Sometimes I can hear your thoughts. “Why on earth would I do that with (insert your child’s name here)”, or “Yeah, nice skill, never gonna happen”, or “somebody’s gonna die” …well, maybe not the last one, but maybe something close. If I’m brutally honest, I totally know Forward Rolling on the balance beam is one of those skills, that, although I believe in teaching it, I completely get why I never see it again. Parents are really not inclined to try this one. It scares the pants off most of you. I have to say when parents do attempt this one beyond this week, where immediate peer-pressure may be the driving force, I offer them a job.
Here’s the thing about Forward Rolling on the Low Beam. It’s a confidence booster for your child. I know that it feels more like a spotting test for the adults. You’re not entirely wrong. There’s a reason we wait until the next-to-last week of the session to try this one. We want to be sure the adults are up for it and the kids have some skill foundation. Hopefully you’ve had some spotting practice and success and will rise to the challenge.
The kids are not usually afraid, we (adults) are usually terrified. So this is good practice putting on your happy, positive, cheer-leader face no matter what happens during this skill so you don’t scare your child out of trying. This skill looks treacherous, but there isn’t a whole lot that you can actually do to make it dangerous, as long as you have good hands on your kiddo all the way through.
Why do it at all? Here are a few of the benefits.
- Listening and following directions. You basically guide your child through this whole skill with verbal instructions, some minimal visual cueing, and using what they’ve learned so far this session from memory. Good challenges. Let’s face it, we grown-ups aren’t going to demonstrate this one first.
- Balance challenge. Be sure to start and finish the skill from a stand on the beam. Whenever you roll your equilibrium is disrupted. Standing, rolling, and then standing again on a 4” wide balance beam forces the gymnast (your child) to find their “center”. It trains them to roll straight and establish their balance.
- Confidence. The more a child plays and explores on the equipment the more confident they become. I had a family at the gym that had a small balance beam at home for their kids. They kept it in the living room, out in the open, all the time. Every time the kids passed by they walked across it, or did something else on it. They became the best gymnasts on the beam I’d ever seen at a very young age. One of the girls could land Cartwheels on it by the age of 5. They were fearless because it was such a comfortable place for them to be. A child that has done the array of skills on the balance beam that your child has been exposed to all session, will think nothing of walking across it themselves as young as 3 yrs old. Teachers are also confident in letting them explore more on their own as well as upgrading their skills.
- Safety. Kids that are comfortable will also jump off safely if they feel they’re going to fall. It’s a primary coaching principal. Before teaching any skill where a child can get hurt, teach them how to be safe first. In Gymnastics (and many other sports) it’s smart to learn to fall before you learn a skill. When kids come to the gym at age 3 or 4 they are often scared on the beam and require extra help. That’s not an issue for kids that have been here in our Parent/Child Classes. They are more than familiar with this piece of equipment.
Forward Roll on the Low Beam: teaching and spotting. How you spot this will depend a little bit on the age and skill level of your child. Spot where you are both comfortable, always protecting the head and neck. If you are really freaked out, practice spotting your child at the warm up area down a line or crack in the mats. No beam, no pressure, easy to build your confidence.
1. Start with your child standing on the low beam. Parent should stand behind their child, on or straddling the beam. Hold your child at the hips. You can wrap one arm completely around them and hold them against you or hold them with your hands on their hips.
2. Tell your child to “put their hands down”. If they don’t do this with just a verbal cue, give them a visual one by placing one of your hands on the beam in front of them where you want them to put theirs. Most kids will immediately mimic you and put their hands down on the beam.
3. Say “tuck & roll” . Put a hand behind their head and guide their tucking head towards the beam. Keep hold of a hip or, after guiding the head to the beam, go back to both hands on the child’s hips.
4. Walk forward as you guide the child through the roll. I like to walk forward and brace their body on the beam by keeping my legs as close to the beam as possible to hold them on. That way they don’t slide off the side.
5. Help them stand up, finishing with both feet on the beam.
TA DA! Lots of applause here! It’s really important to talk your child through this skill. Don’t just force their head down at the beam without warning. You wouldn’t like that very much so be gentle. This skill will get you ready for next week, Forward rolls on the High Beam!