next week, I tried it on the floor rather than the wedge. I had a ‘waiting spot’ for friends to stand and wait for their turn. This served as the place where the straddle rolling gymnast could look for their friend (target) which helped them get into position (yes, her knees are bent and no, I'm not worried about it).

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Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ on the River

My gymnasts have been successful with straddle rolls, so I'm hoping it will make the transition to tuck rolls a little easier. They're already used to tucking in their chins while smoothly rolling over (no big "thuds" here!). My challenge to you: try giving straddle rolls a chance to be the star. Teach them straddle rolls first and see how your gymnasts progress!